Spirited Sailing: The Most Expensive Libations on Yachts and Cruises

Most people don’t know that their next favorite wine is served on cruises.

It’s no secret that expectations surrounding luxury travel have been redefined throughout the past decade. No longer is luxury only about the most expensive experience with meticulous attention to detail to match, but now, rare and exclusive offerings are expected to qualify as an ultra-premium travel experience.

Think bespoke itineraries that provide insider access to the most famous sites in the world like a picnic at Petra, solo tours to the Colosseum, or hot air ballooning over the Serengeti. Travelers seek luxury in adventures that lead them where no other tourist is to gain perpetual bragging rights of “I went there.” Increasingly, rare and exclusive experiences have extended to food and beverage, to add to the notion of “I went there,” with “and I indulged in that.” The latter is particularly relevant to elusive labels of wine and spirits.

Perhaps this is why there’s been an uptick in expensive, rare labels, not just at five-star hotels across the globe but for floating vacations, from yachts to cruise ships. Rune Thomas, SVP of communications at SeaDream Yacht Club shares an example from a recent charter guest. “He requested a rare five-liter Chateau Petrus Magnum bottle,” said Thomas. “We were able to find one single bottle in Monaco and it was brought to the yacht in an armored car with guards closely following the bottle from the wine cellar in Monaco to the yacht.” Though Thomas was unable to comment on the price due to non-disclosures, a similar bottle is listed online for $49,999.

In case guests want to go big but not five-liter big, SeaDream Yacht Club’s wine cellar is always stocked with exquisite bottles such as Chateau Petrus Grand VII for $5,143 per bottle and Echezeaux Domaine De la Romane Conti 2011 for $3,945.

Though yacht charters have long been associated with an expectation of exquisite attention to detail and personalization, in recent years, several cruise lines have joined the ranks of elite offerings when it comes to wine and spirits, showcasing that they’ve adapted to the contemporary luxury traveler who expects access and exclusivity as part of their experience. After all, what could be more exclusive than sipping on a vintage that matches your birth year?

On board Viking Ocean Cruises, Torshavn Lounge and Bar is stocked with the largest vintage selection across any cruise ship with their Armagnac collection spanning 1935 to 1965, inspired by Chairman of Viking Torstein Hagen who pictured 30 years of vintage spirits as an offering for guests to celebrate their birth year. The hotel operations team landed on Armagnac as they say it’s “more special, with more fruit content that ages differently than cognac,” for an unexpected tipple. Prices vary by year, but the most costly is a 4cl pour (about 1.3 oz) of 1948 Armagnac for $332.

On Silversea, the Connoisseur Corner waits to delight guests with premium spirits, including cognac, scotch, tequila, bourbon and grappa. The most expensive selection currently available is Reserve Hennessy Richard Cognac—$350 per glass or $9,000 for the bottle—a unique presentation of 250 years of Maison Hennessy that offers a special blend of rare eaux-de-vie for a delicate nose and spicy palate.

In the American whiskey category, Silversea features Pappy Van Winkle 20-year-old, considered as a cult bourbon among enthusiasts and celebrated for its heritage and rarity (not to mention, when it was first released in 1994, it became the world’s first 20-year-aged bourbon). It’s extremely challenging to get your hands on, let alone a sip of, but on Silversea, guests can enjoy a glass for $240 or a bottle for $6,000.

It’s not all about spirits. In recent years, Princess Cruises has prioritized enhancing its wine program. They’ve worked with prominent figures in the wine world, including a past partnership under the guidance of Master of Wine and Master Sommelier Doug Frost to expand their selections and a current collaboration with Caymus Vineyards and owner Chuck Wagner for a wine-pairing dinner at their Crown Grill. Among the selection of unique vintages listed on their wine list is the indulgent $5,288 bottle of Chateau Petrus Pomerol.

Cunard has also amped up its wine offerings with a variety of hand-picked wine packages curated by their partner sommeliers and stored in their onboard cellar. The most expensive of the packages is The Commodore’s Collection, which is $445 for six bottles or $750 for 12 bottles with access to selections from premier wine regions from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to Napa.

When it comes to river cruising, Riverside Luxury Cruises sets an exceptional standard across the pond with their European sailings. Their house Champagne is Tattinger Brut Reserve, though there’s no outrageous price associated with this pour, as guests aren’t charged for the house wine. The new company is leading by example—included alcohol can equate to quality.

For guests seeking a bit more, Riverside Luxury Cruises presents their coveted private dining space, the Vintage Room, where reservations can be made for a premium wine and food pairing for 295 euros. That price is inclusive of the grand selection of wine labels available, from bubbles like Dom Pérignon, to great estate white wines like Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles La Chablisienne, and red wines such as Opus One, Mondavi & Baron Phillippe Rothschild.

If you have your eye on a prized bottle that you haven’t gained access to yet, on your next sailing, it might be worth asking about your chosen vessel’s top-shelf labels—you may have a better chance of securing a sip on the water than you do on dry land.