The Royal Clipper is the largest five masted fully-rigged sailing ship in the world and a Mediterranean cruise, from France to Italy calling at Corsica and Sardinia, recalls the heady days of sail.
I’ve sailed on luxury cruises before and despite my best intentions always end up a few pounds heavier. It’s not helped by the excursions which tend to be sedate affairs where you’re ferried around in buses.
This time since we’ll be calling at tiny ports I vow to spend my shore days hiking the surrounding countryside. In addition every morning I’ll be doing thirty minutes, a facility available to all passengers.
I arrive in Cannes after an easy thirty-minute transfer from Nice Airport. The Royal Clipper is anchored in the bay, sails furled, and tenders are waiting to ferry me and around 200 other passengers to the ship. They’re younger than most cruise clients, probably because the ship has no lifts and there are stairs to negotiate.
With everyone safely on board, we set off for Italy, using the engines, as there’s not enough wind for the sails.
My spacious cabin is on the Commodore deck almost at sea level, and it’s comfortably equipped with a large double bed, ample storage space and bathroom with shower washbasin and toilet. Two portholes allow me to monitor the world outside. Dinner has waiter service and there are at least a couple of choices on a menu which includes appetiser, soup, sorbet, main course, salad, cheese and dessert. I’m not going to go hungry.
Santa Margherita Ligure
Morning sees the coast of the Italian Riviera looming and I go out on deck and join around ten passengers for our first session of yoga. We pass Genoa, follow the Riviera di Levante and arrive at the attractive port of Santa Margherita Ligure. After a buffet lunch, I don my walking boots and take the tender into town. My plan is to hike up to hills above the town and follow the footpath to Portfolio. It’s hot but I make my way up to Nozarego and get amazing views over the Gulf of Tigullio, the Royal Clipper sitting proud in the bay.
From here I enter the Monte di Portfolio and its well signed path leads me through tiny villages before descending steeply to Portofino. The stunning horse shoe harbour, lined with pastel coloured houses, is dominated by Castello Brown on the hill above. Although a cluster of super yachts is moored in the bay, the piazzetta is strangely quiet, perhaps because it’s almost the end of the season.
We sail overnight and next morning arrive in L’Isle Rousse on Corsica’s North West coast. The craggy mountains of the island’s interior provide a backdrop to the town but they’re too far away to tackle. The lady at the tourist office insists that there are no walks that start in town but I have other information. My guide book shows a ten mile trail which ends at a railway station further down the coast. After checking the timetable, I set out.