Sip Trips #149: September Insanity

Well, my little sippers, it’s been too long since I was last able to provide an update on the Sip Advisor’s adventures, thanks in part to our big move from Vancouver to New West. I’ve finally got some time to put fingers to keys, so here’s what we’ve been up to over the month of September:

As we enjoyed the calm between two storms – moving out and moving in – Mrs. Sip and I met up with some baseball teammates at the Sapperton District Taphouse for their weekly Tuesday Trivia. Over the course of the night, Mrs. Sip and I enjoyed servings of Howe Sound You’re My Boy Blue Blueberry Wheat Ale (on special), Steel & Oak Rhubarbarum Rhubarb Pale Ale and a Dageraad selection that was described to us as a double dark wheat ale. To go with our beverages, I ordered the Whiskey Barrel Burger, while Mrs. Sip once again had the Slow & Low Sliders. Best of all, our team won the trivia and got tickets to a comedy show, a t-shirt and, most importantly, a pitcher of beer for our efforts.

The next day, friends from out of town were visiting, so we took them to the Britannia Brew Pub in Steveston. As we did on our first visit, Mrs. Sip and I shared their Chowder and Fish & Chips for food, which I paired with their seasonal Tropical ISA. The beer was just what I was looking for to pair with seafood.

redneck-seafood.jpg

A few days later, we were back in the Richmond area, so decided to drop into Fuggles & Warlock Brewing. Although I’d had a sip of the beer at the Battle of the Brews event a couple weeks earlier, I wanted a full glass of the Gin & Lime Pilsner, which I enjoyed more in the larger serving. Mrs. Sip went with her usual The Last Strawberry Wit, which has always been a fantastic and flavourful drink.

Next up was our cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles with Princess Cruises. As is our tradition, we brought aboard four bottles of wine, as well as mini bottles of rums, vodkas and schnapps, which kept us well-lubricated throughout the voyage. This was helped along by various drinks aboard the ship, highlighted by multiple servings of Mayan Mules (subbing in tequila for vodka); a super-sized Chocolate & Chili Margarita (enough for both Mrs. Sip and me); and attending the Maitre D’Hotel Wine Club, including six samples of wine from around the world.

When our cruise disembarked in Los Angeles, we journeyed to Anaheim for one day at Disneyland, Baby Sip’s introduction to the place where her parent’s met as fresh-faced teenagers and began their long relationship. We decided to attend the Mickey’s Halloween Party, giving us access to the park starting at 3pm and lasting until 11pm. Mrs. Sip realized if we went this route, we’d pay only slightly more than the price for a one-day, one-park ticket (which would see us booted out for the Halloween Party at 6pm), while gaining access to both parks, extended hours, and the perks that come with the Halloween ticket.

Halloween in September.png

Prior to heading to the Disneyland Resort, we went for lunch at the nearby Tony Roma’s location, drawn in by their happy hour commencing at 11am. Mrs. Sip and I each ordered a pint of Golden Road Get Up Offa That Brown, to go with our Chicken Tender Platter and Mrs. Sip’s cup of Baked Potato Soup. This is one of my favourite chicken strip platters of all-time, so it was very nice to have it again on this vacation.

Following lunch, we entered Disney’s California Adventure, home to (at this time) the only place among the parks where you can purchase alcohol. We went straight for the Karl Strauss Beer Truck, where we noted that brew prices have gone up since our last visit in December 2016. Despite the increase, I ordered their Aurora Hoppyalis, while Mrs. Sip went with the seasonal Oktoberfest.

After riding the revamped Incredicoaster, we rejoined our family near the Animation Building, stopping along the way to try a couple beverages only available during the Halloween season. Mrs. Sip had the Elsyian The Great Pumpkin Imperial Ale, while I selected the Stone Vengeful Spirit IPA. Both beers were very good, with the Elysian having the best pumpkin flavour I’ve experienced in a beer.

pumpkin beer.jpg

Following taking Baby Sip on her very first Disneyland ride ever – The Little Mermaid – we made one more suds stop at the Sonoma Terrace beer and wine garden. I was happy to see the site now has beers on tap, instead of only bottles. With that in mind, I picked the Refuge Grapefruit IPA, but neglected to note which libation Mrs. Sip settled on.

