Norwegian Cruise Lines’ New Cruise Ship Escape Serves up Wine, Beer & Spirits in Unique Settings
by John Dunham with Alison Blackman
Rocker George Thoroughgood is famous for never performing in a place that doesn’t serve alcohol, so we think he’d be happy to perform on any cruise ship, for drinking is one of the many and popular activities cruisers enjoy on cruises.
On the new Norwegian Escape, which began cruising to the Caribbean from Miami last month (See our review of the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ ESCAPE), beverage service has moved from pina coladas on the pool deck, to a high art.
This is because the Escape is one of the most luxurious of the “mainstream” ships now sailing out of the United States. Norwegian Cruise Lines is owned by NCL Holdings which also the parent company of the luxury brand Regent 7 Seas Cruise Lines and Oceana Cruise Lines. According to Frank Del Rio, President of NCL Holdings, the company is starting to move some of the Oceana food selections to NCL, and since Oceana is considered to have the finest cuisine on the high seas the benefits are showing up in the wine, spirits and beer selections on board the Escape.
The Escape has many new food and dining options, and one was the ship differentiates itself from other ships in the NCL fleet, and other cruise lines, is through two new, upscale bars in partnership with beverage alcohol industry professionals. This includes the line’s first wine bar at sea, in partnership with the Michael Mondavi Family.
The cellars, a Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar, features a wine list with 35 grape varietals including selections picked as favorites from Michael Mondavi and his daughter, Dina, co-founder of the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. The Cellars was designed as a place to enjoy wine both from an educational angle, and to savor good wine paired with good food.
It is a small world in the wine business. We had the pleasure of meeting Michael Mondavi at an Italian Wine Event – Grandi Marchi sponsored by The Institute of Fine Italian Wines, at Del Posto in New York City about a month before sailing on the Norwegian Escape. We were honored that he recognized us in the Escape’s wine bar on the ship (seems we all get around a lot).
The cellars/Wine Bar, offers Escape passsengers both a sleek indoor tasting room, and 180-degree ocean views in the outdoor wine bar on The Waterfront (the Escape’s Promenade Deck), with service provided by a Sommelier certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. The Cellars is not just a cruise ship wine bar, it features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine, all accompanied by small plates and tapas, available à la carte.
The Cellars brings a little bit of Napa to the high seas (many of the wines either made or imported by Michael Mondavi Family Estate, as well as many others that Michael and his daughter Dina, thought would fit well with the various dining options on board the Norwegian Escape. In fact, you’ll find wines from Tuscany’s Ornellaia and Michael Mondavi’s own Napa Valley Estate.
They present these in a wide variety of forms, from glasses and bottles served in the elegant setting of the Cellars, to specially designed tasting flights, including tastings with different types of Riedel glasses, to a black glass tasting, where Dina swears one can often not even tell if they are drinking a white or red varietal. These specialized tastings are a great way for wine lovers to hone their tasting skills, and for the less experienced to learn about their personal sense of taste and smell, and of course wine preferences.
In addition to the wines, the Cellars displays different soils from the Michael Mondavi Family Estate in Napa California. These soil samples allow people to taste the wines and smell the terroir from which they come.
Wynwood’s own beers on the Norwegian Escape were quite varied and included one that we particularly enjoyed called Pop’s Porter (“Pop” was there, beaming at his son Luis G. Brignoni, the brewery’s founder). This beer, which was a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival, is an excellent food beer, with a dark brown color and hints of chocolate and coffee. The beer paired very well with small plates from Food Republic, particularly with the beef sliders that we were served at the press event.
These two bars, while perhaps the most unique, are not the only ones on the Escape, a ship which features more than 17 bars and nightclub venues (Click Here for a full list). Those who love margaritas will enjoy them at the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at sea (extra tariff restaurant/bar) and savor a bit of Miami’s oldest and most legendary bar, Tobacco Road with feature a selection of cocktails created by Tobacco Road’s Cocktail Collection mixologist, Leo Holtzman. That’s just for starters. Feeling thirsty? It’s 5 O’Clock somewhere! Guests can also opt for one of three drink packages which make it easy (just show your key card) and affordable, to savor all the spirit and “spirits” that Escape has to offer.
Most importantly, the Norwegian Escape reflects the culture of its home port of Miami, and through partnerships with beverage industry experts like the Michael Mondavi Family and Wynwood Brewing Company.