To win the annual VIBE Vista award for best beer program among hotels, casinos and cruise lines, showing innovation and results are essential. For example, this year’s winner, Celebrity Cruises, updated its beer program to support the company’s strategic aim to provide a world-class program that rivaled land-based operations. Efforts included the opening of Gastrobar “pub-like” concepts on several ships, operations that include more handcrafted and seasonal selections from international and domestic breweries, and adding craft beer to the beverage menu at Cellar Masters, Celebrity’s trendy wine bar.
The Gastrobar concept was designed for the beer enthusiast or any guest interested in learning about craft brews. The pub-like atmosphere provides beer lovers with more than 40 beers, comfort food and bar bites, large screen T.V.’s, Karaoke, open mic nights and beer tasting events, not common on board many cruise ships.
The beer program features more than 60 selections and 24 different beer styles, including a selection of craft beers and a strong seasonal program that reflects the cruising location of the ships. For example, a ship sailing in the Caribbean may feature a pumpkin ale by Samuel Adams in October whereas a ship sailing around Europe during this same season may feature BrewDog’s Dead Pony Pale Ale from Scotland. Beer styles include brown ale, stout, red ale, barley wine, dark ale, dopplebock, dubbel, Hefeweizen, India Pale Ale, lager, old ale, Scottish ale, steam beer, amber cider, fruit beer, hard cider and more.
Celebrity’s marketing strategy focuses on engaging guests with point of sale items and promotions, working with its sales promotion agency to create several beverage menus that feature beer with four-color photography, while the menu at Gastrobar uses sketch imagery and includes a “hopology” quiz. The menu also lists detailed information about each beer including style, origin, volume and ABV. Seven unique Gastrobar menus were created to feature the daily promotions.
Colorful menu tents also help to promote Celebrity’s beer program placed in prominent bars including the pool areas, Sky Lounge, Cellar Masters and Passport Bar. Celebrity Today, the cruise line’s daily newsletter, is used to promote seasonal and craft selections and Celebrity’s Facebook page also periodically promotes the beer program with photos of seasonal beers and the new Gastrobar concept.
Comprehensive beer training is required for all bar managers, bartenders and servers, originally developed by the Cicerone organization prior to Celebrity’s first beer program launch. The cruise line has since supplemented this program to include its own proprietary beer training - all bar managers, bartenders and servers are required to complete and pass the training. New hire training includes this comprehensive training and regular testing occurs to ensure beer and menu competency. Bartenders and servers also receive beer modules, designed by Celebrity, in their bar training manual that cover beer fundamentals, styles and production. Additionally, most bartenders and servers are Certified Beer Servers, the first level in the Cicerone Certification Program.
The results of Celebrity’s elevated beer program have been impressive, with sales up 45 percent since the Gastrobar concepts were introduced on Celebrity’s Equinox and Solstice class of ships. Plans are underway to add the popular beer destination pubs to additional ships soon. And since adding craft beer to Cellar Masters’ beverage menu, beer sales have increased 15 percent at the popular wine bars and overall beer sales have increased 20 percent fleetwide.