Next, we were off to the Halloween Party, which was a lot of fun. It was neat to experience a park we’re so familiar with in a whole new way. The trick-or-treat stations handed out a variety of quality treats and the fireworks show was top notch. Our only complaint would be that one of the churros stands ran out of the pumpkin spice variety that we’d read about online, which seems like very poor planning to occur, not only during the Halloween season, but particularly during a special event such as Mickey’s Halloween Party.

Before flying back home to Vancouver, most of our group had lunch at the Golden Road Brewing tasting room within LAX Airport. This was a welcome surprise given how much we used to despise the airport and how we just had a beer from the company the day before at Tony Roma’s. I went with the Wolf Among Weeds IPA, paired with a Banh Mi Sandwich, while Mrs. Sip ordered the Mango Cart Wheat Ale to go with a Pub Pretzel.

out-of-pretzels.jpg

Back at home, we were running out of days to reach my goal of taking Baby Sip to 52 breweries in her first year of life, so made a trip to Vancouver for stops at R&B Brewing and Electric Bicycle Brewing. At R&B, we shared one of their spectacular pizzas, the Prosciutto & Arugula variety, along with pints of So Fresh and So Green, Green IPA for me and the Jam Session Raspberry Cream Ale for Mrs. Sip. At Electric Bicycle, we shared a flight, comprised of Kaedama Ramen Noodle Alt, Spatialized Pale Ale, Floridian Holiday Pink Peppercorn IPA, and Das Cocoloco Imperial Wit. It was a perfect way to achieve my and Baby Sip’s goal with some outstanding beers at both locations.

To celebrate my birthday the next day, we bought tickets to Trading Post Brewing’s Oktoberfest event, where they were joined by Field House Brewing and Steel & Oak Brewing. I tried beers from each vendor, including the Trading Post Hoppy Bock, Field House Festbier, Field House Dutch Pale Ale, and Steel & Oak Roselle Wheat Ale. We also ordered some of the fantastic food available, such as the Vienna Schnitzel, Laugenbrezel, and Parm Fries. The event was a lot of fun and to boot, we even got an opportunity to drink out of a boot!

As with any birthday for me, a number of liquor products were gifted my way, including bottles of Tanqueray Malacca Gin, Sons of Vancouver Chili Vodka, Fernie Ghostrider Pumpkin Brown Ale and Bad Tattoo Brewing’s Flash Pack case. Last, but not least, I also received a BC Liquor Store gift card, as well as cash, which will likely go towards boozy purchases.

money for birthday

Finally, to wrap up what is often our second busiest month of the year – only topped by December and all its Christmas events – thanks to a myriad of family and friend birthdays, we celebrated Baby Sip turning one-year-old. For the occasion, I created three cocktails, featuring colourful liqueurs that went with our Dr. Seuss ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!’ theme. The recipes included Rum–Blue Curacao–Pineapple Juice, Vodka–Banana Liqueur–Club Soda, and Gin–Violet Liqueur–Lemon-Lime Soda. The unique yet basic recipes were a hit with our guests and added a nice enhancement to the party.

October looks to be a little less insane, but the calendar is already filling up with Halloween parties and other commitments. Bring it on, October!

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Sip Trips #104: Babymooning (Part 2)

Yesterday, we took a look at the first portion of our Rome to Dubai babymoon cruise, with stops in Rome, Naples, Athens, and Santorini. Today, we make our way through the Suez Canal to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, with many ships hijinks in between:

While our ship was brand-spanking new with some great updates to behold, I missed some of the charms of the older vessels in the Princess Cruises line. For example, the Explorer’s Lounge has been replaced by the Princess Live Studio. This is where many trivia events take place, respectively, but the studio is lacking tables, so there’s no surface to write on. Even worse, there’s nowhere to rest a drink… heck, the place doesn’t even have a bar, which is practically criminal.

