Imagine a bucket-list journey that begins at the billionaires’ playground of the Cote d’Azur. An epic trip that sails from one of France’s richest departments to head for the craggy mountain in the sea that is Corsica. Then after four ports of call in Corsica, the Star Clipper heads for the Italian island of Elba before the devout grandeur of Rome as the finale.
Riviera have wrapped seven nights on the sails-billowing Star Clipper with a hotel night in Nice and a final hotel night in Rome. It’s a stress-free tempting package that includes flights from your local airport, all transfers and the care of two Riviera representatives from the moment you land at Nice airport to take-off from Rome.
My early morning departure from Gatwick gave me time to settle into a central Nice hotel and saunter along the Promenade des Anglais. This is the place to be. Eager sun-worshipers queue for access to the blue-and-white sun umbrella beach clubs from 8.30 am. Hard to believe that back in the 18th century the promenade, funded by an Englishman, was only two horse widths wide.
Next morning there’s time for a stroll through the historic narrow lanes of Old Nice and the aromatic flower market before our coach departs for a scenic drive to Cannes.
Arriving in Cannes, we see the fine lines of the four-masted Star Clipper anchored in the bay. On the day that owner Mikael Krafft was born in 1946, there was just one sail-powered tall ship sailing any of the Seven Seas. Obsessed with a nostalgia for the Golden Age of Sail, Krafft battled against bureaucracy, corruption, and legislation to build a small fleet of Clippers. Though, the Star Clipper also has an engine for days where there a breath of wind.
Before we take a tender to board The Star Clipper there is a tour of Cannes that takes in the famous Film Festival red carpet, an outdoor exhibition of the festival’s history and a market crammed with plump Provence produce.
To board the Star Clipper is to step into the 19th century but with 21st century luxury. Lacquered mahogany, brass fittings and navy-blue carpets, some with a rope motif, create a Hornblower ambience. But Hornblower never had air-conditioning, television, DVD player and an en-suite shower.
A crew of 76 care for and cosset up to 160 passengers. It is a small and intimate ship able to access ports beyond the gargantuan mega cruisers that cruise the Med. Service in the Clipper Dining Room, from waiters in blue-and-white hooped sailor shirts, is impeccable. At breakfast they serve tea and coffee whilst guests help themselves from a vast buffet.
Lunch buffets sometimes have a French, Italian or Oriental theme, though the deck buffet, served within the spectacular limestone amphitheatre port of Bonifacio, is one of those meals to be remembered for a lifetime.
Open-seating gives guests the chance to meet a variety of adventurous well-travelled souls with fascinating tales to tell. On a diverse menu that canters through starters, soup, sorbet, mains and desserts, there is always plenty of choice. With help-your-self early bird breakfasts and late night snacks available in the Piano Bar, alongside constant tea and coffee, no guest will ever go hungry. In fact, guests are astounded by the quality of food on board the Star Clipper. It gets even better with lobster and steak on the menu for the Captain’s Dinner.
Remember to pack your parrot, eye patch and vibrantly coloured head scarf for the pirate’s evening. All available on Amazon. Also throw in some whites for the White Party which takes place under the stars on the sun-deck. Whilst a light show is projected into the sailcloth, dancers fill the floor for the Abba and Saturday Night Fever classics. On other nights there is dancing, music, quizzes, and a talent show in the open-sided Tropical Bar. For quieter moments, The Library has books to borrow and green-baize bridge tables.
The anchor is first dropped off a sandy St Tropez beach for a morning of swimming and water sports. A mere 3,400 people call the sun-bleached terracotta houses of St Tropez their home. One of those inhabitants is Brigitte Bardot who brought international recognition to the village with her bikini in the 1956 film And God Created Woman. Now a marina with the world’s most expensive mooring, St Tropez attracts the jet set and their helipad mega yachts.
In contrast, Corsica is France’s poorest department but with five ports of call – Ile de Russe, Ajaccio, Bonifacio, a beach stop and Bastia – the island is at the heart of the cruise. But more, much more on the rugged natural beauty of Corsica next week.
From Elba’s port of Portoferraio, an air-conditioned coach takes us high above a shimmering sea to the aptly named Porto Azzurro. Walking around a marina cradled by a craggy green backdrop it’s easy to see how the port acquired its name of Little Portofino.
A stroll through an olive tree-lined drive, Roman straight, leads to the estate of Tenuta La Chiusa. Vines run down to the sea and there a Tuscan feel to a farm house surrounded by tall cypress trees. It is a stop for wine tasting and trying the estate’s produce: almond biscotti, jam, olives, extra virgin olive oil and a “drunk cake” that is marbled with sweet red wine, red grapes, and almonds.
Docking at Civitavecchia for Rome, Italy’s capital is the final port before a hotel night close to the airport for the flight home. Though as we drive past ancient baths, city walls, temples and the Coliseum, our guide reminds us of the city’s history. In 1870 there was a battle for a Rome that was wholly owned by the Vatican against the forces of the newly united Italy. Although Rome became the new country’s capital, the Papacy still owns 30% of the city. Then for our last tour we walk to the Panthenon, Trevi Fountain and finally the Piazza Navona.
Hosting just 160 passengers there is a friendly feel to life on board the Star Clipper. Though with stairs rather than lifts, plus some tender transfers, it is not for those with impaired mobility. More adventurous than a regular cruise, you can kayak, paddle board, snorkel, swim and even (harnessed) climb the rigging in true Hornblower style.
Star Clipper fact file
On July 12th 2024, Riveria will offer another French Riviera and Corsica trip, this time on The Star Flyer. Beginning in Rome, the 10 nights journey concludes in Nice, calling at Portoferraio, Bonifacio, Alghero, Ajaccio, Calvi, St Tropez and Cannes.
Prices begin from £2,799, which includes flights, transfers, full breakfast, buffet lunch, afternoon tea and a la carte dinner whilst onboard, breakfast with hotel stays and an expert tour manager.
Browse this itinerary at https://www.rivieratravel.co.uk/ocean-cruises/the-french-riviera-and-corsica-2024
Visit Rivieratravel.co.uk for more travel options.
If you enjoyed Michael’s Star Clipper cruise of the Mediterranean, you’ll find more European cruise reviews on our Travel channel.Tags: cruising, Riviera Travel Last modified: August 21, 2023