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Dream Cruise for Wine Aficionados

As consumers — a word not to be confused with connoisseurs — of wine, we are familiar with Vinopolis. In case you aren’t, this is an organization in the heart of London that specializes in wine and food pairings.

In the fall, Vinopolis is pairing with Celebrity, the most progressive cruise line anywhere when it comes to wine. A cruise leaves Southampton on October 13, destined for some of the great wine regions of Europe during the harvest season.

Can you say Bordeaux, for starters?

For people who are wine consumers — a word not to be confused with connoisseurs — it’s a dream cruise. A whole week of being immersed (hmm, wrong word?) in wine and the food that best enhances it, while visiting not only the most famous wine country in France, but also the best of Spain and Portugal.

While Celebrity boasts the most extensive collection of sommeliers we’ve ever seen on a cruise, the experts for this one come from “telly” land (TV personality and wine connoisseur Oz Clarke)…and from Vinopolis.

Ah, Vinopolis.

Our experience there was less than extraordinary, through no fault of Vinopolis. The night before our afternoon appointment at the unique and unusual wine facility, we had stayed with friends named Charlie and Anne in North London. The two males in the foursome were a match when it came to laughter and wine consumption, and the next day, the last place the visiting male felt like visiting was a place connected to wine.

Even after an extensive ride on the top of a double-decker bus.

Ever since, he’s been blaming Charlie.

Norwegian Epic
7 nights
April 7, 2012
Miami (return): St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Nassau
Inside  $599
Cost per day: $86

Celebrity, Wine the Perfect Match

As wine lovers go, we don’t think we’re especially HM, even though we did once have TWO sommeliers at our TABLE while on a cruise ship, the Celebrity Millennium. At the other end of the wine bottle, we were on a Princess cruise where there was ONE sommelier for the entire ship!

The point here is that Celebrity makes a huge commitment to winos…er, wine lovers. (The Princess experience was excellent for everybody, except perhaps Andre Smith, the sommelier, who had an army of “sou-sommeliers” at his disposal.)

Celebrity just raised the wine bar…or the wine glass.

Its latest enhancement is to take seven ships full of passengers — or one ship, the Celebrity Constellation, seven times — for overnight stays in France, Spain and Portugal. This all happens about a year from now, in the heart of the harvest season for vineyards.

This dovetails nicely with Celerity’s dedication to all things wine. Impressive Cellar Masters wine bars (above) are open 24 hours-a-day on most of its 10 ships, with a wonderful selection of wines. The wine lists are at least the equal of any cruise line. They have many sommeliers…on the Celebrity Eclipse there are 22.

The 2012 Constellation wine cruises, which go on sale later this week, will spend overnights in regions known for wines of champagne, Bordeaux and Rioja.

And if you don’t known what Rioja is, well…you need a sommelier.

Pacific Princess
12 nights
November 3, 2011
Venice to Greece (Holy Land)
Balcony $2099

Royal Caribbean's French Wine Buzzword

We don’t know a lot about French wine, but we know a little. Thanks to our late, great neighbor Ralph Wells, we know there are five “first-growth wines” in France, and there will always be only five — Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite, Chateau Mouton, Chateau Margaux. We know that we like Bordeaux reds, and that we don’t care for Beaujolais Nouveau. And we know that the greatest of all French wines (Ralph’s opinion) is Chateau Pétrus.

Having said all that, French red wine always catches our attention, especially if any of the buzzwords in that first paragraph are mentioned.

Royal Caribbean is expanding its taste test to its entire fleet of 22 ships. The taste test is called the Lafite Wine Experience. The key word…Lafite.

It has our attention.

This is a wine-tasting program Royal Caribbean launched (ship terminology here) last month. Only for passengers on the Allure of the Seas. The five hours we spent visiting the Allure one day was dry…well it did rain. It was November, too soon for the wine tasting.

It sounds like we missed the boat, so to speak.

Since mid-December, the Lafite Wine Experience has been successful enough to offer it to all Royal Caribbean customers by the end of March. What is it? A taste of four Lafite wines for $29. What a deal! One of them is a white Bordeaux, which is too bad, but maybe a white Bordeaux from Lafite would surprise us.

The reds aren’t first-growths but, being Lafites, there’s brand excellence to protect. They’re from the winemaker’s Reserve Speciale series and they’re being presented by a company cellar master (sommelier?). And anybody willing to spend an hour — and $29 — to taste four wines probably knows something about French wine.

Even if it’s just a little.

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