Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cruising the Italian Coast

A few years ago we went on a cruise up the Italian coast to the French Riviera. If that sounds lovely it's because it was. We sailed on the Windstar Windsurf which, at least at that time, was the world's largest commercial yacht. Topping all off this goodness was that DeLille Cellars was the host so all of their wines were on-board, available, and included in our price. Unlimited wine. Score!

We boarded a charter bus in Rome and were taken to Civitavecchia Port about an hour and a half away.

The ship was absolutely beautiful.  While our luggage was being delivered to our rooms we got all checked in while sipping on complimentary mimosas.

I've been on 2 other cruises, both with the huge cruise lines, and was expecting the same sort of cramped and uninspiring lodgings, but this room was great! Really thoughtful set up, it used the space super efficiently. Even the bathroom was excellent. The 5-mast sailing vessel had approximately 300 passengers and 150 crew.

We sailed away from Rome's port, enjoying the festive bon voyage atmosphere, (and the free wine) outside on the deck even though some weird clouds threatened to dampen us and the mood.

The next morning, after having breakfast in bed, we met our friends Paul and Lauren and set off to explore our first port, Portoferraio, Elbe. It was an easy walk to the town center and we did a bit of exploring on the way to our destination- Napoleon's house during his exile on Elbe.

We walked up a street of stairs and peeked into a church halfway up, finding the alter inside to have some strange bones.Turns out they are the remains of San Cristino, the martyr patron saint of Portoferraio.
San Cristino, the martyr patron saint of Portoferraio - See more at: http://www.infoelba.com/island-of-elba/territory-history/places-to-see/churches-sanctuaries/misericordia-church/#sthash.cEuWyht6.dpuf
San Cristino, the martyr patron saint of Portoferraio - See more at: http://www.infoelba.com/island-of-elba/territory-history/places-to-see/churches-sanctuaries/misericordia-church/#sthash.cEuWyht6.dpuf

Napoleon's house was really nice but the gardens were gorgeous! Interesting plants and trees, pretty birds, stunning views of the deep blue sea, and warm sun made us think he didn't have it too hard during his stint here.

We did a bit of shopping and had lunch on the port before returning to the ship with plenty of time to get in some sunbathing. When our ship sailed, unfurling the five sails and cutting the engine, we had excellent seats (and wine) for views of the lush coastline.

We arrived the next morning in Portofino, our ship anchored outside of the tiny harbor. We took a tender in and were instantly charmed by this absolutely most picturesque of towns. Brightly colored buildings, boats ranging from super-yachts to individual fishing skiffs, and horseshoe shaped waterfront were almost too perfectly pretty. 

We walked the path up to the church and castle, stopping to peek at the cemetery with its gravestone markers containing photos of the deceased, like this handsome devil (did his family really want to remember him like this?)

Then we continued on the path heading around the point and back down, giving us spectacular views of the ocean, our ship at anchor, and taking us through a forest of really lovely trees, plants, and flowers.

We wandered along the main town and found seats waterside on the quiet arm of the harbor, at a great little shop/eatery. Champagne and amazing snacks, coupled with some gourmet food shopping, were just what I needed.

Back on board the ship we found they had the on-board marina open, the lower back of the boat opens and you can go water skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, etc. Dayne and I chose to dive into the warm blue ocean for a little swim.

Each night we hosted an evening happy hour in our room, ordering a cheese tray, popcorn, or the like. There was actually enough room for the four of us to hang out comfortably. The rooms don't have balconies like on the big ships, but there are portholes letting in light and ocean views.

Before dinner one evening we took advantage of the open-bridge policy and headed up to check out all the navigation and instruments. The 2nd in command was really nice explaining everything to us and even let me drive (kidding!).

The ship has two restaurants and as part of the DeLille package they had Chef Bobby Moore on-board to provide 2 special dinners. Overall we didn't find any of the dinners, regular chef or Seattle chef, to be anything outstanding but meals were ok. And breakfasts and lunches were good. And of course there was wine ;)

We left the shores of Italy and continued into France...

Photos from the Italian part of the cruise here.

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