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Shiver me vineyards

Published:  23 July, 2008

On 14 April, amid brass bands, waving Union Jacks and the clink of Champagne glasses, P&O's new ship, Arcadia, slid out of Southampton water on her maiden Mediterranean cruise.

What is it about a uniform? No matter the line or the ship, on formal evenings the ship's officers in their crisp white uniforms, complete with gold braiding and stripes, act like magnets to the Champagne girls. The biggest fuss, however, is saved for the captain. If you are invited to eat at his hallowed table, then you've arrived. You also get the chance to drink wine from small but perfectly formed private cellars.

Rumour has it that several years ago a Texan millionaire squeezed onto one captain's table and insisted on ordering the wine. He didn't look at the wine, only the prices and loudly chose the most expensive,' a wine waiter told me. The waiter began to decant the 20-year-old cru class Bordeaux. Don't bother with that, just pour the stuff!' the American grunted. The waiter, however, decanted and served the guests, leaving the empty' bottle on the table. He returned to find the Texan drinking the sludge. Bring us another bottle!' he ordered between gritted teeth. The captain, who'd seen it all before, sipped his Chteau Latour and smiled.

It's a different world on board a cruise ship, but if you're a wine enthusiast or a foodie there's much to enjoy. And, unlike many bars and restaurants on land, it doesn't involve taking out a second mortgage.