Amelia had no sooner taken a sip of the Californian Chenin Blanc before starting to make rather impolite slurping noises. Nothing to do with the quality of the wine you understand, rather she is teaching us the proper way to taste vino. We smile politely, take a sip of the Chenin Blanc and swallow.
Slurping, and the associated risk of dribbling for us amateurs, was never an option - at least not in public! Amelia is Amelia Singer, a presenter on TV’s The Wine Show, and she has come on Celebrity Eclipse for a two-night cruise from Southampton to Le Havre in France to host wine-tasting sessions, train the ships’ sommeliers and unveil a new DIY wine-tasting kit.
Available only on Celebrity Eclipse for now (but likely to be rolled out across the fleet) the kit costs $59 and comprises a box of four 187ml bottles of wine that passengers can sip and slurp in the privacy of their own cabin while watching a video made by Amelia and the shows co-presenter, Joe Fattorini.
If you prefer a group tasting, and I reckon they are always more fun, both Amelia and Joe will be hosting wine-tasting sessions on two 11-night Best of the Western Mediterranean Cruises from Civitavecchia (for Rome) this autumn as part of a new partnership between The Wine Show and Celebrity Cruises. The cruises are on Celebrity Reflection and visit Italy, France, Spain and Gibraltar. Pick 11th September to sail with Joe, or 9th October to cruise with Amelia.
During our tasting, we sipped our way through another three Californian wines - a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel - while Amelia told us where they were grown, how soils change the taste of the grapes and where the various aromas come from.
I was on Celebrity Eclipse when she was named in Southampton, but that was back in 2010 so it was great to get reacquainted with her - even if it was only for two nights! The decor is modern, the layout is easy to navigate and sitting out on that half-acre of real grass lawn is just lovely when the sun is shining, as it was when we set sail.
The speciality restaurants are great too. I dined in Tuscan Grille the first night - there are pasta and fish dishes but really this is the place to come for steaks - and chose Murano for the second evening as my daughter, Ilana, and I had an excellent meal there on a Celebrity Silhouette cruise to Israel six years go. Naturally, I had high expectations this time and happily was not disappointed. Good food, nice service, but the meal is an event so don’t expect to eat there and make it to the show.
Celebrity Eclipse has sailed from Southampton each summer since she was christened there but it’s all change next year as she is being replaced by Celebrity Silhouette. The ships are similar but Celebrity Cruises made a few changes on the lawn when Celebrity Silhouette launched. Instead of glass blowing, there’s the Lawn Club Grill, where you can make pizzas and cook your own meat (Ilana and I had fun doing both but the staff will do the work if you prefer) and out on the grass are eight cabanas for rent. I was initially sceptical about their value but it was such a luxury to have a guaranteed place in the sun with the added benefit of cold water and fresh fruit included in the price. Be warned though - the book up fast, especially on sea days!