The Crown Princess in Grand Turk.

The Crown Princess in Grand Turk.

Princess Cruises is pairing gourmet small dishes inspired by pub favorites with craft beers, cocktails and wines with the debut of The Salty Dog Gastropub aboard Crown Princess. The menu offerings, including a signature burger, were developed in collaboration with former executive chef of Umami Burger and current chef of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar in Los Angeles, Ernesto Uchimura, who was recently awarded “Chef of the Year: The Comfort Master,” from Los Angeles Magazine.

Presented within the Wheelhouse Bar nightly, in refreshed surroundings and live entertainment, guests will choose three small plates from The Salty Dog Gastropub menu featuring new twists on classic pub dishes. Plates include Pale Ale Pork Cheeks, Spicy Stout Short Ribs, Wild Mushroom Saute, and Lobster Mac & Cheese, among other delicious options.

The piece de resistance is “The Ernesto” burger from Chef Uchimura – rib eye and short rib beef patty, grilled pork belly, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeno, charred onion aioli, topped with cave aged gruyere cheese.

“The Salty Dog Gastropub is an enticing addition to our onboard culinary offerings and brings yet another unique dining option to our guests,” said Rai Caluori, executive vice president of guest experience for Princess Cruises. “Chef Uchimura’s signature burger is sure to be savored, along with pub favorites reinvented for a more upscale dining experience.”

“A gastropub at sea is an innovative concept and it inspired me to get creative in the galley,” said Chef Uchimura. “The Salty Dog Gastropub’s menu will not only satisfy comfort food cravings but also offer guests new pub food flavors and tastes perfectly paired with a craft beer or fine whiskey.”

Adjacent to The Salty Dog Gastropub, also in the Wheelhouse Bar, is an expansive new, international whiskey bar menu, featuring some of the best Scotch whiskeys, American Bourbons and international whiskeys from areas including Japan, Ireland and Australia. Offerings include Johnny Walker Blue, Bakery Hill Classic (Australia), Connemara Whiskey Irish Cask (Ireland) and Hakushu 12 year (Japan). The menu offers daily specialized whiskey flights, allowing guests the opportunity to taste and compare selections around the world.

The Salty Dog Gastropub and new international whiskey menu, both available in the Wheelhouse Bar, have just launched aboardCrown Princess, and will be onboard Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess in mid-December. A food charge of $19 per guest applies.

The whiskey menu will also be available in the Wheelhouse Bar aboard Dawn Princess, Sea Princess, Sun Princess, Diamond Princess and Golden Princess by the end of 2015, and aboard all ships with the exception of Pacific Princess by the summer of 2016.

About Chef Ernesto Uchimura
Born in Argentina, Chef Ernesto Uchimura is an award-winning chef who stepped into the spotlight as the opening corporate executive chef and partner for the mega brand, Umami Burger. He went on to become founding chef and partner with the opening of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, where he garnered even more critical acclaim and recognition, including “Chef of the Year: The Comfort Master,” from Los Angeles Magazine and “Best Burger” in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. http://www.plancheck.com/

For more information about The Salty Dog Gastropub, including the full menu, visit http://www.princess.com/gastropub.

Avid traveler, and travel writer, Stephanie Bonilla returns to share her experiences from a recent Chicago visit. Many of our cruisers are from the Windy City, so we are delighted to share this contribution!

I finally booked my trip to Chicago after catching myself constantly looking up airfares from Miami to O’hare. It seemed I was on a subliminal mission to check the ‘windy city’ off my wanderlist. On a celestial Wednesday night, the stars aligned and I was able to find an extremely cheap flight just in time for Labor Day weekend.

