Saturday, August 6, 2016

Goldring Travel's 2016 Culinary & Cultural (Food & Wine) Cruise on the Seabourn Quest - Part II (British Wine Tour and More)

And so the 2016 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruise begins!

Bacchus Grapes - Chapel Down Winery
My flight on United arrived a bit early in London; in fact, too early.  I had originally booked a later flight, but for logistical reasons (that never came into play), I arrived three hours earlier than I needed to.  
Flying to the Seabourn Quest via London's Heathrow Airport
Fortunately, at Heathrow’s Terminal Two there is a Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge were I was able to take a shower, have some breakfast, catch up on some work and read a bit of The Apprentice; and NO, not Donald Trump’s, but gloriously, Jacques Pepin’s.  (It is a fascinating light read.)  The lounge is available for a fee or complimentary with your American Express linked Priority Pass membership.

Plaza Premium Arrivals Lounge at Heathrow's Terminal 2
After walking over to Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to meet some of my clients, it was time for the almost two hour drive to Dover, England and a one night stay at the Best Western Plus Dover.  It is an older hotel with small, quirky, hotel, but the view and location is great, so for one night it worked…again.

Best Western Plus Dover Hotel has a great location and views
The White Cliffs of Dover
After a bit of a walk, it was time for dinner at Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant.  It is a rather plain restaurant with a wonderful view.  More importantly, the food was quite good.  I had mussels followed by smoked haddock.  I would note that TripAdvisor ranks it as a 4 star restaurant.  For Dover it is probably a 5 star restaurant, but overall it is more of a 3 star restaurant.  (Dining on tables with no linen, ordinary rolls and ran out/never had gluten free ones, service was good but inconsistent, overall atmosphere was sans d├ęcor and ordinary...though the view is quite nice.)  I would, however, recommend it if you are in Dover and do not wish to hire a taxi or drive somewhere.
Seabourn Quest's early morning maneuvering into her berth
Dover, Kent, England
The next morning I awoke early and just in time to see the Seabourn Quest make a 180 degree turn so it could back into its space at the pier (just as Captain Geir-Arne Thue-Nilsen told me the night before would be happening right outside my hotel balcony…Told you the hotel location as good!)

It was then time for breakfast and then the first event:  The British Wine Tasting Tour and then a visit to Viking Recruitment and its brand new multimillion dollar Maritime Skills Academy where cruise and ferry crew and staff are trained including Windstar, some Seabourn, P&O Ferries and many others. 


We headed out of Dover west to Chapel Down, the largest wine producer in Kent, England, about an hour away. After a brief view of an herb garden and some of the vines, it was time for a nine (9) wine tasting including sparkling, white and red wines.  


With British wines having a rather poor reputation, things started off well.  Chapel Down’s least expensive offering (Flint Dry 2015) was actually quite acceptable.  Ironically (or frustratingly) as the price when up (white or sparkling) the quality seemed to go down and stay down.  That is except for a little dessert wine (Nectar 2014) which is a bit of gem.  (Don’t bother with British reds.  It is just the wrong climate for them.)

Wine Tasting at Chapel Down Winery
With a bit of optimism, now knowing British wines are not terrible, it was off to Hush Heath Estate where we were fortunate enough to be met by its very quiet and humble owner, Sir Richard Balfour-Lynn.  



This less than a decade old boutique vineyard is his pride and joy, and his focus on everything having a clean taste, a clean look, the right color and, with his sparkling wine the right size bubbles, has resulted in some quality wines.  In fact, our first of five tastings was the Balfour Brut Rose 2011, which is served in First Class on British Airways, was outstanding and truly a world-class bubbly.  (If you are reading this in the United States, don’t go looking for it.  The quantities are so small it is not available there.  However, that may be changing in the near future.)  I also found the Sky English Chardonnay 2015 to be truly worthwhile.  Hush Heath is also known for its sparkling apple cider.  And its English Nettle variety was truly unique, fun and, honestly, if it was available I would buy it at home for a great summer drink with fruits.  (I did purchase a bottle of it and the Brut Rose for the Food & Wine Event near the end of our cruise!)

Sir Richard Balfour-Lynn talking about his British world-class
boutique Hush Heath wines.
It was then time to head back towards the ship, but with a very unique experience in store.  We arrived at The Maritime Skills Academy’s new facilities, which will open in two weeks; the smell of fresh paint in the air.  

The Maritime Skills Academy
Dover, England
This training facility has a large pool where hands on life raft and rescue boat simulations and helicopter rescue training sessions are held as well as model galleys and stateroom which can be set alight to 600 degrees (F) for firefighting training.  

The Maritime Skills Academy facilities trains
ship, ferry and air/sea rescue personnel
Of course classroom training as well.  It was a brief, but fascinating, behind the scenes look at how cruise lines make sure your staff and crew are trained before they even set foot on your ship. (Safety in the cruise industry does not permit “on the job” training!)

Dieter Jaenicke, Chairman and Founder, of Viking Recruitment
and The Maritime Skills Academy explaining some of the
firefighting training to Goldring Travel guests
It was then time to head to the Seabourn Quest for our 16 day journey through the British Isles and Ireland.  See you onboard!

If you would like more information or would like to book your Seabourn cruise, please email Goldring Travel or give us a call.

United States:       (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom: 020 8133 3450
Australia:             (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585

Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.