Sailing the Mediterranean on a tall ship is the stuff of fantasies, but Star Clippers, Ltd. makes the dream possible, even if you re not a captain of industry. The European -headquartered cruise line has outfitted three magnificent sailing vessels that provide the experience of a lifetime for the recreational sailor or tourist alike. The largest of these, the SS Royal Clipper, is a five-masted brigantine, built to the specifications of the 439-foot German sailing vessel Preussen, the largest sailing ship built in the last century.
The Royal Clipper accommodates 227 guests on its Western Mediterranean itineraries, starting from the Roman port of Civitavecchia and stopping at such celebrated ports of call as Capri, Taormina, Corfu and Dubrovnik, before docking in the magical port of Venice. A similar itinerary reverses the voyage, from Venice back to Rome.
Though it duplicates the mystique of the grand age of sailing, the Royal Clipper provides its guests with all the amenities of a modern cruise, including roomy and luxurious cabins, a three-deck atrium, elegant dining room, gourmet meals, three swimming pools, a health club, and a marina platform for water sports like dinghy sailing, canoeing, and snorkeling. Modern engines and navigational systems insure a smooth and safe ride, not dependent on the vagaries of the wind.
On our trip last year, my wife, Liza, and I experienced the rush as we left Civitavecchia and sailed to the Italian island of Ponza, a beach resort that the rich and famous have discovered, but which hasn t yet been overrun by tourists. Our next stop, Capri, is, unfortunately, crowded with both tourists and designer boutiques, but its charm is still evident if you get past the main town. On the way to Taormina, in Sicily, we sailed by the active volcano of Stromboli, of Ingrid Bergman fame. I wouldn t want to drive in Taormina, but the town center is still an historic gem. On the Greek island of Corfu, a highlight was Achillion, the estate once owned by Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria, and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. We then proceeded to the Adriatic Sea and sailed up a wondrous fjord to Kotor, Montenegro, a walled city that s destined to be Europe s next hot destination. The magical city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, was next, a great town for jewelry and wine shopping, seafood dining, and visualizing history from its medieval bastions. Three day-stops in the Croatian towns of Kurcola (reputed birthplace of Marco Polo), Hvar and Rovinj brought us more familiarity with the culture of Croatia, Europe s awakening tourism gem.
And then there was Venice. It was all hands on deck as the Royal Clipper majestically sailed into this famous Italian fairyland. We stayed overnight to allow time to visit Venice s imposing cathedrals and ply its famous Grand Canal.
All of these stops were wonderful destinations in themselves, but sailing to them on the Royal Clipper was indeed a fantastic voyage.
The Western Mediterranean sailings of the Royal Clipper to Italy, Greece and Croatia commence June 26. For further information, go to www.starclippers.com.