Celebrations International Travel Blog

Posts Tagged ‘wine

Every fall, Epcot hosts one of the largest food and wine festivals in the country.  Visitors enjoy a variety of special events scheduled throughout the 45-day festival, and all the while, they have the chance to sample some of the best wines and culinary creations anywhere.  What a perfect vacation opportunity for Disney enthusiasts and foodies alike!  This video gives us an insider’s look at what it takes to deliver the guest experience at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  More

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As part of Azamara Club Cruises‘ focus on destination immersion for its guests, their VP of Sales & Marketing Edie Borenstein hosts a series of video clips entitled “You’ll Love Where We Take You”.   Each episode highlights a different, unique destination to be experienced with Azamara Club Cruises.

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Azamara Club Cruises

Each meal onboard Azamara Club Cruises promises to be a voyage unto itself, with nightly culinary artistry inspired by the world’s most accomplished chefs and by the bountiful regions through which each itinerary travels.  To further enhance the experience, vintages from an extensive wine list will be offered to complement each dish.  Read More

This is the first in a new series of posts I would like to write about tips for savvy cruisers.  I frequently come across articles, ideas, questions, and advice by and for cruisers.

As both a travel professional specializing in cruises and as a family of avid cruisers, I’d like to begin sharing tidbits of my findings with you, along with my own take on them, whether I agree or disagree.  And I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on each subject.

Topic Statement: “You are almost always charged extra for soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails at meals.  But if you stick to juice, you can drink for free (on most ships).”

My Viewpoint: I completely disagree with this statement.  While the speaker makes a correct statement regarding soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails, I don’t agree that “if you stick to juice, you can drink for free.  No, in most cases, unless you have purchased a soft drink and/or juice package, juices are only free during breakfast and at self-service beverage stations, if the cruise line offers them.

To further clarify, I would suggest that savvy cruisers keep the following tips in mind with regard to beverages:

1) The idea that you “almost” always have to pay for certain beverages most likely stems from the fact that some cruise lines offer complimentary house cocktails (i.e. one or two specific types) to passengers on formal nights.  At all other times, when you are asked to sign a slip when presented with your drink, it gets added to your stateroom account.

2) If you are ever caught off-guard by a crew member asking you to sign for a beverage charge, but you were unaware that there was a charge for the item, remember that if you haven’t sipped the drink, you can decline the charge and let them know you do not wish to authorize the charge.  This knowledge could come in handy if you’re suddenly ambushed by crew members offering a “Welcome Aboard” drink that they don’t openly state carries a charge.

3) Every cruise line has their own rules as to which beverages are complimentary and which are not.  For example, some cruise lines count lemonade as a soda, while on other lines, it flows freely.  Ask your travel agent for specifics and commit them to memory.  If you decide you can’t do without juice, soda, or specialty coffee, consider buying a beverage package that’s good for the duration of your cruise.  This could help save you time and money.

4) For wine connoisseurs, wine packages are also available, giving you the opportunity to select different wines to enjoy during your cruise and enjoy significant savings compared to purchasing each bottle individually.

5)  If you’re ever in doubt about whether something costs extra, always ask before you consume.  Better that than an unpleasant surprise on your stateroom bill at the end of the cruise!

Celebrations International Travel offers a wide variety of oceanliner cruises and river cruisesContact us with any questions.  Until my next post, cruise on!

Whether you are an aspiring chef or simply an epicure, culinary travel promises the opportunity to truly savor your vacation. This growing trend of experiencing authentic cooking and dining around the world allows you to broaden your education and your palate at the same time. What a decadent way to travel!

The genre of culinary travel includes trips that focus on learning to create local dishes, those that emphasize tasting and wine pairing, and everything in between. As you can see, there are many options available. Let this TRO report assist in your planning, as it will provide you with the basic recipe for culinary travel. With it, you and your travel consultant are sure to cook up the perfect culinary adventure!

