Cruise ships aren’t generally known as great beer destinations, and that potential point of differentiation in beverage service is something that helped steer Royal Caribbean International’s 22 luxury ships toward a well-developed brew program. Their efforts toward changing those vessels into brew-friendly ships are responsible for the line taking home the 2013 VIBE Vista award for Best Hotel, Cruise Line or Casino Operators beer program.
Bob Midyette, director of fleet beverage operations for Royal Caribbean International, heads up the beer program that focuses on providing an experience that rivals land based operations and offering a significant selection of beer styles from all over the world, as well as a highly trained staff aimed at increasing beer sales. Royal’s beer program is tied in with the cruise line’s overall beverage program objectives that include creating a memorable experience, quality selections, a variety of options and exceptional service.
Last year in particular, Royal worked diligently to elevate their beer program by adding a number of craft beers from small U.S. breweries as well as additional international selections. “We’ve worked really hard to create a world-class program,” says Midyette. “Our beverage menu features a great breadth of selections including draft and bottled selections and our English Pub concept located on the majority of our ships offers the ultimate beer drinking experience including special beer events and tastings.”
Royal offers 43 different beers from 16 countries, and the program features a strong international and craft focus with each beer categorized on the beverage menu by styles. That’s 17 different beer styles, with the program introducing unique selections to keep the program fresh, says Midyette.
Additional craft selections added this year from smaller, U.S. breweries include a wheat beer from Widmer Brothers, a double bock from Samuel Adams, an India pale ale from Redhook, a pale ale from Sierra Nevada and a gluten-free option from Dogfish Head. Royal also added more European selections including a Belgian Trappist beer from Belgium's monk-run Chimay brewery.
Training is a critical element of Royal’s beer program, and since bartenders and servers often work at multiple concepts, the cruise line created detailed program execution guides to ensure consistent presentation and preparation of every beer or beer cocktail offered.
To deliver on Royal Caribbean’s standard of friendly and engaging service from staff and crew, on-board training is conducted regularly with the goal of imparting product knowledge and generating excitement among crew members. Specific beer training and education includes supervised tastings in which organized teams of servers visit onboard venues to conduct taste tests.
Over time, servers taste and acquire detailed education related to every beer offered including the region of origin, taste depth, alcohol content and expiration details. With every new beer introduction or program element change, a test is given to the serving crew about product and brand knowledge and service guidelines, with a 90 percent score required to pass. “One of our service goals is to have the best trained staff in the industry with advanced beer education and knowledge,” says Midyette.