Let’s face it; any holiday is great, no matter the type, destination(s) or what mode of transportation one selects! Indeed, it’s always enjoyable to get away from it all, to travel, to visit and discover new and exciting places, learn different cultural values and most importantly; meet interesting people! The popularity of a cruise vacation has soared over the last few years and it’s certainly not difficult to understand why. Sailing the seas is relaxing and presents a great value for your vacation dollar by maintaining a mostly inclusive approach that includes accommodations, meals and daily and nightly entertainment. Additionally, it offers the opportunity of visiting several places and sites though bags, stuffed with a variety of clothing, are only unpacked once!

As mentioned, a cruise vacation has a lot to offer while providing plenty of memories that last a lifetime. However, your voyage can be enhanced and provide a greater experience by selecting an optional theme cruise! A theme cruise maintains all the bells and whistles of a regular voyage while providing greater or additional programming onboard.

These additions could be in the form of specific seminars, hands-on educational sessions or special concerts. Theme cruises are also growing in popularity as they give the passenger the opportunity to personalize the onboard experience by being surrounded by people with the same hobbies or lifestyles!

One such theme voyage that was recently offered by Celebrity Cruises was a culinary and wine tasting experience. The theme was inspired and based on the available “Excite the Senses Celebrity Lifestyle Book” that features over 260 recipes from the most popular restaurants and bars onboard.

It included guest hosts such as Maryanne Wedner, Export and California Sales Manager from the Grgich Hills Estate Winery in the Napa Valley, California; Thierry Houlbert, Senior Corporate Pastry Chef for the Celebrity fleet, Dominique Gamba, Traveling Restaurant Manager for the Celebrity fleet and Tim Laird, Chief Entertaining Officer for Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee.

Onboard the ship, demonstrations, unique events and activities were provided daily that comprised of recipes, hands-on cooking classes, food and wine tasting from various regions and food and wine pairing meals. All activities were educational, entertaining, delicious and… a lot of fun! Though most events and activities required an additional fee ($5.00 – $35.00), some shows were free such as a culinary demonstration hosted by Tim Laird on the art of grilling, the usage of BBQ sauces/marinades and drink cocktail pairing and a show on tableside service and flambé tips and tricks hosted by Dominique Gamba. One of the several complimentary events was the fun-filled and comical star chef cooking competition involving the executive chefs who were assisted by two selected guests from the audience. The competition was fierce as the talented chefs were at the mercy of the two participating guests who’s controversial scoring of the culinary creations were met by much disbelief from the famous cooks and comical relief from the audience.

Additional daily, interesting activities that required a nominal fee were hands-on cooking classes and wine and cocktail tasting demonstrations. One wine and cheese tasting event that was well worth the outlay of $20.00 per person was the onboard “World Wine Tour”. It gave the opportunity to try fine wines from some of the world’s most popular growing regions with six stations of different countries (Italy, France, Chile, Spain/Argentina, South Africa/Australia and USA) represented. The guest hosts who were from his or her country of origin poured the exceptional wines while providing a background on the grape treats. The Cabernet Sauvignon from the Grgich Hills Estate in California and the South African Chardonnay from Hamilton Russell were the most popular. To take in some of the events while saving a few dollars, an “Excite the Senses” package deal was offered at $270.00 per couple that included two of the $25.00 classes, a wine dinner at an onboard specialty restaurant and a copy of the Excite the Senses cookbook.

Of course, one can’t forget the fabulous eight day cruise on the newly renovated or rather, Solsticized ship, the Celebrity Millennium! This beautiful ship, which was launched in 2000, was completely upgraded in the spring of 2012 to bring it in line with the exciting features offered on Celebrity’s elite Solstice class ships while creating a uniform onboard feel across the brand.

The recent modifications included the addition of 43 spa-inspired staterooms. These veranda staterooms offer spa elements infused into the stateroom experience, priority seating in the exclusive and classy specialty restaurant, Blu and offer unlimited access to other relevant areas on the ship. Existing rooms received upgrades such as flat screen televisions, bathroom upgrades such as an attractive floral art panel that doubles as a convenient nightlight when the main lighting is turned off and the addition of many new bars and specialty restaurants.

Two notable and interesting areas on the ship were the extraordinarily unique specialty restaurant, Qsine and the Cellar Masters lounge. The Qsine restaurant offered a culinary journey that delivered elements of surprise and delight by offering incredibly prepared dishes that one could never experience on either land or sea. The iPad menus made the dining experience even more fun and interactive. The richly decorated Cellar Masters lounge offered a great place to relax where wine could be sampled from an automatic wine-by-the-glass dispensing system. Indeed, by simply swiping one’s access card, the system will pour one’s choice of either a 1-ounce, 2.5-ounce or 5-ounce portion.

What ports of call were presented on this fantastic cruise? The voyage originated in Vancouver, British Columbia and visited ports in Nanaimo and Victoria, British Columbia, San Francisco, California (2 days- overnight), Monterey, California with debarkation in San Diego, California. The shore excursions offered in each port of call were true to the theme by offering wine tours such as the Cowichan Valley in Nanaimo, B.C., and the Saanich Peninsula in Victoria, B.C., the Sonoma and Napa Valley just north of San Francisco, CA. and the Carmel Mission area near Monterey, CA. Of course, there were other points of interest in each seaport that fulfilled this cruise experience such as tours to the Little Qualicum Falls in Nanaimo, B.C., the beautiful Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C., Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Powell & Hyde Streets cable car ride in San Francisco, California and the breathtaking ocean side vistas that are provided on the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey. What a great cruise!

In conclusion, cruises are a wonderful value and offer a myriad of enjoyable and exciting activities in their own right. Taking a theme cruise offers every bit of what a cruise line brings to the table, with the added value of interesting and impressive programming.

For other similar cruises planned on the Celebrity line in 2013, information can be found at their website at www.celebritycruises.com.
For other interesting cruises that take into consideration other themes such as musical acts of various styles and eras, information can be found at www.themecruisefinder.com.

Written by Gordon Mansell