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June 19, 2014

The S.S. Epicure

By Chris Boyle

SilverseaMmmm 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.

TOL cruisesThose 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!

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For information on future Taste of Life cruises, go to:

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