As cruises ships sail the world's oceans, there's the chance to learn from wine hosts who live, breathe and love wine. They are knowledgeable instructors, certified wine sommeliers, winery owners and professional winemakers.
During these wine cruises participants are immersed in engaging wine seminars, wine-pairing dinners, and wine tasting events. In the company of fellow oenophiles, the world of grape varietals and classifications, terroir and tannins are explained by wine masters.
On shore there are tours to famous chateaux and private vineyards. Can there be a more indulgent ship excursion than sampling rare Bordeaux in its homeland or witnessing Sangiovese grapes ripening on the hillsides of Tuscany?
Here we pick out five of the best cruises for wine aficionados. Cheers to that!
1. Celebrity Cruises' Autumn Wine Harvest
Savour the best of Europe's wine harvests with Celebrity Cruises, under the guidance of the expert presenters from the international TV series "The Wine Show." As part of their time onboard, Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer will host a series of enticing, interactive tastings experiences and events. In addition, they will also develop a series of bespoke wine lists and programme of shore excursions to vineyards in France and Italy during the annual harvest time.
Celebrity Reflection, the last in the series of the Solstice-class ships overflows with refined glamour. Joe Fattorini will be aboard this ship -- winner of Best Overall Ship in the 2017 Cruise Critic Awards -- for an 11-night Best of the Western Mediterranean cruise departing Civitavecchia (Rome) on 11 September 2017 and calling at La Spezia (Florence and Pisa); Villefrance; Barcelona (overnight stay); Ibiza; Malaga; Gibraltar and Cartagena before returning to Civitavecchia. Amelia Singer will join the same ship for a similar itinerary on 9 October 2017.
2. Crystal Cruises' Wine & Food Festival Wine Cruise
Serious oenophiles who enjoy heading off the beaten track will find it hard to resist this 24-night Amazon Escape cruise sailing round trip from Fort Lauderdale on 27 October 2017. Crystal Cruises is renowned for both its classic and modern cuisine. Restaurants on the 1,060-passenger Crystal Serenity include the Silk Road, which features signature dishes created by famed chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, as well as Piero Selvaggio's Prego. In the Vintage Room degustation menus focus on fine wine pairings.
On this cruise that navigates 1,000 miles up the world's second-longest river to the city of Manaus -- known as 'Paris in the Jungle' -- the emphasis will be on fine wine. Joining this sailing will be internationally acclaimed wine educator Kevin Zraly. The award-winning found of the Windows on the World wine school and a best-selling author, Kevin has been featured in numerous U.S. publications, has co-hosted America's Food Network's "Wine A to Z" and travels the world spreading his wine knowledge.
3. P&O Cruises' Taste of Madeira
P&O Cruises is launching two exclusive-access wine excursions to the celebrated Blandy's Wine Lodge in Madeira. These tours have been designed in partnership with P&O Cruises' 'Food Hero' wine expert, Olly Smith. The tours will run across the entire fleet on selected 2017 cruises calling at Madeira, and offer behind the scenes secrets on the craft of winemaking as well as tastings of the island's distinctive wine.
Olly Smith's Taste of Madeira tour gives passengers the opportunity to learn about Madeiran wine. They will enjoy privileged access to Blandy's Quinta Santa Luzia vineyards and Blandy's Wine Lodge and private museum, along with a wine tasting and a sumptuous lunch of local delicacies paired with different wines. A Taste of Madeira -- a Tour Developed by Olly Smith is almost identical, but on this excursion, Chris Blandy or Blandy's Madeira winemaker, Francisco Albuquerque, will teach passengers about local wines as they taste the world-class bottles selected by Olly and tuck into regional food.
4. SeaDream Yacht Club Wine Voyages
The undisputed doyen of wine cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club has no fewer than six remaining dedicated Wine Voyages in 2017 and nine on offer for 2018, which positively overflow with fine wine. These Mediterranean sailings comprise of two seven-night round trip departures from Civitavecchia (Rome) on 10 and 17 June; an 11-night cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Venice on 19 August; a similar duration voyage from Piraeus (Athens) to Civitavecchia (Rome) on 23 September; a seven-night sailing from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Nice on 30 September; this series concludes with a nine-night cruise from Nice to Malaga on 7 October. There are also a series of Wine Voyages available in 2018.
Guests aboard SeaDream's duo of boutique yachts can choose a variety of shore excursions to enhance their onboard wine experience -- from exploring the stunning Sorrentino Winery at the base of volcanic Mount Vesuvius, to a wine tasting and truffle hunt at Castello delle Regine in Umbria, or learning the art of making paella to pair with local wines in Cartagena. Highlight of every Wine Voyage, is the Winemaker's Dinner, where representatives from visiting wineries offer a selection of their wines to complement the executive chef's degustation menu. In 2017 they include German wine expert Philipp Wittmann, Marilisa Allegrini a sixth-generation family member from one of Italy's top Valpolicella producers, and Francesco Mazzei, chef patron at London's Sartoria restaurant.
5. Silversea Cruises' Wine Series Voyages
Wine Series voyages aboard Silversea Cruises offer passengers the chance to broaden their understanding and appreciation of fine wine. They are usually hosted by Silversea's wine ambassador, Lawrence d'Almeida who works in conjunction with onboard sommeliers to present wine tastings and presentations. Lawrence studied winemaking at Kendall-Jackson's Chianti Classico estate, Tenuta di Arceno, in Tuscany. From 1998 until 2006, he was winemaker and director of the boutique Chianti Classico winery Villa Casale and is now a wine production consultant and tasting guide in Italy.
Silversea Cruises has two Wine Series cruises scheduled for 2017/18, both onboard the new Silver Muse which launched in April. On 6 December 2017 the Treasure Islands and Paradise Lost cruise departs Bridgetown on a 12–night voyage to Fort Lauderdale calling at Castries; Bequia; St George's; Kralendijk; Willemstad; Oranjestad; Samana; Grand Turk; and Key West. The second sailing is a 24-night Amazon cruise departing Rio de Janeiro on 16 February 2018. This voyage visits Salvador de Bahia; Natal; Fortaleza; Macapa; Santarem; Boca da Valeria; Manaus; Parintins; Alter do Chao; Bridgetown; and San Juan before arriving in Fort Lauderdale.