Something about Chicago has always fascinated me. There’s something to say about a city whose endured so much (the Great Chicago Fire, every single winter ever) yet prevails year after year, never falling short of any “best cities to live in” list. Every Chicagoan I’ve ever talked with describes how miserable and brutal the weather can be, yet follows up his/her complaint with numerous ways the city blossoms during summer. For only three fleeting months of awesomeness, locals willfully withstand six months of snow storms and insanely cold temperatures. The only other city that comes to mind that houses such a loyal fanbase is NYC, where every winter becomes an obstacle of the spirit for its inhabitants. But why? What makes Chicago the outlier of the Midwest? I was determined to find out.

Friday

After taking the earliest flight out of Miami possible, we were checked in and ready to sight-see by noon. Chi-town is an extremely walkable city, allowing visitors to embark on their respective journeys via foot (or by purchasing a Ventra Card). We quickly made our way to Wild Berry, conveniently located on the outskirts of Millennium Park. The restaurant’s ‘Creamy Nutella’ crepe, which comes sprinkled and stuffed with chocolate drizzled banana goodness, is one of the many delectable dishes diners can choose from. Fall where you will on the brunch debate, this place won’t disappoint. We used our sugar buzz to take on Millennium Park, making it in and out of the park in about an hour and checking out its impressive amphitheatre and infamous Cloud Gate sculpture along the way. It seemed like everyone was out enjoying the summer’s heat, with herds of joggers and cyclists invading the park’s grounds. I started to see why Chicago’s residents are so bewitched by their city.

After wandering around the park’s surrounding area, we hopped on a train and headed to Goose Island Brewing Co., the masterminds behind one of my all-time favorite beers, 312. Although we didn’t make it to the walking tour, we sat in the brewery’s tap room for quite some time. Pint after pint, our buds were awakened with a mix of tasty ales. Already in the beer spirit, we took a train to Rock Bottom Brewery, a brewpub designed with beer enthusiasts in mind. Every craft-beer served at this pub is truly a labor of love. After trying a couple of brewskies and wallowing in the pub’s pungent hoppy aroma, we somehow stumbled back to our hotel to change in preparation for our evening plans. Volare was what was for dinner and marked the perfect ending to our eventful day. This gem should be on every restaurant list published about Chicago.  In fact, any lists printed prior to the opening of this restaurant should be required to be republished. If you like authentic Italian cuisine intertwined with a romantic ambiance, make sure you add this to your itinerary. Reservations are a must, unless you’re cool with waiting an hour or two for a table.

 

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Saturday

After having such a great first day in Chicago, Saturday had big shoes to fill. We started our morning by visiting the Willis Tower. There is so much to see here, particularly the sky deck that offers spectacular views of the city. If you’re brave enough, you can stand on one of the glass boxes that extend 4 feet from the deck, leaving you floating 1,353 feet up in the air. It’s truly a gnarly experience. After experiencing such an adrenaline rush we decided to indulge in some emotional eating. Fortunately, Giordano’s, Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza eatery, was just a few steps away. It takes around 45 minutes for the restaurant’s pizza artisans to work their magic, but the final masterpiece is worth the wait.

We embarked on a 75-minute Wendella Architecture Tour later that afternoon, learning about Chicago’s glittery skyscrapers and the history behind the city’s remarkable transformation. This tour is a must for design and architecture buffs, allowing passengers to see Chicago in a truly unique way. Once the tour was over, we treated ourselves to more food and drinks at a near-by gastropub called Public House. With a mixed crowd of yuppies and hipsters, this place has an awesome, laid back feel and some really good nachos.

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Sunday

Sunday started as quickly as it ended. Inspired by the city’s abundant energy, we decided to run to Lincoln Park, through the  Lincoln Park Zoo, over to Lake Michigan, stopping to gaze at beautiful brick houses along the way. We were famished by 11:30 a.m., making it back just in time for our brunch reservation at Hutch. From their pulled bacon Benedict to their jalapeno and garlic infused cocktails, this place knows how to fusion. Named on many of Chicago’s “boozy brunch” lists, seating at this restaurant comes much slower than it goes.

