This is the sixth and last of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
This is Your Captain Speaking
When I heard on the deck intercom at 6am that we were approaching the Venetian skyline, I jumped out of bed threw on a robe and could hardly believe the beautiful scenery. I quickly glanced down the deck side of the ship to see who else was up to see this spectacular sight and I saw a sea of white terry robes flapping through the deck bars. Not wanting to miss a moment of it, I called room service for coffee.
I was excited to board a water vessel to the island Murano, known for its handblown glass. I love handblown glass and collected pieces in Sweden, Quebec, France and Mallorca. I don't have any more spaces for glassware at home so perhaps I’d find small glass gifts. I guess I could hang a chandelier from the ceiling.
Glass is the second largest industry in Venice after tourism. The masters shared their Venetian chandelier glassmaking with us in a very hot workshop, heating, rolling, shaping and blowing. Trying to stick to my light weight purchase concept, I bought four pairs of unique glass cufflinks to thank my new Duckhorn friends and a red glass cross pendant for myself. I'm spending the rest of my day searching for special gifts for my children.
Off to San Giorgio Island. St. George was the military protector of Venice. I wanted to view the painting at the cathedral of "The Last Supper" as it is said to depict the Holy Spirit. It is indeed most beautiful.
The gondolas in Venice are black because there was fierce competition to make the most ornate vessel. It got out of hand so the authorities mandated standard black. The gondolas hold only six people. There are currently 443 gondoliers who all had to pass an exam to qualify. There was once a female gondolier, but she was the only one.
We toured Venice in a circle of boats noticing that no one occupies the first floor of many water worn buildings. It looked eerie through the worn doors and planks of the dark, vacant structures. I had strong notions of ancient water creatures living another life under the city combined with masked spies wearing oversized scuba gear in search of hidden Venetian treasures. Then you look up and see the beautiful Venetian architecture and street life.
There were thousands of Venetian masks to choose from and my issue was “which do I wear with glasses?” I go to many events so I just had to bring a few home. I found a gold mesh mask and four others, linens, a selfie stick for my son (which I should have bought on day one) and a cool boy's Venetian landmark T-shirt with funky video action figures.
OK, I can head back to port. I run along the dock, swiftly navigating through the mass of people. The boat was pulling out and I could not miss it. I was meeting the captain for tea in an hour! Thankfully they came back for me. I apologized to the guests, they were all sweating and some smiled and asked me what treasures I found in a matter of 10 minutes. I, of course, proudly pulled each one out and shared whom they were chosen for. They were most focused on my new ring and where I found it. I said, "Oh yes, let's see, this is the one I found in Kotor, Montenegro!"
What do you ask the captain of a ship? When I was early 20s I worked for a successful temp company in D.C., half the staff wanted me to work outside because I enjoy building face-to-face relationships. The other half of staff wanted me on their inside phone team, so they paid a few grand on a personality test that took a few hours. The result? I should be captain of a ship. So I called to speak with Captain Gunnar Romtveit with no reply. I then found a Mediterranean gondola-style notecard in my bag. I sent a hand-written letter to him sharing my story. That was the ticket.
We met for tea on the top deck. He was in uniform, of course. He was busy preparing to hand the ship over to another captain to continue the ship's journey. I told him that this is my first cruise. The cruise ship reminds me of a 5-star hotel where I don't have to drive country-to-country.
His career started when he was 15 in Norway. He and his older brother went to sea together, a shipmate was a drunk and they got in a fight. Gunnar was sent to another ship when tragedy struck. The ship he left with his brother onboard capsized and only one person survived. Sadly, it wasn’t his brother. He went home to be with his family and they tried to talk him out of sailing. He assured his family that trouble would not come back. He loved this work. I asked him if he thinks of his brother when he's on the sea and he said he’s carried him in his mind and heart for 20 years and has found peace.
To earn the title of captain is similar to a master's degree education. Gunnar has dedicated his life to a 41-year maritime career, sailing with Oceania since 2010. His favorite ports are Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. Dallas is on his bucket list. He'd like to see where J.F.K. was shot. It made a significant impact on his family listening to it on the radio in Norway.
His worst experience on his ship was an explosion outside of Cape Canaveral on New Year’s Eve. He could not sail and there were no hotels or airlines available. Guests took their mattresses outside to sleep until they could go home.
Life is good, he says, working 10 weeks onboard and 10 weeks off. His son followed his footsteps and is a ship captain as well. Every day has it's new set of surprises, he says.
So, looking back, should I have been a captain of a ship? Mastering a ship is very technical, demanding and takes a very specific maritime-engineer mind. I am satisfied that I chose to be the captain of the media properties I cherish. And I do believe we are all captains of our personal lives, our vessels.
I'm off for a farewell party hosted by the amazing Duckhorn team, to share more stories and laughs and sip more of their incredible wines. I'm the lucky one. I can just zip over to Napa for a visit.
This was an exceptional experience. I heard about this cruise through wine club members. To see what other adventures are available check out Food and Wine Trails www.foodandwinetrails.com.
Special thanks to Larry Martin and Heidi Hall, Food and Wine Trails; Gunnar Romtveit and Oceania Cruises; Alex Ryan, Neil Bernardi, David Crum and Jim Fallon, Duckhorn Portfolio Group and Stett Holbrook, Bohemian Editor.
And cheers to the Duckhorn wine friends and other travelers aboard, you were all wonderful to be with on this special journey and I hope to see you again soon to share more stories.
Ciao for now.
