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Celebrity Toasted By Wine Spectator

CellermastersIn case you were wondering…

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Celebrity has, arguably, the premier wine reputation among cruise lines. We won’t argue the point. Our best and most complete wine experiences have been on Celebrity ships, starting with a knowledgeable sommelier from (of all places) Mumbai. Knowledgable sommelier…aren’t they all?

Anyway, the Wine Spectator has enhanced the reputation by awarding 10 Awards of Excellence — of a possible 12 — to Celebrity for its wine lists. It’s an instant replay.

Last year, Celebrity also won 10.

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Cruise lines are being encouraged to equip their ships to use shore-based electricity in port and burn less diesel fuel. However, the left hand doesn’t always know what the right is doing with regards to the ports.

When the Carnival Miracle stopped in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, it was unable to hook up to shore power even though the ship is equipped for it.

The reason?

The ship’s hook-up is on the starboard side. The Port of Vancouver assigned the Miracle a port side connection. Consequently, the ship was forced to burn diesel during its stay in one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive cities.

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When Quantum of the Seas leaves on its two-night, pre-inaugural cruise after arriving in North America in November, it will be making special wishes.

The Make-A-Wish chapters from New Jersey and New York are selling passage on the new ship to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, long an active charity on Royal Caribbean ships. Quantum leaves Bayonne, New Jersey at 4 p.m. on November 14 and returns at 7 a.m. on November 16, so you’re on the ship for about 39 hours.

Passage is for balcony cabins, at $1,495 for obstructed and $1,995 for unobstructed.

In other words, it’s pretty much a donation in return for being first to sail on Quantum of the Seas in North America.

Today at portsandbows.com: Opera on the rivers

Celebrity Century
8 nights
November 11, 2014
Sydney (return): Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Lincoln
Oceanview: $835
Cost per day: $104
www.celebritycruises.com

Jewels of cruising on a Crown Princess

Ten things we liked about the Crown Princess, the ship that in seven days carried us to three Western Caribbean ports from Galveston, in no particular order:

The Ultimate Ship Tour

Usually, tours of the innards of a ship are a one-time experience because a galley is a galley, a print shop is a print shop and a laundry is a laundry. This one was almost three hours and the time flew, even during the longest stop, the Princess Theater. If there was something we didn't see in the theater (okay, we missed seeing performers changing costumes), we'd be hard-pressed to find it, and we left with a genuine sense of what it's like on the other side of the stage lights. And, of course, it never gets tiring to visit the bridge of a cruise ship.

The Cruise Director

Lisa Ball has been honing her skills for almost six years on Princess ships. Unlike some cruise directors, her style is not "over the top" and she is the epitome of professionalism. And if you'd like to know more about her, check on our blog regularly.

Muster Drill

Are you kidding? How can anybody like a muster drill, the "fasten your seat belts" instruction, to use a flight analogy? This one lasted nine minutes, was taped by the captain, played regularly on state-room televisions and covered everything ("If you do go in the water…"). And guess what? At our muster station, everybody was listening for a change.

Man from Vines

Vines is the wine tasting bar that's part of the piazza, the Princess moniker for an atrium. The wines were fine, as they say, but the real star was the ship's lone sommelier. Eduardo Angulo Solis seems a little un-traditional as sommeliers go, encouraging customers to pair food and wine and decide for themselves what works, with a little coaching from an expert. This young man from Chile takes a leave from Princess to spend a year studying to become only the second master sommelier in his homeland, Chile.

The Elevators

At first it was a game: Which side of the door will the illuminated buttons for each deck be on, because they always seemed to be on the side where you didn't look. Then we realized we weren't the only ones playing the game…most passengers were asking the same question, and most were getting it wrong. Talking about it beat elevator music.

Gatsby's

This is the trade name for Princess casinos, and we didn't like it for the reasons you might think, but for the one night on the cruise when smoking was banned. Not everybody agreed…we did see one woman, playing a slot machine and chewing on an unlit cigarette.

Space in Balcony Rooms

On most cruise ships, it's hard to find room for all your clothes, some of which get tucked into drawers and cabinets made for other things. On the Crown Princess, the closet was about eight feet long and, with shelves on top and an adjacent cabinet, why….we clearly didn't bring enough clothes!

The Piazza

This is going to be a staple on Princess ships, and we can see why. It's a gathering spot, as atriums always are, but the Princess Piazzas are busy and entertaining, and adorned with many things Italian (the pizzas are coming!)

Captain Andrew Proctor

A Scotsman of the sea (how many of those are there), he didn't agree to an interview, but he did tell us the secret to making haggis edible: "Mashed tatties [potatoes], mashed turnip…and 12-year-old gravy!"

The Crown Grill

As spectacular as the filet mignon was at this specialty restaurant ($25), the side plates of potatoes and spinach and cream corn and French fries (and more) were perhaps more impressive. It prompted this comment: "I could make a meal of the sides." Yes, even without the 12-year-old gravy.


Holland America Zuiderdam
7 nights
May 18, 2013
Vancouver (return): Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Inside Passage
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.hollandamerica.com

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.

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

Wine, Wind Surf a Good Pairing

We were just stopping at the wine store, for a bottle to take to our son’s for dinner, and then it happened. Honest. We saw there was a tasting in the back of the store. Does a bee love honey? What happens to a mouse faced with cheese?

The wines were $90 and up. These are beyond special-occasion wines in our world. The tasting was free. How could we say no…even though nobody asked the question?

These were wines from Washington state, under a brand that’s called Long Shadows, and if you’re wondering by now why this is part of a blog about cruising, we hasten to add that next summer these wines will be casting long shadows on the Wind Surf, one of the three “yachts” that sail (and they do sail) under the Windstar banner.

More about that shortly…after a little wine sampling.

Wines by Long Shadows are crafted by famous — or at least worldly — winemakers. You may have heard of Michel Rolland, the master of the blend. Or the Folonaris of Tuscany, perhaps? How about Randy Dunn (left), who makes the best cabernet sauvignon in Napa and who — alas — is no relation…and that review is based on taste, not genetic fantasy.

There are nine winemakers who pour their considerable talent, not to mention their hearts and souls, into wine bottles after using only Washington state grapes. This was the mandate from Alan Shoup, who ran a string of wineries for two decades before recruiting nine gifted winemakers from Australia, Germany, Italy, France, California and South America.

All of them are committed to being on the Wind Surf next June, from Venice to Athens. They’ll be talking and pouring wine for up to 312 guests, for seven days. Exclusive cruise line, exclusive group, exclusive wine. Does that make it worth $3,400?

While we contemplated the venture, Gilles Nicault (right) talked and poured ninety-dollar wines for us. Originally from Avignon, France, he’s engaging and entertaining. He’s also one of the winemakers and he was kind enough to invite us to call him the next time we’re in Walla Walla, home of Long Shadows.

“We’ll drink some wine,” he promised.

In Walla Walla…or on the Wind Surf?

DAILY DEAL:
Carnival Splendor
7 nights
February 12, 2012
Long Beach (return): Mexican Riviera
Inside $419
www.carnival.com

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.

DAILY DEAL:
Pacific Princess
12 nights
November 3, 2011
Venice to Greece (Holy Land)
Balcony $2099
www.princess.com

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