We rolled on over to Wrigley Field after brunch, the legendary home of the Chicago Cubs. If you’re visiting during baseball season, I encourage you to buy tickets to a game. Chicago fans are no joke, wearing their royal blue and red jerseys with pride.  Following a big win against the Arizona Diamondbacks, we made our way through the rowdy crowds, seeking shelter at Emporium Arcade Bar, an adult playground come to life.  If you could get your hands on any of the 400 machines found in this ‘barcade’, you can play Ms. Pac-Man while sippin’ on your PBR(s) and jammin’ to awesome tunes. The rest of the night is a little hazy, but I vaguely remember bar hopping and fireball shots being involved.

Monday

We attempted to cure our hangover with sunshine and the consumption of a lot of comfort food. Yolk offers a great food selection with more than just eggs on their menu. They’re known for pushing the envelope with creative breakfast and lunch items which include: scooped out pineapples filled with housemade Greek yogurt and fresh fruits or tasty Red Velvet FrenchToast.  Soon after eating and sipping on some much-needed coffee, we took Uber to Chicago’s landmark, Navy Pier. After taking a ride on the pier’s iconic Ferris wheel, our time left in Chicago was quickly approaching its end.

Our last stop on our trip was Lagunitas Brewing Company. Because why not get over a hangover at a brewery, right? Although the location is a bit rough around the edges, the facility’s size and interior more than make up for the sketchy locality. Be prepared to walk through many trippy hallways blasting Alice and Wonderland tunes.  Afterall, this is the headquarter of a beer-maker that believes the golden hued liquid they discharge out of a tap is the answer to social intercourse. My favorite part of Lagunitas, or any brewery for that matter, was their tap room. We sent our amazing long weekend off with lots of clinks of our Hop Stoopids and Sucks, a reference only true beer fans will understand.

‘Til next time, Chicago.

 

A glass of ThirstyFrog Red, Carnival Cruise Line's new private-label draught beer brewed especially for the new Carnival Magic, is served in the ship's Red Frog Pub. Photo  by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines.

A glass of ThirstyFrog Red, Carnival Cruise Line’s new private-label draught beer brewed especially for the new Carnival Magic, is served in the ship’s Red Frog Pub. Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines.

We go on holiday to get away from it all, right?  Maybe not always, as some families will travel together to go visit other family they have elsewhere in the world. I think we can all agree that this is not always a “vacation!!”  But, stick with the notion of being on a cruise (and being away from home), regardless of who you are traveling with.  Do you like to have the “comforts of home” at your fingertips, or are you seeking to get away from the venues, ideas and concepts that remind you of being at home?

Lately, familiar partnerships are being formed left and right on cruise ships.  Many of the partnerships revolve around food, music, entertainment and shopping…many of them found directly on board certain ships.  I certainly cannot fault the cruise lines for doing this; it’s a proven model that works…just ask Las Vegas.  Some of the classiest hotels sport certain chain burger joints, sub-sandwich shops and traditional shopping mall retail stores.

In my mind, it’s not so much that these venues are present on cruise ships, or can be found at port destinations.  I understand people…many people…enjoy comfortable and familiar surroundings, and may not leave home if some of these items can’t be found at their holiday destinations.  But, some of these things are part of a daily routine, like coffee every morning at a certain chain coffee house, on the way to work!  I’m doing my best to not mention business names, so this is how I will do it:

“I absolutely LOVED the Allure of the Seas, and I would sail with her again.  However, a certain amenity featured in the heart of the ship reminded me of work, and I did not want to be reminded of work while sailing on the Allure!”

We took a Hawaiian cruise several years ago, and it was an awesome trip.  Four days at sea from Ensenada, Mexico followed by Hawaiian Island-hopping.  Couldn’t wait to get to Kauai, since I heard about how untouched it was compared to Maui and Honolulu.  When the Vision of the Seas docked, and I ran up to get photos of the mountains and the landscape, what was the first thing I saw?  It was a very well-known chain superstore.  I won’t say the name, but it rhymes with “Fall Smart.”  I realize people who live there may need, and love, a “Fall Smart,” a “Bold’s Jim” and a “Hoarder’s Books and Music,” but it certainly detracted from the excitement of seeing Kauai for the first time.