This is the fifth of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Croatia and Slovenia
In Zadar, Croatia I visited the Salt Pans and Salt Museum in Nin and did a walking tour of Zadar. Besides buying several bags of sea salt, the rest of the tour was slow. Our tour guide admitted on numerous occasions that her brain was too hot to remember anything so that was that.
Later, we went on a panoramic tour of Koper, Slovenia. It was incredible. Slovenia was a surprise as it's not well-known to many Americans. The country is working hard to build tourism by sharing the local goods of wine, olives, truffles, tomatoes and air-cured prosciutto.
Nearby Piran is nestled on a coastal inlet where no cars are allowed. Following WWII it became part of Yugoslavia and many people moved to Italy as a result. In efforts to rebuild the city, the Yugoslavian government gave away free houses (with no water) to bring the people back. The movie Piran Pirano tells the story of this time. I bought 10 more bags of salt for gifting. It's the best table salt I ever tasted.
For food and wine lovers like me, Padna village was special. We traveled into the hills where villagers prepared local foods for us. The crisp white wines were great and the truffle spread was incredible— rich, creamy and redolent with truffles.
Duckhorn Wine Tasting
Duckhorn's Alex, Neil, David and Jim hosted a blind tasting of their wines, namely, Merlots and Merlot blends. Merlot is considered "a sommeliers best friend" due to its versatility in pairing with a variety of cuisines.The tasting also included single vineyard and estate grown Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Duckhorn has eight distinct vineyards in Napa Valley. They also source grapes from Santa Maria's Bien Nacido and Sonoma County's Dutton Ranch vineyards.
I love blind tastings because I revel in the complexity of each wine. One wine really stood out: the 2003 Three Palm Vineyard blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah and Cab Franc. This over-the-top delicious wine had a higher percentage Cabernet Sauvignon than others in the tasting. It would be great with prime rib. It won my vote for the best wine tasted on the trip. Too bad it's sold out back home.
The Adriatic Sea was calling. With the heat wave the water was a balmy 86 degrees. I ran back to the cabin to put my swimsuit on, flung a towel over my shoulder and headed for the beach. One slight dilemma: I wasn't sure what to do about my bag with money and passport. I decided to go to a beach cafe and chat up the staff. A tall, congenial young man approached me and I asked him if he would be willing to watch over my bag. He said yes instantly and I looked in his eyes and asked "are you trustworthy"? He looked at me with disconcerted eyes and then a warm smile.
"Someone just stole my wallet last week and all of my money, so yes, I'd like to help you," he said.
I said I'd gladly pay him for helping me. We shook hands and he tucked my bag away and I ran into the sea and swam and sang for over two hours. In the water I met a young happy Slovenian couple. We chatted in the water, laughing because they had broken English and it was hard to understand one another. We then decided to share in a drink and talked about fashion and textiles at the cafe where my bag was hiding. I happily paid the young man 10 Euros for its safe keeping and suggested he spend it that night and have some fun with friends. Then it was time to leave. I was about to miss my ship, which was bound for Venice. We hugged and I hurried back to the ship barely on time, laughing with the crew and telling them of my fun in the sea and with the Slovenians.
I made sure to rinse right away because the dense Mediterranean salt content gave me a severe rash once in Mallorca, Spain. I was covered head to toe in tiny red bumps that itched and burned. It was so bad that no one would stand next to me in the Louvre Museum in Paris. I looked out the museum window and saw a pharmacy across the street. I went in and showed them my condition and they nearly cried and gave me a large tube of cream. I was better two weeks later back in the states. So, do enjoy the salty sea but rinse very well, right away!
Ciao for now.
This is the fourth of a series of sponsored posts documenting Bohemian and Pacific Sun publisher Rosemary Olson's wine and food cruise around Italy and Croatia with Duckhorn Vineyards and Food & Wine Trails.
Oceania's Culinary Institute is the only cooking school at sea and extremely popular. I was fortunate to participate in the "Mermaid" cooking seminar with Chef Instructor Noelle Barille. The lesson was cooking fish seven ways. Noelle is humorous, but precise with her instruction.
At one time in my life I was a private cook for a wealthy family on Martha's Vineyard. They called me their chef because they loved my cooking. At the end of the summer they offered me, fully paid, to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. It was a chance of a lifetime but I did not want to be so far from my family at 17, so I went to Mt. Vernon College and chose publishing and here I am 30 years later admiring Noelle who went to the Culinary Institute of America and worked as a chef in Napa and now lives in Genoa, Italy.
We sautéed salmon with a soy sauce glaze, lightly fried jumbo coconut shrimp, ceviche, gravlax, roasted sea bass, poached salmon for salmon salad and pan-seared sea bass with a light cream sauce.
I learned a lot about cooking fish. Only turn fish once. Don't use tongs. Squeeze ginger juice from grated ginger. Use parchment paper. Don't use butter because it burns in the pan. Use regular olive oil just to coat pan, be patient and watch the temperature closely.
I needed a break from tours so the class was great. The last time I took a tour nearly everyday for a week was my trip to Ireland when I was 21. On other trips I self navigated and explored without a guide. But I was eager to see Kotor. Anxiously, we walked around old town inside a fortress. I do believe one of my past lives was in the medieval era. I love the architecture, stone, mysterious paths, churches and smells. So, I'm on a mission to buy a ring that was handmade in Kotor. Two shops into my quest, I instantly fell in love with two completely different and stunning rings. I thought the clerk said they were 50 percent off but they were 15 percent off, within those few minutes I knew I was buying them both anyway so I really did not care. I loved them. Off to the square for a beer and shared pizza which was served with the sauce on the side and that was good because it tasted medieval moldy. In a good way.
Ciao until next time.