Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Wine and Cruising, What’s Not to Love!


Do I ever have a mailing list you’ll want to be on!  When I catalog my favorite things, travel and wine get top billing – along with food, but that goes without saying.  I’m not exactly alone in my preferences.  CTC Travel figured this out and capitalizes on it in a big way.  If the Dallas area is your hometown, you need to get to know CTC. 

Shifting Through Information Overload

In recent weeks I’ve mentioned CTC Travel several times.  It all started with their travel show back in January.  I came home with armloads of travel brochures and my husband browsed through them while he was on the exercise bike.  Long story short, we ended up booking a cruise, but along the way we discovered the wine tastings.

Let’s face it, travel is expensive, especially luxury travel, like cruising.  Some folks may cruise at the drop of a hat, but when we’re about to drop a chunk of change like that, we need to be very sure we’re getting plenty of bang for our buck.  The cruise we just booked will be our sixth, but the more I’ve cruised, the more I’ve realized how important it is to book the right cruise.

The more you know before you go, the better you will enjoy your trip.  When it comes to cruises, there’s a lot to know and there’s also a whole lot of information out there to wade through.  After awhile it all begins to run together.  Everybody has a gaggle of awards.  Everybody has beautiful websites.  Everybody has boatloads of great reviews, but then they all have scathing rants posted, too. How do you turn all this information into a decision?

The Psychology of Buying

I spent several years as a residential real estate agent.  I learned one thing very well from that experience.  For most people, making a purchase is an emotional decision that has to be supported by logical data.  Though there are rare exceptions to this rule, people who can’t get excited about anything until something pencils out, I think most of us would agree.  We may start out with a budget and a list of criteria, but what usually gets us to buy a home is the sun shining into a gorgeous kitchen or a rope swing like the one you used to have at your childhood home.  Once you’ve seen that, if your agent helps you confirm the logical side of the transaction, you’re making an offer.

Cruising is the same way.  Sure, you have a budget and you want to get the best deal, but until you can imagine yourself on the deck of the cruise ship, pulling into a harbor you’ve always dreamed of, your travel dollars will either stay in the bank or you’ll be loathe to let them go.  If you’re a do-it-yourself type, like me, you could research cruises until you are blue in the face and still end up on the wrong cruise.  It’s time to call the travel agent!

Let’s Drink to It?

After a short conversation, Sandra Rubio of CTC Travel had me figured out.  I didn’t really want to go on the clipper cruise with the perfect price point – at least not until I had scratched a few more items off my bucket list.  As luck would have it, they were having one of their wine tastings the very next day and she encouraged me to go.

I already knew about the wine tasting, because I am on their email list, but had ignored the invitation.  I already knew about Viking river cruises, right?  My mailbox and inbox were flooded with their advertising.  I had all their brochures.  I’d visited the website.  I offered some lame excuse, but Sandra told me to go – so I did.  Thank goodness!  If there’s anyone who needs for his emotional decision to be supported by logical data, it’s my husband.  He really wanted to go on a cruise, but he was still stuck on justifying the expenditure.

For a $5 per person investment, you can taste a number of great wines, learn more about a cruise line and qualify for some amazing deals.  What’s not to love!  Total Wine is a great liquor store which deserves a visit, with or without a cruise event.  If you are familiar with them, then you know they have a lovely education room at the back of the store.  That’s where you go for the CTC tasting event.

At the beginning, the owner of CTC gets up and makes a few announcements, like what kind of promotion they are offering on that particular evening.  Then the cruise rep gets up.  With gorgeous video filling the screen in front of you, the cruise rep gives you some logical data to support your imagination – but only for about 5-10 minutes.

Let the wine tasting begin!  A Total Wine guy serves up the wine, while you chat with your companion about cruise options.  There are about half a dozen wines to taste and the pours are quite generous.  There are even snacks to enjoy with the wine.  While pouring, the wine guy educates you on the wines you’re tasting and it’s not the same old thing.  We tried Chantegrive, Carvalhas, Ripasso and Renieri among others, and I’d never heard of any of them.

