Thursday, November 14, 2013

Goldring Travel's 2013 Food & Wine Cruise - The First 24 Hours and Ihhabela, Brazil

I am writing this sitting on my balcony in one of the Seabourn Quest’s new Penthouse Spa Suites.  (The newly installed awnings work like a charm.)  It is, without question, my favorite suite on the ship.  But the reasons why are for another article.

Seabourn Quest's Penthouse Spa Balcony - A Great Space
We arrived at the Seabourn Quest at the pier in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  It was not the most organized of embarkations, having to drop your luggage in one place, then walk about 2 blocks to another location and then wait in line for about 15 minutes, but it wasn’t exactly a struggle…and when you visit Brazil you will quickly understand there are rules.  You may not understand why there is a rule, or the purpose of the rule, but alas there is a rule.  Not a negative, but merely an observation.

Boarding was quick and, to a degree, embarrassing.  I was whisked up to one of the Penthouse Spa Suites by the Hotel Manager, David Pulzhammer; yet another Seabourn staff member that has climbed through the ranks…making me feel old, but at the same time proud.  While the suite wowed me (and that takes a lot), I found a welcome bottle of Veuve Cliquot from one of my clients that has become a good friend.  (Actually I have a number of friends that started out as clients onboard.  And that, to be sure, is a great feeling.)  Along with the Seabourn supplied bubbly, we are off to a very nice and warm start.


 After dropping our things, we visited with those friends for a while and then sought out some other dear friends who are onboard and staying on for the first Antarctic cruise.  (Oh, do I want to do that one!)  I arrived with the digital camera I am giving to all of my clients that sail to Antarctica and let them know they would have to figure out how to use it.  (There is, of course, a limit to what I will do for my clients.  Not really, but it was fun looking at her eyes when I said it.) We then headed to the Colonnade for a quick bite.  OK, then we had some more champagne in our suite.

Time for the muster and I ran into the Naturalists for the Antarctic cruises who had also just boarded.  (That too is another article.)

And then I just had to meet a third couple that are friends for more champagne in their suite.  (They have been on every Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise!)

Then it was down to business.  (It is a hard job; I know.)  I met with most of the ship’s officers to arrange our Private Galley Tour, the Ensemble Travel Group Cocktail Party, the Goldring Travel Food & Wine Tasting Event onboard, etc., etc.

And then, believe it or not, it was already time for dinner.  Tonight we dined alone…at least for most of dinner…just to settle in.  I immediately noticed that the menu was truly creative and balanced.  I am looking closely at the menus because I have heard some grumblings about it being a bit repetitive.  I am not sure how you repeat what was on the menu the first night!

I selected the Red Beet Carpaccio with Red Oak Leaf Lettuce, Blue Cheese Mouse and Toasted Walnuts to start, followed by a truly delicious “Local Flavors” choice of Octopus braised in Ink and Red Wine with Saffron Risotto, cherry tomatoes and scallion.  I started with a nice Petit Chablis and followed that with a nice red Cotes du Rhone.  (Don’t tell me red wine doesn’t go with fish…especially octopus prepared the way it was.)  Delicious and portioned well.  A wonderful cheese plate, including a fantastic truffled tartufo cheese coupled with a nice tawny port made for a great first meal.

After a long day it was a nightcap at the Observation Lounge with friends.

And then there was the “magic”.  A decision to sleep out on our deck was made.  After getting some work done I laid out there staring at the Brazilian sky and the number of stars was incredible.  It was, well and truly, breathtaking.  It is moments like these that, at least to me, make the difference between merely going to different places and truly living.  You may recall I mentioned to you that on this cruise I would be looking for the things that really make people happy. If those stars didn’t make you happy, I am not sure anything would.  It was amazing. 

Note:  Do not sleep on deck the entire night in a Penthouse Spa Suite.  About 3:45 a.m. the crew starts cleaning the decks outside the Colonnade below.  Trust me, they do an excellent job and take their time to be sure it is done correctly.  Good for them.  Bad for sleep.  About 5:00 a.m. they were done and I slept well until about 7:00 a.m.

The morning was a sail into Ilhabela, Brazil, a small island off the coast of Sao Sebastio (about a 15 minute ferry ride).  The town is small, charming and still sleepy as the summer is not quite here.  Perfect.  It is warm, sunny and not filled with Brazilian and Argentinian tourists.  The Seabourn Quest represents some of the first visitors of the season.


Ihabela, Brasil
I decided to take the Mata Atlantica Rainforest Trek for an “informative and invigorating two-hour hike” with Seabourn noted has “Considerable Activity”.  While the tour was good, it could have been great.  However, the two groups of 20 were essentially combined into one large 40 person group and, honestly, I would say 50% didn’t read or respect the “considerable activity” or “invigorating” notices.  Alas, there is a difference between “wanting to do” and “being able to do”. Some were truly uncomfortable and essentially gave up.  Not Seabourn’s fault for sure.

Our guide, self-taught English, was great and enthusiastic.  My camera was very happy and seeing a few nice waterfalls was enjoyable.  If you like nature this was the tour to take and I am glad I did.






While I didn’t get lost on the hike, our guide told me the best Caiparinhas are made at Bar San Paolo.  So after the tour we followed his directions and could not find it.  A woman tells us to the left.  Then a man tells us to the right.  Eventually I just say, “OK, the place with no name looks good.”  We sit and order.  And then I look at the mosaic on the table, “Bar SP”.


If you have never had a Caiparinha you need to, but hold on to your bar stool.  It is made with Brazilian rum (cachaca), lemon juice, limes and sugar.  Incredibly good and incredibly potent.  Far more so, surprisingly than, say a mojito. So as the first one goes down, lunch on the ship becomes a bad idea and lightly battered shrimp and anchovies are ordered…along with another round.  A really good lunch…and not another Seabourn guest in site.  What was in sight was a very happy waiter.  I know about 2 words in Portuguese and he knew as much English, but we both managed.

And that brings the first 24 hour onboard to a very nice, very interesting, very delicious and very experiential end. 


However, in about an hour there is the Goldring Travel Private Galley Tour with Seabourn’s Executive Chef and then formal-optional night. But that is for the next article.