Cruising with wine 101

By / Magazine / April 12th, 2019 / 16

Thinking about booking a cruise in the near future? A word to the wise when it comes to indulging your wine passion on board: don’t bother bringing your own wine.

In March, I took the family on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate a significant birthday. We sailed on the Norwegian Bliss out of Miami with 4,000 other revelers, including an irritatingly large number of March Breakers and Reading Weekers.

We stopped in St. Thomas, Tortola and Nassau.

Knowing that we would be imbibing more than we usually do, during hours we don’t normally drink when we’re on dry land (that’s why it’s called “dry” land, I guess), I had pre-purchased the cruise line’s Premium Beverage Package. This was formerly known, according to the company’s website, as the “Ultimate Beverage Package”, which included “a variety of spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer up to and including $15 USD and unlimited fountain pop and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants… A 20% discount will be applied to all bottles of wine purchased on board. The Premium Beverage Package does not include room service, package sales, ship specific promotions or beer buckets, designated Super Premium brands (subject to change), bottled wine, mini bar purchases, bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages, energy drinks, vending machines, wine stations or spirits, cocktails, draft or bottled beer and glasses of wine over $15 USD. Two (2) beverages per person per transaction.”

The price of the package included a 20% gratuity. It cost $81.42 per person per day.

I thought it would be a good idea to pack four bottles of Ontario wine – Rieslings and rosés – so that we could sit on our balcony and enjoy them as we scanned the sea for whales and dolphins and play online casino on or slot pg . There is no need to visit a brick and mortar slot machine. You can enjoy your wine , watch dolphins and also enjoy your gaming.

When we opened our suitcases in the cabin, having boarded the ship, we found a form letter on top of our clothes informing us that our luggage had been scanned. The scan “showed appearances of certain prohibited items…Since we found wine(s) in your luggage, if you would like to consume this wine during your voyage you are more than welcome to once you pay the corkage fee per bottle.”

Since I had paid heftily for the package, I decided I would drink their wine rather than my own – especially as they were gracious enough to offer to return my bottles to me on the last evening of the voyage if I didn’t avail myself of their request for corkage.

Over the course of the week’s cruise, the entertainment crew offered the following wine events – at US$21.95 plus 20% gratuity (with a 20% off for guests who had purchased – let’s call a spade a spade – the Ultimate Booze Package):

  • Wine & Cheese Pairing
  • Black Glass Blind Tasting with Macaroons (!)
  • Riedel Glass Seminar
  • Champagne Black Glass Tasting
  • Old World Versus New World Tasting
  • Wine & Cheese Perfect Pairing

There was, as you can imagine, wine everywhere on board and guests were walking around glass in hand, even in the elevators. The choices at the 16 bars and lounges were Banfi Le Rime Pinot Grigio, Gran Araucana Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay, Voga Provincia di Pavia Moscato in white, and Hogue Merlot, Estancia Pinot Noir, Bodega Monteviejo ‘Festivo’ Malbec, Gérard Bertrand ‘Réserve Spéciale’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Torres Alto Ibericos, North & South California Red Blend in reds, and Robert Mondavi White Zinfandel.

And there was wine on tap in the casual restaurant where, on entering, you had to offer your hands for an antiseptic spray. (The petite Pilipino attendants who wielded the spray bottles would chorus, ‘Washee washee’ to everyone who came in.)

But, in spite of the fact that there were many Canadian guests on the cruise, there was not a single Canadian wine on board – except of course, my wines, which were in jail awaiting parole.


Tony Aspler, Order of Canada recipient, has been writing about wine since 1975. He is the author of 18 wine books, including The Wine Atlas of Canada and three wine murder mystery novels. The best concert he ever attended was Rush with the Tragically Hip as the opening band. His favourite comfort food is milk chocolate and his cocktail of choice is a Kir Royale. At home, he drinks wine (lots of wine).

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