Asia Cruise Yearbook : Cruise Passenger 57
34 www.cruisepassenger.com.au www.cruisepassenger.com.au 35 LUXURY REPORT: REVIEW Captain Sergey Utitsyn, a burly, dimpled Estonian, has been with the fleet since the flagship was launched in 2000. He has spent the last 14 years sailing the Med in the northern summer and the Caribbean in the winter, taking Royal Clipper (literally) across the globe each year. He started his career on large Russian sailing ships at the age of 18, and is fanatical about the power of the wind. He has no time for the “pretenders” – competitors he won’t name. “They are not real sailing ships – they have sails just for decoration. They don’t even have a keel!” You won’t meet a more passionate ambassador for Royal Clipper. “We run at 60 per cent repeats and we are getting many new passengers from larger lines like P&O and Cunard, because of our unique experience. They come to us and say ‘wow’!” It’s not hard to understand why. “Wow” is a word that’s often used around this ship. Royal Clipper is in the Guinness World Records as the largest fully rigged tall ship. Our seven-day voyage is a magnificent mix of theatre, history and geography – a vivid reminder of why the Mediterranean is Australia’s number one foreign cruise destination. “There are usually Australians on board when we sail – sometimes five, sometimes 10 or 15,” Captain Utitsyn says. Our first port of call is Ponza, a postcard- perfect coastal town with pastel terraces, cobbled streets and a church at the top of the hill. Locals are preparing for a festival, so the main street is decked out with fairy lights and a village band is practising in the square. We hire a pink scooter and wobble precariously into the mountains. At a tiny village, we are reminded of what makes Italy so special. As we’re too late for lunch, Maurizio, owner of the local pizza cafe, suggests a neighbouring restaurant overlooking the Bay of Natural Pools. “I will call him and ask him to take care of you,’’ he says. And that’s exactly what he does. His business rival serves us a huge Italian salad of octopus and fish. Where else would a restaurateur be so concerned about two hungry tourists that he would pass us on to the competition? Back on the Royal Clipper in time for dinner, we settle into the wood-panelled dining room. The galley is led by Jamaican Devon Hodges and it’s roast suckling pig, cheese and crepes tonight. Shortly after dawn we arrive at the port of Sorrento, set on the Bay of Naples. Sorrento’s beauty is legendary. Greeks sailed down the Amalfi Coast simply to marvel at the mountainous coastline. It’s from here we take a tour of Pompeii. Our guide entertains us with stories of Mount Vesuvius. She and a million other Italians live in the path of the volcano. “But this time, we are promised we will get 24 hours’ notice of any eruptions,” she smiles. We hope she is right. More than 40 hectares of Pompeii have been excavated to reveal an amazing preservation of the Roman city. It is humbling to discover just how smart the Romans really were. Their homes had drainage, heating and cooling systems. Their cities had spas, steam rooms and medical centres. They even had take-away food! Back on Royal Clipper, the marina platform at the stern is open for an invigorating swim or sail on a windsurfer or catamaran. At dusk, we head back to Sorrento for an evening meal on the waterfront. The next day, we are in Amalfi, a historic town at the mouth of a deep ravine. It is located at the foot of Monte Cerreto and surrounded by dramatic cliffs. The Italian coastline is simply stunning. We take a boat ride to the seaside town of Positano, renowned for its beauty and cliffs overlooking turquoise waters. We have coffee and croissants on the balcony of the hillside Hotel Marincanto. But pretty as it is, Positano is a place that has been discovered. Amalfi, on the other hand, with its grand 18th-century cathedral and its Cloister of Paradise and Basilica of the Crucifix, is wonderful. But we must move on. We sail into Sicily and anchor at Giardini Naxos, about 5 kilometres from Taormina. We usually avoid the so-called “exclusive experience” excursions on the grounds they are often anything but. However, our 90-euro Sicilian lunch at the family-owned Barone di Villagrande vineyard, an hour’s drive up the slopes of Mount Etna, is very special. The winery has been in the same family for centuries and operations have been passed down to Franco, a fourth- generation Di Villagrande and a passionate young winemaker. ‘Our guide entertains us with stories of Mount Vesuvius. She and a million other Italians live in the path of the volcano. ’ Opposite: (clockwise from top left) ceramic lemons in Amalfi; the bathhouse at Pompeii; marzipan fruit on sale in Amalfi; Royal Clipper and Crystal Serenity viewed from a Sorrento terrace; floral display in Amalfi; lunch with the family owners of the Barone di Villagrande vineyard From top: Climbing up the rigging; a crew member mending the sails; the ship’s marina platform at the stern Fact file CRUISE LINE: Star Clippers VESSEL: Royal Clipper MAX PASSENGER CAPACITY: 228 TOTAL CREW: 104 PASSENGER DECKS: 5 ENTERED SERVICE: October 2000 FACILITIES: The world’s largest 5-masted sailing ship, 3 swimming pools on the sun deck, lots of open deck space, marina platform for swimming and snorkelling. BOOKINGS: Royal Clipper 7-night Amalfi Coast & Sicily cruises in May and June 2015 are priced from $2,920 per person. For more details, see starclippers.com or contact your local CLIA agent.
ASEAN Yearbook 2015