Bartenders, Butlers and Bubbles – All the Drinking – River Cruise Part 3

Drinking is a mainstay on all cruise ships. After all, when you are on vacation you feel freer to enjoy a cocktail at any hour. That has been true on our river cruise as well as ocean cruises we have been on. The difference is the quality, not the quantity of drinking. The bar was stocked with brand names you recognize and civilized beer, not only on tap, but in bottles (no Bud, Miller or Coors). And I have to admit, I was drinking more wine and champagne on this trip than I have all the rest of this year. I normally avoid both because of migraines and hangovers in the past, but I had no issues at all in Europe. Was it the wine, or that I was relaxed? I am crediting the wine – perfection!

Each evening we had regional wine pairings created by Sorin our head bartender who is working toward his Sommelier certificate (a little more challenging with his mobile work venue) and has 13 years of experience working in the beverage industry. I am not an expert on wine, by any stretch of the imagination, but I know what I like and can tell you that the wines were delicious. Each region we sailed through had us drinking a different type of wine. In Budapest we had Hungarian wines, Austrian wines in Austria and of course, crisp and clean Riesling and Pinot Blanc were what we were drinking through the German wine regions.

Drinking My Vodka and Soda in a Daiquiri Glass

Without exception, the entire bar staff on the ship was exceptional, starting with Sorin, Stoyan, and Bruno. What makes a great drinking experience for me is that the bartenders knew what I wanted after just a few visits to the bar. We pesky Americans LOVE our ice and I personally love a tall or large glass. These guys had it figured out in just a few days and started serving me my drinks in daiquiri glasses because they held the most ice and liquid by volume. I may have looked a little ridiculous drinking my vodka and soda in a daiquiri glass, but, “Frankly I don’t give a damn.” And Agnes (the only woman on the food & beverage service team) in the dining room had my number too. I asked for a “large glass of caffeine” in the form of a Diet Coke at lunch and she made that happen in a red wine glass, the largest they had in the dining room.

City-side Drinking Experiences

And of course there were the city-side drinking experiences. We hit 5 breweries in 5 hours in Bamberg, found a brewery and a fine American style cocktail and cigar lounge in Vienna, and a craft beer bar in Frankfurt where we were having such a good time drinking with the locals that we skipped dinner on the ship! There were so many opportunities to enjoy local adult beverages and we took advantage of them all!

Bamberg – Five Breweries in five hours! Wish we had more time in this city! Currywurst, pretzels and beer.
Vienna – Left – Beer at a little bar, Kruger American Bar cocktail lounge, 1516 Brewery with the best coaster of the entire trip. Right – all the goodies from Demel Cafe – Amaretto coffee, Sachertorte and the House Specialty torte.

Frankfurt – L – R Mispelchen, Calvados brandy and a special breed of apricot. You do it as a shot – chew the apricot and then drink the brandy, tagliatelle with in season chanterelles, local craft beer, all at Naiv bar; the hilarious trashcans in the touristy city center.

Remember how I mentioned that John upgraded our room to a suite? Well, yeah. The suite came with an honest to goodness butler who has been trained by the head butler to the royal family in England. It is part of the corporate structure of Uniworld and Red Carnation Hotels (sister companies) that the butlers are all trained in classic English tradition. Our butler, as mentioned before is named Panche and I’d love to take him home just for the little details (he folds laundry like it was meant to be folded). John has a sweet tooth and always has some sort of chewy candy on or in his nightstand at home. John had been grabbing a small glass and filling it with gummi bears from the lounge snack bar stash and leaving it on the nightstand. Panche saw this and replaced the offending glass with a proper canister for his chewy treats! We, of course, had a great chuckle over that one! I mentioned how much I have always wanted to learn how to “saber” a champagne bottle and he provided me with an instruction sheet and a lesson using a bottle of bubbles given to us by British Airways as a celebratory gift for our 30th Anniversary. It’s the details kids…it’s the details.

After the sabering lesson, Chef Daniel treated us to caviar complete with accompaniments and fruit.