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Life

The way to travel in 2016

When cruise ships parade into the harbours of the world and get fanfare normally reserved for royalty, you know that cruising is more than back in fashion – it is the way to travel, today’s ‘jet set’ are now called the ‘cruise crew’.

Three of the key factors for cruising’s amazing resurgence are: the incredible facilities on board today’s modern ships; the wondrously varied on-shore excursions; and phenomenal range of never-before-visited destinations. And things are only going to get better in 2016.

The modern cruise ship is light years from the behemoths that sailed the waterways of years gone by. These days, there are more boutique-style ships catering from 680 - 1,250 guests – consequently, there is a heightened sense of intimacy and a personalised holiday experience. Staff and crew attend to your every whim and remember your individual preferences, there are no lines, going ashore and returning on board takes minutes rather than hours, and life just seems to proceed at a more relaxed pace.

Facilities and entertainment have been described as a floating five-star hotel crossed with the best of a theatre district. Everything from bespoke spa services to English-style libraries, a live pianist, classical string quartet, dynamic vocalists and spectacular headliners. You may also wish to try your luck in an elegant Monte Carlo-style casino. Some cruises even have guest lecturers who might be historians, naturalists or former ambassadors, eager to share insider knowledge.

Guests’ suites are a personal sanctuary with state-of-the-art custom-made furnishings such as plush ‘Tranquility Beds’ with1,000-thread-count linen, lavish marble-infused grand baths (with a private half-bath for guests), showers, luxurious sitting rooms and private teak verandas. Guests are even given their own range of fine Bvlgari bath amenities^.

On-board dining has really stepped up. Celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pépin are providing signature dishes at a range of dining options from French bistro, gourmet Italian, contemporary Asian, French country cuisine, American steakhouses and more and matched with wine lists to rival any Michelin-starred restaurants.

ADVENTURES ASHORE

One of the major highlights of today’s cruising adventures are the amazing off shore activities, and if you are a lover of food + wine, there are some tantalising travels waiting to be had.

Imagine docking in Monte Carlo and then trekking into the countryside to discover the culinary treasures of Provence on a three-night stay at the Château de Berne. Help prepare a traditional Provençal lunch at the château using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the chef’s gardens, learn about local olive oil production and embark on a tasting and tour of a private wine cellar.

Or how about cruising into Rome (Civitavecchia), and then enjoying a three-night stay in Tuscany, including a hands-on cooking class at Villa Pandolfini and a walking tour of Florence’s legendary attractions such as Michelangelo’s David and Ponte Vecchio.

When ships moor at Athens, guests can visit an open-air Greek market and sample locally made cheese and olives then learn how to prepare traditional Greek dishes alongside a top Greek chef. Top that off with wine and ouzo tastings and a food and wine pairing lunch at revered Varoulko, home to Greece’s top-awarded Michelin star chef.

NEW DESTINATIONS, NEW MEMORIES

Of course, with significant advances in cruise ship technology and the smaller boutique style of ships, there are new ports of call becoming available to guests who are seeking new adventures. In 2016, these include such enviable destinations as: La Paz, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Bandol, France, Porto Santo, Italy, Trieste, Italy; Vlissingen, Netherlands; Helsingborg, Sweden; Catalina Island, California; Gaspé, Quebec; and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, just to name a few.

Yes, the world of cruising has come a long way. Luxurious, intimate and engaging, there are exotic culinary adventures and fantastic new discoveries waiting for you to explore.

To find out more details about some of these great cruises visit Oceania Cruises.

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Life
Gourmet Destinations - Argentina
Words by Guy Wilkinson on 6 Mar 2015
Wander the streets of Buenos Aires and it won’t take long to hit you; the mysterious, alluring aroma of grilled meat wafting from a restaurant door, or, just as likely, somebody’s backyard. Food in Argentina is a big deal. It’s as deeply entrenched in the culture as tango or ‘the beautiful game’ and when it comes to cooking, the term fast food is something of an oxymoron. Much of the cuisine revolves around meat. Mention the word ‘vegan’ and most people will assume you’re talking about Dr Spock. Argentines are the world’s second largest consumers of beef; each person chows down around 58 kilograms a year and more than half the restaurants in the country are parrillas, named after the grill the meat is cooked over. None of this is to suggest it’s as simple as slapping a quick steak on the barbecue while rustling up a salad. Anything but. In Argentina, the cooking of meat is seen as an art form and is treated with appropriate reverence. “It’s about taking your time,” says Elvis Abrahanowicz, co-founder of Sydney’s acclaimed Argentine restaurant, Porteno. “It’s all to do with the fire, getting the embers just right and warming them up slowly. There’s hardly any heat in it. “If you’re cooking a whole animal, you always have a fire on the side rather then smashing it full of coals. You really only cook it on one side. It gets the heat into the bones then the bones get hot so it’s almost cooking from the inside out.” Influences Argentine cuisine has heavy Mediterranean influences, thanks largely to Spanish colonisation in the 16th Century, as well as a massive influx of Italian immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If beefsteak is the staple, it’s almost always accompanied with chimichuri sauce, a simple but fiendishly delicious combination of garlic, onion, olive oil, oregano, red wine vinegar and lime juice. And then there’s chorizo, though as Carole Poole, a former Argentine native now living in Australia, explains, “It’s sacrilege to call a chorizo a ‘sausage’, as it is so much more; nothing I’ve tasted anywhere else in the world comes near to the flavour of a good chorizo.” Cooked on an asado, the Spanish term for barbecue, chorizo is often served simply in a crispy bread roll and regarded as a meal in itself. Meat is often seasoned minimally, using mainly salt and pepper. Of greater importance is the way in which it’s cooked, as well as the cuts chosen. “Apart from the chorizos, and equally important, are the different cuts of meat that comprise the ‘asado’”, explains Carole. “Favourites are skirt steak, f lank steak, sweet breads, black pudding, and even small intestine, always garnished for extra flavour while cooking with chimichurri.” The usual accompaniments for an asado are fresh crisp bread, green salad and frequently, potato salad. Creme caramel or flan is the dessert of choice, often drizzled with dulce de leche sauce, a deliriously delicious sweetened milk confection. Family Affair Aside from the cooking itself, part of the importance of food culturally in Argentina stems from a desire for friends and family to convene and spend quality time together. “It’s everything,” says Elvis. “I think because of the mix of cultures, everyone wants to bring it all together and share it, it’s created its own cuisine, one that people are super passionate about. “If we had an asado at my house, it’d be an all day affair, a big eating fest! Everyone gets up early. The girls would get making fresh pasta and the guys would get the fire going, and my dad and uncles would cook all day.” None of this is to suggest that anything overly elaborate or pretentious would accompany the cooking process. If anything, Elvis’ father, Adan, who works alongside his son in the kitchen at Porteno, is known to actively eschew expensive gear in favour of more old-school methods. “My old man is the MacGyver of making barbecues,” jokes Elvis. “He’ll make one out of anything, a few bricks, some wire mesh. We still cook like that.” The point was reinforced after Adan bagged himself a $7000 state-of-the art barbecue after winning a cooking competition a couple of years back. Apparently Adan lit it up once, after which it languished in the garage gathering dust, never to be used again. Perhaps it’s a fitting metaphor for Argentine food, where simplicity is key and less is so often more.
Life
Silver Service with Silversea
