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In the Media

The S.S. Epicure: Elite Traveler

MmMm Travel’s “Taste of Life” cruises offer fine food and wine amid the motion of the ocean. 

Imagine packing up an entire wine cellar, toting it aboard an all-suite luxury seagoing vessel and setting sail for some exotic, sun-soaked destination. Welcome to the Taste of Life wine cruises.

This series of boat and beach-bound extravaganzas is the brainchild of Michael Mastrocola of Mmmm Travel, whose passion for wine, food and the well-lived life is evident from the moment you first encounter him. “I grew up in Italy for part of my childhood,” he says. “When I took over my father’s travel business, I was surprised to find that Europe’s most basic cultural rituals were considered true luxury in other parts of the world. The Taste of Life cruises materialized out of this curiosity.”

Each voyage takes place aboard either a Silversea or Crystal Cruises ship; spring and summer European river cruises occur in partnership with AMA Waterways. Recent destinations have included South America (Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires) and South Africa; upcoming jaunts include the Caribbean, Mediterranean and the riverways of France and Germany. Each epicurean excursion is hosted by Mr Mastrocola and his roster of prestigious vintners and winery owners (often the same people), as well as chefs and other culinary pros.
Those who disdain the modern cruise-industrial complex maintain that such voyages are solely for “the newly wed and the nearly dead”. Well, not these: Mr Mastrocola’s journeys are a gastronomic gala both on water and in port, and guests occupy a wide swath of the actuarial tables.

For oenophiles and gourmands, the trips are essentially floating fantasy camps. You get plenty of one-on-one time with the winemakers; there are also pairing dinners (some casual, some less so) and formal lectures (though not too formal; you are wearing shorts and sandals, after all). For foliumphiles — lovers of the leaf, cigars leaves specifically — some of the ships have impressively stocked stogie lounges, too.

Florencia Palmaz of Palmaz Vineyards in the Napa Valley, a recently featured vintner, opened her family’s private cellar to the lucky stowaways aboard. “The Taste of Life cruise was a way to bring our wine club to life, well outside the confines of the vineyards and winery,” she says. “It’s about celebrating wine, food, friends and family.”

And relaxation, of course. Cabins range from ultra-compact to grandly spacious, and small, thoughtful touches (canapés and bottles of wine left by your butler while you’re away, for example) abound.

The key is to pace yourself; cruises are typically one to two weeks, so everything in moderation — including, naturally, moderation itself — is crucial. The writer Greg Anderson once beseeched his readers to “focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” That applies in spades on any Taste of Life cruise: finishing the activity — that is, disembarking and returning to quotidian life — is a bit of a letdown indeed. The doing, though, is never anything less than sublime. Bon voyage — and bon appétit!

 

Grape Escapes

Aaron Sigmond; APRIL 16, 2014
Robb Report – Vices

If the prospect of packing up an entire wine cellar, bringing it aboard an all-suite luxury cruise ship, and setting sail for some far-flung, sun-soaked destination tickles your fancy, we recommend checking out the Taste of Life wine cruises. Each voyage takes place aboard either a Silversea or Crystal Cruises vessel (European river cruises during the spring and summer are offered in partnership with AMA Waterways). Recent destinations have highlighted Brazil and South Africa, while upcoming jaunts include tours of the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the riverways of France and Germany.

The series of boat- and beach-bound bacchanals is the brainchild of Michael Mastrocola of Mmmm Travel, whose passion for living the good life is evident from the moment you shake hands with him. “I grew up in Italy for part of my childhood,” he explains. “When I took over my father’s travel business, I was surprised to find that Europe’s most basic cultural rituals were considered true luxury in other parts of the world. The Taste of Life cruises materialized out of this curiosity.”

Those who disdain modern sea voyages (and there are many) often express their contempt with a pithy quip: “Cruises are for the newly wed and the nearly dead.” Typically that’s true, but not here. Mastrocola’s journeys are a gastronomic extravaganza both on water and in port, and the guests occupy a wide swath of the actuarial tables.

For oenophiles and gourmands, it’s essentially a floating fantasy camp. Pairing dinners are the norm—some casual, some less so—and formal lectures are also scheduled, though they’re not too formal (you are wearing shorts and sandals, after all). Travelers also get plenty of one-on-one time with the winemakers. Cigar enthusiasts will also rejoice, as some of the ships offer impressively stocked cigar lounges.

Florencia Palmaz of Napa Valley’s Palmaz Vineyards recently took part in a cruise as a  featured vintner, and she generously opened her family’s private paradise to the lucky voyagers aboard. “The Taste of Life cruise was a way to bring our wine club to life, well outside the confines of the vineyards and winery,” she says. “It’s about celebrating wine, food, friends, and family.”

As you might guess, the key is to pace yourself. These cruises are generally one to two weeks, so the old adage “everything in moderation” becomes a critical strategy. Bon appétit and bon voyage!

 

GIRARD-PERREGAUX -Rio de Janeiro Taste of Life Cruise

Aaron Sigmond
Mechanics of Style

The Girard-Perregaux World Time Tour: Every GP WW.TC dial lists 24 cities, at least two from each continent — and these cities will be our focus. We know that while traveling on business, many people leave themselves just one day to play tourist. So rather than another overstuffed city guide, we offer you “One Perfect Day” in the cities we visit. We’ll highlight the best each has to offer and the experiences that make it unique, beyond the standard “where to go and what to see” — although occasionally we’ll include that too. — The Editors

One if by land, two if by sea… ” -Paul Revere

FOR THIS, OUR seventh installment of the Girard-Perregaux World Time Tour, we take quite a departure (literally and figuratively) as we approach Rio de Janeiro not by land or air but by sea — aboard a wondrous vessel, the Silversea Silver Cloud, a luxury cruise line with all-suite ships. We’re on a unique (though more than once-in-a-lifetime, we hope) cruise called “Taste of Life.”