Also, the Skywalker’s Lounge – home to the Elite/Platinum Lounge – is gone from the newer ship design and so the lounge time for loyal guests now takes place in a windowless room of the ship, with servers having to travel some distance to hook passengers up with the daily drink special. As a result, one of my favourite parts of the day on most cruises, was only attended twice by me and Mrs. Sip. The experience just didn’t feel special at all.

Fix Your Own Drinks

Another missing piece from other ships we’ve sailed on was the line’s Crooner’s Martini Bar. Apparently, we weren’t the only guests to notice, as a few days into the cruise, the Juice Bar was turned into a pop-up Martini Bar each evening. On its opening night, we dropped by for their Tropitini (Bacardi Oakheart, Malibu, Creme de Banana), which was very tasty and far better than a health smoothie.

As we docked in Aqaba, Jordan, I tallied my 50th country visited. With a Rob Roy ordered in the Elite/Platinum Lounge, I was also able to cross off country number 50 that I’ve drank in. This is a feat I’m very proud of and just may make the cut to be immortalized on my headstone: Here lies the Sip Advisor… he drank EVERYWHERE!

That evening, as Mrs. Sip and I were checking out what the buffet had to offer, we were stopped by the team selling shots of Limoncello and souvenir shot glasses. Eventually, they coerced me into buying a glass and shot for $3. Then, the lead of the group offered to give me a second pour on the house, if I downed the concoction right there. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Before I knew it, I was four shots deep – one for me, one for Mrs. Sip, one for Baby Sip, and one just for the hell of it – and I had still only shelled out $3.

Shots You Take

The next day brought the British pub lunch that seems to occur at least once per cruise voyage. I paired my delicious fish and chips with a Blue Moon, which got the ball rolling on it being a beer day. Afterwards, while laying in the sun and watching Queensland vs. New South Wales (National Rugby League) on the pool deck with a horde of Aussie passengers, I delved into a bucket of Heineken beers, which all made for an entertaining and relaxing afternoon.

With my stock of mixers depleted at this point, I purchased cans of Tonic Water and Barq’s Root Beer. For whatever reason, I was really craving a Gin & Tonic (perhaps I needed to stave off scurvy) and after getting a couple lime wedges from the pool bar, I had all the ingredients needed to make some really good beverages for myself.

Nearing the end of our cruise, we attended the Captain’s Circle Party, which is hosted for Elite/Platinum passengers and provides free drinks. I had a few beverages here, but they weren’t of the best quality, as usual for this event. We did however win a bottle of champagne, amongst hundreds of entries. As soon as they said Mr. and Mrs. I knew they were going to announce our names, since Mrs. Sip isn’t drinking much at this point.

Champ in Champagne

We were also invited to a Farewell Cocktail Party, as the ship’s captain was also taking leave in Dubai. Hosted in the Hollywood Pool (an indoor, adult’s only area they unsuccessfully tried to turn into a night club setting in the evenings) this was an absolute drinkfest for the Sip Advisor. With Mrs. Sip’s help, I grabbed a few really good Cosmos and Gimlets, as well as some other treats.

Upon arriving in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, it was time for Mrs. Sip and I to sadly disembark the cruise. While Dubai was an absolutely fascinating place to visit, drinks are pretty difficult to find. I did manage to have one cocktail at our hotel’s bar, the Double Decker Pub. I ordered the Eldery Flower (Elderflower-infused Gin, topped with Lime, Apple and Cranberry Juices), which was very refreshing, but expensive (45 Dirham = approx. $16 CDN) . It was worth it, though, as consuming drinks in “dry” countries is a guilty pleasure of mine.

That wraps up our babymoon, our last big trip before we move from a family of two to three. I can promise all you little sippers, though, that the fun is far from over!

