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 For example, the Explorer’s Lounge has been replaced by the Princess Live Studio.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 #81: Restaurant Roundup

While the Sip Advisor hasn’t posted a Sip Trips article for a couple weeks, that doesn’t mean I haven’t kept up my typical level of social activities. I was just saving up a few outings and before I knew it, there was almost too much to report on.

Dressed as my own inner child – seriously, I just couldn’t get inspired to come up with a costume for this Halloween season, so this was a last minute idea that actually worked out fairly well – we attended a friend’s fundraiser at Rusty’s Neighbourhood Pub in Cloverdale. The burger and beer deal didn’t leave much to the imagination, especially as far as beverages went, but through a technicality, we were able to upsize our burgers and I really enjoyed my Doc Holliday variation. Much of their menu looked really good, so next time we’re in the area, we’ll have to drop in again.

bacon-cheeseburger

The next day, we intended to check out Abbotsford’s Craft Beer Corn Maze, before a storm decimated the attraction. Instead, we used the occasion of being out in the Fraser Valley to visit Old Abbey Ales. Here, the Sip Alliance each constructed their own flight of beer and with so many options available at the tasting room, no two boards were the same. I really like that Old Abbey Ales has the customer fill out there selections, rather than recite them. This gives you more time to round out a perfect cross section of brews and decreases the chances your order will get mixed up.

A couple days later, as Mrs. Sip prepared for her ongoing trip to India, we visited Patron Tacos & Cantina for a meal. We typically order their Queso Fundido dish and then use the cheese and sauces it comes with on our tacos. This makes for quite the feast and Mrs. Sip and I both left with overly full tummies.

That weekend, after recently receiving a flyer advertising Milestones new Epic Eats menu, Mrs. Sip and I were looking forward to testing out some of the new additions. While Mrs. Sip ordered the Jiffy Pop Popcorn Shrimp, I had my eyes – and stomach – set on the Hottest Club in Town. This Sriracha chicken and waffles club sandwich was absolutely fantastic and I look forward to crossing paths with it again shortly. We also noted that the restaurant now has a Beers & Bros deal (a pitcher of beer and four appies for $40) to accompany their Girls’ Night Out Bellini promotion.

waffles-pancakes-with-abs

To celebrate Halloween, we decided to check out the Day of the Dead-themed Stanley Park Train. Following that, Mrs. Sip, Sis-in-Law Sip and myself made our way back downtown and popped into Steamworks Brewpub for a bite and beverage. With a $15 pitcher deal on Mondays, we settled on their Pumpkin Ale, while splitting their massive House Baked Pretzel. This was probably the best way to wrap up Oktoberfest festivities, through the month.

Come Friday, I was on the road again. Mrs. Sip and I are members of the Langley-based Backyard Vineyards and as such, are invited to their semi-annual customer appreciation nights. Mrs. Sip always seems to be on vacation when they occur, but that doesn’t stop the Sip Advisor from enjoying. With great live music filing the air, guests were treated to a fantastic meal and other goodies. Prior to arriving at the winery, we had made great time from Vancouver, so decided to pop into Trading Post Brewing for a beer. I liked my serving of their Dear James S.M.A.S.H. Saison and it was a good start to the evening’s entertainment.

beer-and-wine-consumption

The weekend was wrapped up with a visit to White Spot, where I was able to try a pint of Granville Island Harvest Ale. The beer, exclusively brewed for the restaurant chain, was a solid accompaniment to one of my all-time favourites, the Legendary Burger. You are not a true British Columbian if you have never tried this entrée.

Well, I ended up with much more to discuss than I first thought. With Mrs. Sip away in India for the next two weeks, it kind of feels like the calm before the Christmas season storm. I better enjoy my “downtime” while it lasts!

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 #66: Weekend Warriors

While I’ve often dubbed Mrs. Sip and myself ‘Weekend Warriors, Weekday Legends’, this past weekend was incredibly busy, even by our standards. Things all got started – as most weekends do – with the need to procure some alcohol. The Sip Alliance had a member’s birthday Saturday evening and so the hunt was on.

Our first stop was 33 Acres Brewing, a favourite Vancouver location of Mrs. Sip and mine. There, we filled a couple growlers, making sure to try some of the new items to hit their board, such as the 33 Acres of Egress Belgian Grisette, which Cousin Sip elected to purchase.

