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Culinary Tourism aboard the Holland America

Kitchen Crew

For many people, planning a vacation means merely booking flights and hotel rooms, with decisions on food and drink coming as a slight afterthought. However, for a growing number of travelers, food and drink is becoming the main purpose of their trip. In fact, there is now an entire industry built around this type of travel - culinary tourism. Culinary tourism is best defined as tourism in which the opportunity for wine and/or culinary experiences contributes significantly to the reason for travel to a particular destination.

In Washington State there is a growing opportunity for culinary tourism with visits to various wineries, wonderful restaurants and artisanal producers – skilled craftsmen who manufacture unique hand-made products. However, travel like this can involve driving to several locations and it can be a bit of work to plan logistically. Now Holland American Line has eliminated the hassle and put a trip together that allows you to tour Washington wineries aboard their ships with their yearly Wines of Washington Cruise.

Wine Bottles

The 2008 Wine Cruise guests - including me - departed San Diego aboard Holland America's MS Oosterdam, and arrived in Vancouver, Canada four days later; with a one day stop in Seattle, Washington. Scheduled speakers onboard included Tom Hedges from Hedges Family Estates, Juan Munoz Oca of Columbia Crest, Eric Dunham of Dunham Cellars, John Sarich, the executive chef at Chateau Ste Michelle and Armandino Batali, owner of Salumi Artisan Cured Meats. Beginning with a wine tasting party with complimentary appetizers, the agenda included wine lunches and dinners, food demonstrations and a winery tour, along with the regular activities the ship offers its guests.

Any apprehensions that I might have had as a first-time cruiser, travelling alone, were quickly dispelled. The schedule was full with plenty of food options to explore.

Day One of the trip we departed San Diego at 5 pm and I did the touristy thing, standing on the deck with a cocktail in hand bidding farewell to the fine city. The evening then consisted of meeting the group that had joined the wine cruise for a wine tasting in the scenic Crow’s Nest followed by a dinner in the main dining room. One could pick and choose the activities to attend, but I stuck to the suggestions until I had time to check out the other options.

The next day I investigated the dining scene in more detail and found there were several choices. One could choose food-court style service at the Lido, where there was everything from salads to green Jell-O, a burger, fries and nacho station on deck, or a meal at the main dining room where attentive servers brought more refined cuisine. For a bit of extra money, fine dining could be found at the ship’s Pinnacle Grill Restaurant. I spent the next few days sampling from the various stations, and found I preferred the fancier wine pairing dinners at the Pinnacle Grill, while for breakfast and lunch I opted for simpler fare such as eggs, toast and salads in the Lido – which made for a fine balance. There was no time for boredom as numerous activities kept me fully occupied.

On Day Two there was a food demonstration by Armandino Batali of Seattle’s Salumi, a panel discussion on Washington Wines, and a presentation from Dunham Cellars winemaker Eric Dunham. I barely managed to fit in a pedicure.

On Day Three I attended a talk on the politics of wine and a wine and food pairing seminar and on Day Four one could head in to Seattle, tour Chateau Michelle Winery, or stay onboard for more seminars and cooking demonstrations.

Interior of Ship

Time flies when you’re having fun. All of a sudden, Day Five (departure day) arrived and I realized that I hadn’t even cracked open my novel. I had been having such a wonderful time.

If the culinary tourism aspect interests you, I suggest using AAA Washington to book next year’s Wines of Washington cruise that departs spring 2009. It is one-stop shopping for four days full of insights into the state’s wine and food scene. Don’t plan on having a lot of spare time though, and definitely don’t plan on sticking to your diet.

By Cassandra Anderton

Photos courtesy of Steve Schimmelman

Edited by Sheila G. LoGuisto

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