Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sun June 14 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | June 14, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    6 Standout Beer and Wine-Centered Cruises

    6 Standout Beer and Wine-Centered Cruises

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

    Every conventional cruise ship leaves port fully stocked with a variety of alcoholic beverages as an accompaniment to the journey, but for some cruises, spirits are the focus of the vacation. Many set sail to up-and-coming or established wine regions, and cruise lines are enhancing these itineraries with educational, wine-themed voyages. In addition, the craft beer craze has expanded to the cruise industry so there are growing opportunities for passengers to experience exciting new breweries.

    Here are five standout wine and beer cruises as well as one unique, bourbon-themed voyage.

    Alaska Brews Cruise

    The craft beer scene in Alaska is outstanding, and the Alaska Brews Cruise celebrates its 18th voyage this August. Magic Happens Travel is hosting the seven-night cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice, which sails round-trip from Seattle. The cruise includes tastings of hard-to-find regional beers, plenty of India Pale Ale, as well as activities like lectures, tastings, parties, and excursions with returning beer guru, Tom Dalldorf.

    Holiday Beer-Themed Cruise with Ama Waterways

    This December, Ama Waterways is offering a new holiday theme cruise that will showcase regional beers and include beer pairing dinners and brewery tours. There will also be onboard discussions and tastings hosted by beer connoisseur and author Don Russell, who has traveled the world in search of quality beer. The Ama Prima departs from Nuremberg and visits traditional German Christmas markets in Regensburg and Passau before sailing along the Danube to three ports in Austria: Melk, Lintz, and Vienna. Passengers will also enjoy Saltzburg (the setting for the film “The Sound of Music”) and Budapest — the final port of call.

    American Cruise Lines Columbia River Valley

    Following a similar route as explorers Lewis and Clark, the Queen of the West paddlewheeler embarks from Portland, Ore. and heads to Clarkston, Wash. An onboard expert will provide an introductory wine class and discuss the history of wine varietals, how each is made, and the economic impact of winemaking. Other lessons go much deeper into pairing wine, as well as the differences between tank, barrel, and bottled wine.

    In ports, there are opportunities to visit vineyards and tasting rooms in both Oregon and Washington. Other cruise attractions include Multnomah Falls, Fort Clatsop, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and Pendleton Woolen Mill. Although the October 2015 dates are sold out, there is space on the 2016 voyages.

    Holland and Belgium Beer Cruise with Avalon Waterways

    It’s not too soon to start planning Avalon Waterways’ April 2016 beer tasting cruise in Holland and Belgium. A beer expert, known as the “Beer Pope,” will come on board and share their knowledge of regional beers. The cruise also includes the “Heineken experience” at the famous Dutch brewery, beer lectures, and food and beer pairings. Guided sightseeing tours of smaller towns like Willemstad and Middelburg, and larger cities such as Ghent and Antwerp are included in the fare.

    Built in 2013, the Avalon Expression features cutting-edge design with its signature floor-to-ceiling (and wall-to-wall) windows in suites.

    UnCruise’s Craft Beer in Washington State

    UnCruise Adventures sets sail from Seattle on a craft beer-themed voyage through coastal Washington State and the San Juan Islands. The cruise includes the Hood Canal (a glacial fjord where visitors can spend the day hiking), followed by a stop at Port Townsend where they can experience the art and pub scene. The cruise also includes Orcas Island, Sucia Island (with a population of four) and Friday Harbor.

    The co-owners of Island Hoppin’ Brewery on Orcas Island, Nate and Becca Schons, will be onboard for informational talks. Wilderness Adventure sets sail this October, however additional dates are available in October and April through 2017.

    Oceania’s O’Brien Estate Wine Cruise

    Oceania joined forces with Food and Wine Trails to offer a seven-night cruise aboard the Riviera. Shore excursions explore the wine regions of Italy and France, as well as food and wine pairings from O’Brien Estate. The cruise embarks in October from Athens and ports of call include Italy, Monaco, and France before concluding in Barcelona, Spain. Passengers can wander the volcanic vineyards of Mt. Etna as well as the legendary wine regions of Tuscany and Provence.

    Bourbon Cruise on the American Queen

    American Steamboat Company operates the largest paddlewheel vessel ever built, and sails along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. On the Saint Louis to Cincinnati itinerary, the American Queen visits Kentucky’s bourbon country for a look inside the area’s finest distilleries. Cruisers can also attend creative workshops or enrichment programs onboard the ship. The cruise departs in July 2016 and calls on historical cities such as Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Louisville, Ky. with shore excursions included in the fare


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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