Five cool wine tasting experiences at sea

Cruise lines love their wine and guests can try plenty in a range of different experiences.

Irrespective of how many numbers come before the decimal point in the price tag of your preferred bottle of wine at your local bottle shop or wine retailer, you will most likely be able to find a blend which suits your tastes during your next cruise.

Cruise ships are always well equipped with hundreds or even thousands of bottles of wine ranging from the basic house white, red or rosé through to the aspirational selection some might buy for a special occasion and all the way up to those rare bottles which could easily double as a museum exhibit and which carry price tags equivalent to a major personal asset.

Whether these bottles of wine are purely for display purposes or if the cruise lines invite you to sample its contents, wine is often a focal ingredient in some of the most unique and innovative onboard activities at sea. Carefully designed, these activities allow passengers to mingle with their friends or make new ones, all while sharing a common passion for wine.

Here, we take a look at five of our favourite wine experiences at sea today.

1. P&O Cruises – Cellar Door

Drop by The Cellar Door on Pacific Eden to try some Glandore wines.

Since the debut of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in November 2015, P&O Cruises has been dabbling in activities befitting a more upmarket onboard lifestyle, both to try and procure a more upmarket clientele and to proffer a more refined experience to its loyal passengers. One such experience is The Cellar Door.

Developed in partnership with Glandore Estate Wines in the NSW Hunter Valley, you can take your pick from two tasting menus, each of which features six Glandore blends. Utilising tablet technology packed with information about each wine’s make-up process, The Cellar Door is open on sea days between 10am – 9pm. If you find one that you particularly like, a full glass or bottle can be ordered and delivered at lunch or dinner in any of the ship’s restaurants.

The Cellar Door partnership sees Glendore Estate supply more than 30,000 bottles of wine across 14 different blends to P&O each year.

2. Princess Cruises – Chocolate & Wine Pairings

Specially paired wines are served with chocolates for a flavour sensation.

Formed in 2014, the partnership between Princess Cruises and master chocolatier Norman Love has been so deliciously received by guests that it has already been renewed. The pact is built around a wide selection of Love brand chocolates, drinks and treats which feature in cafes, bars, lounges and restaurants across the entire fleet.

On its intrigue factor alone, Princess’ Chocolate & Wine Pairing sessions take place in the Vines wine bar and are available for a small surcharge charged to your onboard account. Conducted jointly by one of the ship’s sommelier, the session allows guests to sample specially selected Norman Love Black Single Origin Dark chocolates set to different wine blends, each working together to deliver a unique taste sensation.

Guests keen to combine chocolate with an alcoholic beverage can also try a number of other inspired creations including the Chocolate Bacon Bourbon Bliss or Chocolate Chile Margarita.

3. Celebrity Cruises – Riedel Workshop

Guests preparing for Celebrity Cruises' Riedel Wine Workshop

What seems as another partnership between cruise line and winery has been taken in a different direction by Celebrity Cruises, which has joined forces with Austrian crystal manufacturer Riedel. Its reasoning is to deliver a workshop to cruise guests which actually focuses on the instrument of delivery – the glass.

Known for its fine wares, this seminar is conducted by Celebrity Cruises sommeliers and showcases the differences that can come from a wine drinking experience simply by the type of glass from which it is consumed. Guests will enjoy four different wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, each served in a glass especially designed to optimise the smell, swirl and taste. Wines are moved between the different glass types to show how being consumed from each changes the overall experience.

It’s a virtual certainty that even the most experienced wine connoisseur will walk away having learned something new. Places in these seminars are popular and should be reserved at least four days prior to embarkation, confirmed with the sommelier once you’re onboard.

4. Holland America Line – Blend

Forget wine tasting. Guests on Holland America Line’s MS Koningsdam – which debuts in April this year – can take their wine experience back to the beginning by actually mixing and making their own concoction. In partnership with Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, a dedicated space features on the new ship where daily wine making courses will be held – a first for HAL and what it claims is the only facility of its kind on a cruise ship.

Five different barrels of single vineyard red wine will be used in the blending course including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with step-by-step instructions guiding guests on how much to add from each base blend to obtain their desired flavour and aromas. Up to ten guests can participate in each session and reservations are required.

Once the personalised blend is achieved and taste perfected and captured in a bottle, guests can then design their own label. The finished product will then be sent to the main dining room or wherever the guest is enjoying their dinner that evening, where it will be uncorked and served. Guests can also take the wine to their stateroom to enjoy privately if so desired.

5. Oceania Cruises – La Reserve

A dedicated wine bar plays host to Oceania Cruises' wine tasting sessions.

Dedicated wine tasting venues on each Oceania Cruises ship allow the line to deliver a finely crafted experience complemented with expertly paired cuisine. La Reserve comes as part of a partnership between the line and Wine Spectator magazine and is currently available only on Marina (above) and Riviera – the line’s two largest ships.

At different stages of each cruise, the venue will host wine seminars and vintage tastings as well as multi-course dining degustations, each course paired with a different wine blend. Three different menus are available, named Connoisseur, Odyssey and Discover. Each dish is accompanied by a wine from different destinations in France, Germany, Spain and Italy; and North America, such as the Napa Valley of California, Washington State and Ontario, Canada.

Dishes matched with individual wines include Stuffed Brioche with Duck Foie Gras and Truffle Jelly, Grilled Turban of Wild Salmon and Turbot with Seaweed Vegetable Casserole, and 72-Hour Slow Braised Short Rib with Gnocchi au Jus, among many more depending on the menu being served at any particular seating.

Reservations are required for both the pairing meal and wine tasting experience, which also carry a small surcharge applied to guest staterooms.