Monday, September 26, 2011

Goldring Travel's 2011 Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn - Part IV

We arrived in Sydney, Nova Scotia to a thick fog.  As the highlight here is the scenery and I had a tour scheduled to drive a portion of the Cabot Trail things were looking a bit dodgy.  The downpour of rain shortly before arrival didn’t make me feel any more confident.  But…as we arrived, the fog lifted in areas and from time to time there was a slight glimmer of sunshine. 

We disembarked for an early 8:30 a.m. departure so that we could get ahead of the tour busses that would go a portion of the way we were.  Our guide was Diane, of Tartan Tours.  She was great and we not only learned a good bit, we had a ton of laughs.  Her minivan wasn’t posh, but it just didn’t matter because our time with her was so enjoyable.

We headed out of Sydney proper (which is not too difficult!) to encounter Cape Breton Road Rage:  another car on the road.  There are very few people here and even less when you get out of the town.  The views were spectacular and things like taking a small cable ferry a couple of hundred yards, cars heading the other way stopping so that you can turn in front of them, were unique. 

With the fog lifting a bit more and then pretty much disappearing, the contrasts and lighting was great for photography.  It was one of those times I wish I had my old black and white film camera.  That said, there were some really colorful views, but with the extremely cool summer and the amount of rain recently, we missed most of the fall colors…which should arrive there in a few days.

As we drove we stopped here and there, eventually stopping at the Keltic Lodge…where the tour busses stop, the cruise ship guests have lunch, and then return to the ship.  I wasn’t really hungry yet and wasn’t really thrilled with the menu so we headed out to Neil’s Harbour before lunch.  If you dream up a quaint fishing village with the hills rolling down to the sea, the brightly colored boats bobbing in the water and the lobster traps stacked at season’s end, you will see Neil’s Harbour.  That was our turnaround point, because we just didn’t have enough time to drive the entire Cabot Trail.  However, as we started back, we stopped at some of the most beautiful lookouts.  Spectacular. 

During my chats with Diane I told her I wanted to eat where the locals eat; not a touristy or posh (for Cape Breton) spot.  She said we could try the Coastal Waters Restaurant.  It is about as local as local gets with an old, dark, rather barren, interior.  “OK Goldring, you had to open your big mouth?”  “Why yes…Yes I did!”  And was I happy that I did.  As we drank our local beer and waited and waited, from the kitchen came a purported “cup” of seafood soup.  It was huge, but it tasted even better.  One of us, obviously not knowing, ordered a bowl of seafood soup.  That creamy elixir of tastiness not only could have easily served four people, 18 freshly steamed mussels ringed the bowl (tureen?).

A Bowl of Seafood Chowder
But for me it was steamed mussels to start.  It was $6.99 for a regular portion, but they had a special:  two pounds for $9.99.  They lied.  They served me a large bucket of mussels that weighed much more than two pounds…and they were delicious.  (And, yes, I did finish them.)  However, that was only my starter!  They were followed by the absolutely best fishcakes I have every eaten.  Simple fresh fish held together with just enough potato and lightly spiced.  The portion was, again, enormous…and coupled with a giant cup of maple syrup/brown sugar baked beans.

Mussels - Before
Mussels - After

What this meal did was tell me a lot about this very rural, very secluded, coastal island and really allowed me to appreciate not only the natural beauty, but the beauty of the people as well.  Diane fit right into this mold.  The foggy, gloomy, day turned into one of my favorites with a comfortable minivan, with a great person as our guide, gorgeous scenery and great seafood. (Or you could have taken the ship’s tour in a bus driven up from Halifax.)

After returning to the ship, a nice soak in the hot tub was interrupted by someone else entering our space.  And then I heard some of the silliest complaints and said, “Well, if it bothers you so much, why don’t you just cruise on another line?”  The person instantly and excitedly replied, “Oh, it doesn’t bother me that much.  I would never change from Seabourn!”  Huh?  So what was the point? 

