Monday, April 15, 2013

Cruising With Wine

My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in the Caribbean. We took a cruise with her parents and sister for a week (my first cruise). We booked our cruise through Royal Caribbean. The cruise began in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While on the cruise, we stopped at the following countries:

St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Castries (St. Lucia)
Pointe-Pitre (Guadeloupe)
St. John’s (Antigua)
St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Before we departed for our trip, I began to do some research about Royal Caribbean’s wine service/wine list. Through browsing countless websites I was able to find out that Royal Caribbean just added a new rule that allows patrons to bring two bottles of wine per Stateroom on board. In total I planed to bring six bottles in total, as my in-laws and sister-in-law would declare the other four bottles. I brought the following wines onboard:

Corte Riva Cab Franc 2006
Painted Rock Red Icon 2009
G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2007
Tarras The Canyon Pinot Noir 2008
Chanson Pere et Fils Savigny-les-Beaune Hauts Marconnets 1er
Maison Roche de Bellene Gevrey Chambertin VV 2009

* All wines showed well.

I was very happy that I could bring wine on board for dinner while on vacation. The Royal Caribbean wine list was not horrible. Actually their prices were very reasonable and less expensive than what restaurants would charge for wine. By bringing wine with me, I was able to save some money and drink wines that I knew I would enjoy!

The cruise was very enjoyable, but I did run into a few issues/problems regarding my wine and the service provided. My first problem occurred when my luggage arrived to my room. When I opened my luggage and took out my wine travel box (Styrofoam inserts that hold six bottles) I was surprise to find only two bottles in the box and a note. The note stated that Royal Caribbean was holding onto my other four bottles because I was only allowed to bring two bottles per Stateroom. My wine would thus be held hostage for the duration of the cruise. I found this to be very frustrating, especially since they damaged my wine box in the process of confiscating the four bottles of wine. Thankfully, Guest Relations were able to understand my explanation and by the end of the night I had the remaining four bottles returned to my room. A good way to end my first day!

My second problem/issue came while attending dinner on the first night. When we arrived to our table I saw their wine glasses. They reminded me of the wine glasses that you would find at an older Italian restaurant. I do not want to sound like a snob, but this is an issue that a lot of wine enthusiast run into while dinning at restaurants. I am a strong advocate that small glasses dampen the experience and overall enjoyment of the wine. I do understand why they use these glasses, as they are very durable and not as expensive as a Riedel or Schott Zwiesel. For the duration of the trip I was able to live with this minor issue. Another problem that I ran into regarding glassware was the main dinning room lack of decanters. I was able to get a decanter for our first night, but the next night the waiter told me that all their decanters were being used. To give you a better explanation, this cruise ship has a main dinning room as well as separate restaurants on board. These restaurants are not included in your trip package and cost an extra $25 to $35 per person. I guess the main dinning room guests are not as important as the ones who are paying on top of their trip package. Oh well….

The next problem that I ran into was that the temperature of the wine that we were having for dinner was a bit too high for my liking. Whites should be served at 8-11 degrees Celsius, while red should be served at 16-18 degrees Celsius. The warmth of the Caribbean was heating up my wine! To solve this problem I would order an ice bucket (with ice) to our room and chill the reds. I did this an hour before dinner. This seemed to solve the problem. By the time our main course was served, our wine was at an ideal temperature. I did chill the lone white Burgundy for a longer time while in our room and also put it on ice while sitting down to dinner. It was a very enjoyable Chardonnay.

With all of these problems occurring, there was one positive outcome. During the six nights that I brought wine to dinner, I was only charged for corkage ($25) once! I am not sure why I was able to get away with this. Maybe our waiters forgot to charge me. All I know is that I saved a total of $125 and I am not complaining!

Overall I had a great time while on this trip. I got to experience what life is like on a cruise ship, meet a lot of great people, and visit some really nice countries. If given the opportunity again I would jump at the chance to go on another cruise. I would also not hesitate to bring wine with me!

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