Hoist the sails, Climb the Mast, Take a Turn at the Wheel………Get carried away in the fresh air and open seas of the Mediterranean while “sailing” the Cote D’Azur and the island of Corsica on one of Star Clipper’s tall ships. This is just what 15 STI guests did for their fall respite from normal, ordinary days……what a way to escape, relax and rejuvenate. Personal attention began when we boarded the Star Flyer using a small kiosk and small port in Cannes, with our tender being greeted by all the officers.
72 staff and only 130 passengers serve up individual attention, beginning with a Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party at the outside Tropical Bar hosted by STI and Star Flyer. The cocktail of the day was “Bon Voyage”! With only four decks, your nicely appointed sailing cabin is not many steps or stairs away from any point on the ship. Luggage was quickly delivered while we met each other at the STI Welcome Meeting in the Piano Bar then endured the lifeboat drill in 3 languages (there were only 25 US guests onboard). Unpacking and dressing for dinner was stress free as the Star Flyer atmosphere is smart casual with a formal flair. The Clipper Dining Room offered white linen dining at special STI tables with a high standard of quality la carte choices in a relaxed and leisurely French Art of Living format. To close out our first evening, Captain Yuriy summoned us to the bow Sundeck for a Champagne Sail Away as the sails were raised and we headed for Ile Rousse, Corsica. Dancing in the Tropical Bar closed out our first night under sail and stars.
Waking up to a sunset and/or buffet breakfast on a listing sailboat under full sail makes you smile and breathe in the salt air while beginning to feel blissfully relaxed. Only one dining room with STI tables always reserved means leisurely meals with your new STI friends. A second lifeboat drill, Captain’s Welcome, free Snorkel gear sign-out and French buffet lunch quickly leads to boarding tenders to go ashore in Ile Rousse, Corsica. With water sports cancelled due to rough seas, most of us headed out together to hike the Pietra Peninsula to the lighthouse. A few joined us by taking the tourist train J. After exploring the shops and covered market, we enjoyed an STI Happy Hour at Lescals Bar, part of Hotel Perla Rossa, overlooking the bay and our home away from home, the Star Flyer! Back on board, we hit the Sundeck for our nightly sail-away music as the crew hoisted the sails for Bonifacio before joining everyone for dinner. A fashion show with sporty, Star Clipper clothes and accessories modeled by three of our own STI guests and the activities staff brought many chuckles. Dancing to YMCA and the Macarena ended our evening on deck.
Our captain did a great job avoiding rough seas on the east coast of Corsica by cancelling the Figari Beach stop and sailing us into Bonifacio 5 hours early for a full day of exploration. Several of us stayed on board in the morning to experience the thrill of climbing the mast and discovering Bonifacio from the crow’s nest……..quite a sight! We then headed out to hike or take a train up to the Citadelle and shop the markets in the Medieval town or port village. No tenders made it easy to stop back at the ship to grab a bite from a Sailor’s Lunch buffet set up on deck. Others explored Iles Lavezzi, Ile Cavallo, grottos, and beaches using the public ferry system. An STI happy hour in the Tropical Bar with piano melodies by Bella cajoled us as we sailed away for Porticcio Beach, Corsica. It is so nice to experience a gourmet meal in nice casual attire after a full, sweaty day hiking up and down the cliffs of Bonifacio. The STI team then tried a mind meld to guess the musicals associated with soundtrack tunes played by Bella……..we did much better at closing down the Tropical Bar dance floor J.
We were all chomping at the bit for our first beach stop the next morning in Porticcio and it lived up to our expectations. The Sports team brought ashore guests, kayaks and paddle boards in tenders to a dry landing at a dock. Everyone enjoyed R&R on the beach…….whether that meant collapsing on a towel, hiking the beach in deep sand, tandem kayaking the bay, trying out our snorkel, masks and fins, or attempting to stand, paddle and turn on a paddleboard. After a Seafood Lunch buffet on the ship and a quick sail across the bay, we docked in Ajaccio, Corsica. Most went in small groups to explore this larger, cruise ship port and the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. An adventurous group set out to explore the area on motorcycles or motorized bikes until the traffic realities hit home and made walking and shopping seem lots safer! Others opted to enjoy the two pools, lounge chairs and water gymnastics on board. The cocktail of the day was “Jazz in Paradise “….a fitting description of our life on the Star Flyer. A few enjoyed dinner in Ajaccio while most of us opted to indulge in the Clipper Dining room. Our sail away was a late night treat under the stars with star gazing as the sails were hoisted for Porto, Corsica.