Folks, when you travel nothing is perfect.  I am certain I could have sulked because the sun wasn’t shining.  I could have turned my nose up at that minivan. I could have complained that a few mussel shells were broken in that bucket.  But if I had, I would have missed that fantastic lighting, one of the funniest and good hearted guides I have ever had and a meal that was the essence of what simple cooking that allows the ingredients to be the star is about.  And, of course, I was then back on a Seabourn cruise sipping champagne in a hot tub as we set out to sea. 

An Impossible Situation or A Beautiful Example of Nature Giving It a Shot?

A Dead Tree or Gift for the Eyes?
The day wasn’t perfect, but my day was.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Goldring Travel's 2011 Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn - Part III

We awoke to cloudy, and then rainy, skies.  As we anchored in Saguenay, Canada the Holland America Eurodam arrived blocking our view of the tiny seaside town.  Honestly, it took about 15 minutes to see the port area.  The local people were very nice and they had some quality craft booths set up, but that was about it.

So we took the local Red Tour (there is also a Blue Tour) for $10.00 CAD.  Note:  The red bus is for the blue tour and the white bus with blue trim is for the red tour.  Go figure.  I am sure it is much prettier in the sunshine, but truth be told the magic of the area to me was not on the land.  It is on the water. (BTW, the complimentary Goldring Travel Food & Foliage Cruise jackets were well tested and are thankfully, as advertised, water-resistant.)  

Sailing away in early afternoon, we saw the clouds lift a bit and the fjords with the leaves just turning were very pretty.  Taking up my position in the forward hot tub, we began to spot fin back whales and seals and lots of bird life.  After about 2.5 hours, our pruned bodies said it was time to dry out.

I did take some time to meet with the Hotel Manager, Joerg Grossman, who assisted me on a prior Food & Wine Cruise, Chef Rajat and Chef Marcus where we finalized some of the events we will be having on our cruise:

-          Friday – Ensemble Travel Group Cocktail Party
-          Monday – Ensemble Travel Group Complimentary Tour in Halifax
-          Monday – Private Indian Cooking Demonstration with Chef Rajat (in the Colonnade Show Galley) and Private Galley Tour
-          Tuesday – Private Shopping with Chef Rajat in Bar Harbor, Maine
-          Wednesday – Goldring Travel Special Event at the New England Aquarium
-          Thursday – Goldring Travel Food & Wine Tasting in Restaurant 2

But, first, this evening I was invited to dine with Captain Hamish Elliott.  While we had a really fun time discussing “my” New York Jets and “his” Miami Dolphins, as well as his impressive half marathon run just the week earlier, it wasn’t exactly the warmest group of guests I have ever sat with.  I sort of felt like a Seabourn representative explaining everything from the froth on the water was not from the ship’s laundry (it was from the winds whipping up the proteins in the water around the ship) to why there is not softer toilet paper.

The food was excellent (twice baked goat cheese soufflé, truffled roasted chicken and gran manier soufflé) and the addition of a really decadent chocolate birthday cake for one of the table guests put it over the top.  To be honest, as I am, the service was a bit uneven with dished not being presented with the timing I have been used to.  Formal night on a cold evening really had The Restaurant pressed, but we shall see how things go over the next few nights.

Today has been spent cruising the St. Lawrence River on a cool, gray, day.  It has been a great day to catch up on some work and to have a bit of a respite from the rich and seemingly never-ending food of the past few days. I was able to spot some seals from my suite, but some others spotted a large pod of dolphins.

Oh, I did have my soak in the forward hot tub!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Goldring Travel's 2011 Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn - Part II

Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities meets Jimmy Buffet.

The night before the cruise is to start I dined at Le Champlain at Chateaux Frontenac Hotel.  Is it a Four Diamond restaurant which is truly a restaurant within a hotel rather than a hotel restaurant.  It was a truly memorable dinner.  We started with a unique Caesar Salad prepared tableside followed by truly the best sweetbreads I have ever eaten; rich and flavorful, but at the same time giving me the feeling of comfort food.  This should have been enough (actually it was), but it was followed by perfectly prepared duck which I paired with the same Phenix Quebecois red.  Everything was outstanding, but something was missing.  It was my attitude and emotion.

