|Captain Jack Sparrow: Pirates of the Caribbean part 2
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – Cold weather? We don’t like it. And we certainly don’t like it when The Manor is engulfed by sub-zero temperatures.
Even the under floor heating in The Manor chicken barn got affected by the freeze. Poor old Harry Cratchett, our livestock manager had a right old time fixing
the wiring with 400 chickens encouraging him to get a move on.
Yes, we were more than ready for our winter trip to the tropics. So, on a freezing cold December morning, we left the little airport at Columbus for the warmth
of Miami where we would pick up our cruise ship – the Celebrity Eclipse.
There was a minor diversion where we had to fly NORTH to Cleveland, then fly south down to Miami, but what the chuff, we were on holiday and having been
up most of the night for our 6.00am flight, we could take a diversionary flight.
Cleveland Airport was freezing – perhaps the under floor heating was up the creek – and watching the wings on our plane being de-iced didn’t do a lot for us
either. Still, we took off….and 15 minutes later we came back. Apparently, the smoke detector in the bog had gone off and no bugger could switch it off, so
back to Cleveland to change planes.
Cleveland Airport seemed colder still on arrival and tempers – notably mine – were beginning to flare. Eventually we (again) rose up into the white skies. This
time we were enroute to Miami.
The first review of the trip came from a lame apology from the airline for all the fuss. We were allowed ONE free drink. I plumped for Dewars White Label
Whisky, a famous Scottish blend with a smart label featuring a West Highland terrier.
1) Dewers White Label Whisky (41%)
Served from a minute bottle with a plastic cup - the type you’d use for a urine sample from the cat - the White Label gave a mild toffee aroma with spicy
flavours of eucalyptus balanced with aniseed. The finish was short – very short, but nevertheless, this drink was WELL appreciated by this Royal self. 8/10
Arriving in Miami, we made for our hotel – the Ritz Carlton in Coconut Grove - where we’d spending a night to acclimatize before joining the Celebrity Eclipse.
Just time for a quick Scotch at the hotel bar….
2) Laphroaig 10-year old (41%)
Peaty whiskies are quite a trip and an acquired taste to be sure. I had tried the Lagavulin 16-year old at The Pub in Columbus, just before the trip and it was
all about the leather. I was keen to try the Laphroaig because I knew it was Prince Charles’s favourite tipple and being related to the lad, I thought I should
maintain the family tradition. Thus, in true form the nose was of wet leather saddles leading into crème brulee. Taste-wise the flavours were of leather, burnt
wood, charcoal and toffee with a long roasty finish. Not as drastic as the Lagavulin. 7/10
The next day we joined our ship. The Celebrity Eclipse was only 6-months old and was a gem of a ship – big, mighty and not remotely tacky. We found
Michael’s Bar, which was a take-off of a Gentleman’s Drinking Club in say, The Strand. There were plush, red fabric wallpaper and massive leather armchairs
all over the place. There was some bloke playing light piano and worse still, he sang, but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment. Were we really at sea?
I tried three different scotches at Michael’s during the cruise, but cleverly lost two of my reviews – here’s the surviving review:
3) The Macallan Select Fine Oak Whisky (42%)
Even Asia Minor, The Royal watchdog, knows you absolutely cannot go wrong with a Macallan and this one was a little ripper. It was warming, light, mellow,
smooth, fresh, with a woody orchard-like taste; earthy without being peaty. Balsa wood joined the flavours towards the end with a delicious peppery finish of
apples and blackjacks. An easy 10/10
The Cayman Islands.
Our first stop and we were greeted by gale force winds. We had previously spent 10-days at Grand Cayman and it had left us with very fond memories. On
this trip, all the cruise ships that were due to stop on this day at Grand Cayman had cancelled because of the weather, with the exception of our ship and one
either. With snorkeling out of the question, it was down to shopping and tasting Cuban beers.
4) Cristal (4.8%)
Both my tastings of Cuban beers took place in a Cigar Bar, where there was this rather elderly Cuban sage plying his trade at rolling and cutting REAL Cuban
cigars. Fascinating stuff. Cristal was a delicious, crisp, refreshing Cuban lager, light yellow in colour with lots of lemon and pepper in the mix. It seemed miles
apart from the ghastly bitter lagers we see in the UK. 9/10
5) Bucanero Fuerte (5.4%)
The initial thought was to leave this one well alone as Cerveceria Bucanero – the brewers of Bucanero Fuerte - are owned by those pagan brewers Anheuser-
Busch InBev, but then this was early ownership and the beer was still brewed in Cuba, well away from those AB-InBev idiots, so let’s get reasonable here. And
a good job too as this was a complete work of art and I’m glad a brought a couple of bottles back to The Manor (technically an “illegal” import, but we ARE of
Royal blood here). Buccanero was again refreshing, bright, with mild hops and peppery tangerines. It had a clean, smooth, crisp finish. Absolutely gorgeous
with no suggestion that the beer is owned by complete idiots. 12/10
6) Caybrew (5%)
Because of the Caribbean warmth and sun, everyone knows that trips made to this area - from a beer perspective - revolve around a selection of lagers, the
occasional stout and the occasional surprise. Caybrew is the locally made lager and as such, is the perfect lager for a warm sunny day - it started with a floral
hoppy note followed by mild grainy malt and a nice hoppy grassiness in the finish. No frills at all, but Caybrew is in the right place at the right time. And very
refreshing too! 8/10
Well, would you Adam & Eve it, yet more gale force winds, which once again meant no snorkeling. We were, however, shipped off to Plaza Mia Beach Park
with 10 million other cruise ship refugees. It was truly a sardine can affair. Later, we took a cab into downtown Cozumel to be greeted by the most aggressive
shopkeepers on the entire planet. You had to fight to avoid being dragged into every shop you walked past. They clearly recognized Lady Roberts and
myself, but this time our fame and popularity worked against us. Cozumel was a DUMP and we would never, EVER choose to return there.