The most important consideration in planning your culinary vacation is whether you want to learn traditional recipes and cooking techniques, or if you’re more interested in enjoying the end result. Those wanting a strictly educational experience might enjoy cooking alongside famous chefs in renowned cooking schools. If dining inspires you, perhaps you would prefer the company of a learned chef as your guide. Or maybe you would like just a taste of culinary arts in your trip, as you explore other cultural aspects of your destination. The more consideration given to these issues before contacting a tour operator, the more efficient the planning process will be and the quicker you’ll be on your way.

If cooking is your passion, think about attending a cooking school, many of which boast award-winning chefs as instructors. If you go, you will have to consider your level of expertise to ensure pairing with courses that suit your abilities. The less experienced might learn more through hands-on instruction, while advanced students may feel confident in attending cooking demonstrations. You can even choose to learn a particular specialty such as pastry making. Wine schools are also a popular choice, offering classes on wine making, history, appreciation and pairing with foods.

For those interested in learning to cook according a country’s customs but want to spend a little less time in the kitchen, a cooking tour may be the best bet. Along with culinary classes, these tours are peppered with visits to wineries, vineyards, superior restaurants, and local markets and food producers. With some tours, you will travel to different cooking schools to take classes. Others offer the more intimate experience of attending the kitchens of various celebrated chefs.

Culinary tour guides, many of whom have backgrounds in history and/or cultural anthropology, will tell you the history of indigenous dishes, offer guidance while dining with you, and even provide cooking instruction. Your tour may be guided by an actual chef, or may enlist the services of two guides: one culinary and one cultural. Your guide should be bilingual, even if those providing the cooking demonstrations are not. And of course, if you would like to design your own culinary dream vacation, chef guides and cultural guides can be hired on an individual basis – the possibilities are endless!

Most cooking tours will accommodate travelers with every level of experience. However, general kitchen knowledge is expected. Before you go, ask your travel consultant if class participation is mandatory, or if you may merely observe. You will also want to inquire about attire. Cooking classes are generally casual, but more sophisticated dress may be necessary when dining out. You may also want to find out whether recipes will be provided after the demonstration.

Your tour operator should be able to accommodate any dietary needs regarding meals. However, the meals prepared during cooking classes, unless the class is designed and taken on an individual basis, are usually determined by the instructor and cannot be changed upon request. There are tours designed for vegetarians, which usually take place in Asian countries. Thailand, for example, boasts an annual vegetarian festival.

If you are more of a gastronome, you will want to take or design a tour that focuses on the pleasures of dining. Many culinary travelers maintain that there is no better way to learn about a culture than by sampling its traditional dishes. Such tours often include the excursions mentioned above, as well as more standard tourist attractions such as museums and art galleries. Certain tours allow more time for exploring the towns in which you stay. There are also more active tours, which incorporate such activities as hiking, painting and language instruction. These tours also provide a good option for those wanting to dine independently.

Not surprisingly, the most popular destinations for gourmet vacationing are Italy and France. Tasting tapas in Spain is also en vogue. When visiting these popular regions, the earlier you make your reservation, the better. But Europe isn’t your only option. You may enjoy a culinary cruise to the Caribbean, or take a chef-guided tour of Mexico. For the more adventurous, culinary tours are offered in such exotic locales as Morocco, India and Vietnam. For those looking for an experience closer to home, consider becoming a barbecue connoisseur in West Virginia or cook up some Creole in Louisiana.

Travelers may also take a culinary vacation by means of a food festival. The Netherlands boasts an international food-tasting festival every August, and Georgia is home to the annual Vidalia Festival. If you appreciate good beer as much as good food, Oktoberfest is certain to leave you hoppy.

The cost of a culinary vacation varies widely. The biggest factor in determining the price of your trip is whether you opt for a package tour, which generally means sharing your travel experience with other culinary enthusiasts. Most culinary tours are packaged at a fixed price that includes daily classes, meals, excursions, accommodations and ground transportation. You will be responsible for making your own travel arrangements to the school or destination, a task with which your travel consultant can greatly assist. The cost of your trip is further determined by the country visited, the extent of teaching provided, the quality of restaurants enjoyed, and the number and nature of excursions taken.

