Bars are the beehives of cruise ships. Passengers pogo between them for sundowners, sail away celebrations, cocktail o'clocks and nightcaps. Some bartenders don't sleep until their customers do.
A favourite bar becomes a focal meeting point or the starting point for the rest of the night. They're the place for aperitifs, digestifs and everything in between -- and after. Some bars rise above the rest so here's our list of the top 5 -- the valedictorians of drinkeries at sea.
Photo: Celebrity Cruises
Why we love it: Channel your inner 007 and head to the Martini Bar on Celebrity Eclipse. The bar staff here shake and stir a range of classic and contemporary drinks, from your straight-up spy-inspired vodka vermouth with a cocktail olive to fruity lychee and apple martinis.
The bartenders are known to break out into their own sort of cocktail capoeira, in which they contort, juggle and bend over backwards to rattle up to 18 cocktail shakers at the same time. Another quirk is that the bar is topped with ice.
When you're not listening to the drum of shaking ice cubes, there's a good chance you'll be listening in on the music that drifts into the bar from the atrium and other venues on the ship. So you can enjoy your drink with an extra shot of string quartet or contemporary jazz.
Photo: Celebrity Cruises
Viking Crown Lounge
Independence of the Seas
Located on deck 14, the Viking Crown Lounge bar is in the gods of Independence of the Seas. As a result of this, and its floor to ceiling windows, it's one of the best lookout points on the ship.
Its colour scheme is sunset, with dusky red bar stools and brushed gold wing chairs. The latter are the ideal places to unwind with a cocktail, like a classic Old Fashioned or Baton Rouge.
The lounge is on the same floor as Olive or Twist, where there's a live music stage and a dance floor, so you can commute from post-dinner drinks to cutting a rug in seconds.
Photo: Royal Caribbean International
The Observatory Bar
Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca, Black Watch
There's an Observatory Bar on the upper decks of all of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' ships. Each one is haloed by floor-to-ceiling windows, meaning that views are of the grandstand variety.
Interior designs vary between ships, but there's a nautical nod in each one. Balmoral and Black Watch go the furthest with their heart-of-the-ocean-blue carpets with anchor motifs.
Every observatory is a good place to decamp to, and clink glasses during a sail-away, especially if you're on a Norwegian Fjords cruise. Head here in the evenings and you can work your way through the cocktail menu -- which keeps to classics like Singapore Slings and Tom Collins -- to a soundtrack of live piano music.
Photo: Fred. Olsen Cruises
The Live Room
This bar has a whole bag of tricks. It's Discovery's flagship drinks den and it shows. Colour-wise it's slightly psychedelic. The bar stools are the colour of orange Fanta, and purple, orange and blue disc designs pop out from the ceiling and walls. On the drinks front, it's a people-pleaser. The bar features the ship's largest selection of on-tap beers as well as a comprehensive cocktail menu. But the real USP here has to be the virtual bands -- a wall of LED screens that stream footage of live groups.
Photo: Thomson Cruises
The Crow's Nest
Located on deck 14 at the very nose of Britannia, the Crow's Nest has a few cards up its sleeve. Not least, is its crescent of floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the horizon or the current port of call.
The bar is a bit of a chameleon. Its shape shifts throughout the day. In the afternoon you'll find people cosied up with coffees and a good book. In the evening, though, it really comes into its own. The hems of evening gowns brush the carpet as pre and post-dinner drinkers arrive to sample The Great British Gin Menu. There are almost as many gins as there are letters of the alphabet, including the swoon-inducing Ely Dark Chocolate Gin. And the tonic's not humdrum either. Choose from Fentimans, Bottlegreen and Fever-Tree.
Photo: P&O Cruises