15 best cruise ship bars
The best bars on cruise ships are more than just places to drink. They are destinations with atmosphere and attitude — plus creative approaches to sipping.
You may have your drink prepared by a robot or by a human in a chamber kept at 17 degrees Fahrenheit, in a bar that levitates or while you “travel” through hyperspace.
Whether you are a fan of the perfect martini or craft beer or looking for mixologists who concoct molecular cocktails that sizzle or smoke, check out these cruise ship bar favorites.
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Exclusively on Carnival Cruise Line’s 5,200-passenger Mardi Gras, the Fortune Teller stands out for its cool New Orleans vibe. It’s located in the big ship’s French Quarter (where Chef Emeril Lagasse also has his first seagoing bistro) and features creative drinks, Victorian decor and a voodoo allure. Drinks change color, smoke or otherwise impress. The Crystal Ball comes topped with a hazy orb where you may or may not see your future after drinking the concoction of Herradura Silver Tequila, Green Chartreuse, agave nectar and lime.
Rising Tide Bar
On Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, this popular bar moves smoothly up and down three decks on a slow, 20-minute ride. There are seats for 32 imbibers who sip as they travel between the bustling Royal Promenade and tree-lined Central Park. The popular drink: A Kir Royale (creme de cassis and champagne). You must be at least 21 to take a ride in this elevator.
Related: Are drinks packages on cruise ships worth the price?
SKYY Vodka Ice Bar
Who doesn’t want to put on a parka in the Caribbean? On select Norwegian Cruise Line ships, you’ll want to bundle up for this icy bar, located in a chamber always kept at 17 degrees Fahrenheit and decorated with ice sculptures and cool color lights. Bartenders serve vodka drinks on ice and in ice glasses. You even sit on ice.
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships, as well as the Oasis-class Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, take drink-making out of the hands of human bartenders and puts it into the hands, or rather robotic arms, of machines. The robots, with names such as Sock’Em and Rock’Em, can’t make every drink in the book, but they can shake up a signature Bionic Tea (think: Long Island Iced Tea), sliding it to you across a bar top. You order your selections by communicating via a smartpad. George Jetson would be impressed.
Related: 8 best drinks to order with a cruise ship beverage package (and 3 to avoid)
A popular fixture on most Carnival ships, this bar is themed on a pharmacy — complete with apothecary jars — and helmed by specially trained bartenders wearing lab coats who are ready to cure what ails you. You order on a prescription pad, and while there is a fun menu, with categories such as Energizing Elixirs and Passion Portions, it’s also a treat to just check off some of your favorite flavors and see what the bartenders “prescribe” for you.
Sugarcane Mojito Bar
On Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway- and Breakaway-plus ships, check out this Havana-themed venue with indoor and outdoor seating and live Latin-Cuban music. Watch the sun go down from the alfresco promenade while sipping unusual mojitos such as Spicy Passion, Pineapple Coconut and Raspberry Guava. If you can’t decide, go with a flight combining sweet and savory selections.
Blue Eye Lounge
You might not expect one of the coolest bar choices at sea to be on a small ship, but that’s the case on French line Ponant’s Explorer-class, 184-passenger Le Laperouse and its four sister ships. The multi-sensory lounge is below the water line and has two huge, whale eye-shaped portals for watching the sea. The dark space makes you feel like you are inside a whale, except it's decorated with swanky “body listening” couches that gently vibrate to undersea acoustics. It’s eerie, fancy and fabulous. Order a martini and pretend you’re James Bond.
Related: How to get free or cheap drinks on a cruise
Guy’s Pig & Anchor Brewhouses
On Carnival Horizon, Carnival Panorama, Mardi Gras and the new Carnival Celebration (which debuts this fall) you can sip Carnival’s exclusive Parched Pig craft brews made by a brewmaster on each ship. There’s a smoked porter, farmhouse ale and hoppy IPA, among selections. Go with a flight. As if that’s not cool enough, you can also do brewery tours plus dive into hickory-smoked barbecue selections from Food Network star Guy Fieri. The RedFrog Pub and Brewery on Carnival Vista has the beers too, but with pub grub.
Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge
Live out Star Wars fantasies in this cozy bar on the new 4,000-passenger Disney Wish. The door whooshes as you enter and the bar is styled like a luxury space yacht, ready to jump between galaxies — which it does thanks to projections of outer space on “virtual” windows and a top-rate, rumbling sound system. Order up Coruscant The Chancellor, a cognac cocktail “enjoyed by the senate elite members.”
Golden Lion Pub
On Cunard ships, including the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, the Golden Lion replicates a real British pub, from the dark wood, leather banquettes and stools to the darts tournaments and pub quizzes. Sample a wide selection of beers and ales, including three craft beers from award-winning UK micro-brewery Dark Revolution. Or go with a traditional Pimm’s Cup (made with a gin-based liquor, fresh fruit and ginger ale). The pub grub menu features fish ‘n’ chips and bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes).
Located in the main lounge on the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, this bar boasts more than 110 bottles of whisky on the wall, all in a floor-to-ceiling showcase backlit for dramatic effect. Among the golden-brown liquids you’ll find single malts such as a 25-year-old Glendullan, a 30-year-old Jura The Loch and a 16-year-old Lagavulin. Big-name, super-premium blends are well represented in a collection that gathers bottles from around the world, including from Australia, Japan, France, India, Taiwan, South Africa, the U.S., Scotland, Ireland and Sweden. Drinks are included in the cruise fare.
Shhh, this is one of the best kept secrets on five Holland America ships. The Tamarind Bar, next to the first-rate, Asian-fusion Tamarind restaurant, is done up in stylish, Asian-inspired decor, with panoramic views and classy cocktails with creative ingredients. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set while sipping, for instance, a Far East Legacy made with Absolut Mandarin, Asian Pear sake, St. Germaine liqueur, Cointreau and peach puree.
Martini Bar & Crush
On most Celebrity Cruises ships, the popular Martini Bars are classy, tucked-away spaces featuring a collection of rare vodkas (and the option of caviar, too) served from an ice-topped bar. The bartenders do more than just pour the drinks — they entertain like in the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail,” flipping and juggling cocktail shakers and pouring multiple drinks at once from a stack of shakers. On the Edge-class ships, the action moves to the Grand Plaza, under a breathtaking, color-changing, three-deck-high light fixture. Go with a dirty martini or a Candied Apple, with Gray Goose, apple schnapps, pomegranate juice and butterscotch schnapps.
Good Spirits At Sea
Every cocktail at this Princess Cruises bar comes with a story, created in partnership with the TV series Good Spirits. Drinks are made from liquor and other ingredients gathered from around the world, including farm fresh, local ingredients from cruising destinations. A mixologist does the preparing while giving detailed explanations. Get close-up views of the drink-making on a video screen behind the bar, found on select Princess Cruises ships. Sample a Grappa Peach and learn about its origins in Uruguay or a Bangkok Mule, made with whiskey, ginger and lemongrass.
On Norwegian Cruise Line’s new 3,099-passenger Norwegian Prima, this sustainability-focused bar specializes in hand-crafted, zero-waste cocktails. The idea is to combine surplus ingredients with sustainable spirits in creative ways. The signature Primadonna, a take on an Old Fashioned, is made with surplus banana peels and Flor De Cana rum, which is produced with 100% renewable energy. There’s also a line of responsibly sourced botanical gins and 20 biodynamic wines (produced via organic farming methods).
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