The Gulf of Porto has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1983 as it is the access point to Scandola Nature Reserve and the Calanches de Piana. All of us experienced the Scandola Reserve up close and personal on a Star Flyer planned excursion. Gorges, red rock grottoes, mysterious canyons and the hamlet Girolata were explored with small boats. Everyone wished we could snorkel or scuba dive this amazing wonderland…..maybe next time! There were also water sports activities at a local beach and shopping but not enough time to enjoy everything as our tenders were waiting to begin our sail back to Cote D’Azur. We all thought we would have a leisurely afternoon on the ship……until a surprise was announced! The seas were slightly rough…..but not too rough to send out the tenders on a sail raising photo opportunity. Everyone, either on board or in “very rocky” tenders, got to experience the magnificent sight of raising and lowering the 16 sails on the Star Flyer…..speechless. As if this was not enough, they opened up the main mast for climbing so you could experience climbing the mast while sailing……..speechless again J. With STI guests blissfully enjoying this sailing adventure, what a perfect time for an STI exclusive Happy Hour on the aft sundeck……great new friends in STI t-shirts, free drinks, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and phenomenal STI loyal cruiser awards. Too bad but we finally had to change into the fanciest clothes we packed for the Captain’s Dinner ending with flaming Baked Alaska. This action packed day ended with the Guest and Crew Talent Show…….we “almost” had a guitar playing foursome if only they could have agreed on a song! And while the boat rocked more than normal, the dance floor was packed after a few guests got the ship dancing with their talent acts.
The next morning found us anchored at Porquerolles, Iles d’Hyeres, France. This beautifully wooded island is a nature reserve with no built up resorts, minimal cars, and no smoking to protect the Mediterranean forest. Exploring this island and its overlooks and beaches on foot or with rented mountain bikes is a treat far removed from mass tourism. It is an island like this that the Star Clipper ships are meant to explore……far from the beaten path! After working up an appetite walking or biking, we boarded the tenders for an American lunch buffet on deck and set sail for Sanary Sur Mer, France. Many found a lounge chair, read a good book, took a swim in the salt water pools or just listened to the waves hit the ship. Sanary is a typical and authentic French fishing ports. We explored it on foot by hiking the Way of the Cross to Oratory Hill, Notre Dame de Pitie Chapel and the port lighthouse followed by shopping, riding a carousel and light refreshments, of course. Dinner back on board was followed by the local entertainment of Paolo Nassi and Carine………and the best dance night yet since the ship was still anchored J! Another night time Sailaway under clear skies with stars too many to imagine……..St. Tropez here we come.
A beautiful sunrise – seen by a few of our guests from the bow cargo netting (widow’s maker) under full sail while pulling into St. Tropez Beach. Watching the bow of the ship cut through the water from the holes in the cargo netting is an experience not to be missed…..and not for the faint at heart! Our last beach spot – oh no, our life aboard what appears to be our own private tall ship is coming to an end. But not before our first wet tender landing at St. Tropez Beach, France. Crystal blue water (warm enough for all except Floridians!), sand stretching for a few miles, and people gazing. Everything one might expect in St. Tropez! Tenders brought us back to our Oriental Buffet lunch and then into the port of St. Tropez to explore a genuine Provencal village which just happens to be a ritzy playground for wealthy celebrities. We scattered to discover the Citadelle de Saint Tropez, gawk at the yachts and cars, visit Chapelle Sainte Anne (Jagger wedding), or just shop and then met up for a farewell cocktail on the Quai Jean Jaures. Nobody wanted to take the tender back to the Star Flyer…….but we were all looking forward to our Farewell Dinner and the chance to say goodbye to new STI friends. A photo slide show reminded us of all the unique places we had visited and friendships formed. One last night sailing under the stars back to Cannes………. as we toasted to our next sailing adventure on a Star Clipper tall ship.
Saturday morning brought Lord Nelson’s Naval Toast: To An Absent Friend……The gods do not deduct from men allotted life span those hours spent sailing J! Because absent friends never say goodbye, we finally had to say “See You Soon” at our last STI Breakfast Club and Farwell Meet Up to disembark by our favorite mode of transportation – a tender aka life boat! We had sailed 543 nautical miles on what felt like our own tall ship. Alas, we left warmed with fond memories, new friends, several firsts, and dreams about our next phenomenal STI sailing adventure togetherJ.
See all the great pictures of our trip on the STI Facebook site. Contributed by Georgia F, STI Travel Concierge