Alas, I was just looking forward to the Walking Food Tour of Quebec City and then boarding the Seabourn Sojourn.  The former because I wanted something more than great food; I wanted a personal experience and the latter because I wanted the feeling of familiarity, if not ‘homeliness”.  So some pretty great food in a very nice setting was, in fact, something that was rather emotionless.  It is something to remember when thinking the most expensive or the fanciest is the best…which, obviously, is not always true.

Yesterday morning we met Jocelyn.  She would take us to the “other” Quebec, walking us through parts of the city that the tourists never really see.  (It actually was close to where I had wandered the day before)…and she filled in the blanks with a wonderful overview of the development of Quebec and its cuisine.  I will not bore you with the specifics, but I will say that Jocelyn provided our group with some great insight and then the treat of the local Marche (market). 

Before we even had the chance to enter the market proper we were greeted by one of the local producers who has taken over her business from her great grandparents, then her grandparents and then her parents.  We sampled, at her stall, the freshest blueberries and then two types of maple syrup and the maple butter.  Then to another stall where we had incredibly sweet strawberries.  Then it was off to try some of the best cured meats I have ever tried – equal to some of the world class experiences in Italy.  (Unfortunately it was but a taste…and without the wine or time that they truly deserved.)  Then some local cider and ice wines and then, finally, to some outstanding Quebecois cheeses.  (I later purchased some for our Food & Wine Tasting near the end of our cruise.)

Being truly overwhelmed with the richness and freshness of all of those flavors, we were then off to Moss Bistro for mussels.  But this is a truly local place where they offer mussels prepared about a dozen ways.  I had Mussels with Two Mustards.  I was surprised to hear that this is their most popular with the locals…until I tasted them.  Fantastic….and paired with the “lowly” local Labatt’s beer (reminding me of my college days).  Others had more traditional preparation with white wine and garlic, others with Roquefort cheese.  A great way to end our time in Quebec City.

It was then time to board the Seabourn Sojourn…where it was the best of times and the worst of times.  After the obligatory unpacking and muster, I headed, as I do, to the forward hot tub for the sail away…with a bottle of champagne in hand along with my good friend.  There we were met by another couple that started with a conversation about how it was their first Seabourn cruise and far superior to Silversea…and then “The List” came out.  You know the thing I dread the most:  Where a great experience is broken down so that the little misses (like Seabourn could tend to the husband’s shoes, but was not prepared to polish the woman’s shoes).  No matter how much I tried to change the conversation to the positive, it turned back to the negative of this ship or that, the pushing of long known to be false rumors, etc.  It became exhausting and exasperating rather than relaxing.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better…as I enjoy my city of pleasure while that other couple enjoys their city of The List.

Still being fully satiated, I was going to skip dinner entirely. I met up with some of my clients that I spend hours on the phone with, but have never met in person.  It was a great time and I eventually joined the two couples at the Patio Grill.  Ironically, I had never eaten dinner at the Patio Grill.  I ate very simply: Branzino (sea bass) grilled perfectly.  And, more importantly, really enjoyable conversation and laughs.

I returned to my suite about 10:15 pm (a new early night record for me) and sat on my balcony in the cool, rather stiff, breeze enjoying some nice wine and listening to Jimmy Buffet.  I seemed drawn to two songs:  He Went to Paris and Changes in Latitudes.  There are times that you just need to focus on the wonders and pleasures of life; not the issues that can nag you and bring you down.  Patio Grill versus Hot tub.  Enjoying your cruise or analyzing the hell out of it, it is your choice.

It is my job to analyze everything.  I notice very nick on a piece of furniture, every dropped spoon, bottle clank, untucked shirt, lack of a smile, slight service lapse.  But also this is my cruise and I don’t spend my time making The List.  That said, the crew from my stewardess to the barmen are doing a great job and I am enjoying the fact that I know this is going to be a great cruise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goldring Travel's 2011 Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn - Part I

The 2011 Goldring Travel Food & Foliage Cruise started with an early morning flight to Quebec City, Canada, all of my luggage arriving (Yeah!) and a 25 minute taxi ride to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel, which is located in the heart of Old Quebec City and overlooks the cruise ship piers.