Sip Trips #103: Babymooning (Part 1)

Back in 2012, Mrs. Sip and I celebrated our honeymoon with a cruise through the Panama Canal. Nearly five years later and with a little girl on the way, we decided to take our babymoon from Rome to Dubai – through the Suez Canal – aboard another luxury liner. Here’s part one of that expedition:

Our first stop of the journey was Rome, Italy, a favourite city for both Mrs. Sip and myself. Friends from London joined us for this portion of the vacation and after some sightseeing, we journeyed to the 404 Name Not Found bar, which one of our companions had researched. There, complex cocktails (and a mocktail for Mrs. Sip) awaited us. Always a fan of spicy drinks, I tried the 666, complete with Jalapeno-infused Tequila, Cointreau, Lime Juice and Honey.

The next morning, I was able to cross an item off my drinking bucket list, when I enjoyed my first ever McBeer (Beera Moretti Baffo D’oro) at the McDonald’s just outside the walls of the Vatican City. Despite beer being available at a McDonald’s stop or two prior, this was the first time I’ve imbibed in the option and it was a great experience with my set of famous hamburgers.

McBeers

Later that day, we were off to board our ship at the Civitavecchia Port, over an hour outside Rome. After checking in, we arrived at our room (which had been upgraded from a balcony to a mini suite) and were promptly given glasses of sail away bubbly. It was a very nice start to our two-week journey aboard the Majestic Princess.

Mrs. Sip surprised me with bottles of Bacardi Rum, Skyy Vodka and Gordon’s Gin to go along with the two bottles of wine I had just grabbed at the Termini train station. I also brought a handful of Grey Goose mini bottles, so giving I was drinking solo, I was quite set for the voyage. I never buy the all-inclusive pop package available on the cruise, so having mixers for my booze can be challenging, but I’ve picked up some tricks along the way. I did purchase a soda set, which provided me with six cans of pop, while also taking advantage of free orange juice for breakfast and lemonade throughout the day. This allowed me to create an array of drinks, enhanced by some clever fruit pick-ups at the buffet.

Our first stop of the cruise docked in Naples, Italy. Our excursion for the day would take us to the island of Capri, where I got to do a little Limoncello tasting, followed by lunch in Sorrento (where I chugged back close to a bottle of house wine) and finishing with a tour of the historic Pompeii.

Pompeii Stoned

Our next port of call was in Athens. Mrs. Sip and I elected to take a hop-on, hop-off bus into the city, where we visited the 360 Cocktail Bar. With views of the legendary Acropolis from the bar’s rooftop patio, I sat back and enjoyed servings of their Heat Wave (Russian Standard Vodka, Mezcal, Jalapeno Chillies, Oregano, Herbs, Agave, Lime) and The Journey of Chivalry (Chivas Regal 12-year, Noilly Prat Vermouth, Cashews, Smoked Salt, Coconut Water) cocktails. I had also tried to order the Summer Loading (Bacardi White Rum, Watermelon, Orgeat, Lime, Three Cents Agean Tonic), but sadly it was not available.

As we continued to explore the area, we popped into a store where I purchased a bomber-sized bottle of Alfa Weiss Beer and cans of Fanta Strawberry-Kiwi and Tuborg Orange-Cinnamon Soda to add to my mixer collection. The greatest treat came as we returned to the port. There was a duty-free shop in the terminal and after confirming purchases wouldn’t be taken away, as there was no security check to go through boarding the ship, I popped back into the store before we set sail to snag a half-liter bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon.

Our stop the next day on the Greek island of Santorini was one I was greatly looking forward to. We had visited for a week 10 years prior and it became one of my favourite places I’ve ever been to. Sadly, this trip wasn’t nearly as good, as the tiny island was hosting three different ships and was overrun. To salvage the day, Mrs. Sip and I sat down in a tiny bar in the capital city of Fira, where I had an Alfa Beer and enjoyed the sights. Then we travelled down 700 steps to the port, dodging donkeys and their droppings along the way.

