Do you fancy a Double Dragon or a Wee Heavy? Or perhaps you’d like your taste-buds tickled by a Bikini Blonde or a Good Old Boy?

Anyone who doesn’t know their brews will be understandably baffled at this point (as I was originally!), but lovers of the amber nectar may well be salivating at the thought of sampling this crop of craft specialities.

Over the last few years something has been brewing, quite literally, in the cruise world – resulting in an explosion in the range and scope of craft beers (and a few trendy lagers) now served on many ships. This rush for specialist tipples has been matched by the rise in cruise ship pubs and hip bars determined to prove their on-trend credentials and outdo rivals ashore.

It is enough to drive you to drink! And if it does, what a choice you will have...

You won’t go thirsty

P&O Cruises proved it knows the way to beer-lovers’ hearts when it unveiled Brodie’s Bar on its flagship, Britannia, with a lip-smacking selection of 70 ales, beers and ciders from across the UK. In fact, it boasts the largest selection of bottled British beers at sea, from niche artisan Cruise passengers tasting a range of craft beersbrewers to brewery big boys. Aficionados can taste the full flavour of the British Isles - from the chocolatey strains of Welsh Black to the full fruitiness of Devon’s Real Smiler - and the tangy, lemony zing of Okell’s IPA from the Isle of Man.

Even if you aren’t cruising on Britannia, you won’t go thirsty as the line has rolled out 20 varieties across its fleet.

Beer fans on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas or sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, should beat a path to Michael’s Genuine Pub to order one of the 20 or so speciality brews with somewhat unforgettable names such as, ahem, Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale from California! Sister line Celebrity Cruises even employs a beer sommelier in its Gastrobar, which serves more than 40 boutique beers, to help drinkers select their most suitable libations, while Norwegian Cruise Line has teamed up with the Wynwood Brewing Company of Miami for the District Brew House bars on its newer ships.

In 2015, Princess Cruises went one step further to charm drinkers with its own brew – Seawitch West Coast IPA – which the line unveiled to mark its 50th anniversary in partnership with the California-based Strike Brewing Company.

On-board brews

Looking down into a cold glass of craft beer set on top of a wooden table

But it is Carnival Cruise Line which is the craft beer champ as these tipples have long been poured in RedFrog pubs throughout the Carnival fleet, led by its own-label favourite ThirstyFrog Red. And the line’s newest ship, Carnival Vista, has added extra froth to this heady mix; brewing its own beer on-board thanks to a link-up with the Concrete Beach Brewery of Miami; enabling punters to quench their thirst with ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA, ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat and FriskyFrog Java Stout.

The craft beer craze has also spread to the likes of Thomson Cruises, Crystal Cruises, UnCruise Adventures and river cruise lines including Avalon and AmaWaterways, which serve up special sailings devoted to the so-called angel’s food.

If this sparks a thirst for cruising, especially among the uninitiated, it has to be a cause for cheer.

It has certainly made me thirsty. I’m off for a Flying Dog Gonzo on Quantum of the Seas. Bottoms up!

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Sara Macefield
Sara Macefield
Sara Macefield is an award-winning travel journalist of more than 20 years standing, and has spent the last decade writing about the cruise industry – exploring the world's oceans and rivers on ships of all sizes. Having notched up more than 100 cruises, her most memorable trips have been to Alaska with its superb wildlife, and sailing along Burma’s remote Chindwin River to villages far off the tourist track. She writes regularly for The Times and Daily Telegraph and has written for the Daily Mail, The Guardian, Daily Express and Woman & Home Magazine.

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