The Chateau Frontenac Hotel is the grand dame of Quebec City and, as older hotels do, renovations are underway.  Unfortunately, this causes some of the top suites to have a fully obstructed view…that I was not told about.  Not good.  Fortunately, however, I was able to assure that all but one couple did not have that issue.  The Fairmont Gold rooms are very well appointed and I am staying in a Signature Room with a great “office” within a turret that has a 180 degree view of the old city out of three windows as well as a very comfortable lounge.  While the bathrooms are a bit tight, they are well appointed with excellent amenities.

After dropping things office I met up with some of my guests for a drink and then a walk around Old Quebec City.  It is shockingly clean.  The streets are clean.  The buildings are clean.  Even the roofs are clean and freshly painted.  For me it takes a bit away from the charm of an old town and almost has a Disney-eque feel to it.  That aside, there are some very nice shops, interesting architecture and some wonderful eateries.   With a brilliant blue sky and unusually warm temperatures the leisurely walk was quite enjoyable.

Because I am interested in wines, we decided to stop for a glass at a local wine bar.  It was, unfortunately, everything I feared of Canadian wines being the prototypical far too sweet and syrupy. I was not, however, frustrated because I know there are some interesting wines… and I am going to find them.

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed some late afternoon snacks and a beer in the Fairmont Gold Lounge (where there is an honor bar and a continental-plus breakfast is served to its very limited guests).  This is a great haven because the hotel, which has a rather long and narrow lobby, was crowded with hundreds of Holland America passengers who were about to embark the Eurodam.  The upgrade to me is well worth it.  I like quiet and personal service…hence a Seabourn cruise; not a Holland America one.

Now it was time for dinner.  I had heard great things about the restaurant Le Saint Amour and I was not disappointed.  The décor is eclectic with brilliant reds, detailed woodwork, stained glass and such right next to a modern room that was sectioned off for a part of our meal and then the wall was raised to give the place a totally different feel as the dinner was concluding.  It is hard to explain, but let just say dining under a giant Ficus tree added nicely to the mix.  The biggest surprise was that the waitstaff and sommelier were not only very well informed, they were very friendly…casual, but not to the point of making you uncomfortable.  In fact, they made sure you were very comfortable.

My dinner started with Quintessence:  foie gras served five ways ranging from a terrine (but not a typical one) with ham, vegetables and a wonderful sauce, to a lollipop of foie gras coated with dried blueberries (delicious!) to a more standard foie gras and a crème brulee of foie gras (which was not my favorite).  Paired with this course was a Quebecois Vidal Ice Wine 2009 L’Orpailleur Danhum.  It was rich, lush and was a great match…actually with a bit more fullness, but not same sweetness of the more typical Sauterne pairing.

My second course was Squab (pigeon) served with diced boar bacon.  It was truly outstanding, being both rich and meaty, without being overbearing.  Because we were sharing a bottle of wine among us I did not have the wine I really should have had with this dish, I drank a Quebecois Les Pervenches 2010 Chardonnay.  As wine by itself, it was decent, but not something I would run out to purchase.  With the squab it almost held its own, but was most certainly overshadowed.

As we are saving ourselves (OK, not really) for the Seabourn Sojourn, we skipped dessert.
I awoke to a gloomy day in Quebec City.  Not the pouring rain kind of day, but the one with a fairly constant drizzle.  As the city is not really filled with indoor activities, we chose to spend our morning at the Quebec Aquarium.  It was a very nice treat.  While not a world class venue, it is very well done and was…clean and neat.  After a few hours it was back to the hotel for some work and then a walk.

As the drizzle stopped and it was just the right temperature, but with an overcast sky, it was great for walking…and walking we did.  We walked for miles away from the old town and found our way to the old battery, then the train station (which was so clean that the floors literally shined and you could spot the only two pieces of litter on the floor) and then past the bus station, past the marina, past the maritime museum and naval training center, past the Seabourn Sojourn (she will be overnighting in Quebec City), past the Eurodam, past the Aida ship and into the Old City.