BY SEA: On a ocean voyage, it helps to keep in mind the thoughts of Dan Eldon (“The journey is the destination”) and Greg Anderson (“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it”). You could also just hum the theme from the 1970s lust-on-the-high-seas camp classic The Love Boat the entire time — whatever, er, floats your dinghy.
Both Eldon and Anderson’s sentiments, though, succinctly sum up the allure of a sea voyage and the ports of call along the way. Those who aren’t cruise partisans, and there are many, typically express their disdain in pithy quips such as “cruises are for the newly wed and the nearly dead.” For us, though, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was, truly, a gastronomic extravaganza on the water and in port as well by guests spanning all age ranges.

Our hosts for the trip (which began with two days in Rio and ended with the same in Buenos Aires, with a stop in Punta Del Este, Uruguay) were Michael Mastrocola of Mmmm Travel and the vivacious Florencia Palmaz of Palmaz Vineyards in the Napa Valley, who generously opened her family’s private wine cellar to the lucky few stowaways onboard.

The Taste of Life wine cruises are the brainchild of Mr. Mastrocola, whose passion for wine, food and the overall good life is readily apparent from the moment you first encounter him. Each cruise takes principally aboard either a Silversea or Crystal Cruises vessel. Think of it as “epicure experiential travel”: excursions hosted by Mr. Mastrocola and his band of prestigious, carefully assembled vintners and winery owners (in many instances, the same people), as well as chefs and other culinary professionals.

For oenophiles and gourmands, it’s basically a floating fantasy camp. You get plenty of one-on-one time with the vintners for the duration; there are also formal lectures (not too formal; you are wearing shorts and sandals, after all) and pairing dinners — some casual, some more structured.

Because Ms. Palmaz was along for the ride, this cruise also featured a bonus beyond compare: a magical alfresco luncheon at her family’s home in Punta Del Este. “The Taste of Life cruise was a way to bring our wine club to life well outside the confines of the vineyards and winery,” she says. “It plays with the notion that wine doesn’t exist in a bubble, but rather rather brings people together anywhere. And for my family and me, this was a very personal experience to share our passion and truly connect with our customers, who are very interesting people. In the end, it’s all about celebrating wine, food, friends and family.”

BY LAND: The more time you spend with Mr. Mastrocola and Ms. Palmaz, the more one question comes to mind: “I can leave this ship, of course, but why on earth would I?” Well, because Mr. Mastrocola, who has been in the travel business for some 35 years, having learned at his father’s knee, had devised a plan: It wasn’t until our second night docked in Rio that the formal festivities with the Palmaz wines commenced. Which meant we had an entire day to roam the city at our leisure.

For the MoS reader, the place to go in this spectacular city is Ipanema — the Rua Garcia, specifically, akin to its Rodeo Drive, Madison Avenue, Bond Street or Rue Saint Honoré. Along it you’ll find all the creature comforts you’d expect from such an esplanade, all offered with that inimitable Brazilian flair. Cafes and restaurants abound on both Rua Garcia and smaller side streets, as well as a smattering of art galleries. There’s also the flagship boutique and worldwide headquarters of the inescapable H. Stern, as well as outposts for pretty much every renowned luxury brand you can think of

All roads, inevitably, lead to Avenida Atlântica, the seaside thoroughfare that runs the entire length of the Copacabana and Leme neighborhoods. It’s far more evocative of Quai Wilson/Quai de Mont-Blanc around Lake Geneva — buildings on one side, breathtaking mountains on the other — than, say, the Malecón in Havana, and far more dramatic than either. With glittering Brazilian Modern skyscrapers and those lush green mountains to the west and the impossibly picturesque Praia de Copacabana to the east, it’s a visual feast. All of which is to say nothing of the natural assets for which Brazil is perhaps best known: the bronzed, bikini- and briefs-clad bodies everywhere you look. Just try to avoid continuously humming Jobim’s infectious bossa nova classic “The Girl From Ipanema” as you stroll around. You can’t do it, we assure you.

For landlubbers not cruising through the region, the Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro and Copacabana Palace Hotel by Orient-Express offer exceptional accommodations (regal ones, even, in the case of the Palace, one of the world’s true landmark grande-dame hotels).
BACK ON BOARD: After an exhausting day spent walking from one end of Avenida Atlântica to the other (lingering over a surf-and-turf lunch that was interrupted at the end by a sudden summer shower), we faced two choices for our only full day on land in Rio: one, to wind down by meandering through the lively galleries of the relatively new Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), situated a few blocks from Pier Mauá, where the Silver Cloud docked; or two, simply hopping back aboard. Tuckered out, we selected option two. (Those who did visit MAR raved about it.)
When we got back to your cabin (sizes of which range from ultra-compact to grandly spacious), we found canapés and a bottle of Palmaz cabernet sauvignon placed there thoughtfully by our butler. We dressed for dinner, the first pairing supper of the cruise, with host wines and a sumptuous menu prepared by the ship’s executive chef and his talented team, skillfully matched so each facet complements the other.

Sounds almost . . . overwhelming, doesn’t it? Keep in mind this was just the first 36 hours of a 12-day cruise. Pace yourself! It’s crucial. Bon appétit and bon voyage indeed! – Aaron “Sig” Sigmond