|Casino Bar onboard Oceania’s Marina glows with a soft lavender lightning on the bar base and backdrop.|
You’ll find plenty of swanky, unique watering holes afloat—everything from champagne bars to quiet observation lounges, from martini enclaves to Old World-style clubs. One ship even has an ice bar, two others a rising bar. Based on the opinions of Luxury Travel Advisor staffers and cruising experts, here are anecdotal picks for the “Best Cruise Ship Bars” afloat.
Clubby and Cozy
With a “clubby” Old World aura, Avenue Saloon on Crystal Serenity is Crystal Cruises’ intimate cocktail and piano bar/lounge. You can choose from more than 150 aged whiskeys, ports, aperitifs and connoisseur liquors, such as a Rémy Martin Louis XIII. Martinis are shaken or stirred, presented on a silver tray and poured into Schott Zwiesel glasses from individual silver shakers, accompanied by a dish of olives.
|“Clubby” Old World-style Avenue Saloon on Crystal Serenity has exclusive use of Nobu Sake Hokosetsu.|
Some libations are concocted by Tony Abou-Ganim, a mixologist best known for his cocktail creations at Las Vegas’ Bellagio. And because of Crystal’s restaurant partnership with Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, it also has exclusive use of Nobu Sake Hokosetsu. So be sure to order the Sakeberry Martini, as you won’t find it elsewhere else on the waters. The martini consists of that special sake, Chambord, fresh muddled raspberries, sugar syrup, and fresh lime juice with a raspberry garnish.
For a more “living room” bar experience, The Bar on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit stands out for its service and its welcoming soft décor. You can pop in here for a cappuccino or cocktail while a traveling companion chats with the front-desk staff just steps away. The atmosphere is akin to “calm luxury,” with striped chairs, patterned carpeting, wooden cocktail tables and a lovely curved bar.
Piano bars are ubiquitous on the high seas. The swankiest piano offering, though, is at Martinis, a lounge onboard Oceania Cruises’ Marina. The bar resembles a private club, and the star attraction is the Grand Concert Oceania A-Scale Piano, designed by Dakota Jackson and manufactured by Steinway using stainless steel and ebony.
While cigar bars have ebbed in popularity on some ships, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa has a cozy, wood-paneled Havana Bar that’s an Old World classic. The line says Cuban cigars can be purchased and enjoyed “without fear” on this German ship. Consume them on the ship, though, as it’s still not legal to bring them into the U.S.
Beer lovers may have a range of crafted beers to choose from in the redesigned Michael’s Club on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Silhouette. This is also a good spot for a cognac, single malt scotch or evening cordial. For a Caribbean-themed experience, the RedFrog Pub on the new Carnival Magic has reggae music, firecracker Jamaican chicken snacks and ThirstyFrog Red, a private label draught beer. After enjoying a brew, you may head to your Cloud 9 Spa Suite: it pampers with soft spa-like décor, Elemis bath and beauty products, and spa towels, robes and bathrobes. Stay here and you also get priority spa bookings.
Bars with a View
|The Observation Lounge on Regent Seven Seas Cruises is a favorite because of its late-night ambiance, creative mixology, and a pianist who plays just about anything.|
Entering the Observation lounge on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Voyager, you initially won’t see the ship’s bow. As such, it feels a bit like flying. Insiders report that this lounge is a favorite because of its late-night ambiance, creative mixology, and a pianist who plays just about anything but also doesn’t force himself on the crowd.
You’ll have almost as good a view as the captain at Seabourn Cruise Line’s observation lounge, perched atop the navigation bridge of Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest. Look out the floor-to-ceiling windows and sip tea, coffee or champagne as the ship sails into a cityscape like in Venice’s Grand Canal or Hong Kong’s harbor. Good to know: As the only public room located forward on these ships, this lounge is isolated; it’s a cozy spot for reading the latest best seller on your Kindle or another electronic reader.
On Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, the Commodore Club overlooks the bow and plays piano music in the evening. If you enjoy an “Old Fashioned,” try the line’s more modern version. The “Molecular Fashion” is made with premium bourbon, blood orange bitters, a Maraschino cherry, fresh orange and sweet Vermouth-infused foam.