Once there we decided it was time for a glass of wine, as we obviously had earned it.  We finally settled on a small restaurant near the funicular called le Marie Carisse, named after an old ship (which I will find out the history of).  Having found very nice people-watching seats elevated above the crowds we decided on a bottle of another Quebecois wine…this time the red we should have drunk last night:  Phenix.  As we were enjoying it with some crusty bread (the proprietor making sure we understood the bread was included with the wine…and I said that is because we know he overcharged us and we all laughed), a small plate of cheese just seemed like the right thing to do.  So, of course, that is what we did.

After that we were very glad the funicular was right there and we decided that $2 was a small price to pay not to have to walk up the hill the Chateaux Frontenac.  I then did a bit of shopping for the Food and Wine Tasting that we will have on the Seabourn Sojourn.

Tonight we are going to try the restaurant at the Chateau Frontenac.  As an amenity, I was able to give each room a $100 food credit, so it would be a shame to have it wasted.  Actually, we hear the food is quite good.  I will let you know.

Tomorrow is the Walking Food Tour of Quebec City before we board the Seabourn Sojourn.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Preparing for My Upcoming Food & Wine Cruise on Seabourn Sojourn

Tomorrow I am flying to Quebec City in advance of the 2011 Goldring Travel Food & Foliage Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn.

In preparation for my start of this year's food and wine adventure I went to the New York Jets game today against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  While I must keep my joy at the Jets' crushing win under control because I am joining some of my clients who are from Jacksonville, I will share how I prepared my palate for the upcoming cruise.

Whichever of my two children who is going to the game with me gets to make requests for the pre-game tailgating festivities.  Last week my daughter requested lobster which I added some grilled prawns and roasted clams.

Today, however, it was my son's choice:  Spam.  That's right.  So with a much pared down dining budget this week I thought we might also try Turkey Spam (yes, it does exist).  Added to that were bacon, eggs and Nathan's French fries (now available at Costco); all of which were deposited on toasted English muffins.

I am embarrassed to say that it was delicious.  Honestly.  (It must have been my six year old grill adding subtle flavors.)

BTW, I felt the proper beverage pairing was a fine Michelob Ultra.  (One must cut back on calories somewhere, right?).

The point is that I am prepared to try anything and to do so with an open mind.  So while others may be looking down their nose at inexpensive foods and wines simply because they are inexpensive, I embrace finding the gems...and having a great time doing it.

I will be visiting my cardiologist in the near future!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hurtigruten M/S Nordlys Tragedy - Photos and Updates

An update on the Hurtigruten M/S Nordlys fire and injuries:  It has been reported that the number of injured crew is now up to 16.  It is not known to what extent the injuries are, but I understand two of the crew are in very serious condition and a total of four crew members remain hospitalized.

Also, it has been reported that approximately half of the passengers were evacuated into lifeboats and the others were able to remain on the ship until it reached port.  I would note that while some of you may say, "Why didn't they all stay onboard?", you need to appreciate second (even less than minutes) matter.  Until the enough of the situation is known, when there is a serious fire, the last place you want to be is on a burning ship.   What is most important is that all of the passengers were safely evacuated by whatever means.  (Yes, those dreaded muster before a cruise are for a good reason.)

While I do not know the cause of the fire, Hurtigruten confirms that the hull was not penetrated, but there is water infiltration (obviously from damaged piping, pumps and/or through-hull fittings as well as the water that was poured into the ship to suppress the fire).  Large auxiliary pumps have been placed in those areas to avoid further damage and to prevent a previous concern that the ship might capsize.  It is also reported that the ship is listing 10 degrees.  From the photos below you can see what that looks like.

A good friend of mine has provided these remarkable photos which were, I am told, in the Norwegian newspapers:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hurtigruten Tragedy - Engine Room Fire (Updated)

One of the more unique cruising experiences is onboard a Hurtigruten ship which is part cruise ship and part ferry/cargo ship.  For those really wanting to "get out there" into the Norwegian fjords or beyond this line provides a rather unique experience.

