Columnist spends time in wine bar of huge cruise ship

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My first column of the year is usually an overview of what I will be writing about during the ensuing year. As my wife and I went on a cruise two weeks ago (which had been in the works for about six months) it seems appropriate to start there.

I have not taken many cruises in my life. This is my second, and the third for my wife. Virtually, all of my travel has been by air mostly thru the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. Almost all of these trips were for business purposes.

We sailed on a round trip aboard Royal Carribbean out of Fort Lauderdale to Belize and Cozumel. At eleven hundred feet long, the ship is huge, sufficient to accommodate 3,500 guests and 1,800 crew.

To give you an idea of the size, the Mayflower, which sailed in 1492, was just over a hundred feet long, and carried about 92 passengers. What an incredible difference!

It is your own fault if you cannot find something to do on board. There is an ice skating rink, a flow rider to surf and boogie board, miniature golf, basketball, shuffle board, game room, workout center, shows, movies, casino with contests and an art gallery.

A four-page paper is placed in your room each day outlining the activities. Interestingly enough, it is called CRUISE COMPASS. Please check out the publication, below.

The ship boasts 11 bars of various types, ranging from poolside to a British Pub, and to our favorite, Vintages — a small wine bar located amidships, which makes it easy to find. Staffed by three very wine knowledgeable barmen, it was our favorite place to hangout play Cribbage and drink wine.

We tried 20 new wines over the course of five days and went to a Super -Tuscan wine tasting.

With regard to dining, we opted for the late (8:30 p.m.) seating and we had a table for six, just inside the entrance to the dining area (Michaelangelo). Consequently, in jest, many of our fellow passengers asked if we were the gatekeepers or if there was an admission charge.

There were many options to choose from each night and the grandchildren being conservative opted for Caesar salad and some kind of chicken most nights. However, I did get the grandson to change from well done to medium rare steak.

During the course of the cruise some of the entree options were: Steak every night if you wished; Osso Buco on a bed of Polenta with Asparagus; Rack of Lamb with rosemary potatoes; Prime Rib and Lobster.

There was always a vegetarian offering and appetizers and dessert courses. The food was uniformly good and our servers were friendly and efficient. I didn’t know that these people work seven days a week when they are on board and they sign up for several months at a time.

If you have questions about the cruise, please send me an e-mail (see below).

Those of you who have been following my articles know that I have been writing about Italian wines for the last year or so and that I have covered all of the major wine producing regions of Italy.

Jeff, the editor of The County Compass, and I are going to try and put together a large map of Italy highlighting the various wine regions and my best picks as to the quality and value in each region. The archive will have a list of foods to pair with these wines.

For the remainder of this year, I intend to revisit North Carolina wines as it has been about three years, and the state’s wine scene is constantly evolving. In addition, I will write about wine in Virginia, which has a wine history about as long as ours.

After Virginia, I thought it would be fun to examine the wines from Down Under (Australia and New Zealand). They have been producing good wine and plonk for a few hundred years. The good ones are great, and the plonk is drinkable but not memorable.

In addition, I will be visiting the individually owned wine stores to ascertain what is being sold and what is available in the various counties where this newspaper is distributed. Speaking with knowledgeable sellers is one of the best ways to explore new wines, as one person cannot cover all the wine being created these days.

I would appreciate your comments, suggestions, and thoughts regarding the content of future articles.I can be reached via e-mail at the following address

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