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Nassau: An Incredible Experience


One of the Caribbean ports that attracts a lot of cruise ships is Nassau, partly because of its geographical location as either the first stop or last stop for ships based in Miami and Fort Lauderdale…and perhaps partly because of those constant TV commercials about Paradise Island and Atlantis.

In any event, Nassau is popular.

During our visits to the capital of the Bahamas, of all the places we’ve visited — and for whatever reasons, Nassau is a place where we’ve always had a tendency to go off on our own — the most memorable was a hotel. The Graycliff Hotel.

We stumbled on it, while walking the streets not far from the cruise terminal, where we’d disembarked from the Norwegian Sky, on a four-day cruise. It turned out to be an amazing stumble, and here’s one of the reasons why…

Somehow we wound up in the cellar — a genuine cellar — that allegedly houses the third-largest private wine collection in the world. It’s owned by Enrico Garzaroli, who also owns the hotel — or did — that he bought in 1973. It’s a hotel that’s only had four owners, the German whitefirst of them a pirate named Captain John Graysmith, whose presence clearly had something to do with its name.

That was more than three and a half CENTURIES ago.

It’s important to remember that we just walked in off the street. There was no arranged tour, no greasing the palm of a concierge, no introductions by somebody in high places because we didn’t know anybody in high places in the Bahamas, or anywhere else for that matter.

It was simply our good fortune to wind up in the presence of the cellar master, Sudhir Varot Kangath, and that he was kind enough to show us the corks, as they say. One of them was sealing the wine in a bottle of 1727 Bremen Ratskeller Rudesheimer Apostelwein, a German white that hasn’t been tasted in 46 years. When it was last tasted, the wine passed the test and today that bottle is worth an estimated $200,000.

The entire cellar has been valued at $20 million.

In it, you can arrange for private dining, for $1,000, at a long rectangular table at which the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Jay Z, Aristotle Onassis and Lebron James have dined. We didn’t ask if that was $1,000 per person…we just assumed that it was. And when we combed through the dusty racks that supported these dusty treasures, it wasn’t like we had to keep our distance. The wines were RIGHT THERE.

On one wall there are maybe 100 bottles that Sudhir calls the "Million Dollar Rack" because that's the total value of bottles worth $5,000 to $25,000 each. According to him, his boss sells "four or five" of them a year. We did spot a 1900 Chateau Lafite, a case of 1982 Bordeaux that is in "high demand", and a couple of Barolos from the '50s. They are all carefully catalogued, of course, and there are cameras everywhere in case any visitors dared.

On the other hand, most visitors would just feel lucky to SEE something that unique.

Like we did.

Today at portsandbows.com: Scrubbers and emission controls


Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
January 24, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau 
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67

Planning a Cruise After Booking One

Ways to plan a cruise. Every cruise line has them, in one form or another. One that seems to be catching some attention is Royal Caribbean's — called Cruise Planner — and, since we have a Royal Caribbean cruise on the horizon, it seemed a good idea to try it out.

Cruise Planner is to be used online because, frankly, just about everything is these days. It's designed to allow passengers to book reservations, activities and entertainment long before they walk up the ramp to board the ship. And as long as you have more spare time BEFORE the cruise than you will have on the ship, it keeps you from cutting into your vacation time.

We started with shore excursions, because they always seem to fill up first.

One of our ports is Falmouth, Jamaica. One of the sights to see there is Dunn's River Falls. This was a no-brainer. Click. Booked.


On Royal Caribbean's big ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the featured shows are Broadway musicals Hairspray and Chicago, respectively. Since we're going on Allure, Chicago it is. Click. Booked.


We've always been fans of My Time Dining, because of its flexibility. But for people who eat dinner as early as 4 p.m. (we have friends who are earlybirds) and as late as 10 p.m., making that decision days or weeks before the cruise doesn't work. But you can choose not only the time you want to eat on each day of your cruise, but how many people you want to dine with each night.

That would be one.

You can also book meals in the "for-fee" restaurants. On Allure of the Seas, Chops Grille is $35, Giovanni's Table is $25, the Samba Grill is $30, Rita's Fiesta is $10 (or $20 with cocktails) and there's a Lafite Wine Tasting Experience for $23, for four wines from the famous Chateau Lafite.

Still thinking, still thinking…

There's also the spa, other free entertainment (it's all free), and activities ranging from Barbie to FlowRider lessons to an all-access tour.

The bottom line: The Cruise Planner is simple, detailed and easy to negotiate. Other cruise lines may be this good, but Royal Caribbean got this one right.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Snapshots of the new Regal Princess

Celebrity Infinity
10 nights
July 14, 2014
London (return): Paris, St. Peter Port, CorkDublinLiverpoolGlasgow, Holyhead
Balcony: $3,179
Cost per day: $317

An Assessment of Cruise Deals Posted

When is a "cruise deal" a good deal?

If you book a cruise based on somebody's suggestion or pitch that it's a bargain, and the price goes up after that, then you got a deal. Just like anything else that you buy…you want to try and catch it at its low, low price.

Every day, we post a new cruise deal here at cruisingdoneright.com. The research is totally subjective. The outcome is always something of a gamble. There are no guarantees the price will go up, or won't come down.

Today, we are self-assessing. Picking five of this year's Daily Deals at random, here's what we discovered:

1) Posted January 23, Alaska cruise on the Grand Princess from Seattle (return). 
Price then: $598
Price today: $914
Difference: Booking now would cost $316 more

2) Posted February 5, Mediterranean cruise on Cunard's Queen Elizabeth from Venice to Rome 
Price then: $986
Price today: $799
Difference: Booking now would save $187

3) Posted March 10, Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Constellation from Fort Lauderdale (return). 
Price then: $699
Price today: $749
Difference: Booking now would cost $50 more

4) Posted March 13, Alaska cruise on the Holland America Zaandam from Vancouver (return). 
Price then: $699
Price today: $699
Difference: No difference

5) Posted May 13, Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Sky (3 nights) from Miami (return). 
Price then: $159
Price today: $329
Difference: Booking now would cost $170 more

Like we said, no guarantees…but we'll take three out of four and a tie!

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Seabourn in European in 2015

Celebrity Millennium
7 nights
September 5, 2014
AnchorageHubbard GlacierJuneauSkagwayIcy Strait PointKetchikanVancouver
Inside: $619
Cost per day: $88

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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