Unfortunately, it has been reported that early today there was a fire in the engine room of the M/S Nordlys resulting in the death of two crew members.  Nine of the 55 crew members have been hospitalized (four seriously).  None of the 207 passengers were injured and have been taken to a hotel in Alesund.  Fortunately the ship was able to make it to port and is along side the pier.

Arrangements are being made for the passengers to either be transported to another Hurtigruten ship or flown home.

The M/S Nordlys was traveling from Bergen to Kirkenes and can carry 475 passengers and 45 automobiles.

The cause of the fire is not known.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Selling Snow in Winter - Regent's New Travel Documents

OK, you know I am not a fan of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  It is not that it is a bad experience or the suites aren't nice.  It is because Regent hypes the ordinary and charges a super-premium to its guests as a result.

Regent announced it has new Cruise Documents.  Those documents, it seems, are pretty similar to what Seabourn has been providing as Pre-Cruise Documents for years.  It includes such things as frequently asked questions, tour information and, get this:  Pre-Printed Luggage Tags. (Yeah, exciting, huh?  Seabourn has provided pre-printed luggage tags, well, for years.  And is that really something that should be an improvement on a cruise line that charges what Regent Seven Seas charges?!)

Further, Regent has gone to a huge...and I mean huge...over 8.5" x 11" format that is about 1/2" thick.  I mean how many people want to schlep a big book like that (as opposed to the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal type of travel wallets)? OK, do you want to know why?  Because Oceania Cruises uses a similar sized format and has the templets for all of the information now included...sans the binder.  So as the Oceania-fication of Regent Seven Seas , which started in 2008, continues...

By contrast, I recently took a look at Orion Expeditions cruise documents.  They are excellent.  Within a leatherette zip-up folio is a two ring binder, with dividers, that provides you with tons of information in an easy to find, easy to read, format and with room for you to include your other documents in a way they will not fall out.  And, of course, they are half the size of the "new" Regent Seven Seas documents.

But you know what really boggles my mind:  Regent loyalists on Cruise Critic are thrilled that there are Pre-Printed Luggage Tags and a huge format.  I mean not a single negative word...not even, why the heck didn't Regent provide something so simple at its high prices.  Is this the kind of perspective you are looking for or feel comfortable relying upon?

Earlier this week, I had a client ask me about a family cruise to Alaska on Regent or Celebrity.  I kid you not, this is what I found: 

For example, I could put you in a Royal Suite (over 570 square feet + 195 square foot balcony w/separate bedroom) for under $9,700.00 total for two full retail price and four in a Celebrity Suite (462 Square feet with a separate bedroom for the parents) for under $10,100.00 – the top available suites...

On Regent the price [taking the air and hotel credits] for a window suite (no balcony) of only 300 square feet is $8,333 for two people and Regent does not permit four in the standard suites, so you are looking at one for Mom and Dad and one for the kids...So you would be looking at well over $27,000 for 3 basic suites on Regent vs. under $20,000 for two very large suites.  Yes, you have to add in gratuities, drinks and tours, but it isn’t even coming close to the cost no less the functional benefits.  (And, of course, you don’t have to go with the most expensive option on Celebrity.  I just used it for comparison.)

Of course on Celebrity you no longer get printed travel documents, but rather e-documents.  Oh well.

Sometimes Pre-Printed Luggage Tags just shouldn't get you too excited.  Just sayin'!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

So You Don't Like the Wine (Or: You Think the Cruise Line is Responsible for Guests Behaving Badly?)

Here is a look at the "glamorous" side of superyachting:

Ukrainian forced to settle 86,000 euro bar bill
The friend of the father of one of the six men who left a Sardinian bar on a 70m (230ft) yacht without paying the €86,000 bill, has now settled the debt.

Six young Russians ordered more than ninety bottles of champagne at former F1 boss Flavio Briatore's Billionaire bar in Porto Cervo last week. The tab was under the name of the yacht they were on, Kismet.

When the Russians left the bar without paying, the director of Billionaire reported the incident to the police. The captain of Kismet was then contacted by the military and the yacht prevented from leaving Sardinia.

