Cruise Trends: Bigger Ships, Craft Beer, Chic Eateries

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Major cruise lines continue the trend of launching big ships. For the industry, increased passenger capacity means more profits. For passengers, the behemoths of the sea come loaded with options. Two popular trends for luring passengers aboard (and loosening their wallets): craft beer and eateries by name chefs.

Here’s a rundown on three big ships.

Norwegian Escape

The Escape, Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) biggest ship carrying 4,200 passengers, debuted October 2015. The line is known for its myriad restaurants—most require an extra fee. The ship sails seven-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries from Miami.

Several of the Escape’s 28 places to eat are new concepts for NCL. Hum a few lines of Jimmy Buffet as you chow down on a Cheeseburger in Paradise from Margaritaville, the first sea outpost of the popular chain. At the Food Republic, developed by Miami’s Pubbelly Restaurant Group, try small plates of global cuisine. For more high-end fare, the Escape serves up Bayamo by Jose Garces, a James Beard award-winning chef. The restaurant’s fare mixes influences from Latin America and Spain. At Pincho, you can get Garces-inspired Tapas.

The District Brew House offers 24 draft beers on tap and some 50 different bottled beers.

Carnival Vista

The Vista, Carnival’s biggest ship, carries 3,954 passengers and debuts May 1. The ship sails in Europe initially followed by six- and eight-night Caribbean voyages.

Like other Carnival ships, the Vista features the BlueIguana Cantina for Mexican fare, Guy’s Burger Joint for burgers and Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ for pulled pork and barbecue chicken sandwiches. New options include Seafood Shack, a New England style casual eatery; and Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, a revised version of the line’s steakhouse.

The Vista’s onboard brewery—an industry first—will create three craft beers available at the RedFrog Pub & Brewery.

Holland America Koningsdam

The first new ship for the Holland America since 2010, the Koningsdam, which debuts April 8, is 15% larger than former ships and carries 2,650 passengers. The ship sails seven- to 26-day voyages in the Mediterranean and Baltic before starting Caribbean and Bahamas sailings in the fall.

Among the news dining spaces are Sel de Mer, a French seafood brasserie; a farm-to-table dinner experience in the Culinary Arts Center; and the Grand Dutch Café serves Dutch items and European beer.

Find European beer at the Grand Dutch Café. Wine lovers will like Blend, billed as the “only purpose-built wine blending venue at sea.” Guided by the ship’s wine expert, 10 participants at a time create their own blends from five barrels.