Accommodation is also a factor. Luxury and high-end hotels are a more expensive option. Staying in a countryside villa may not be as posh an experience, but the relaxation granted by fresh air and lush landscapes could prove to be priceless. Work through the options with your travel consultant. The more clearly you state your own preferences, the better your travel consultant can work with the tour operator to properly accommodate you and your traveling companions.

When pricing your stay, remember to take into consideration any Value Added Tax (VAT) levied by many countries in Europe and elsewhere. Because VAT is often as high as 20% of the cost of an accommodation or good purchased, the amount is often not insignificant! Many travelers assume that VAT is refundable. However, this is typically not the case for services such as transportation, accommodation, food, gas or any other goods or services consumed within the country itself. Ensure that the price you are quoted includes all taxes and other fees.

Sound too good to be true? It’s all for real and with a little planning a culinary vacation can be an absolutely wonderful way to garnish your next trip away from home.

Content courtesy and with the express permission of Travel Research Online.

For a sample of Celebrations International’s culinary tours please visit our Culinary tours homepage. Please note that all our tours are fully customized!

This is the text of an article I wrote for WhereI’veBeen.com that was published on their site today.  Enjoy!

Wine Grapes

1. France:  This country has a long history of excellent wine-making, and many newer wine-producing regions have learned from the French techniques and used them to produce their own wines. The varied regions of France produce abundant varieties of wines, sparkling wines, and champagnes. Amongst France’s best-known wine-producing regions are: the Loire Valley, Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais, and Cognac. Visitors to France will have a wonderful opportunity to explore and enjoy the products of this world-renowned wine destination.

2. Italy:  The sunny slopes of the Italian countryside are known to produce some of the best wines in the world. Whether you explore the hills of Tuscany and enjoy a glass of Chianti, or prefer Asti from the northern regions or the sweeter taste of Marsala from southern Italy, this country has something to please everyone’s wine palate. Known mostly for red wines, Italy also produces some excellent white, sparkling, and fortified wines. And of course, good Italian food enjoyed in a pristine, authentic setting will only make your wine taste better!

3. GermanyGermany’s wine regions are so numerous that they are more often referred to as “wine routes,” or areas wherein travelers or visitors can follow one particular route and expect to find several wineries, whether large or small. Germany’s proximity to the Alsace region of France has resulted in a number of French and German wines that share some common characteristics. Similar to other wine-producing regions of the world, some of the best German wines come from small-scale, “boutique” vintners and estate wineries, all of which travelers can visit if they wish, although they may need help from locals or a destination specialist in order to find the location and arrange the visit. Germany is also renowned for its beer production, something that is often of interest to wine lovers. Since fine German cuisine makes use of both good wine and beer, Germany is a destination no culinary traveler should miss!

4. Australia:  Avid wine lovers should definitely plan a visit to the land “Down Under.” This amazing destination offers you the delights of the Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills region, and the McLaren Vale region, just to name a few. The vistas in these regions are varied, all vast and beautiful, with gourmet dining and luxury accommodations to complete your ideal wine tour vacation. You can take a sunrise balloon ride over the vineyards. You can even enjoy your newly-discovered Australian wines with a bush lunch (picnic) in the Outback!

5. South Africa:  Cape Town is the gateway to some of the most breathtakingly scenic wine-producing lands in the world, many of them within an hour’s drive, and others a longer journey through spectacular landscapes. Each of the regions has its own unique character, as do the wines produced there. The well-developed Western Cape includes historic villages, charming guest houses, gourmet restaurants, and world-class golf courses. Travel along the coast, enjoying the spectacular scenery of the famous Garden Route. A wine tour of the Western Cape and Garden Route will prove to be a delightful experience for all.

Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, a full-service agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, all-inclusive resorts, and group travel. Adrienne and her family are avid world travelers, and they are especially proud of the custom work they do for clients.


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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