That wraps up part one of our expedition. Join us tomorrow for the second half of an amazing holiday.

Sip Trips #86: Best of 2016

Each year, the Sip Advisor fondly looks back at the best drinking nights (in order of occurrence) of the previous calendar… at least what he can remember of them. Join us as we take a moment to dissect and celebrate 2016:

Libational Learning

When a night ends with the Sip Advisor passing out on the couch, sans clothing, you know it’s been a good one! The Science of Cocktails extravaganza was a fascinating and booze-fueled evening. We wanted to return this year, but Mrs. Sip has a trial starting the next day, so that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. #Responsibilities

Family Day Festivities

Over the Family Day long weekend, the Sip Alliance explored both the Fraser Valley and North Vancouver craft beer regions, hitting more than a dozen locations. Many of these, were first time stops for our group and it opened our eyes to all the wonders that exist outside of Vancouver.

family-time

Crawling Around

Just one day after the Portland Beer & Wine Festival, we were back at it, hitting the streets of the City of Roses and searching out some of its most popular breweries. Over the course of the day, we worked our way through a half dozen tasting rooms. Eventually, we ended the journey with an Easter-themed burlesque show and Voodoo Doughnuts… because why the hell not!?

Lion City Leisure

With three nights in Singapore to start our five-week Asian adventure, we decided to spend one of those nights at the swanky Marina Bay Sands. Our hotel package included their evening happy hour, which in true Mr. and Mrs. Sip fashion, we rocked until they kindly asked us to leave. We followed this with swimming in the resort’s rooftop pool, 63 floors above the city.

The Happiest of Valleys

The fun didn’t stop there, as our cruise made a two-day stop in the vibrant city that is Hong Kong. This allowed us the chance to enjoy some nightlife, helped along by Mrs. Sip having a few friends living in the city. Coincidentally, it was also Wednesday race night at the Happy Valley Racetrack. Over a couple pitchers of beer, the Sip Advisor even picked a winning horse and took home a small prize.

horse-racing-for-rich-people

So Many Options

Arriving in Tokyo, Japan, we chose to stay near the Golden Gai district of the city. For those unfamiliar with the area, it is home to approximately 300 little bars, within a six-block radius. Our exploration led us into a few uniquely-themed watering holes, such as the one centered around horror movie and metal music cultures.

Drinking Sky High

Our fun in Tokyo didn’t stop there. The moment Mrs. Sip discovered that this attraction existed, we knew it would be a highlight of our stay in the city. At the Park Hyatt, their Peak Bar offered visitors the chance to drink all-inclusive during sunset hours, while looking down at the bustling city below, from the 41st floor. We ended up sitting next to a couple from Australia and spent the night drinking with them, as I challenged the bartender to make me her best drink with each different alcohol available.

Tipping N’ Tasting

Among my favourite annual beer festivals is the Tip N’ Taste event in Langley. It provides a chance to sample brews from companies based more in the Fraser Valley region of BC, as well as other entries from around the province. This year, we stayed overnight at the Convention Centre Hotel, which hosted the event. That meant the after party quickly moved to our room!

beer-crisper

Island Wedding

While on Prince Edward Island for a friend’s wedding, Mrs. Sip and I were introduced to a number of great people, who we partied away the weekend with. Following a meet-and-greet barbecue on the eve of the wedding, we accompanied our new associates back into Charlottetown for an impromptu night on the town, which ended much later than we had anticipated.

All You Need is Love

The Made with Love cocktail competition has become an annual tradition (three years running) for Mrs. Sip and I. It’s always a fun night out, trying the drinks of some of Vancouver’s most popular bartenders. Best of all, we get to play a role in picking the winning entry, although none of our personal favourites ever seem to come out on top.

