On a chilly Thursday morning, I lugged an overstuffed suitcase and two smaller bags to the bag drop area at JaxPort. A smiling uniformed porter took our luggage and my wife and I embarked upon a four-day cruise on Carnival’s Elation. With two ports of call—Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas—I was looking forward to visiting a few local breweries and sipping some cold ones onboard.
Within minutes, we found our way to the bar. My wife ordered a fruity rum drink and I ordered a Thirsty Frog Red, Carnival’s private label brew and one of several beers on tap. I found this beer produced by Anheuser-Busch to be tasty and refreshing–but maybe it was the sea air. Over the course of four evenings, I sampled quite a few of the ship’s beers, ranging from imports like Heineken and Foster’s to Sam Adams’ Rebel IPA, along with the usual suspects.
The variety of beers on Carnival ships wasn’t always so diverse. There was a time when thirsty cruisers could choose only macro brews. Enter Vice President of Beverage Operations Edward “Eddie” Allen.
“I’ve been with Carnival six years now,” Allen said, as we discussed Carnival’s craft beer program. “As a beer drinker myself, I was rather disappointed in what we were serving. I wanted to take this opportunity to change what we were doing.”
So, with the help of a dedicated research staff, Allen sought to expand the selection.
“We wanted to work with true craft breweries,” Allen explained. “Our guests were demanding a better beer onboard. So we started looking at how we could offer that.”
After much tasting, Allen and his team decided to expand fleet-wide with beers like Sam Adams’ Rebel IPA; they also came up with a regional program that put home port brews onboard. Thus, Alaskan cruisers can enjoy Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Amber Ale and cruises from Galveston stock Shiner Bock, among others.
“We chose based on quality,” Allen said.
Walking through Elation’s main buffet dining area, I noticed an odd machine off to the side. Upon closer inspection, I was elated (see what I did there?!) to find that it was a self-serve beer dispenser! The premise is simple: Take a plastic cup from the holder, swipe your stateroom key and pour your own delicious, golden brew. The machine keeps track of the number of ounces poured and bills your stateroom accordingly.
The self-pour machine was perfect for grabbing a quick beer on my way to one of the ship’s many entertainments. On Sunday, Jan. 21, it was invaluable as a source of refreshment during the Jaguars game shown on a big screen in one of the ship’s theaters, as well as on smaller TVs throughout the ship.
Allen summed things up nicely: “I mean, what’s better than drinking some of America’s amazing craft beers while you’re on vacation, relaxing with friends and family up on the pool deck, looking at the ocean? That’s an opportunity to really enjoy a beer!”
I also hit several breweries in The Bahamas, so be sure to catch next week’s Pint-Sized column.