Joan and Tony's Star Clipper Adventure - August 2015
One of our favourite itineraries, we hope that the blog below gives some flavour of how magical this cruise is.
In 2017 the Royal Clipper is operating two of these sailings on the 17th June and the 29th July and one 10 night sailing from Venice to Rome on the 9th August.
Already heavily sold, these sailings are sure to sell out shortly. If you are hoping to join one of these cruises next year dont miss out, contact us now for latest availabilty and to secure your cabin.
After an early morning flight from Manchester we arrived in Rome, excited to be once again joining the Royal Clipper. We had decided to make our own way to the port so once we had bought our train tickets (12 Euros each) we made our way to the station. There are no direct trains from Fiumicino Airport to Civitavecchia (Rome port), most people choose to travel into the centre of Rome to change trains however it is quicker and easier (and half the price!) to change at Trestaveri which is what we opted for.
The announcements on the trains are all in English and it was very easy to get a seat. In total the journey took roughly 2 hours and when we arrived at Civitavecchia we still had plenty of time for lunch and a drink before a short stroll along the promenade to the port.
The Royal Clipper was moored quite a distance from the entrance of the port so we jumped on the courtesy shuttle bus and soon found ourselves boarding the amazing Royal Clipper. As Always the welcome from the captain and the crew was warm and friendly. We made our way to our cabin to unpack and freshen up before venturing to the Piano Bar for pre-dinner drinks and the compulsory safety drill.
After dinner we made sure to be back on deck for sail away at 22.00, an event that never fails to impress.
This morning, after another compulsory safety drill, Captain Brunon Borowka presented his team to the passengers and it was wonderful to see that many of the crew we have been so lucky to have sailed with previously were still with Royal Clipper.
Late morning we took the tender ashore to Ponza, a very picturesque village with lots of little shops, many selling freshly picked fruit. After a leisurely walk we returned to the ship for lunch, which today was an Italian buffet.
After lunch the Royal Clipper set sail for Palmarola where we were given the opportunity to take a scenic tender boat ride around the rugged island. For those passengers preferring to stay onboard and relax there were plenty of sun beds available, both in the sun and the shade.
This evening we were invited to the “Back on Board” cocktail party hosted by the captain. After dinner we sat on deck as we sailed towards Sorrento.
Today’s port of call was Sorrento where passengers were offered the choice of three excursions; Ercolano, Capri or Pompeii. Having previously visited Pompeii and Capri we opted to journey into the centre of Sorrento which entailed walking up some very steep steps! The views from the top were simply breath-taking and made the climb worthwhile.
Sorrento was a very busy town and after having a look around and a stop for a drink we decided to make our way back down to the port. Fortunately at this point we discovered a lift (1 Euro per person, takes 25 seconds!).
After lunch we ventured down to the Marina Platform which, weather permitting, is always open whilst the ship is anchored offshore and had a refreshing swim in the sea. From the Marina Platform there was also the opportunity to partake in snorkelling and kayaking.
This morning we were up early and on deck by 6.00 am in order to see the volcano Stromboli as we sailed passed. A fantastic sight, especially as the sun was just rising. After breakfast the Royal Clipper sailed through the Strait of Messina, the narrow section of water between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of Calabria. It is located on an earthquake-prone belt stretching from Vesuvius, through Stromboli, then through Mt. Etna. This arc of volcanoes has been continuously active from ancient times through to the present day.
After lunch we anchored off Giardini Naxos and took the tender ashore where we shared taxis (roughly 20 Euros for 2) and went up the mountains to Taormina, a journey of approximately three miles. Taormina is a lovely bustling town with narrow streets and high buildings (making it very shaded) with lots of interesting and quaint shops.
This evening a local folk band came aboard, a fine end to a pleasant day.
Today was spent at sea as the Royal Clipper made her way to Corfu. As with all days spent at sea the crew put on a range of activities including yoga, card playing, boules, mast climbing (for the brave hearted), knot tying, and frog racing.
As we were having lunch on deck the captain informed us that we were sailing in 200 metres deep water at a speed of 9 knots, wind was north/northeast and was measuring 5 (a fresh breeze) on the Beaufort scale.
Today’s cocktail of the day was a ‘Strawberry Daiquiri’, a very popular choice.
