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4 Secrets to Getting the Most out of the Wine on a Cruise

Secrets Getting Most out of Wine on a Cruise

A lot of people like to enjoy some wine or other adult beverages when on a cruise ship. I know I do!


Whether to buy a wine and/or a mixed drink package is a personal preference based on a number of factors, such as how much you’ll be in port or whether there are good happy hour deals.

It’s also helpful to learn about wine on a cruise before you go, like how many bottles you can bring on board, whether there’s a corkage fee, and if you’d have to pay taxes on a wine package if you purchase it before leaving port.


But that information can be gleaned from the cruise company’s website or social media.


What you should also know are the secrets to getting the most out of the wine on a cruise, which I’ve learned from personal experience. Most of my recent cruises have been on Holland American, but these tips apply to any cruise line.


1.      Go to at Least One Wine Tasting Event


If you like wine or want to learn more, attend a wine tasting. Yes, you’ll probably pay extra for the privilege, but they’re fun and informative. The sommeliers work hard to make these programs worthwhile and to differentiate them from each other. You’ll likely be able to enjoy some wines not regularly offered nor included in the wine packages. On my last cruise, the ship launched with 15,000 bottles of wine; believe me, most of them are not on the menu at the pool bar.

Secrets Getting Most out of Wine on a Cruise


For instance, at one recent onboard wine tasting event we were able to sample not only well-known popular wines from Oregon, France, and California, but also less common, high-quality wines from the Western Cape of South Africa; Rueda, Spain; and Galilee, Israel. At the “premium” wine tasting event we sampled some very prestigious wines, including a few new to the ship’s wine cellar (and to me), such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.


We actually attended all four wine tastings on the last cruise we took. The different sommeliers hosting each event had distinctive backgrounds, styles, and perspectives, which made each event different and memorable.


2.      Ask if there are any Non-Advertised Wines Available

Secrets Getting Most out of Wine on a Cruise

Another secret to getting the most out of the wine on a cruise is that there are often great wines already open and potentially available – to those who ask. Cruise ships might have open wines from captain’s parties, loyalty member gatherings, awards ceremonies, and the like.

We learned this secret by accident. We asked the sommelier at one dinner which wines by the glass he’d recommend. He told us that he’d most recommend a wine not on the menu. He had an almost full bottle of a wine we had sampled at that day’s wine tasting event that we could have if we liked. We had loved that wine, a wonderful Chardonnay from Washington State, and took advantage of the offer. And we were given very generous pours. 😊 


3.      Inquire about Wine Bottle Specials or Discounts


Another secret to getting the most out of the wine on a cruise is that there can be un-

advertised wine bargains. For example, on the last cruise I was on the ship had recently

updated its inventory, basically creating close-out sales on some of the high-end bottles to make room for the newcomers. A Flanagan Chardonnay, which had retailed at $115, was now half off at $58. A Chateau d’Yquem, originally $495, was now $297. The sommeliers, waiters, and maître d’s are busy and may not necessarily remember to offer this perk, so again, it’s worth asking.

 4.      At a Wine Tasting, Leave Room for the Accompanying Food

Secrets Getting Most out of Wine on a Cruise

There’s a lot of food on a cruise, and it’s easy to load up. But if you’re attending a wine tasting, don’t bypass the food offered there. It’s often chosen to complement the wine and enhance the experience.


Plus, we’ve found that the food offered at the wine tastings can be better and more interesting than the regular fare. For instance, at a recent “wine around the world” wine tasting event, the accompanying food included mussels and ceviche. At the premium wine tasting experience, each wine was paired with a sample of a delicacy from each of the ship’s specialty premium restaurants. We ate beef tartare and caviar from the upscale seafood bistro and candied bacon from the steakhouse, items not being offered in the main dining room. Yum!


 We hope these four secrets to getting the most out of the wine on a cruise elevate your next cruise experience.  Do you have any tips to add? Please let us know! We’re at


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