When the six Russians disappeared, the Italian police considered impounding the yacht until the bill was paid. The captain of Kismet and the yacht's management company also risked legal proceedings.

A bank transfer from the Ukraine covering the whole bill has, however, settled the matter.

Secrecy surrounds the identity of the group who ran up the bill. Italian newspapers report that a resolution was achieved only after mediation from lawyers and informal diplomatic contact through embassies.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cruising on Seabourn and Complimentary Wine Selections - Watch Out For Wine Snobs!

As many times fodder for my writings, I have been emailed by a few people concerning the choices of complimentary wines on Seabourn.  (OK, the wines are not "complimentary".  They are included.)

Why?  Because some people think that offering modest, or even "cheap", wines on a Seabourn ship is offensive...or at least an offense.  As I prepare for the Goldring Travel 2011 Food & Wine Cruise (OK, I am calling it a Food & Foliage Cruise), I think I am able to say, with a strong conviction:  GET OVER YOURSELVES.

A recent list of the complimentary wines is as follows:


Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita (Italy)
Gavi La Scolca White Label Piedmont (Italy)
Chardonnay Louis Latour Grand Ardeche (France)
Chardonnay Robert Mondavi California (USA)
Chardonnay Unwooded De Meye (South Africa)
Chardonnay Milton Park (South Australia)
Sauvignon Blanc Wingspan Nelson (New Zealand)
Sauvignon Blanc Santa Alicia Maipo Valley (Chile)
Sauvignon Blanc Michel Lynch Bordeaux Blanc (France)


Pinot Noir Brassfield Round Mountain High Valley (USA)
Cotes de Rhone Grenache Syrah (France)
Merlot Anakena Rapel Valley (Chile)
Merlot Arrowood Napa Valley California (USA)
Merlot/Cabernet Sirius Bordeaux Rouge (France)
Chianti Classico Riserva Placido (Italy)
Rosso di Toscana Serego Alighieri Tuscany (Italy)
Carmenere Petit Verdot Shiraz Santa Alicia B2 Blend (Chile)
Malbec Corvina Passo Doble Tupungato Valley (Argentina)
Malbec Los Toneles Mendoza (Argentina)
Zinfandel Quivira Dry Creek Valley California (USA)
Aromo Cabernet Sauvignon Maule Valley (Chile)
Milton Park Shiraz (South Australia)


JP Chenet Grenache Cinsault Rose (France)
Modello Rosato Masi (Italy)
Rose de Meye Stellenbosch (South Africa)
Beringer White Zinfandel California (USA)

Dessert Wine

Chateau Saint Amand, Sauternes (France)


Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Champagne (France)
Prosecco Raso Corona Prosecco IGT (Italy)

Does the represent a world class wine list?  No...and it isn't supposed to.  It is supposed to represent a variety of styles and flavors not only that compliment the cuisine being offered, but which are enjoyed by the guests. 

Now, for you wine snobs...or should I say wannabe wine snobs...or should I say, those who don't really know much about wines and feel that not knowing is a sign of ignorance or weakness (it is not!) out there:  Pause.  Pause Again. 

OK now let me ask you this:

Is it your intention to insult Seabourn or the wonderful person you just met who really isn't into wines, but enjoys a sweet, fruity, Beringer White Zinfindel?  Would you shun this person because they did not spend enough on a hamburger...or just the wine they like?  (I would take a White Castle at 50 cents over  $25.00 Kobe burger...and I know many people would.  OK, hate me.  Shun me.  Don't let me on Seabourn!)

Would you insult me because I enjoy pickeled herring, sardines and smoked salmon at breakfast rather than lamb chops or eggs benedict?  Or would you shun the person who enjoys two perfectly poached eggs simply placed on white (not exotic) toast.  (I mean that costs what?  50 cents.)

 Along those lines, did you notice that there are three totally different chardonneys. Should the Napa loving big, oaky, American chardonney lover be catered to, but not the one who prefers the lighter, grassier, South African unwooded style? By the way you will note that this does not have anything to do with price...and I have no idea which costs more. 