Today’s port of call was Corfu Town, the only stop where the tenders were not required. Upon disembarkation a bus was waiting to take us to the entrance of the port where there were taxis waiting to take passengers into town (10 Euros).
On the way back we decided to walk, it only took 25 minutes and the fact that we could see the Royal Clipper as we walked along the coast was very rewarding.
For part of the cruise celebrity chef Matthias Diether, head chef at the First Floor restaurant in Berlin. Tonight we had a live cooking demonstration in the dining room as Matthias and his team prepared a veal dish.
Tonight at 22.23 a number of passengers made their way on deck hoping for a sighting of the International Space Station which we had been informed would only be visible for two minutes. Happily it was spotted and no one was left disappointed.
Today’s port of call was Kotor, Montenegro and at 10.30 am, after a leisurely breakfast, we made our way up on deck to watch as the Royal Clipper entered the Bay of Kotor. This is often called Europe’s southern most fjord. It certainly looks like one, with towering peaks surrounding a rocky coastline dotted with pretty waterside towns, quite simply the scenery was amazing!
The bay is actually a submerged river valley that is made up of 4 connected bays which are in the shape of a butterfly. With its history and culture, UNESCO have listed the Bay of Kotor as one of their World Heritage Sites.
The town is surrounded by a wall, very old but very pretty. After quite a long walk we decided to stop for a drink at a bar called Evergreens and whilst we were there a folk group were performing. As we were readying ourselves to leave it started to rain very heavily. To our amusement the group kept on singing and at one point they even sang, “Singing in the rain”! A very entertaining afternoon.
As the ship didn’t sail until 23.45 we decided to treat ourselves to a meal ashore with some friends we made onboard. Two mains, a bottle of wine and a bottle of water – 68 Euros. Sail away tonight was spectacular as the town walls are illuminated, creating an amazing sight as the Royal Clipper slowly sails away.
Today our port of call is Dubrovnik, the first of three ports of call in beautiful Croatia. The local currency for Croatia is the Kuna (exchange rate approx. 10 Kuna = £0.91). We did notice that a few shops/restaurants accepted the Euro though not all, so it would be well worth making sure that you have Kuna’s if you want to buy anything or stop for a drink or a bite to eat. We did find that in all three ports there were plenty of ATM’s so it wasn’t a problem getting any local currency.
Dubrovnik is a walled city, the city was virtually destroyed by bombing in 1991 during the war with Serbia, however the city has been rebuilt now. It is possible to walk around the city walls, the views are amazing and the cost was 100 Kuna. Perhaps Dubrovnik is most famous now as many scenes from the TV series Game of Thrones are filmed here. There are many souvenir shops which many people were excited about (not all, including Joan who doesn’t even watch the programme much to Tony & Sam’s annoyance!!!).
We were up on deck early again this morning as we sailed through the Pakleni Channel to Hvar. Hvar is the name of both the Island and its capital. The little town rises like an amphitheatre from its harbour, backed by a hilltop fortress and protected from the open sea by a scattering of small islands known as the Pakleni Islands. Hvar is known for its lavender as well as olives and olive oil. Most of the shops have set prices, bargaining is not a custom in Croatia. As with most of the places that we stopped at on this cruise we found the people so very friendly and helpful. After a long walk around the harbour, which had stunning views, we stopped for a drink (small beer, coffee with milk and a large bottle of water £3.70). Tonight, Lidija, our cruise director had organised a music quiz. Teams were made up of 4 – 8 and it was really good fun. Sadly our team did not win, I think we definitely had the most fun though!!!
The last of our Croatian ports today – Rovinj. The tenders dropped us off and it was a short walk into the centre of Rovinj. Rovinj has a complex heritage; historically Italians lived in the towns while Croats occupied the rural areas. There is still a large Italian community and Italian is the second language. As proof of this there are many Italian restaurants in the town. Yes you have guessed correctly, lunch ashore today was a pizza and a bottle of wine. We noticed that many of our fellow passengers were also trying out the local pizzerias.
Back on board and time to get ready for Captains night, always a very entertaining evening, followed by the guest and crew talent show. Sadly none of our guests admitted to having any talent (perhaps we were just all shy or realised that the crew had an abundance of talent). The crew work so hard all day every day and they still had the time and energy to put on a fabulous show which everyone enjoyed. They really are amazing.
