Five Reasons to Take a Wine Cruise
If you’re partial to a drop of wine, enjoy visiting cellar doors or just appreciate the beautiful scenery that wine-producing regions provide, there’s a cruise for you, with many ships offering an increasingly sophisticated wine experience. Here are five reasons to raise your glass.
1. River journeys
To explore wine country, nothing beats European river cruising, since nearly all their rivers flow through famous wine regions such as Portugal’s Douro River, Germany’s Rhinelands, Austria’s Wachau Valley and France’s Côtes du Rhône and Burgundy. Avalon Waterways even offers wine-themed cruises along the Rhone, Danube, Seine and Moselle rivers. Perhaps the ultimate cruise is around Bordeaux, through fabled French wine regions such as Cognac, Saint-Émilion and Sauternes. River cruises here often have several visits to cellar doors and a wine-pairing meal at a château; Scenic offers guided cycles through the vineyards. APT has just launched a Wine Ambassador Program on which cruises will be accompanied by Australian wine experts.
2. Vineyard visits
Ocean cruising can’t quite bring you into the heart of wine country the way river cruises do, but many ocean ships offer shore excursions to wine regions – for example the Hunter Valley (Royal Caribbean), McLaren Vale (P&O Australia) or Hawkes Bay (Princess Cruises) just in our own region. Silversea offers wine-themed European cruises with expert lectures and wine-pairing lessons, and SeaDream Yacht Club has Mediterranean sailings dedicated to wine, including encounters with eminent winemakers and visits to prestigious wineries.
3. Top drops
Who says you have to leave the ship for a great wine experience? Luxe Hapag-Lloyd ship Europa 2 carries wine from 14 countries, including Burgundy at over a thousand euros a bottle. Azamara Club Cruises stocks 8000 bottles of limited-production and vintage wines, and its sommeliers can provide you with a private tasting session. On Cunard, you can order a US$3200 bottle of Château Pétrus, one of the world’s most renowned Bordeaux wine labels, while Royal Caribbean hosts a Lafite Wine Tasting of wines from another fabled Bordeaux winery, Château Lafite Rothschild.
4. Modest pleasures
You don’t need a big budget to have a good wine experience while cruising. Many ships have designated wine bars, such as The Cellars on new Norwegian Escape (where you can take wine-appreciation classes), Vintages on some Royal Caribbean ships, and Vines Bar on Princess Cruises’ vessels. If you sail with Celebrity Cruises, you can use the automatic Cellar Masters bar, which dispenses wine in full or half glasses or just tasting size – a good way to try a range of wines from around the world.
5. Local produce
Local tastes are increasingly being catered to on cruises from our shores. Princess Cruises is adding 30 new Australian wines to local ships Sun Princess, Dawn Princess and Sea Princess. P&O Australia’s ships carry 120 Australian and New Zealand wines, including interesting grape varieties such as Viognier and Roussanne. Its new ships Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden offer a cellar door with daily wine tastings and master classes.