After you’re halfway through the wines, the cruise guy gets another stab at it.  The focus gets tighter and you really do begin to see yourself on board.  Then the other three wines are offered.   At the end of the wine tasting, you can book a bargain cruise and/or get a deep discount on the wines.

The wine tasting was just what Bill needed to get him over his hesitation about the Viking River Cruise.  A month later I enjoyed another tasting and that time the cruise line was Celebrity Cruise Lines.  I went with my bestie who was teetering between the Dutch Antilles and Alaska.  The wine tasting pushed her over the precipice and she’ll soon be on her way to Alaska.  I learned about a cruise to Canada and New England that hadn’t been on my radar at all.

So, go here and sign up for the CTC newsletter.  Soon, you too will be receiving newsletters with invitations to wine tastings.  Then I guess I’ll be seeing you at a tasting, because they have become one of my favorite evenings in Dallas.


Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Pinot Days in San Francisco CA

Pinot Days Brochure, San Francisco CA
Pinot Days Brochure


If you recall, this vacation went through a number of alterations before becoming a reality. In one of the original stages, a trip to Wine Country was penciled in, but by the time we went, Napa and Sonoma had been erased. Instead we enjoyed Pinot Days at City View At Metreon.

How We Got There

When you’re visiting your hip nephew in San Fran you do all kinds of cool things.  Take it from me, Uber is cool.  It’s like a taxi, but a lot more chic.

Since all I did was go along for the ride, I don’t claim to know all the details, but to quote Uber “request, ride, and pay via your mobile phone.”  That means you don’t call or hail a cab.  You request a ride at a certain time with the app and the car shows up.  If you wonder if you have time to go to the bathroom, the app tells you where the car is and how long before it will be to your pick-up point.  You don’t have to ride in a cab either.     A sleek black SUV picked us up and the driver was dressed very professionally.When we left the wine event my nephew punched a few buttons on the phone and by the time we got downstairs our car was waiting.

Uber’s website says they do have taxis, but that wasn’t our ride.  Nephew says it’s about the price of parking and since we were going to a wine tasting without a DD it was a lot cheaper than a DWI.  Dallas is an Uber city, but I haven’t Ubered here yet.  Let me know if you have.

Where It Was

Meteron is like nothing I know of in Dallas.  It’s like NorthPark‘s Food Court on steroids, but the anchor store is a Super Target and for kicks there’s an AMC Cinemark.  You got it?

Well, upstairs there’s something called City View which is a huge event space.  They do weddings, corporate events, whatever.  The “restaurant-centric mall with multiplex” is amid the Marscone Center and City View overlooks the Yerba Buena Gardens.  Yeah, it’s cool.

How It WaPinot Days, Meteron, San Francisco CA

I’m just going to be straight with you.  This wasn’t the most fun I ever had tasting wine.  I used to live on the Central Coast and spent Sunday afternoons at Castoro Cellars Tasting Room, Edna Valley Vineyard and other local wineries.  My first date with Bill was to a function called Art and Wine at the Dallas Museum of Art.  We’ve been to Dallas Opera Wine Tastings. We have also been to other wine festivals, like the Paso Robles Wine Festival.  We know from wine tastings.

The Metreon was cool and I loved looking out over Yerba Buena Park and San Francisco’s Financial District.  However, I got a little tired of Pinot and there was a crowd.

I love wine, but I’m no wine connoisseur.  Were I a wine connisseur, I’m sure the opportunity to compare so many Pinots in one afternoon of tasting was euphoric.  However, there were so many people crowding around the tables that there was really no way to have a decent conversation with the winemakers and that’s one of the things I like best about a tasting.

There was also nowhere to sit.  There were community baskets of crackers and cheese to give your palate a break, but no where to give your sore dogs a break.  Am I glad I did it?  Yes!  Would I do it again?  Probably not.

But come back next week, because we’re going to Golden Gate Park.