Steve’s Sojourns: Under sail along the Italian Coast.
Splashes of warm Mediterranean spray rose up and slapped across my face as the bow of the ship dipped into the swell. Until that point, I had been blissfully lying on the bowsprit of Royal Clipper photographing the dolphins riding the wave beneath us. The large safety net strung beneath suddenly seemed to loom larger and I quickly put my camera away and clambered back to the comforting safety of the deck.
I had joined the ship the day before at Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, on a five-day cruise to Sicily. Sails and cruise
ships? You’re probably thinking I’m talking about tiny yachts but, read on, and you’ll discover a whole new element to luxury.
Royal Clipper is the 227-passenger flagship of Star Clippers. With her teaklined decks and billowing white sails, deluxe amenities, gourmet cuisine and exceptional service, she allows you to soak up the ambience of feeling you’re on a private yacht.
The fact the passenger count is so small also means you really do get to know your fellow travellers. The two minutes it takes
to walk around the ship’s elegant corridors and Edwardian-style staircases means you can’t fail to meet and talk to everyone else.
The first night found me at the indooroutdoor Tropical Bar near the stern,one of the three bars on board, where everyone
met at sunset and where the ice melted extremely quickly for all of us.
Most nights when we set sail, we went on deck to listen to the strains of Vangelis as we slipped out of harbour into the warm
waters of the Mediterranean.Most mornings found me up early as the ship’s marine biologist held a dolphin-watch
session (with coffee and pastries being served to help wake you up). To be on the deck of a sailing ship at sunrise is always a memorable occasion when, for those precious few minutes, the early rays paint the sails with marvellous orange light. Breakfast was a revelation in the elegant dining room, which is approached by cascading, winding staircases that hark back to a bygone age.
You could help yourself to a continental breakfast with croissants, toasted muffins and even your own choice of omelettes cooked to order.
I found deck shoes were the best footwear for daytime, while you are discouraged from walking in bare feet.
There is one ‘gala night’ per cruise where people dress up a little more and I wore my blazer and an open-neck shirt; black tie events or dinners just don’t happen on Star Clippers. What’s more, with an open dining policy, guests can dine when they like, with whom they like.
Sailing into Naples saw us take an excursion to Pompeii with its amazingly preserved streets and paintings. That afternoon, we had hoped to take the ferry to the isle of Capri but traffic delayed us and we pondered what to do over another excellent lunch.
The answer was simple: explore Naples. Full of surprises, the heart of this historic city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with narrow alleyways that lead to mysterious churches, catacombs and underground caves. The city’s old folk culture reveals itself here with craftspeople, fluttering laundry and shouting fish sellers.
Back on board, another unique Royal Clipper experience is the opportunity, should you so wish, to become part of the crew and get under the skin of this magnificent vessel by helping raise the sails or climbing the rigging!
Steve was a guest of Star Clippers.