The Looking Glass lounge on Azamara Club Cruises is spacious for a midsized ship. What’s unique? This bar has Murano glass sculptures. Its large dance floor hosts lessons and other activities by day and dancing to live music at night. If you prefer a small ship over a larger one while at sea, Compagnie du Ponant’s mega-yacht Le Boreal has a Panoramic Lounge that’s an appealing spot for drinks or afternoon tea.
Chic and Sassy
|Silversea’s Le Champagne serves special degustation dinners, which focus on lobster, caviar or international dining themes.|
Onboard with Disney Cruise Line, you can choose nightly from numerous adult-only bars and lounges in Disney Dream’s District. Among them is Pink, a French Art Nouveau-style bar that, simply put, makes you feel as though you’re immersed in a bottle of pink effervescence.
Frankly, half the fun is just looking around this bar. Backlit glass “bubbles” are inset into the walls; they give the effect of cascading champagne. Light fixtures resemble champagne flutes. The detail along the front of the bar actually resembles the wire cage atop a champagne bottle. Chairs are crushed velvet in shades of pink and gray.
In a more traditional bubbly experience, Cunard Line has partnered with Veuve Clicquot for the classy Champagne Bar on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. For a diverse selection of tasty canapés, try the Cunard Deluxe Canape Selection, which comes with quail confit, smoked salmon, shrimp, caviar and Parma ham. You may pair that with a glass of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame.
Crystal, Regent, Silversea and most other upscale lines also offer wine-themed cruises, wine tastings or onboard wine bars. On some ships of Princess Cruises, you can visit Vines for fine wines by the glass accompanied by snacks like sushi, prosciutto or artisan cheeses. Certain Celebrity Cruises ships have Cellar Masters, a venue that resembles a Napa Valley-style tasting room. One unique perk? You can dispense any of 32 wines automatically here by using the Enomatic Wine System.
Fine-dining restaurants with a strong emphasis on wine pairings are a shipboard trend. Silversea Cruises’ Le Champagne serves special degustation dinners; these may focus on lobster, caviar or international dining themes such as “Burgundy” or “Spain.” If you’re interested, visit the restaurant on embarkation day to review menus and make a reservation. Also, Le Champagne can be set up for private, customized wine tastings or food-and-wine dinner experiences; contact Steve Tucker ([email protected]; 954-468-3036), Silversea’s vice president of field sales.
Swanky lighting can also make a bar appealing. The purple Casino Bar onboard Oceania Cruises’ Marina is, simply put, “oh so cool.” It glows with soft lavender lighting on the bar base and backdrop. Recommended: Book the Marina’s Owner’s Suite. After drinks and casino play, you can unwind in a suite that reeks of quality but feels like home. Fabrics, furniture, lighting and bedding are from the Ralph Lauren Home collection. Most notable is the suite’s foyer; you’ll walk into an entrée with a domed ceiling, baby grand piano, wet bar and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Three separate bars all glow in different colors—from sea-foam green to cool lavender—in Holland America Line’s Mix entertainment district on Maasdam, Statendam, Veendam, Rotterdam and Ryndam. Bubbly flows at Champagne, while Spirits & Ales serves international beers and premium whiskeys. At Martinis, choose one of 18 different Grey Goose martinis. One martini specialty is the Yellow Tulip, a yummy mix of vodka, coconut cream, and lychee, pineapple and guava juices, with a dash of lime juice.
Delivering the Wow
|Hapag-Lloyd’s Sansibar is an indoor-outdoor bar where guests can party until late-night hours.|
At the Rising Tide Bar, the world’s first lift bar at sea, on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, you can sip a drink as your bar smoothly “elevates.” It rises three decks between the ship’s Royal Promenade and Central Park, and the journey takes about 15 minutes. The bar accommodates families in the morning, those 18 and older at other times.
Bring a small family group and book the two-level Royal Loft Suite. It’s a good base for hosting a multigenerational family vacation. With a baby grand piano, a library and wraparound outside spaces, this upscale suite has butler service and overlooks the ocean and a basketball court. The dining room seats eight for family dinners. Upstairs is a master bedroom loft with 17-foot windows; the master bath has a whirlpool and his-and-her shower heads. Ask the line to set up a special-occasion dinner in this suite by contacting Vicki Freed ([email protected]; 305-539-6031), senior vice president, sales and trade support and services.
