Friday, March 30, 2007
Beer Run: A Voyage to Key West, Cozumel and Nassau
Good fortune struck recently when I won a cruise aboard the Regent Navigator for doing nothing more than shopping my local Harris Teeter grocery store. At first I thought it had to be some kind of scam, but it turns out that I was automatically entered for shopping the store and using my Harris Teeter VIC Card to get the weekly discounts.
I had been trying to get my wife, Sandy, on a cruise for 24 years, and after the bumpy ride on the ship thanks to some choppy seas, it might be another 24 years. But, that's another story. The folks at Harris Teeter rewarded shoppers from each of its stores, plus employee incentive winners, with a first class 5 night cruise that left from Fort Lauderdale, sailed to Key West, then to Cozumel, Mexico, and onto Nassau, in the Bahamas. Harris Teeter treated the winners extremely well and made sure everyone had a great time.
At the stops along the way we made sure to find some local beers to enjoy in the tropical settings. The next Tuesday Tasting will recap three brews from the voyage.
One of the interesting things from the trip was being reminded about visual selling and its impact the drinks business. If one person ordered a pina colada at the pool bar, the next moment there would be 10 pina coladas being poured from the blender. I experienced this when I found they had Grolsch at that bar. Most of the customers were ordering Bud Light and Corona. As soon as my swing top bottle of Grolsch arrived, the next five beer orders were for Grolsch. I don't think the bartender was thrilled with me since he had to chase into the kitchen area behind the bar to fetch each bottle.
We were also reminded that a number of "famous" watering holes, from the Hog's Breath Saloon to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville to Senor Frog's are really more t-shirt shops for tourists than legitimate bars. I bet much of their profits come from the gift shops, rather than across the bar.
My advice to anyone taking a cruise: when you get off the ship hire a taxi or rent a car to get as far away from the port area as your time ashore will allow. We did this in Cozumel and had the best time of our trip driving the road along the coast of the island and stopping at Mr. Sancho's Beach for some fresh fish and a couple bottles of Sol. It beat the heck out of sitting with the other tourists near the pier.