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Crown Cruise Vacations | October 5, 2015

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Kathie Lee Gifford announces new Pinot Noir Rosé wine for Carnival Cruise Lines

August 4, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

Relax aboard a Carnival cruise ship and sip GIFFT Pinot Noir Rosé wine as you watch the ocean roll. The new wine was officially launched this week by “Today” show host Kathie Lee Gifford as part of her GIFFT wine collection.

“I love that I’m launching our Pinot Noir Rosé aboard Carnival with whom I’ve had such a fantastic partnership for so many years now,” Gifford said in a news release. “The fact that we can expand on that relationship through a love of wine is just all the better. I can’t imagine a better spot for folks to enjoy a glass of GIFFT wine than while relaxing out on the ocean aboard a Carnival ship.”

The new brand joins the GIFFT Red Blend and Chardonnay that were introduced fleet wide aboard Carnival ships earlier this year. The limited-edition Pinot Noir Rosé  is 100 percent estate-grown and features ripe strawberry, raspberry and red apple aromas to exhibit bright fruit flavors framed by a crisp juicy acidity.

The wine was created with California-based Scheid Relax on a Carnival cruise and Family Wines, one of the largest vineyard owners in Monterey County known for having the longest growing season in California.

Carnival is the only cruise line featuring GIFFT wines. In its tasting ratings, Wine Enthusiast magazine rated the GIFFT red with a 91 of a possible 100 points while giving the chardonnay 88 points.

“Our guests have really embraced GIFFT wines to make them among the most popular offerings on our wine list,” said Eddie Allen, Carnival’s vice president of beverage operations. “The aromas and flavors of this rosé are very food friendly and complement so much of Carnival’s vast shipboard culinary offerings.”

Gifford originally became associated with the “Fun Ship” brand in the 1980s when Carnival launched the cruise industry’s first national television campaign. She appeared in the “If You Could See Me Now” and “Ain’t We Got Fun?” ads.

Story by Jackie Sheckler Finch. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines



Seeing menu items helps passengers make dining choices

July 30, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

Ever peruse a cruise ship menu and have a difficult time choosing what to order? Do you look around at other diners to see what they may be eating?

Iceland ProCruises has a helpful way to make choosing a bit easier on its cruise ship, the Ocean Diamond. Several of the evening’s menu offerings are placed on a decorative front table as passengers enter the ship’s dining room. Seeing the beautifully presented dishes can sometimes make or break a menu choice.

Often in a restaurant, I have looked at a companion’s dinner and thought it looked better than mine. But by then, of course, it was too late. The Ocean Diamond lets diners see what some of the specialties on the night’s menu are before they place an order.

The first Icelandic-owned expedition cruise line set sail in June 2015. The new company offers round-trip cruises on the Ocean Diamond from Reykjavik during Iceland’s summer months of June through August.


Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

  Cruise Destination Trivia: Identify the sleeping stone puppy

July 12, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

Recognize this adorable puppy? He is small, made of marble and more than 500 years old. He is napping in a place that many other listeners might have been tempted to fall asleep themselves.

This is without a doubt the toughest trivia question I have asked so far. If you know the answer, you must be a very well-traveled person with a keen eye for detail.

A hint: The puppy sleeps in a worshipful place.

Don’t look at the answer below until you’ve formulated your own response.

Congratulations if you are correct. If not, you sure are not alone. Might be time to plan a trip, preferably a cruise, to Europe.






(Answer)  The cute dog is in the Cathedral in Strasbourg, France. A guide told me that the small dog sculpture is in honor of Jean Geiler de Kaysersberg who would preach in Strasbourg accompanied by his dog who traveled everywhere with him.

Geiler was known to preach long earnest sermons that would put his dog to sleep. When Hans Hammer carved the pulpit in 1485, he crafted the small dog sculpture snoozing below the pulpit. Although the cathedral is one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture, it is wonderful to see such an unusual tiny touch in the midst of all this grandeur.  

Petting the puppy is supposed to bring good luck. I’ve heard that said about many statues. If true, I must be one of the luckiest people in the world.

Story and photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Shore Excursion: Black Forest, plus recipe for Black Forest Cake

July 2, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

A young boy on my Black Forest tour said he was a bit afraid of what might lurk in the dark woods. His sister expected to see fairy tale princesses. His father hoped to buy a handmade cuckoo clock. And his mother was seeking a recipe for the famed Black Forest Cake.

It’s strange what the words “Black Forest” can conjure up for first-time visitors. Some of those preconceptions are correct. Some aren’t.

First, guide Margritta told us, the popular site in Germany got its mysterious name not from the fact that it is dark and scary. “It’s because the conifer trees are so thick and leafy that they block out most of the light,” she said. “It is really a beautiful place.”

Margritta was right.

A popular stop on Rhine River cruises, the Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Southwestern Germany. The forest mostly consists of pines and firs. “Those trees never lose their leaves so the forest is always shaded but it is not black,” Margritta said.

The forest and villages look as though they have stopped the hands of time, giving visitors a glimpse into what ancient Germany might have been like. The Black Forest does have a rich mythological tradition filled with werewolves, witches, fairies and dwarves.

“Legend says that the Brothers Grimm were inspired by the Black Forest when they wrote their stories,” Margritta said, referring to the authors of Snow White, Cinderella,  Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and many more.

The Black Forest also has inspired fine craftsmen who create the cuckoo clocks. It is not clear who built the first cuckoo clock in the Black Forest or why but the handcrafted clocks with the teeny cuckoo bird and wooden gears were being built in the Black Forest as early as 1740.

As for that Black Forest Cake, I had a delicious piece of the cake in a Black Forest bakery where I watched a baker create one of the delights. On the way out, I got a postcard with the Black Forest Cake recipe.

What makes it special, Margritta says, “besides all the good cream and cherries is the wonderful Black Forest cherry brandy Kirsch. So you have to buy some of the Kirschwasser to take home and make your cake.”

I did see several travelers buying the Kirsch. Maybe to make cake. Maybe to drink. Kirschwasser also can be ordered online.

Before we left, Margritta shared another bit of interesting trivia. Supposedly, she said, the colors of the Black Forest Cake follow what the Brothers Grimm described in Sleeping Beauty – the girl was born with skin as white as snow, lips as red as cherries and hair as black as ebony.

“Those are the colors in the cake and in the traditional dress worn by women of the Black Forest,” Margritta say. “The blouse they wear is as white as the cream. The bollenhut (hat with big puffy red balls on top) is as red as the cherries. And their dress is as black as the chocolate shavings.”


                                                    Black Forest Cake


1 dark sponge cake

1 cup cherries

3 tablespoons cherry jam

3 cups whipped cream

3 leaves of gelatin to stiffen the cream

5 teaspoons of Black Forest Cherry Kirschwasser

¼ cup chocolate shavings from milk chocolate bar

Slice sponge cake through the middle into three even layers. Prepare the gelatin and add to whipped cream. Spread jam onto bottom layer, then cover with whipped cream and cherries. Cover with another layer of cake.  Sprinkle the cherry Kirschwasser evenly over the layer, cover with ¾ inches whipped cream and place last layer on top. Cover whole cake with remaining cream and decorate with chocolate bar shavings and cherries.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch