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Wines of Washington Cruise Onboard HAL's Zaandam
Day 1: Pre-Cruise Stay in San Diego/Embarkation
Day 2: Wine 101 at Sea
Day 3: Second Day at Sea
Day 4: Disembarkation in Vancouver
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Day 3: Wednesday, Second Day at Sea
Second Day at Sea
We're still motoring up the coast and as bad as the weather was yesterday ... well, it got worse. The fog settled around us last night before sunset, really just covered Zaandam like a wet anorak -- and believe me you needed to be wearing one if you ventured outside. The captain had to skip the welcome aboard toast last night to stay on the bridge and blow the foghorn. Still, to me a foggy night accompanied by the sound of that blowhorn takes me back to eras that predate my existence. It's oddly romantic.

If much of the cruise has isolated wine as a subject so far, the most fascinating programs for me have been ones that focused on food as much as the vino, and they have been scattered throughout.

Yesterday's cooking demo -- and wine pairing -- was hosted by Chateau Ste. Michelle's John Sarich and it's an example of the kind of culinary enrichment in which Holland America excels. The line, of course, has carved out a niche in this arena -- starting with spending a million dollars per ship to build the Food Network-esque kitchens that can be used to demonstrate recipes or to host chef-passenger hands-on workshops. On every ship in the fleet, the space is both glamorous and inspiring (and the room easily converts into the Wajang movie theater when it's not being used for cooking).

So Sarich prepared a foie gras dish -- and provided a tasting of riesling. Then he moved on to a Dungeness crab appetizer, accompanied by, well, I admit I no longer recall. What was especially engaging about the entire demonstration was that Sarich talked to you as personably as if you were simply two pals, hanging out in the kitchen, shooting the breeze about food, wine, life ... and rules.

Yes, there are some rules about food and wine and he managed to work them in. Did you know for instance that, in the book-according-to-Sarich you never drink dessert wine with dessert? "Dessert wine," he says, "is dessert." He suggests coffee with sweets -- and then a glass of dessert wine by the fire, after dinner.

Did you know there's an informal European rule that says you don't drink wine with salad? You just don't do it. But, Sarich notes, there are exceptions, particularly in America where salads often come laden with proteins: chicken, beef, shrimp. In that case it's perfectly acceptable to match the wine with what is in the salad. With a salad nicoise, he says, drink a nice dry rose.

And the last particularly fantastic piece of advice: Don't serve salt water seafood (such as crab, shrimp and lobster) with red wine. "They have iodine in them and up against the tannins of the red wine the resulting taste will be metallic."

Sarich finished up his session by handing out his own recently published cookbook, Entertaining Simply. That, along with the tastes of foie gras and lobster, not to mention some pretty nice sips of wine, made this a turbo-charged demonstration -- all the more so because folks who attended paid nothing extra for it.

Later, Kurt Beecher, a master cheese entrepreneur who operates a shop in Seattle's famed Pike's Market, gave us a hands-on chance learn about cheese. We started with the milks, moved on to the finishes and ended by sampling different categories such as fresh, cheddar, flavored, blue and hard aged -- and then sample the cheeses against different types of wines.


I promised myself that today I would try to experience the cruise part of the trip as well as the program, and by and large the effort was successful. The highlight? Participating in Holland America's On Deck for the Cure program. Every ship offers a walking expedition on every cruise, part of a fleetwide effort to heighten awareness of breast cancer and spur donations.

You pay $15 to participate and for that you receive a T-shirt and pink bracelet. All but $3.75 of the fee goes to the Susan B. Komen for the Cure organization itself (HAL folks tell me they lose money on the program); you show up at an appointed time and walk around the promenade deck a few times.

Sounds pretty simple. What was surprising was that here were 100 folks, going through a pre-walk stretching class led by an incredibly enthusiastic instructor, taking time out of the indulgence of a cruise day to walk around Zaandam's Deck 13 promenade times (four laps make a mile) -- in driving rain and howling gusts. The camaraderie was powerful and the group, pretty much even in terms of men and women, was quite festive. It was amusing to see the power walkers move ahead of the crowd as if there was a prize at the finish (the prize is to finish, I guess). And it was side-splittingly funny to watch the participants, walking four abreast, all lean left and slide into the wall as the ship bobbed in the wind.



The cruise's final "Wines of Washington" event -- trust me, these folks don't stint on the opportunities to sip the stuff -- was a cocktail reception in the Crow's Nest. Unlike the opening event a mere two nights prior, the group of about 200 had by now bonded and folks mixed and mingled easily.

I must confess: After a small glass of riesling I bellied up to the bar and ordered a cucumber smash martini. Sacrilege! Even worse? A few others followed suit! By now we all needed a bit of variety.

Dinner, one of the three winemakers' events held at the Pinnacle Grill, was rip-roaring fun. This one was hosted by Gordon Brothers Family; we plodded through four courses, drank all-you-can-sip pours of chardonnay and merlot, and just relaxed.

Tomorrow morning we arrive in Vancouver....

Day 2: Wine 101 at Sea red arrow Day 4: Disembarkation in Vancouver

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