I am not a Carnival mark, but at the same time, I wouldn’t turn down a Carnival cruise; love it all.  I truly like what Carnival has done with their sports bar concept, and crafting their own beer.  This is original.  They could have easily partnered with “Ham Adums” and themed their bars Boston-style, but they did not.  On holiday, I like to experience different. I like to experience local. I realize it isn’t easy, and an impossibility in some cases (due to suppliers), but I’d love to see ships offer more cuisine and arts/crafts based on where she’s going.

Okay…off to “Tarmucks.”

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

In today`s world of professionalism, most of us know what we want, what we like, and we let our demands be heard. When we go on a cruise, and into a bar, it tends to be the same way. We know, we want, and we demand!

A bartender is like any other profession: service; knowledge of the trade; small talk by the counter; seeing the guests; and knowledge of the bottles.

Berger’s law:

A bartender is a person which the guests seek. In the opposite of a waiter, the bartender is standby at the bar counter.  That can be demanding, but also giving. People seek You, the professional, the bartender.

  1. A bartender knows all his/her bottles and what they are.
  2. A bartender knows about the production of all his bottles.
  3. A bartender welcomes all his guests, and sees them.
  4. Knowledge of alcohol law is always at it’s place.
  5. The bartender knows about alcohol limits, potential dangers, and effects.
  6. A bartender uses small talk effectively, both for pleasure and for checking the guests status.
  7. The bartender knows his bar menu, and a lot of international cocktails.
  8. A bartender always has a design cocktail for You!
  9. If the guest is having a bad day, the bartender has a solution!
  10. A bar professional can cheer me up.
  11. The bartender is always a listener.
  12. A bartender is never the same…

Like Isaac from “Love Boat”, or like Sam in “Cheers,” the bartender is your friend and guest host during a cruise. Ask him for your favorite cocktail. Ask him for something special. Ask him for his favorite. The bar menu is just the ABC’s, it is the rest that separates the pro from the others. “Cheers,” cruise lovers, and have a “cocktail dreams” next cruise!

“It’s not the mixing which is the difficult part, but to be a bartender…”

Greetings from the sea: Tore Berger

Today was our first day in Bermuda, docked at King’s Wharf. The beautfiul weather encountered during our days at sea continued today. Because of this, we decided to make this our beach day, so we headed to Horseshoe Bay beach.

Transportation was easily accessible, and the buses were large, comfortable and air conditioned. Tokens and bus passes were available for purchase just steps from the ship, and the buses were located close by as well. Note that they only accepted cash or travelers checks; no credit cards. It was $7.50 round trip per person.

The bus ride to Horseshoe Bay took about 25 minutes, and there were no stops between the ship and the beach. It is a winding, one-lane road in either direction. Once we reached the stop, it was another 500 yards, downhill, to the beach entrance. If it is the return to the top you are worried about, there is a $2 per person shuttle that will take you in either direction! Beach entry is free.

At the entrance, there are restrooms, showers and changing stations. Both the mens and the womens sections were fully functional and cleaned throughout the afternoon. To the left, you will find a snack bar restaurant, with seating located just outside, and beautiful views of the beach. Cold soft drinks, beer, coffee drinks and water are all for sale, along with sandwiches, wings, burgers, chips and more. By the way, beers are very reasonable here. And, Coolie made us feel very welcome!

The beach is very picturesque, but we favor a calmer surf. We call Florida home for now, and we are more accustomed to the calmer waters of South Florida and the Caribbean. The sand was incredibly fine and soft, and easy to clean off of everything, including our bodies. After a few hours, we walked up the hill (our workout for the day), and waited in line for the next bus. We boarded, and it was standing room only. If you have difficulty standing for long periods of time, I advise you to wait for the next bus (if you find yourself in this situation). It is a very winding road, and there is LOTS of stop and go traffic. It can be a challenge!

