10+ Ways to Enjoy Wine at Sea on a Cruise

“Life is too short to drink bad wine.” My wife and I are wine fans. Enjoying wine is part of our decision-making process when planning vacations. We ask ourselves “What is the food and wine culture of the places we are visiting?”  We like sailing with Cunard, having recently completed our 19th voyage. They do wine very well onboard their ships. The points I bring up should be applicable to most cruise lines.

  1. Wine by the glass. The bars and restaurants should have a wide selection of wines by the glass. When you are at sea you have the benefit of a bill with no sales tax! They might automatically add a service charge. Although you have a line for a tip in addition to the service charge, I consider the service charge a gratuity. On Cunard, I recall wine is served in two sizes of pour.
  2. Bottles off the list. When seated in the dining room, we prefer buying wine by the bottle. Although you might think everyone is a captive audience, I tend to find wine at sea is fairly priced. At least that is true on Cunard. There are plenty of bottles priced at $45.00 or below. If you do not finish the bottle, they will cork it, label it and store it until the next dinner.
  3. Bring your own from home. We are fine wine fans. We want to enjoy wine in ideal circumstances and served in proper glasses. The dining room staff will make that happen. We have found you can usually bring one or two bottles per person onboard. On Cunard, the rules say you can enjoy your wine in your cabin or the dining room. There is a modest corkage charge of about $25.00/bottle.
  4. Wine and food pairing lunches. This is something Cunard does. I think other cruise lines have their own versions. I always ask about it on day #1 and book a seat immediately. On Cunard, is five courses, often paired with one or two wines per course. On our Christmas cruise, lunch ran 2.5 hours and I was among the first to leave! It costs extra but is very good value.
  5. Wine tastings. Most cruise lines do something in this area. They might be sit down tastings or walk around affairs. They might be tutored or self-guided. There might be nibbles. We attended ones with perhaps a hundred people walking from station to station. We have attended pricy ones setup similar to a college class where you sip and take notes.
  6. When wine is included. Higher end cruise lines often include wine and other beverages as part of your cruise fare. It isn’t “free” because it is built into the price of your vacation. The wine is tasty and drinkable, but not the absolute high end collectable wines you might be drinking at home. Those wines are usually available on a “reserve” list and priced accordingly.
  7. Buying wine ashore. Imagine you are on a river cruise, floating down the Rhine. Maybe you are on an ocean cruise and took a shore excursion into Tuscany. You stopped at a vineyard and bought some great wine! What next?  Your cruise line should be OK with you bringing it onboard. You might be charged a corkage fee in the dining room. Perhaps you might not.
  8. Buying a beverage package. Many cruise lines offer a range of beverage packages. Some focus on specialty coffee, others soft drinks. There should be an alcoholic drinks package too. Although you might think the per day charge will enable you to recall your fraternity days in college, there are plenty of rules. They can still be a good deal. You might need to buy a package covering several consecutive days. This is good if you tend to order wine by the glass.
  9. Buying a bottle package. Cruise ships have a plan for people like us who prefer wine by the bottle. You pay an upfront charge and might get to order four bottles from a list of wines connected to the package. There might be a 15% or 20% discount compared to buying the bottles individually.
  10. The bin end list. You have heard how bird watchers are on the lookout for rare species and stamp collectors hope to find that rare stamp! Cruise lines sometimes assemble a “bin end List” of wines they are taking off the main wine list with the change of the season. In most cases you need to ask your wine steward if the list is available. In my experience, many times it is not. When it is available, you can often find wines you like at decent discounts.
  11. Wine tours. If you are visiting a wine producing region, chances are the ship will offer one or two shore excursions to local wineries. In my experience you want to book these as early as possible. This might be after you booked your cruise, but weeks or months before you sail. The group size might be very small.

If you are a fine wine fan, there is a lot to like about cruising. Find a ship that likes wine as much as you do.

Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines

Ed. Notes: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise and land deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world.

Sea Tales 2023 Family Cruise Travel Planner (flippingbook.com)

Shore Excursions – Ports, Day & Weekend Trips

Cover Photo credit Bryce Sanders



Leave a Comment

Trusted by over 1.5 million cruisers since 2003.
Get FREE access to members-only pricing.
There is a highly acclaimed way to receive multiple quotes from a site called CruiseCompete, where cruise specialists compete to offer you the best deal. The media sums it up for CruiseCompete:
Score Luxury Cruises at Bargain Prices” (The Street)
Best site for cruise deals” (The Wall Street Journal)
28 Best Travel Sites” (Kiplinger's) Multiple annual mentions
36 Web Addresses You Should Know” (The Washington Post)