Thursday, April 17, 2014

Celebrity Silhouette vs. Royal Princess - Which Is A Better Value For The Upscale Cruise Guest? Part IV: The Wine Lists Speak Volumes (As Do The Beverage Packages)

Now a word about wines on Celebrity versus Princess.


I am traveling as a single adult with my daughter, no different really from a couple where one does not drink or may not during meals, purchasing a bottle of wine is generally not a good option (unless I dined in the same restaurant each evening) so I would have been suffering throughout this week…if I had sailed on the Royal Princess.




Let me explain:  Before departing I took a long (well, it really could not be that long) look at Princess’s wine lists.  They are, except in Vines, pretty ordinary.  Sabatini’s prides itself on its extensive Super Tuscan list, which is fine, but I find it a bit offensive when you are given only two options:  Purchase expensive bottles of wine or select from rather ordinary wines by the glass…pretty much forcing you to purchase by the bottle if you care about wines.


Further, elsewhere on the ship you are pretty much stuck with marginal to acceptable wines, but not much that you actually want to drink.  Let me put it to you this way:  Your only "by the glass" options cost no more than $7.95 and are nothing other than you would find at a typical chain restaurant in the United States.


This, obviously works for the vast majority of the Princess guests, but I was not invited onboard to consider Princess for its average guest, but the upscale to luxury guest.

Celebrity’s approach is much different. 



Of course it has Cellar Masters which has a wonderful wine list and a very large egnomatic machine selection (where you can purchase various amounts of some truly outstanding wines through a pre-paid card sort of like using an ATM for wines. 



Carrying on with the "wine is important" theme, each of the Celebrity specialty restaurants has a solid variety of wines by the glass and bottle, so that you are not “forced” to purchase a Super Tuscan if you want a Cabernet Sauvignon or a bottle if you want a glass or two (or use your Premium Beverage Package).  Note that the wine lists vary by restaurant, so overall there are a pretty extensive offerings around the ship.  I can enjoy a quality Bordeaux in Murano, a solid Malbec in the Lawn Grill, an excellent Abarino in QSine.



What I truly like is the ability to supplement my Premium Beverage package, which allows me to order any wine up to $13.00 a glass without an additional charge.  But if I want a glass of a very nice Bordeaux which sells for $17.50 a glass I can pay $4.50 extra. (The Bordeaux went very nicely with my venison I enjoyed in Murano on my second night aboard.) Or if I want a 20 year tawny port with my cheese I can pay $2.00 more rather than “suffer” with an acceptable port.  With this approach I can readily change my wines by the course, creating my own parings with or without additional cost.  This is truly a more upscale experience available on Celebrity and really not on Princess.


On the issue of Beverage Packages, Celebrity has had them for years and they are truly a good value if you enjoy alcoholic beverages throughout your day.  If you have a Bloody Mary or Mimosa with breakfast, a couple of beers during the day, a glass of wine with lunch,  pre-dinner cocktail, two glasses of wine with dinner and an after dinner cocktails, the Classic or Premium package (dependent on the quality of wine and spirits you enjoy) can be a significant savings.  (Princess is first dabbling with the beverage package concept, having introduced it on a few ships.  But as the wine selection is limited I am not sure that for an upscale guest it will be of much value.)



Also interesting is Celebrity’s approach to “sales”.  More than once I have heard those folks selling water by the gangway and buffet remind people that if you have a package the water and Vitamin Water and Gatorade is included.  Similarly, while a person purchasing a cocktail has the spirit measured, when I ask for a double it is provided without hesitation.    It is nice to see that Celebrity understands that the cost of offering up that bottle of water is nothing compared to the cost of otherwise winning back a guest that might not be totally loyal to its brand.



This sort of focus on making the Celebrity guest feel valued is not lost and is seen in a number of touch points throughout the cruise.


Cheers!