We arrived back at the shipyard and headed straight to The Frog and Onion Pub. We had fish and chips, fried pickle chips, French Onion Soup and wahoo (a local catch). They also brew their own beer, so we ordered their IPA and the Wheat Beer. We were four people, and the bill was $127, which already included the gratuity. They also gave us souvenir pilsner glasses, which was a nice surprise. Heading back on board, we had to show our stateroom keys AND government issued photo IDs.

Once on board, I went back up to deck 15, pool deck. This time, I analyzed the layout more closely. Most of the areas to lay out near the center of activity are shaded! If you want to catch some rays on Breakaway, you’ll need to head aft, toSpice h2O (adult only area), or find a lounge away from the pool area, where you really won’t hear the music. For a ship based out of the cooler Northeastern U.S., I am kind of surprised at all of the shaded areas on pool deck; and I do not mean temporary structures that can be moved. This would be more understandable in a ship based out of a warm weather climate, going to more warm weather climates! But, not complaining…just an observation, since my mind is built this way!

We will be back tomorrow, with more from Bermuda, and a plan to try the suspended obstacle course and the plank! Good night!

shp_br_lov-state_sch_379You can enhance your Cruise Experience and save money by choosing your stateroom wisely.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Do you truly need a larger stateroom, spending the extra bucks for a mini-suite or larger?  Think about how often you spend time in your stateroom, and how you spend that time?
  2. Along the same lines, how often do you use the balcony? Is it necessary to spend the extra money on the balcony when considering the amount of time you spend out there?
  3. If size is important, a travel agent can help.  He/she should know the average stateroom sizes for each cruise line, and ship.
  4. If Hurricane Season doesn’t faze you much, you can find better deals on Caribbean Cruises in late August to mid-October, which is the peak of the Caribbean Hurricane Season.  This might be your opportunity to get that mini-suite at balcony stateroom prices.
  5. Booking a Guarantee (a category level without knowing your stateroom number until the cruise gets closer) will save you money.  It is also quite possible that you get bumped up to a higher category level.
  6. If you are a frequent cruiser on a particular line (and sister lines of a parent company), perks tend to include upgrades to higher stateroom categories.  Be sure to look into this!

Don’t get me wrong…a suite is sweet!  However, I certainly do not cruise to spend much time in my stateroom.  And, when I am in the stateroom, its size isn’t an issue, since I’m either on the bed, in the lav and/or paying attention to my beautiful wife!  The money saved on the proper stateroom can be used for other amenities on board, as well as for shore excursions and shopping.  And, maybe…just maybe…a drink or two (or three)!!

Contributor, Tore Berger

Contributor, Tore Berger

-contributor Tore Berger

On a cruise, you might want to relax with your favorite cocktail, beer, or maybe a glass of wine. What to drink? What about the selection? Why don’t they have this or that?

Today, most commercialized industries are partnering with other industries. On a cruise ship, it is common to have an agreement with one or two (sometimes three) large beverage distributors.  You need your basic wines, a main beer supplier, and you definitely need your base of liquor.  Most cruise companies have an annual point of meeting, with a selection of employees from here and there, and go through potential deals, needs, news, and wishes. You can never satisfy everybody, but you need to satisfy the most.  “Pouring brands”, the ones you use the most, are usually one of the difficult issues. The Beer supplier, and what select brands they have, is another. Wine is probably the one which makes the most discussion (at the planning meetings).

Trends – The restaurant menus – Pricing – Menu help – and of course, logistics, are key factors. You can’t have it all, you need to deal the best purchase prices, and you need to find a fine balance between that and the guests’ expectations and wishes.

The better prices and deals, the better prices for the consumer, the guests…you!

