Cruise passengers -- particularly those from the U.K -- no longer have to leave their favourite 'local' behind when they set 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 along with traditional pub grub. Here are six of our favourite "inn places" for a pint at sea. Cheers!
Ship: Azura, Britannia, Iona and Arvia
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 and real ales -- all at reasonable pub prices.
Passengers can choose from 70 different brews that fill 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 Windsor, Chocolate Tom from Cheshire and a Titanic Quarter from County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
For the undecided there are beer flights based on six regional themes. To complete the pub vibe there are no-nonsense bar snacks such as peanuts, crisps and pork scratchings.
Ships: Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Anne (launching May 2024)
Why we love it: At the Golden Lion pub beer lovers can savour all their favourite big-name labels plus signature Cunard ales from the Dark Revolution artisan brewery from Salisbury in Wiltshire, including tasting flights. . 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 next to the bar.
These informal watering holes are also the venue for trivia quiz nights, jazz nights, karaoke and televised live sports. 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.
Two Michelin starred chef Michel Roux is creating menus for the Golden Pub on the new Queen Anne. Passengers can expect fish and chips, pies, toasted sandwiches and traditional puddings served with a gastronomic twist.
Ships: Balmoral, Bolette, Braemar and Borealis
Why We Love It: Named after Fred. Olsen's first ship, the Morning Light, this pub is a fixture across the fleet – Balmoral, Bolette, Braemar and Borealis Each is fairly similar, occupying a prime spot in the heart of the ship and a popular meeting point by day and night. The pubs have a maritime theme charting the company's 175-year history, including a centrepiece model of the square-rigged Morning Light launched in1878, plus paintings and nautical memorabilia.
Stretching the width of the ship and doubling up as a lounge, these large rooms are furnished with comfortable high-backed chairs and leather Chesterfield settees, as well as stools around the bar. You'll find Boddington's and Stella Artois on draught, as well as bottles of Spitfire, Southwold Bitter, and Bishop's Finger beers. Entertainment is provided by musicians, singers and comedians, and Morning Light is also the venue for daily bingo, pub games and quizzes.
Ship: Independence of the Seas
Why We Love It: This pub is a well-loved British feature on a ship that was christened in Southampton in 2008. You can't miss the Ale & Anchor with its prime position on the Royal Promenade on "Indy", complete with a swinging pub sign. Outside you'll find seats and wrought-iron tables -- a prime spot to people-watch -- along with a mural depicting the namesake ale and anchor.
Old-style leaded windows lead to an atmospheric interior with wooden floor, brown leather bar stools and long bar flanked by a wall lined with faux library books on one side and a large video screen on the other. Despite being an American cruise line, the ambiance of an English pub is unmistakable. As a place to unwind it's hard to beat, and in the evening there's a singer/guitarist who leads sing-a-longs.
Ship: Norwegian Jade
Why We Love It: This intimate yet vibrant hideaway is more of a lounge bar than a tavern, with a mix of bar stools around the horseshoe-shaped bars, chairs, tables and couches. Artworks depict the brewing process and there's a mock-up of a copper still. Beers on tap include 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 also find a wide choice of Patron blends and entertainment includes beer and tequila tastings, scavenger hunts, a singer and sporting events on large plasma screens.
Ships: Celebrity Apex, Beyond, Equinox and Silhouette
Why We Love It: When you want to try something different, this is the bar to head for. Craft Social serves more than 40 intriguing handcrafted boutique beers, including Rogue Chocolate Stout, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Anchor Steam Beer and Ommeang Abbey Ale, alongside draft beers such as Tiger, Amstel and Heineken.
If you can't decide what to have the bar tenders are on hand to help with tasting notes and advice and will also suggest different flights to try. You can also opt to join one of the tasting seminars. Craft Social also features rare beers -- most from Belgium and one from Italy -- including Westvleteren, which is brewed by Trappist monks in Flanders and has been named "best beer in the world" on beer rating websites.