Cruise Credits

To celebrate Sis-in-Law Sip’s birthday, we booked a one-day cruise from Seattle to Vancouver. Over the course of the evening, the Sip Advisor took in parts of four bottles of wine, a half-dozen beers, a couple cocktails, and a bottle of bubbly to boot, won through a ‘Finish the Song Lyrics’ quiz.

cruise-captain-morgan

Irish Blessings

Over the last couple years, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have celebrated my birthday in Hawaii, aboard a cruise ship, in Southern Africa, and now Ireland – although it was a couple days after the actual date. The Sip Syndicate was along for this ride and we celebrated in true Irish style with shots of Jameson Whiskey and pints of Guinness.

Fear and Loathing

Our trips to Disneyland nowadays typically include enjoying the sights and sounds (and lines) of the park with a cold beer or glass of wine in hand. In October, we were also primed for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, which involves getting a good buzz going, prior to entering. Once that was accomplished, all we had to deal with was psycho killer clowns, a rogue’s gallery of baddies and even some Jabbawockeez!

Award Season

My first year attending one of BC’s best craft beer shindigs proved why I had missed out in previous years. Unable to attend because of vacations and other commitments, we finally made it to the BC Beer Awards, where the Sip Advisor was able to sample about 20 different beers from the wonderful breweries that make up the province’s craft industry.

awards-season

Diamond Celebration

To commemorate Ma Sip’s 60th birthday, the entire family ventured to Disneyland, which also recently celebrated the same milestone. Mrs. Sip’s aunt also had her 50th birthday on that weekend, so there was much to revel in. That included a fair bit of drinking at the park and in our hotel rooms, as we made the change from day to night wear.

Traditional Tidings

To celebrate Christmas this year, the Sip Family stayed in Leavenworth, Washington, which is famous for being a little slice of Bavaria, hidden in the mountains. The town is a haven for Christmas lovers, and it’s here that we explored the many wine tasting rooms, a couple breweries and exuded as much festive spirit as one is allowed to, by law.

2016 was an amazing year… at least drinking wise. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has to offer, even though it has quite a bit to live up to!

Sip Trips #76: One-Day Cruise Done Right

Mrs. Sip and I took it relatively easy this week, with our journey to Ireland rapidly approaching. Last weekend, however, we were aboard a one-day cruise from Seattle to Vancouver, celebrating Sis-in-Law Sip’s birthday.

As soon as we boarded the ship, we were in search of our first drink. Luckily, we stumbled upon an ad for a bucket of five Seawitch Red Ales (brewed by Alaska’s Denali Brewing for Princess Cruises) for only $15. This was basically a half-price deal, compared to buying single bottles. In true Sip Advisor fashion, I procured one for our quartet of revellers and promptly grabbed a second round solely for my own enjoyment!

bucket-list

After a buffet lunch, it was back to our room for the first of four bottles of wine. Each passenger is allowed to bring one bottle with them and we had a well-rounded collection of one white, one rose, one red, and one bubbly. Rather than pay for a bottle with our later dinner seating, we simply each poured a glass to bring with us to the meal.

As platinum members of the cruise line, Mrs. Sip and I were able to get our crew access to the Elite Lounge. There, we ordered a round of their El Major Margaritas, which are priced at only $5. I’ve never seen the Elite Lounge so busy, with food running low and few seats available to late arrivals. In comparison, when we were on our cruise of Asia in May, there were times our group were the only ones in the lounge.

smoothies

Another perk of being platinum-level guests is that Mrs. Sip and I were each given a complimentary drink ticket. I used mine on the Kentucky Kiss, which has always been a favourite of the Sip Advisor. To cap our evening of boozing, we managed a first-place tie amongst 14 teams playing the ‘Finish the Song Lyrics’ quiz, earning a bottle of bubbly, courtesy the ship.

In total, the only drinks we bought over the course of the evening were those buckets of beer and a round of cocktails in the Elite Lounge. Not too shabby, given the Sip Advisor was up until 3am, drinking solo and enjoying the ocean breeze on our balcony! Emerald Isle, here we come!

Sip Trips #63: Asian Antics (Part 1)

Mrs. Sip and I recently returned from a five-week vacation throughout Asia, which featured as much beer, wine and spirits as we could cram in. Here is part one of some of the notable experiences we enjoyed on our journey:

The fun all got started when we joined Mrs. Sip’s parents and sister in Singapore. Drinks in the city are very expensive and we had to work hard to find happy hour deals, where beverages could be had on a buy one-get one basis (or as they promoted it, one-for-one).

Happy Hour Savings

We also managed to track down some craft beer in Singapore, passing by the Red Dot Brewhouse, by chance. I ordered the Monster Green Lager, which was infused with spirulina and advertised as a must-try novelty beer, while Mrs. Sip asked for the Lime Wheat (brewed with local lime). The brewery’s name has an interesting story: the owner was touring South Africa in 1997 when he was first introduced to home brewing. When he visited a shop to bring some supplies back home, his options were for an ale or a lager… one marked with a red dot and the other not. The rest is history, as they say.

Our last night in Singapore was spent staying at the Marina Bay Sands. We splurged and booked one of their club rooms, which for the “low” price of $600, provided us with invitations to an afternoon tea, cocktail hour and breakfast. To justify the costly indulgence, Mrs. Sip and I made sure to drink $250-plus worth of booze during the cocktail hour! It was during this binge that I completed the four horseman challenge, consuming one beverage each featuring Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, and Johnnie Walker (all doubles, of course)!

Next up was our 18-day cruise, with port stops throughout Asia. These stops included Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, Vietnam; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; Taipei, Taiwan; Nagasaki, Japan; and Busan, South Korea.

Cruise Ship Pirate

I’ve written about our booze strategies on cruises before, but we learned some new things on this trip. One of our first tasks was to purchase a wine package. We went with the silver-level 12-bottle card, which meant our nightly bottle with dinner would cost as cheap as $20 each, as opposed to the $29 price point.

Another savings we regularly took advantage of was the ship’s BOGO hours, where two drinks could be purchased with the second only costing $1. We learned early on that this could also be applied to beers (which we would stock up on and save for days at sea as we relaxed poolside) and even wine bottles. Speaking of beers, Princess Cruises has introduced a third brew to their burgeoning Seawitch craft beer line-up, adding a Blonde Ale to their IPA and Red Ale (my personal fave).

My one not-so-good drinking experience on the ship was ordering a specialty margarita to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I asked for the Chili and Chocolate (Don Julio Reposado, White Creme de Cacao, jalapenos) option and the bartender had to look up the recipe. Shouldn’t that be a prerequisite of working the Margarita Bar? The drink was passable, but not as good as the previous serving I’ve had of it. The bartender used chocolate sauce in the margarita which made it look dirty and threw the flavour off.

Cinco de Mayo

As far as drinking off the ship, one of my favourite stops of the cruise was our two-day layover in Hong Kong. This gave us a rare chance to experience the city’s night life, which cruises don’t often provide. With Mrs. Sip having a couple friends living in Hong Kong, we had an inside edge and ended up at the Happy Valley Racecourse, which had its own beer garden. There, with a pitcher of Kronenboug Blanc in hand, I enjoyed our groups’ only betting win of the evening!

With the cruise over, we flew to Japan where we would spend the next two weeks trekking across the country… but that’s a story for another Sip Trips!

Sip Trips #43: California Dreamin’ (Part 1)

With many of our family and friends asking, “Do they ever work?”, Mrs. Sip and I were out of town again the past week and a half, enjoying a coastal cruise aboard the Star Princess, followed by a few days with her parents at a resort in Escondido, California. Here’s part one of all the fun we got up to:

One of the first things we do after boarding our ship is search out potential drinks deals and get a lay of the land. One of these deals came to us, as our steward dropped off two complimentary drink tickets upon meeting us. We used these later to grab a couple of their cocktails. While Mrs. Sip ordered an Ultimate Mai Tai – her favourite Princess beverage – I tried The Isaac, designed for Princess Cruises 50th anniversary, by the man who played the bartender on The Love Boat. The drink combined Bacardi Rum with lime and pomegranate juices and it was fun to have a drink made by the fictional liquor slinger.