Logistics of course is equaled to price. The more, the better. It’s like that in all business, in all trades, in all companies. Sorry that we don’t always have your favorite rum, beer, wine, or maybe liqueur. But choose a professional cruise company, and I promise you that the beverage employees will help you out with an alternative. Ask the bartenders for your favorite cocktail! Ask the Sommelier (Wine steward) for his/her choice. Use the crew and their professionalism with any question concerning beverage. We can’t have anything, but we surely will help you out as best we can.

“A day without a good drink, is like a life without laughter…”

Norway greets you: Tore Berger

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I like variety.  I like my beers to be flavorful, hearty (like a porter) in cooler weather, and I particularly enjoy IPAs and almost anything from Belgium.  Up until recently, a nice selection of beer was a missing piece of my cruise experience.

Up until the late 2000’s, cruise ships’ beer selections were comprised of mostly staple beers; similar to what you may find at your local stadiums and arenas; rarely carrying more exotic imports or crafts brews.  My wife and I cruised the Norwegian Sky in 2008 (or 2009) and to our surprise, the Sports Bar had a very nice selection of beers from around the world.  We were thrilled, because we are not fans of the beers typically available on ships.  In fact, the Sky’s Sports Bar EVEN SERVED COMFORT FOODS, like fritters, wings, burgers and more.  Now, most ships have sports bars, but this was the first time we encountered a cruise ship sports bar as a dining option.  It was great, and we felt like it was our little secret!

Back to the beer…USA Today reported that more than half of Royal Caribbean’s customers will come from outside of North America this year, and that they will be likely to find at least one familiar beer from home on the menu!  That’s a plus for folks who reside in the United States and Canada.  Imports on about half of the Royal Caribbean fleet now include Foster’s (Australia), Kirin (Japan), Peroni (Italy), Carlsberg (Denmark), Spaten (Germany) and Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic).  From the United Kingdom and Ireland, beers include Bass Ale, Boddingtons Pub Ale, Newcastle Brown Ale, Guinness Draught, Murphy’s Stout and Harp Lager.  Other beers carried include Widmer Brothers (Oregon), Red Hook (Washington), Sierra Nevada (California) and more, including a personal favorite, Chimay, from Belgium!!

Although I understand distributorships will have a say, I would like to see the cruise lines offering beers from home ports, as well as those available at ports of call.  During our Alaskan Cruise on Princess, we found a few varieties of Alaskan Brewery Beer on board!  It just went together so well with the Alaskan experience of the cruise.

Wine may be fine and liquor may quicker, but I for one am going to enjoy my cruising experiences even more with a variety of beers on board!

Cruise lines have different policies with regards to bringing liquor and wine on board.  Some ban it altogether, while other lines allow certain amounts.  Although I am a cruising veteran, I did not do my homework before our 2011 cruise on the Allure of the Seas.

It was already several hours after boarding and we were still missing one piece of luggage.  We thought it was either lost, or the tag came off, so therefore being held.  We “heard” that we were allowed “one bottle per passenger,” so we didn’t think there were any other issues.  We came back from eating to find a note in our stateroom, indicating that we needed to go to deck 1 (I think) to pick up our bag.  That’s when it hit us…they knew to contact us, so we then realized it had to be the booze!  So, we headed to the elevator bays that went to that depth of the ship.

A couple of decks down the elevator stopped and a man walked in.  He saw we were going to deck 1, and apparently he was too.  He asked, “booze or iron?”  I said, “booze, you?”  “Iron,” he said.  We both played along, and at the same time, he, my wife and I just looked down in shame, slightly shook our heads, and then shared a laugh.  When we saw each other two other times during the week, we would just bow our heads in shame as we walked by, before greeting! Ah, the elevator ride of shame!

So, enhance your cruise experience and do your homework before you set sail!  Here is a link for alcohol “smuggling” guidelines for many of the major cruise lines.