7) Dos Equis XX Lager Especial (4.5%)
Mexican beer anyone? Isn’t Dos Equis the TV ad where this old bloke is supposed to be “The most interesting man in the world” ? Well, we used to fall over
with gales of laughter in The Manor TV lounge watching this ad - we’d always say the most “interesting” man would not be drinking this SHITE!
To be fair, this wasn’t a terrible beer at all for the beach. It was refreshing, bright, spritzy with significant lime notes. With a crisp, clean finish, I was quite
8) Cerveceria Moctezuma Sol (4.5%)
A bit pale looking in the dreaded clear bottle with medals festooned all over the label, Sol was equally refreshing with crisp, tangy orange flavours with another
clean finish. What is going on? 9/10
A relative newcomer to the cruise ship itienary, Costa Maya was a total contrast to the commercial disaster that was Cozumel. However, it is sadly being
ruthlessly developed by the Mexican government who are bringing in “foreigners” from South America to work the touristy areas that are being built, while the
local Mayans with their agricultural culture are being pushed back further inland. Sociological comment made, Costa Maya does boast some excellent Mayan
pyramids, with a bucketload yet to be developed.
We joined a local Mayan guide (with a PhD from Mexico City) for a tour around the Chacchoben Mayan pyramids. Impressive to be sure and our guide was
extremely passionate about his culture and somewhat less than passionate about the attitude of the Mexican government towards the Mayans..
9) Dos Equis XX Amber (4.5%)
I tried this a waterfront bar in Costa Maya which was worked by “foreigners” from Venezuela. You couldn’t miss those familiar lime flavours although the
Amber was much more malty. Think of an intensely malty Bass Ale with a finish of old tea leaves and you have Dos Equis XX Amber. 4/10
10) Tecate Light (3.7%)
Lady Roberts’s choice at the “foreign” bar from Venezula, this was fizzy, light in hops, light in malt, light in lime and light in taste. Essentially, a complete waste
of time. 1/10
What set this island off from the hideousness of Cozumel were the people. No grab-you-by-the-neck-and–drag-you-in-their-store vendors here. The people
of Roatan were polite, respectful and true artists in their own right. Whatever they crafted was on sale right in front of you. Nothing imported from elsewhere.
The market areas were attractive and the whole island was green and luscious. AND, we did some excellent snorkeling.
AND, better yet, Roatan had no less than three of their own beers on offer and for the sake of The Quest For Taste, I deemed it only proper to taste all three
– plus one from Brazil - while Lady Roberts shopped for handbags and such.
11) Salva Vida (4.8%)
This Pale Lager (with three Gold medals on its label) was in that Caribbean style of being refreshing, quite tangy with orangey flavours combined with a hint of
lime in the finish. Thoroughly refreshing. 8/10
12) Port Royal Export Pilsner (4.8%)
Brewed by Cerveceria Hondurena, owned by SAB Miller, but with a brewmaster from Bavaria, The Port Royal featured FIVE Gold medals on its label and
featured a full body (rare for these parts) with strong hints of lemon and spring flowers in the finish. This was much more on the malty side than the majority
tasted on this trip and made for a pleasant change for these Royal taste buds. 8/10
13) Imperial (4.7%)
This Brazilian offering was quite creamy with a strong malty backbone. With malty sweetness taking the chestnut/nutty initiative, the finish gave us bitter
hops. A rather unusual beer really – similar in taste to having Tetley Bitter on nitrokeg - but much more preferable than watching the sad, rubbish Brazilian
National Football team - now, that WOULD be a waste of time!
14) Barena (4.6%)
Again brewed by Cerveceria Hondurena, Barena was pale, light, bready, cornlike with a faint taste of grassy hops. Sweet malt took control in finish which was
pleasingly crisp. My notes at this time were looking somewhat illegible and it looks like I wrote the word “Henman” in the review. Perhaps British ex#1 tennis
player Tim Henman was at the bar. Who knows…7/10
And that, fellow shipmates, is our beer tales from our 2010 Winter cruise. We came back to possibly the worst winter we can ever remember at The Manor –
but, if nothing else, there was always beer in our Royal cellar to help us cope with the frigid temperatures!
|Typical downtown street in Roatan.
|Leaving Roatan for Miami...