Beer Growler

Following that, we were off to Storm Brewing, in search of the many odd concoctions the company is highly-regarded for. We sampled much of their ‘Brainstorms’ lineup, including a Chocolate Lavender Stout, Grapefruit Radler IPA, Blueberry Lemonade Pilsner, Pineapple Upside Down Cake Ale, James’ Liver Tonic IPA, Bangers and Sour Mash Ale, Raspberry Pilsner, and… wait for it… Margherita Pizza IPA! Some of these just might make an appearance in a BC Beer Baron article.

Our birthday event that night evolved (as these things sometimes do) from a laid back house party to a relatively laid back bar visit, as we headed out to East Vancouver’s Brickhouse. While the pub’s surrounding area is a little sketchy, the venue itself was pretty cool, with couches you could chill on, while waiting your turn to play pool or darts. The place also has quite an impressive menu of craft beers, mostly from Washington and Oregon.

On Sunday, for Father’s Day, we gathered up the whole extended family and made our way over to Township 7 Winery in Langley for their annual Wine & Swine celebration. Tickets were $30 and included three wine and pork pairings, with live music from LB 4 LB (Pound 4 Pound). The event was a total hit with our crew and I love what Township 7 has done with their patio area, changing it from a grassy area that easily got muddy in the often inclement BC weather to a tiered and tabled setting.

always-been-my-favorite-fathers-day-card

As we were wrapping things up, some of the Township 7 staff suggested we check out the nearby Fraser Valley Cider Company. I’m not much of a fan of the stuff, but others in our group are, while some were curious to try. We split a few of their tasting flights, which included house, dry, honey and elderflower varieties. The setting was nice and the people were very friendly, so it was a great ending to the evening.

While the work week has offered a rare bit of rest, this weekend Mrs. Sip and I (along with Ma and Pa Sip) return to the Bellingham Tap Trail and time will only tell what shenanigans we get up to on this expedition!

Flavour Revolution – Chocolate

Running on Empty

Not to send anyone into a panic, but there are those out there (you know, scientific folks) who say that we are running short on chocolate. This is because of the costs involved and the commitment (up to five years) to grow cocoa beans. This may lead the treat to become quite costly in the future, which is why the Sip Advisor is downing chocolate bars like there’s no tomorrow… because there might not be. Here are some other commodities that are rapidly disappearing and may eventually cease to exist:

Wine

While there seems to be new wineries opening every day, across the globe, and demand for wine has increased greatly, production of the drink has fallen by 5%. Many smaller outlets just won’t be able to keep making whites and reds and people’s thirst for wine just won’t be satisfied. There are some that think the issue is more of an “Old World” wine problem and that “New World” countries such as the U.S., Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand will close that gap.

wine-is-like-ductape

Tequila

Sticking with alcohols, fans of margaritas and general shot craziness should be concerned. Blue agave, the plant that is used to create tequila takes 12 years to reach maturity and worse, in 2007, disease struck Mexico’s agave crops, causing 20% to be destroyed. While there is a current stockpile of tequila, prices will certainly rise and with many farmers switching over to growing corn instead, who knows what the future holds for the taco and burrito accompaniment.

Coffee

While I’m not a coffee fan (in fact, I’m a member of the anti-coffee lobby), I can only imagine the horrors of a world where those that drink copious amounts of coffee each day just to function, don’t have access to their fix. We’re talking zombie apocalypse here, people! The issue stems from droughts, high temperatures, and diseases which have affected coffee bean crops. Much, if not all of Arabica beans could disappear by 2080, if these trends continue as predicted.

coffee-crack

Bacon

I may not care about coffee, but I certainly have a crispy spot in my heart for bacon. The salty pork product is a splendid addition to everything from sandwiches to salads and even works as a vodka flavour. Sadly, this king of all meats is seeing decreased production thanks to farmer’s cutting costs, a 2012 drought across the Midwest United States, and a little something called the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. A worldwide shortage looms on the horizon and that is a world I don’t want to live in!

Water

When not drinking beer, wine, or a cocktail, the Sip Advisor can routinely be found with a glass of water nearby. I love the clear stuff and I think we can all agree that it’s pretty important to the survival of the world. As for the problem, I’ll put it this way: we don’t have enough water to turn it into wine and take care of that other item that is diminishing. The scary stat of the day is that by 2025, it’s estimated that two-thirds of the world may be forced to live with little to no water.

Flavour Revolution: Revolve

We have also exhausted the world’s gold supply, but that really only concerns Scrooge McDuck and his money bin swims. Over the years, the Sip Advisor has written a lot about chocolate, so finding the right subject for the Flavour Revolution project was a tough decision. I hope you enjoyed the article and didn’t scare you too much about the future.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (??? Sips out of 5):
For those curious, I found some good Chocolate Whiskey recipes at the Bird Dog Whiskey website