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Best Pubs at Sea

Gary Buchanan
Contributor
By Gary Buchanan
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 (Photo: Cruise Critic)

The 18th century British author Samuel Johnson wrote: "There is nothing which has been yet contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." A focus of community life, particularly in the U.K., cruise passengers no longer have to leave their favourite 'local' behind as they sail across the globe. The onboard pub is now a feature on many cruise ships, and in addition to well-known names, many lines also serve craft beers from small artisan breweries. Traditional pub grub has also been embraced by several cruise lines and we can't think of a better way of dodging the buffet queues than being served a cheese ploughman's, cottage pie or fish and chips with your ale of choice. Here are our favourite "inn places" for a pint at sea. Cheers!

P&O Cruises' Brodie's

Ship: Britannia

P&O Cruises' Brodie's

Why We Love it: Named after one of the founders of P&O Cruises -- Brodie McGhie Willcox -- this bustling traditionally-styled bar, with large sports screens, boasts the largest selection of British beers, ales and cider at sea, in addition to a wide selection of international beers -- all at pub prices. Passengers can choose from 70 different brews that fill the 34 pages of tasting notes detailing the craftsmanship behind pilsners, ales, stouts and gluten-free beers from 56 counties around the U.K. They include Black Sheep from Masham in North Yorkshire, Knight of the Garter from, Chocolate Tom from Cheshire and a Titanic Quarter from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, birthplace of the famous liner. For the undecided there are beer flights comprising three, one-third pint glasses from a choice of six regional themes, including the Yorkshire, Southern, Eastern and Celtic collection.  

Cunard's Golden Lion

Ships: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria

Cunard's Golden Lion

Why we love it: At the Golden Lion pub beer lovers can savour Boddington's Bitter, Marston Pedigree, Green King IPA, Stella Artois, Beck's Bier, Bass Pale Ale, Aspall cider and Guinness on draught, to name just a few. Speciality beers include Spitfire Real Ale and Old Speckled Hen. On Queen Mary 2 the pub is decked out with cosy tan leather booths, upholstered chairs and bar stools, and on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria there are traditional mahogany tables and chairs in the elongated main room next to the bar. These informal watering holes are also the venue for trivia quiz nights, jazz nights, karaoke and live sports on the wide screens around the room. On Queen Mary 2 there's also a grand piano, two dart boards and, adding to the British authenticity, a red pillar box outside the entrance. The food menu includes classics such as ploughman's platter, Cumberland sausage and mash, and that traditional British favourite -- chicken tikka masala. 

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Morning Light

Ships: Balmoral, Boudicca, Braemar and Black Watch

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' Morning Light

Why We Love It: Named after Fred. Olsen's first ship, the Morning Light, this pub is a fixture onboard all ships in the fleet. Each is fairly similar, exuding a traditional style with a Scandinavian ambiance. On Braemar, the pub has a splendid maritime theme charting the company's 168 years history, with a model of the square-rigged Morning Light of 1878 as a centrepiece, plus paintings and other maritime memorabilia. Stretching the width of the ship, the room is furnished with high-back chairs in a cherry, green and coral colour scheme, as well as red leather Chesterfield settees. The bar serves Boddington's and Stella Artois on draught, as well as bottles of Spitfire, Southwold Bitter, and Bishop's Finger beers. Entertainment is provided by a guitarist and comedians, and Morning Light is also the venue for nightly bingo, pub games and quizzes.

Royal Caribbean's Ale & Anchor

Ships: Independence of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Ale & Anchor

Why We Love It: You can't miss the Ale & Anchor with its prime position on the Royal Promenade and traditional swinging pub sign on "Indy". Outside you'll find seats and wrought-iron tables on the Royal Promenade -- a prime spot to people-watch -- along with a mural depicting the namesake ale and anchor. The leaded-glass frontispiece leads to an atmospheric interior with wooden floor, brown leather bar stools, long bar counter flanked by a wall lined with faux library books on one side and a large video screen on the other. The ambiance of an English pub is unmistakable -- no mean feat for an American cruise line. There's an extensive list of imported beers, many of which are craft beers, and ex-U.K. cruises feature draught Boddington's, Newcastle Brown, Strongbow cider and other favourites. As a place to unwind it's hard to beat, and in the evening there's a singer/guitarist who leads sing-a-longs. Many of the bar staff are real characters and have honed their skills in engaging passengers in fun pub contests.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Tankards Beer & Whiskey Bar

Ships: Norwegian Jade

Norwegian Cruise Line's Tankards Beer & Whiskey Bar

Why We Love It: This intimate yet vibrant hideaway is more of a lounge bar than a tavern, and the modern ambiance features bar stools, chairs and couches, artwork depicting the brewing process and a mock-up of a copper still. The impressive array of beers on tap includes Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona, Coors, Miller Lite, Heineken and Guinness. If you prefer something harder, there is also a good selection of spirits, including single-malt Scotch whisky such as Macallan Select Oak, The Balvenie, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich or Chivas Regal. Tequila fans will find Patron Silver, Patron Reposada, Patron Anejo, Gran Patron Platinum and Cazadores Blanco. Entertainment includes beer and tequila tastings, scavenger hunts, a singer and sporting events on large plasma screens.

Updated April 07, 2020

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