Silversea , one of the world's most luxurious cruiselines, has partnered with dining and accommodation tastemakers Relais & Chateaux, to offer unparalleled culinary experiences across the entire silversea fleet. If fresh discoveries are at the heart of your travel dreams, Silversea Cruises can bring them to life. For those who yearn to explore the new and unknown, Silversea can transport you to the furthermost boundaries of the planet. They offer a choice of over 850 destinations on seven continents, and whereas others have to anchor off shore, their ships can sail up narrow waterways into the heart of a city, or tie up right at the pier. Of course, while the destination is exciting, with Silversea Cruises, you'll find the journey just as thrilling. Their intimate, ultra-luxury ships offer lavish surroundings with spacious accommodation in ocean-view suites, most with private verandas, and a butler at your service. RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX Another source of enormous pride for Silversea is their stellar reputation for culinary excellence and they are thrilled to partner with Relais & Châteaux. Travel with Silversea Cruises and you'll enjoy inspired cuisine created exclusively by the 'Grands Chefs' of prestigious international association, Relais & Châteaux. The title of 'Grands Chefs' is given by Relais & Châteaux to only the finest chefs in the world. Being an exclusive collection of 520 of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in the world in more than 60 countries, Relais & Châteaux is certainly well placed to bestow this honour. Through Silversea's partnership with the international stars of this esteemed organisation, you have the opportunity to savour the signature dishes of La Collection du Monde in The Restaurant, the main dining venue found on five of Silversea's ships. SCHOOL AT SEA   Budding gourmands can also expand their culinary knowledge while on board. On 14 exclusive  Culinary Arts Voyages , you can experience an innovative cooking school at sea, L'Ecole des Chefs by Relais & Châteaux. This culinary discovery experience offers a unique and interactive program, hosted by Silversea's Culinary Trainer, Chef David Bilsland. Wine lovers are catered for too at Le Champagne, the only Wine Restaurant by Relais & Châteaux at sea. Under the theme of 'a celebration of wine', renowned world wine regions are showcased in a set menu of six inspired courses. FAMILY PRIDE AND PASSION Travelling with Silversea Cruises, you'll find everyone involved goes to great lengths to ensure every aspect of your journey is of the highest standard. This comes down to the fact that Silversea Cruises is owned and operated by one family - the Lefebvres of Rome. Not only do they have genuine pride in ownership and a true Italian passion for embracing the best of life, but they also show a personal commitment to maintaining the highest standards of cruise excellence that have been the cornerstone of Silversea from the very beginning. For more information on  Silversea Culinary and Wine voyages  contact your Travel Professional or Silversea on 1300 306 872 or visit  Silversea.com  - ask about our Early Booking Bonus  offers and how to save 10%.
Life
Dusted with Love at Spicers Sangoma
Words by Libbi Gorr on 7 Nov 2016
Many years ago as a couple, we had visited an old Buddhist Monk, Genzhan. It was early in our relationship. The key to harmony was simple, he explained, as he cooked for us in his home a simple yet enriching feast. “Don’t stir the sediment”, he intoned. It would be 20 years later with plenty of sediment that randomly swirled that we found ourselves driving to the Bowen Mountains retreat of Spicers Sangoma . ‘Sangoma’ is a Zulu term used for traditional healing practices of the heart and spirit. This is a retreat aimed at getting its guests to reconnect. Not just with nature, but more importantly, with each other. We have an abiding and deep love for each other. Let’s say that up front. It’s just that life often gets in the way. Sangoma is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, just off the Bells Line of Road before Bilpin. The retreat is secluded within the tinkling of bellbird bushland. There’s nothing else within easy walking distance. We were directed on arrival in the nicest possible way by Rhiannon, our host, to a high ceilinged , chandelier-adorned tent perched above the bushland. Here, we would submit to a tandem couples massage. Time was of the essence – our stay was 48 hours at the most – so we gave up fast. We were ultimately scraped off the massage tables, and efficiently poured into fluffy bathrobes for despatch to our bushland apartment to rest before dinner. It was a given that we would make our way through the bush clad merely in bathrobes and shoes. There are no airs and graces. Just sense, elegant simplicity and comfort. That’s a good way to describe the accommodation as well. Think Besser brick, corrugated iron, rich timber. Imagine high vaulted ceilings and wall-to-floor windows looking out over bush . Visualise an ever-so-wide wooden deck overlooking the valley complete with day beds that invite no good. Picture a glass-walled bathroom with a showerhead attached straight to the ceiling, as if you were bathing in a waterfall. In fact, the shower was just a vast wet area, in chattings length from the freestanding bath. Bathing within walls of glass initially made me feel a little vulnerable, but then I realised there was no chance of neighbours looking in. There were no neighbours. Rhiannon brought us a delicious cheese platter to enjoy with  local wines and craft beers in the fridge, organic potato chips and a peppering of handmade couture chocolates. I asked what other ‘wellness’ activities there were for us to indulge in whilst we were here – a yoga class perhaps? An organised bushwalk? A pedicure? Hot mud bath? Naught , Rhiannon replied. Nothing to distract you from yourselves. Or from nature. There was a TV in the room, but it was tuned to a jazz radio station. Our phones had just enough reception to monitor the outside world, but not easily engage. Wasn’t that fortuitous, exclaimed the beautiful Rhiannon, with a gentle reminder that our job was to ‘reconnect’. Disconnect to reconnect? What a confronting concept. We’d only just relaxed. We decided to nap instead. That big, inviting, clean white-sheeted bed strewn with all those delicious plump pillows just looked so spacious and crisp and welcoming. Thank goodness we woke in time for dinner. A Delicious Dusting The Danish cherish a concept called hygge – the art of creating a ‘cosiness of the soul’ and the dining room at Spicers Sangoma exudes hygge . And it’s that cosiness of the soul which is first on the menu of ‘reconnection’. That first night, our five-course degustation (the style I’d describe as gourmet sustainable) featured exciting combinations, surprising ingredients and matched wines for each course. Apart from being delicious, it was how it was served that made our evening such a spoil. It was a dinner made by people who wanted us to feel good. There was no passive aggressive feeding of us with calorie-laden concoctions that would make us oh and ah and groan with dismay all at the same time. Care was taken to nourish us imaginatively. And the service that came with it too was not too posh, not too familiar, but polished and warm. We were there to connect with our food and the people who had made it. To be nurtured in every way. To enjoy what Sam the Chef had cooked that night – he even brought the plates out himself. We could taste the idiosyncratic bursts of his personality in his offerings. And whilst everything presented was sublime, the nurturing, connective experience was the cleverness of the enterprise. The human condiments season the experience with wit, care and kindness. Artifice bit the dust. Everything bit the dust actually. Sam and his kitchen crew had being playing around with the dehydrating machine and creating ‘dusts’ to sprinkle on an array of offerings – mushroom dust, fennel dust, beetroot dust. The dust, once in the mouth, becomes rehydrated to deliver a burst of vibrant flavour. Cute idea, huh? Metaphoric, perhaps? Connection at last The retreat can welcome 12 people at a time, and it’s run by a handful of staff, who genuinely seem to have as part of their duties true care of the guests as well as functioning of the site. The nightly rate includes three beautiful meals and all beverages (including alcohol), but extras like massages and rose petal filled scented baths amidst a candle lit bedroom must be pre-arranged. The leisurely breakfast both mornings was a standout. There’s a lap pool and sauna, and we also ventured out to do three laps of the property, which took us about 40 minutes, wandering slowly. We felt no urge to go anywhere else. We were loved and dusted. And the reconnection? After breakfast on day two, the inner voices were both civil and calm, to both ourselves and to each other. We had taken time to just bask in the sun. And within those boundaries, these kind people had tenderly dusted our relationship to discover the vintage gleam we know is there. There was no need to go wading in deep to stir the sediment. Just rehydrate the dust to create a burst of colour and flavour once again to surprise and delight us and make appropriate use of the day bed. For those who can submit to tenderness and care, Sangoma is a true spoil. Words by Libbi Gorr.  To find out more about Spicers Sagoma visit   https://spicersretreats.com/spicers-sangoma-retreat/
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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