The Best Cruise Ship Happy Hours

MSC Cruises' wine bar, a staple on MSC Musica and Orchestra, is back on Poesia and Fantasia -- two of the line's newest ships. On MSC Poesia, the space is called Grappolo d'Oro, and on Fantasia, the venue goes by La Cantina Toscana; there's a hefty list of wines from provinces across Italy, along with Italian cheeses and meats. The light leather upholstery seems, at first, counterintuitive. (Wine bars are generally very dark and rich in tone.) But, ultimately, it creates an atmosphere that's very open and chic.

French Kiss: The Champagne Bar

Signature Elements: Not the newest kids on the block, but eternally popular, champagne bars are nearly always the most elegant lounges on any ship.

Our Favorites: For posh, flute-in-hand reveling with de rigueur beluga caviar and foie gras (extra charge), Cunard and Veuve Clicquot's elegant champagne bar goes all-out on Queen Mary 2 (pictured) and Queen Victoria.

Burning Issues:

Cigar Bars

Signature Elements: In the late 90's, cigar bars were some of the hottest concepts onboard, designated as havens for cigar smokers. These days, the fervor has since died down a bit. The reason? Most passengers wanted to avoid the smoke, so such rooms stayed empty, night after night.

Our Favorites: Cigar aficionados need not fear -- cigar bars can still be found on a few ships. In fact, Carnival has embraced stogie-smoking in a big way. Although the line's newest ship, Carnival Dream doesn't include a cigar bar, all ships in the Splendor and Conquest classes boast such haunts.

By and large, ships built after the cigar-boom era tend to offer quiet, cozy rooms that are tucked away from the general onboard mayhem. We particularly love the Connoisseur Club on Royal Caribbean's Freedom-class and Voyager-class ships; they are hidden away at the entrances to the secondary show lounges. Not only are Connoisseur Club locations peaceful spots, but they're also some of the few cruise ship cigar nooks to actually boast onsite bars. (Many require you to pick up your drinks at the nearest lounge.) Although Royal Caribbean's latest ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas don't include actual cigar lounges, there will be designated areas onboard each sailing where cigar smoking is allowed.

Daily Grind: Coffee Bars

Signature Elements: Cafe latte culture continues to spread into the onboard milieu, with cruise ships fully embracing the great gourmet-coffee movement. While cruise ships have always offered complimentary coffee on a round-the-clock basis, these new-fangled coffee bars feature fancier brews. This has created untold revenue opportunities; expect to pay a land-based price for that cappuccino.

Our Favorites: Our nomination for best-at-sea has to go to Celebrity for two different coffee venues. One is Cafe al Bacio, found onboard the line's new Solstice-class ships: Solstice, Eclipse, Equinox and Silhouette. They serve coffee drinks and tea, as well as pastries. Although this modern-but-classy venue includes flashing lights, its warm yellow and brown hues and comfy chairs offer a relaxing space for a caffeine fix. Live music can also be found there. Additionally, this venue is strategically positioned near The Gelateria -- a great place to grab gelato or Italian ice to chase down that latte.

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