Nothing says vacation quite like sailing through open waters with a spiked drink in hand and the sun setting on the horizon.
Cruises have long been regaled as a place to overindulge, but we’re not talking about overpriced piña coladas. These cruise lines and voyages have taken it up a notch, dedicating days or even the entire journey to the love of wine, beer, spirits, and everything in between. From a seven-day wine-filled trip along the Rhine to a tour of Russian vodka museums, you’ll find your cup is never empty (but maybe your liver a little worse for wear) during one of these cruises.
1. Douro River Cruise, AmaWaterway
Flanked by sprawling vineyards, 17th-century estates and lush, green hills all around, the Douro river is one of the world’s most picturesque. But the real reason people take this leisurely route is for the port wine, which is produced throughout this breathtaking valley. To get the most out of the experience, book a trip through AmaWaterways. Not only will you get better wines to sample and sip during your meals, the excursions will focus on the area’s famed pour and will include visits to the locale’s best quintas (wine estates).
2. Barge Bubbles, French Country Waterways
The French know a thing or two about elegant traveling — and the Champagne barge cruise with French Country Waterways is proof. With just enough room for between eight and 18 passengers and six crew members, the intimate cruise takes you through pristine vineyards, 18th-century estates and cellars of France’s legendary Champagne region. In addition to stops at places like Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, bountiful pours on board, and five-star meals, the excursions take you to some of the French countryside’s most beautiful châteaus and small farmhouses.
3. Wine on the Rhine, Riviera Travel
There are few rivers more legendary for wine than the Rhine, which weaves and winds through the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. AmaWaterways, one of the leaders in fine booze cruising, offers a Wine on the Rhine sailing tour that carries you past some of the most postcard-worthy views of fairy-tale villages, medieval castles, cascading vineyards, and gilded cathedrals. The best part, though, is the focus on wine, with most of the bottles served on board hailing from the same wineries you’re cruising past.
4. Steamboats & Bourbon, American Queen
Take an adventure through the South’s most iconic bourbon distilleries and bars on a cruise with the American Queen Steamboat Company. You’ll take an upscale river voyage from Cincinnati to Memphis or Memphis to Louisville along the Ohio River for a seven-night journey. You’ll enjoy highlighted tours and tastings at distilleries, as well as plenty of boutique distillery tastings and samples when back on board. In addition, the chef will pair Kentucky’s famed brown whiskey with a tasting menu designed to bring out the oaky flavors of the drink.
5. Beer Cruise, Avalon
With stops at locations that date back to the medieval ages, a beer cruise with Avalon Waterways will take you to ancient beer gardens, animated local pubs, and centuries-old monasteries with monks who’ve mastered the art of brewing. For the ultimate beer lover’s itinerary, board a suite ship in Prague and cruise along the Danube river in search of brew tastings in Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. Excursions will offer tastings at small and local breweries, as well as the big guys (like Heineken), and will offer food and beer tasting dinners by the ship’s chefs. You can even relive your college days with a traditional Viennese pub crawl if you join the 12-day sudsy cruise from Prague to Budapest.
6. Vodka with Viking, Viking River Cruises
In addition to the opulent museums, summer châteaus, and sprawling concert halls, the Russians are famous for something else: vodka. And on Viking River Cruises’ 13-day tour through Russia’s rivers, starting in the gilded city of St. Petersburg, you get to sample and appreciate the country’s history of vodka production in local hangouts and bars, like the aptly titled Russia Vodka Room No. 1 and trendy Fish Fabrique, where you’ll get a taste of modern drinking culture. When sailing, you’ll get the chance to tour the living museum of vodka, located in the rebuilt and rustic village of Mandrogy. Home to more than 20,000 bottles of vodka from nearly 2,000 Russian brands, you’ll get the pick of the litter when it comes to choosing ones to taste.
If expansive cruise ships or opulent river vessels aren’t really your thing, opt for a whiskey-fueled barge cruise along the Caledonian Canal and through Loch Ness. European Waterways offers a seven-day Whiskey Trail cruise on its luxe eight-passenger cargo ship. The ship will weave along the picturesque Caledonian Canal, and on the nights you’re simply sailing through postcard-worthy scenery, you’ll enjoy dinners prepared specifically to pair with the area’s whiskey in addition to ample tastings on board….
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