I am not shy in stating that I like having a few cocktails during my cruise. Well, maybe more than a few. Hey, it's a vacation! And if the average cruise line profit statement is correct, I am not alone in this pursuit. Bar sales account for a significant part of the income on the typical cruise. For most passengers the bar tab is the biggest part of their cruise card bill. This shouldn't come as a surprise. These days there are few beverages that are included with the cruise fare. Someone that insists on only drinking bottled water can run up a hefty bar tab!
I like to collect souvenir glasses. Some cruise lines have better glasses than others, although the trend lately seems to be towards lower quality items. I think the prettiest glasses are those offered by Celebrity Cruises. They have a variety of Tom Collins glasses that have different orchids on them. As a bonus, several drink recipes are printed on the back of the glasses. Coming in second is Royal Caribbean. They offer a good variety - hurricane glasses, whiskey glasses, and shot glasses. Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line have gone to plastic for the most part. Plastic does have obvious advantages, but elegance is not one of them. I have a couple of NCL Yard glasses. While they look impressive in reality they only hold 19 ounces. Looks can be deceiving! A very popular souvenir glass is the athletic-style sip cup. A lot of these are sold on the "private" islands, usually filled with some potent sounding concoction like Royal Caribbean's "Coco Loco" (a version of the Bahama Mama). However, you can get any drink you want in whatever souvenir glass you want. It doesn't have to be alcoholic. Many of my glasses were originally filled with soda, not rum. But make no mistake - when it comes to cruising the Caribbean, the drink of choice is rum and the bartenders on cruise ships are quite accomplished at making it taste good.
It may sound silly, but every so often we break out the souvenir glasses and mix up some "cruise ship" drinks. We sit and sip, and reminisce about past cruises. This makes for an enjoyable afternoon, whether in the summer sitting on the patio or in the dead of winter with snow and freezing temperatures, sitting by the fireplace. The glasses can help you recall specifics from a particular cruise, and besides, it's fun!
When it comes to making tropical drinks at home, I offer you some advice. First off, get a good quality blender. A cheap blender won't hold up and like many other kitchen appliances, what you think is a bargain really isn't. I use a professional bar blender. This is the one you see sitting on most bars - it has one switch with off/low/high settings, and is a commercial grade appliance. You can find these for around $100. When it comes to the ice used for frozen cocktails, you need to let it sit out for a little while before using. This softens it and makes for better blending and most importantly, easier drinking. Ice directly from the freezer is harder and can wear out the blender blades, even on a professional blender. It also makes the drink tight and harder to sip. So - about 20 to thirty minutes before you start mixing your drinks put your ice in a bowl and leave it sitting out on the counter. You want it to look a little wet. Also, when you add ice to the blender don't go overboard. Many people ruin their drinks by using too much ice. Start out with less than you think you need. You can always add more until you get the proper consistency.
When it comes to the mixers and booze I tend to stick with the popular brands. Barcardi, Cruzan, and Myers are my choices for rum. Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice is a must. All of these have consistent flavor and quality. You can also save a ton of money by loading up on them on an eastern Caribbean cruise. Your duty-free limit is higher when you visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you want to take a short cut and have great tasting fool-proof drinks, I highly recommend the Barcardi Real Fruit Frozen Mixers. These are sold in the grocery store freezer, next to the cans of orange juice. They are not exactly cheap (around $2.50 per can), but the drinks are outstanding.
For those among us that like to do it the hard way I submit my favorite frozen rum drink recipes.
Pina Colada: 2 oz. white rum, 2 oz. cream of coconut, 4 oz. pineapple juice. Add to blender in the order given and put a cup or less of ice in with it. Start blending and add more ice as needed until you get the consistency you want. Pour into glass and float a little Myers's rum (or 151 proof rum) on top. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.
Bahama Mama: 1.5 oz. dark rum (use Bacardi or Cruzan, not Myer's), 0.5 oz. 151 proof rum, 0.5 oz. coconut liqueur, 0.5 oz. coffee liqueur, 4 oz. pineapple juice, splash of lemon or lime juice. Follow blending advice as listed under the pina colada. Alternately, just shake with ice and serve in a tall glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.
Rum Runner: 1.5 oz. Myers's rum, 1.5 oz. white rum, 0.5 oz blackberry brandy, 0.25 oz. banana liqueur, splash of grenadine, splash of Rose's Lime Juice (no substitutions!). Blend as listed under the pina colada recipe. Pour into tall glass and float some more Myers's or 151 on top. Garnish with pineapple and cherry. This drink can sneak up on you, so use with caution!
So, if you can't be on a cruise right now then at least you can have a part of one. Mix up some cocktails, put some Calypso music on, and kick back! As they say at Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans - HAVE FUN!!
PHOTOS courtesy of Dave Beers.
Dave Beers is the head administrator for the SeaLetter Cruise Forum and lives in Alabama with his wife, Vanessa, and young son Jacob. Dave served in both the Marines and the Navy, and spent a great deal of time in several far east and Mediterranean countries. He took his first "civilian" cruise in 1992 and cruising has been a primary interest for him ever since. He has written numerous reviews and articles about cruising. Dave and his family are also veteran SeaLetter Cruise Bashers.
In his professional life, Dave works for the federal government as a supervisor with the Tennessee Valley Authority. He may be reached for questions or comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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