All of sudden this wine snobbery, whether based on price or taste, sounds pretty silly, doesn't it.

OK, now that we are over the cost of the taste, or even the taste, of what we enjoy defines who we are thing, let's get down to how the heck a cruise line selects its complimentary wines.  Seabourn is not going to serve you complimentary the more expensive wines.  In fact, it will serve wines that will inspire the winelover to upgrade to a revenue making wine.  The wines will be good (some better than others), but for most wine lovers they are not quite "there".

Let's be honest here, those that can seriously appreciate the differences in wines are not going to be slurping multiple bottles during a rich dinner and honestly be able to tell you that the subtlties still are noticable. They aren't. But I am as guilty as anyone else in not downgrading my second (third?) bottle.  Every cruise line and restaurant counts heavily on to the waiters that are getting a tip based upon the cost of the bottle (not on Seabourn, Silversea or, soon, Crystal).

In fact, I am a big one for changing my wines with my courses as I find paring wines to be fun and enjoyable. I do have one rule, however, whether it be on Seabourn or any other place: Once I am eating something other than a lightly prepared dish (or am at a tasting), I stay away from the expensive wines...because I just can't appreciate them to the extent they deserve under those circumstances. 

That said, I will tell you that Seabourn has some not so hidden treasures in its wine list.  The Gavi La Scolca White Label 2009 is rated an 88 by Wine Spectator and to my palate is a wonderfully crisp wine with light peach and almond notes that pares nicely with many foods.  The very similar Black Label sells for about 2.5 times the price and has the same rating.  It is one of my "go to" wines while on Seabourn.  But, if you like, you can go to the added cost wine list.  (OK, you can shun me again!)

Simply put, each guest is entitled to drink what they enjoy regardless of whether you like it or find it appropriate. I think Seabourn would be failing if it did not offer such wines; leaving some guests, well, high and dry.

I think I am going to have a Budweiser now.

What do you think?  Let us know on The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Granny Lorr (Lorraine Baines) - Her New Adventure on the Seabourn Pride Is About to Start!

Have you read cruise travelogues that were boring, or focused on listing "stuff" or were just TMI (too much information)?  Well do I have a treat for you! 

OK, to be honest it is not my treat, I am just serving it up.  The person who is providing the treat is one of my clients:  An Australian adventurer who is a frequent guest on the Seabourn triplets. 

Lorraine Baines, known as Granny Lorr on our Gold Standard Forum, formerly on Cruise Critic, and elsewhere is about to embark on an 88 day cruise on the Seabourn Pride with her husband, John.  While the Seabourn Pride will be departing Dover, England and then sail to France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Dubai, Oman, India, Malaysia and, finally, Singapore....well, Granny will be having her own adventures; adventures that have already started in advance of her September 17, 2011 sailing.

Over the years we have enjoyed and laughed our way through bus, train and camel rides, dodging the police in Lisbon (I wonder if there is a warrant for her arrest waiting dockside for the Seabourn Pride's arrival?!) and oh, so much more.  But more importantly, Lorraine allows us to "travel" with her. 

Yes, in deed, Lorraine knows the difference between ticking off a "been there, done that" list and truly enjoying and embracing the various places she visits.  And, of course, she will be providing a very enjoyable perspective of life aboard the Seabourn Pride and her crew.

To catch up with all of Granny Lorr's pre-cruise planning and to enjoy her travelogue, visit The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum.  The former can be found under Any Reasonable Topic:  Whose Sailing with Granny? and the travelogue is under Cruise Reviews:  Granny on The Pride 2011.

Welcome aboard.  I know you are going to love this cruise! 

And, let's not forget:  Thank You, Lorraine.

By the way, the first two weeks of Lorraine's cruise are similar (not identical) to the Goldring Travel 2012 Food & Wine Cruise on the same Seabourn Pride sailing on September 22, 2012.  If you are interested after reading Lorraine's travelogue, email me at or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY in the U.S., 020 81333450 in the UK, 07 3102 4685 in Australia and +1 732 383-7398 elsewhere.