Wine lovers have it better than ever before, with so many ways to enjoy their favourite drink. From collecting fine wine from specialist sellers to heading out on wine-based holidays, there’s something for every oenophile.
And what could be better than a wine holiday on a cruise ship? There are all kinds of wine cruises, many of which include wine-pairing events on board and exclusive visits to local winemakers. Here’s why a cruise should be your next wine holiday.
Why a cruise could be the ideal wine holiday
Cruise liners are clamouring to provide the ideal wine-lovers holiday. Regular cruise goers expect high levels of entertainment, and for the cruise company to provide lots of entertainment choice. Over recent years, this has increasingly included wine-related activities both onshore and on board.
Many cruise lovers are well-travelled, and they also tend to be discerning. This is why cruise liners are now offering some of the best wines in the world in their restaurants and bars. On the right kind of cruise, you can expect to sample everything from world-famous wines to lesser known labels. For example, Cunard serves wine from the novel and growing wine region of Nashik, which is found on the northwest coast of India.
Rare vintages and specialist wines on board
Showing the commitment cruise liners now have to providing the best wine experience, Crystal Cruises sends its team of sommeliers to the Napa Valley to blend a unique premium wine. And every year, this special wine sells out.
Cruise liners can buy wine at duty-free cost, making mark-ups on board lower than in premium hotels and restaurants on land. This means cruise goers have the chance to sample high-end wines at lower prices. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a fortune on a bottle while you’re abroad, but it does mean there are plenty to enjoy at around £20 per bottle.
And while you may not find a Chateau Lafleur 1990, there are high end fine wines available on many cruises. Holland America Line stocks the 2005 Chateau Petrus, Pomerol (France) at $2,300, Cunard the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ‘Le Montrachet’ 2001 (France) for £4,302 ($5,295). The Crystal Serenity cruise ship boasts a wine list with the rare vintage from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti for around £16,250 ($20,000).
Cruise passengers look for luxury wines
And if you’re wondering whether people actually buy wines at this price while on board, the answer is yes. In 2018, Crystal Cruises sold a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and a magnum of Chateau Petrus. These sold for more than £1625.00 ($2,000) each.
Many cruise liners offer impressively stocked wine cellars. For example, Crystal Cruises’ passenger ships Serenity and Crystal Symphony each hold around 1,000 people. And to cater to the passengers, each shop carries approximately 300 bottles of dessert wine, 2,500 bottles of champagne, 8,000 bottles of white wine, 2,000 bottles of sparkling wine and 10,000 bottles of red wine.
Cunard’s ship, the Queen Mary 2, holds 2,700 passengers. And it sets sail with more than 45,000 bottles of wine. Storing an entire wine cellar on board has its own challenges. The wines are stowed securely in temperature-controlled rooms in the lower aft part of the liner. This moves less than other parts if the weather gets wild, and for extra protection the bottles are wrapped and stacked in v-shaped wine racks.
Wine-related activities and vineyard visits
But it’s not just about the wine served on board. There are a growing range of wine-related activities for passengers to enjoy. For example, the Koningsdam (run by Holland America Line) has its very own wine blending room. Here, passengers can make their own blend of wine under supervision from experts.
Cunard, on the other hand, has teamed up with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), to offer courses in wine education on board. Classes are run by trained educators and sommeliers. Passengers can complete the WSET Level 1 course in five days or the 12-day Level 2 course.
Many passengers look forward to the destinations as much as being on board. And plenty of cruises are stopping at vineyards along the way. In 2018, Holland America Line offered 23 specialist food and drink excursions for passengers. These include a trip to the Mazzorbo island in Venice, which is world renowned for its vineyards.
Oceana Cruises joins Holland America Line to offer trips to vineyards on the beautiful island of Santorini. This boasts a particularly interesting terroir thanks to the volcanic rock and seat mists. These are just a couple of examples of the vast array of wine-related cruises available.
If you fancy booking one next year, you could book on the Queen Mary 2 for a transatlantic trip to New York. The voyage will include a Festival of Food and Wine and costs from £1,649 per person. Head to cunard.co.uk for more information. Or you could go on the ten-day Wines & Artistry Cruise from Barcelona to London with the opportunity to try wines from France, Portugal and Spain.