Isaac The Love Boat

Mrs. Sip and I are platinum members with the cruise line and therefore have access to their Elite Lounge from 5-7pm each day of the voyage. This includes feature drinks and appies. While there used to just be one drink on the menu priced at $5, they now feature a line of about a half dozen cocktails that are discounted. We worked our way through the list over our four-day cruise, which included the Chairman of the Board; Rob Roy; Mojito; Japanese Slipper; Brezza Marina; and Cosmopolitan. I like that they picked strong drinks for the lounge options.

Another trick of the trade was the ship’s new BOGO hours, which allowed passengers to buy one drink and get a second of the same for only one dollar more. We used this on a couple occasions, to get Mojitos and Beverly Hills Iced Teas.

As far as bringing alcohol on board the ship, passengers are allowed one bottle of wine each, but we always bring on a little more. To cover the entire gamut, we brought on one red, one white, and one bubbly. We also typically tuck a couple mini liquor bottles into our toiletry kits, which go perfectly with the complimentary lemonade you can get at the buffet. On this cruise, we combined the soft drink with Evan Williams Cherry Liqueur, Smirnoff Watermelon and Camarena Reposado Tequila, Absolut Raspberri and Camarena Reposado Tequila, and Pinnacle Peach Vodka and Cruzan Coconut Rum.

pirate cruise

As previously mentioned, Princess Cruises is currently celebrating their 50th anniversary and had some specially designed drinks to ring in their golden anniversary year. Mrs. Sip and I splurged and tried a couple – at $12 per cocktail, we couldn’t enjoy them all – including the Anniversary Bliss (Bulleit Bourbon, Peach Schnapps, Frangelico, simple syrup, mint leaves) and 50 Years More (Don Julio, Blue Curacao, White Creme de Cacao, Galiano, lime juice). Both drinks we nicely crafted and blended some interesting ingredients.

Despite being on international waters, craft beer could still be found. We tried both the Seawitch Denali Red Alaska Style Red Ale and the Seawitch West Coast IPA, brewed exclusively for Princess Cruises by Denali Brewing and Strike Brewing, respectively. The Red Ale was the better of the two, as the IPA had a copper aftertaste, although that dissipated as you consumed more of the beer.

A new find for the Sip Advisor on this cruise was the Margarita Bar, which featured a number of great recipes. Mrs. Sip and I shared their Strawberry & Black Pepper (Cazadores Reposado, strawberry juice, black pepper) and Chocolate & Chili (Don Julio, White Creme de Cacao, fresh jalapeños) options. I loved the Chocolate & Chili, as the chocolate really balances out the jalapeños. There was also a Sweet & Smokey (Tequila, Scotch, Grand Marnier, orange juice) I was interested in, but did not get a chance to try.

margaritas archer

On our final evening of cruising, we went to the Vines wine bar, where they were advertising a wine and chocolate pairing. Unfortunately, they only had one set of the chocolates left, so I let Mrs. Sip be the fortunate recipient (chivalry is far from dead, my little sippers!) of the truffles designed by chocolatier Norman Love. Her pairing combined one light, medium and heavy red with chocolates using cocoa from five different countries (Venezuela, Tanzania, Peru, Dominican Republic, Ghana). On the server’s recommendation, I did New World wine flight which included Wild Horse Pinot Noir (USA), Caliterra Carmenere (Chile), and McPherson Shiraz (Australia).

I suppose my only complaint from the cruise would be that near the end, they had run out of a number of supplies, such as the aforementioned chocolates to pair with the wines and some other chocolate ingredients that were meant to go with a menu of cocktail concoctions intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Only half way through our little vacation, part two will look at our time spent in the San Diego County area, with a journey into the Temecula Valley Wine Country and time spent exploring the city’s craft beer community!