Where can connoisseurs savor the perfect pairing of ‘vin et fromage’ from a 25,000-bottle cellar of more than 350 labels and 40 types of cheeses while traveling the globe?  Where can the intrepid traveler learn first-hand that the first cheese was made in the Middle East or that an aged Dutch Gouda is the perfect complement to a California Chardonnay?

Only aboard Crystal Cruises 2008 voyages, when all of the onboard wine sommeliers will be certified by the revered Court of Master Sommeliers and certified Cheese Sommeliers will be introduced on the luxury line’s 60+ voyages in destinations around the world.

Overseeing the certification of Crystal’s wine sommeliers is Master Sommelier Robert Bath, one of only 124 worldwide to hold this title and the creative force behind the acclaimed wine program at the lauded French Laundry.  Cheese Sommeliers will be certified by Professor Gerhard Ebner of the International Cheese Academy at the Hotel and Tourism School in Bad Gleichenberg, Austria. Certification for Crystal’s cheese and wine sommeliers takes more than 60 hours of schooling and five-and-a-half hours of testing.

The training and knowledge of the wine sommeliers allows guests to turn enjoyable samplings into edifying experiences with in-depth information about the history, horticulture, vineyards, and subtle flavors of the wines being tasted, including such rare and extraordinary wines as:

•    Graham’s Vintage Port – Oporto, Portugal (Magnum) 1977
•    Château Mouton-Rothschild – Pauillac, France 1959
•    Château Petrus – Bordeaux, France 1971
•    Grange Hermitage – South Australia 1986
•    Serpico, Feudi di San Gregorio – Campania, Italy 2000
•    Insignia, Joseph Phelps Vineyards – Napa Valley 2001
•    Shiraz, “Heysen” Rolf Binder – Barossa Valley, Australia 2003
•    Brunello di Montalcino, Poggio Antico – Tuscany, Italy 2001

From Le Riopelle de l’Isle, a rare triple cream cheese from Isle-aux-Grues (Goose Island) in Québec, to the mildly spicy Saint Albray from the French Pyrenees, the cheese sommeliers will be expanding Crystal’s selection of regional and artisanal cheeses, and can offer insights on sampling suggestions, the harmony with wines and spirits, and information on the history, manufacturing and fine distinctions of each cheese.  The extensive hands-on training, which includes visiting dairies and cheese shops, and studying and tasting fine cheeses, provides the sommeliers with in-depth knowledge of unique blends from numerous countries worldwide with a special emphasis on France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and England.

“Great travel experiences include sights, sounds, and also tastes,” says Toni Neumeister, Crystal’s vice president of food and beverages. “Our guests are great wine aficionados who enjoy our onboard cellars and the sampling of regional wines.  Our new certified experts will offer an added dimension to the culinary experience by educating and encouraging both novices and connoisseurs to discover new wines and cheeses that enhance their dining and travel encounters.”

The extraordinary culinary experience is further enhanced by unique shoreside adventures such as an afternoon filled with French gastronomic delights at the Relais Château Saint-James, located in the tiny French village of Bouliac or a two-and-a-half-hour cooking demonstration organized under the direction of the virtuoso chef and owner of Le Moulin de Mougins, Mr. Alain Llorca.

Crystal’s impressive wine cellars complement an award-winning dining experience with the great wines of California, Italy and France, and excellent selections from Austria, Chile, Spain and Australia.  A leader in onboard education and culinary exploration, Crystal features intimate wine-makers dinners during each voyage, select Ultimate Vintage Room Dinners throughout the year, and a series of specially themed Crystal Wine & Food Festival voyages highlighted by famed wine makers, world-renowned chefs, special menus, cooking demonstrations, and wine tastings.