Our last day onboard today – always a sad day. However we have met some wonderful people who will be friends for life now and we have such wonderful memories. Captain Borowka and his whole crew have done a fantastic job of making sure that our Star Clipper experience will be remembered forever – thank you to you all.
Our last visit was to Piran, Slovenia, back to euros. We did need to take our passports with us when we went ashore today and had to go through passport control, which went very smoothly and there were no hold ups. Piran had a very rocky coastline and as all the other places we have visited was a very pretty town with very friendly locals. After a wander around the town we went back to Royal Clipper and made the most of our time onboard. Final swim in one of the three pools (well a cool down anyway) before having to pack and then get changed for our final dinner.
There is no worry about having to carry your cases off the ship yourself, Star Clipper do all this for you. As long as you leave your suitcase outside of your cabin on the night of disembarkation they will take care of this for you. Just remember not to pack everything – Lidija did tell us some funny stories of passengers packing everything including what they were going to wear to disembark!!!
Royal Clipper sails into the lagoon at Venice at 06.00, well worth getting up early and going on deck to see it pass St Mark’s Square. We were staying in Venice for a further two nights so after breakfast we disembarked collected our cases from the main arrivals hall and strolled 100 yards to the water taxi order point and within 10 minutes we were heading through the canals to the Ruzzini Palace, our hotel for the next two nights. Water taxis are expensive (80 euros to a central hotel) but give you a great initial introduction to the canals of Venice and if, as the Ruzzini Palace, your hotel is located on a canal they take you right up to the entrance. Port to hotel entrance with no hassle, perfect!!
This was the first time we had stayed at the Ruzzini Palace and we will certainly stay there again when we next visit Venice. Located in a small square it is a 5 minute walk from both St Mark’s Square and The Rialto Bridge. Arriving at 09.45 we were expecting to have to wait until 14.00 to gain access to our rooms and intended to simply drop of our cases and start to explore the city. Great at check in to be offered a coffee and told our rooms would be ready at 10.30. The hotel has been furnished to a very high standard, rooms are beautiful, there is a great little bar and breakfast offers a wide choice of both hot and cold dishes.
After a busy day exploring the sites and discovering intriguing little shops and streets we returned to our hotel to refresh and change before an evening out in the city. If you are staying in Venice we would highly recommend that, like us, you head for the lagoon side of St Mark’s square and select a seat facing the lagoon in one of the outside bars where over a drink you can, at 19.30, watch Royal Clipper, under full sail, float majestically past, a great memory of your cruise.
After a leisurely breakfast another full day exploring Venice with regulars stops for drinks and shopping and a slice of pizza for Lunch.
Changing for dinner we met with American friends we had met onboard Royal Clipper for drinks at the famous Harry’s Bar, where a Bellini cocktail was the required order as they were invented in this bar, expensive at 16 euros but they do come with some of the best olives we have ever tasted and complimentary savoury snacks. Please note however that Harry’s Bar operates a strict no shorts policy (trousers not drinks) for men and one of the pleasures of sitting there is watching a procession of potential drinkers being politely asked to leave.
Dinner on our final evening with our new friends was on the rooftop terrace of the restaurant Antica Carbonera, a great little restaurant close to the Rialto Bridge.
Checking out of our hotel it would have been much cheaper to carry our luggage to St Mark’s Square and get the water bus to the airport and then carry our luggage a further 500 metres to the airport. However we would recommend that you consider the water taxi and taxi which although expensive is well worth it and a perfect end to your stay. The water taxi will collect you from your hotel and after a lovely 20 minutes sailing through the canals of Venice deposit you on the mainland where your taxi driver will be waiting, a further 25 minute drive and he will drop you off at the main entrance to Venice airport departure terminal, 120 euros for 2 people but fun and stress free.
Tips for Venice
Wear sensible shoes as you will walk for miles, we covered over 24000 steps on each day!!
Drinks and food in and around St Mark’s Square and in Harrys Bar are expensive but you are paying for the experience, just have one and savour it.
Walk just a few streets back from St Mark’s Square and you will find a huge choice of restaurants and bars at very reasonable prices. For example we had dinner for two in a small restaurant in a lovely square 5 minutes from St Mark’s - salad, pasta for two, water and a good bottle of wine, total cost less than £40.