Robb Report Vices

Grape Escapes

If the prospect of packing up an entire wine cellar, bringing it aboard an all-suite luxury cruise ship, and setting sail for some far-flung, sun-soaked destination tickles your fancy, we recommend checking out the Taste of Life wine cruises. Each voyage takes place aboard either a Silversea or Crystal Cruises vessel (European river cruises during the spring and summer are offered in partnership with AMA Waterways). Recent destinations have highlighted Brazil and South Africa, while upcoming jaunts include tours of the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the riverways of France and Germany.

The series of boat- and beach-bound bacchanals is the brainchild of Michael Mastrocola of Mmmm Travel, whose passion for living the good life is evident from the moment you shake hands with him. “I grew up in Italy for part of my childhood,” he explains. “When I took over my father’s travel business, I was surprised to find that Europe’s most basic cultural rituals were considered true luxury in other parts of the world. The Taste of Life cruises materialized out of this curiosity.”

Those who disdain modern sea voyages (and there are many) often express their contempt with a pithy quip: “Cruises are for the newly wed and the nearly dead.” Typically that’s true, but not here. Mastrocola’s journeys are a gastronomic extravaganza both on water and in port, and the guests occupy a wide swath of the actuarial tables.

For oenophiles and gourmands, it’s essentially a floating fantasy camp. Pairing dinners are the norm—some casual, some less so—and formal lectures are also scheduled, though they’re not too formal (you are wearing shorts and sandals, after all). Travelers also get plenty of one-on-one time with the winemakers. Cigar enthusiasts will also rejoice, as some of the ships offer impressively stocked cigar lounges.

Florencia Palmaz of Napa Valley’s Palmaz Vineyards recently took part in a cruise as a  featured vintner, and she generously opened her family’s private paradise to the lucky voyagers aboard. “The Taste of Life cruise was a way to bring our wine club to life, well outside the confines of the vineyards and winery,” she says. “It’s about celebrating wine, food, friends, and family.”

As you might guess, the key is to pace yourself. These cruises are generally one to two weeks, so the old adage “everything in moderation” becomes a critical strategy. Bon appétit and bon voyage!