The coolest bar experience afloat, though, is at Norwegian Epic’s Svedka Ice Bar, where the interior temperature is 17 degrees. Norwegian Cruise Line’s doorman allows up to 25 cruisers inside at one time. Grab a “loaner” parka with hood, as well as a hat and gloves. Benches, walls and the bar itself are made of ice. One specialty? Cobalt Blue is a cocktail of vodka, blue curacao and Inniskillin ice wine served in a frosty glass.
After chilling out at the bar, ask your butler in the Deluxe Owner’s Suite to prepare a cup of hot tea while you warm up and admire water views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. This suite, which accommodates four people, has a living room with dining area, bedroom with king-size bed and private bath with separate shower and whirlpool tub. For an open-air balcony, book Category A2 or, for a solarium, Category A5. Another Deluxe Owner’s Suite perk is access to the Villas Courtyard with its private Concierge Lounge, private restaurant and bar.
A runner-up for the best “cool” choice is the Martini Bar and Crush—an ice-frosted countertop—onboard Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class ships. Choose from 26 different martinis, including the Chocolate Kiss, as well as more than 100 varieties of vodka.
A Global Flavor
One bar with international flair is the Asian-themed Silk Den on Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam or Eurodam. Make reservations for pre-dinner drinks here and for dinner to follow at the ship’s alternative Tamarind restaurant. It serves savory pan-Asian cuisine and has a full sushi and sashimi menu. Recommended entrées are the Wasabi and soy-crusted beef tenderloin and the Panang red curry coconut chicken.
Enjoy pre-dinner drinks in a private lounge within the MSC Yacht Club—a ship-within-a-ship enclave with key card access—on MSC Cruises’ Fantasia, before a French and Italian dining experience at L’Etoile. MSC’s clientele is decidedly international in scope, so you likely will rub elbows with guests from Italy, France, Spain and other jet-setting destinations across the globe. The yacht club’s perks include Italian-design suites, private butler service and marble spa bathrooms. You can also relax at the club’s private, and often uncrowded, pool.
Onboard Black Watch, a Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines’ ship with a Scottish theme, Piper’s Bar is an aptly named spot to enjoy a wee dram of whiskey. Onboard Costa Atlantica, the Caffè Florian bar displays original artifacts from the historic Venetian restaurant of the same name. And for a French flair, Paul Gauguin’s La Palette Lounge atop the ship is a romantic nightclub as a chanteuse sings Parisian blues.
You may also think you’re in Paris at the Disney Dream’s Skyline Bar. The back of the bar has seven connecting horizontal screens that display “real time” skyline shots of Hong Kong’s busy harbor or buildings with lights twinkling in Paris or New York. Cities change daily; views transform from day to night, as the day progresses.
Taking the global feel outside, Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa is home to Sansibar. This indoor-outdoor bar was designed in cooperation with the restaurant/bar of the same name on the North Sea island of Sylt. Sample tapas while you listen to live music, and party hearty, as late-night hours run until the last passenger heads to bed.
Even more low-key is Voyages to Antiquity’s Aegean Odyssey, which has an aft outdoor dining and bar area with great views. At certain times, a waiter with a silver tray circulates slices of freshly baked pizza or bruschetta to guests. With the line’s ancient-themed itineraries, you can view the ruins of ancient Delos, Greece, off the stern while sipping a glass of regional Greek wine.
Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth has a Midships Bar that fields a retrospective on The Golden Age of Ocean Travel. Artwork reflects 1930s and 1940s style. Cabinets house memorabilia from the original Queen Elizabeth. One signature libation is the Cunard-branded 200ml bottle of Calem “Port for Two.” This bar is also known for its rather unique selection of older Port and Madiera vintages.
For a maritime feel with a decidedly British aura, Princess Cruises’ Wheelhouse Bar serves pub grub. Choices include bangers and mash, fish ’n chips or traditional cottage pie. Also noteworthy is SeaDream Yacht Club’s Top of the Yacht bar with its classy polished wood bar and blue-and-black striped cushioned furniture.
And if you want the thrill of sipping a drink while seeing canvas sails unfurled in the wind, that’s possible on Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Ponant, as well as at outdoor bars on Star Clippers or Windstar Cruises.
These are just some of the most amazing cruise ship bars afloat. Why not share your top picks for best bars at www.luxurytraveladvisor.com?