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19 October 2017

Our First Group: The Blog

Friday 6th October

After an early flight from Newcastle via Heathrow we arrived with 3 others from our group at Nice airport where our private transfer was waiting to take us to our hotel, 25 minutes later we were checking in to the lovely hotel Barriere le Gray D’Albion. This hotel is ideally located in the centre of Cannes, only 100 metres from the seafront where it has its own private beach.

After a stroll in the sunshine we enjoyed a drink overlooking the harbour before returning to our hotel to meet another 6 members of our group who had travelled to Cannes by rail, stopping for 2 days in Paris on the way.

Tonight we had booked a table for 11 at Meat, an amazing little restaurant with a choice of only 2 main courses - either a porterhouse steak or a tuna steak. Both perfectly cooked with a selection of sides and sauces. We would especially recommend their secret sauce, no idea what goes into it but it tastes amazing.

Strolling back to our hotel, 5 of us decided on a final night cap at a smart pavement bar to soak up the atmosphere of a busy Friday night in Cannes. 59 Euros for a bottle of wine is an expensive soak!

Saturday 7th October 

Great breakfast at the hotel with a choice of eggs, cooked to order, an expansive hot and cold buffet and excellent coffee, tea & fresh juices. To work off our breakfast we took a pleasant stroll to see Royal Clipper at anchor in the bay. Very excited to think that we will soon be on board once again.

5 of us found a lovely local restaurant for a light lunch of pizzas, risotto and salad before joining the others in the bar opposite for a drink. 9 Euros 80 for a bottle of local wine, excellent value. Then it was back to the hotel to wait for our taxi transfers to the port. Arriving at the port we met the rest of our group and it was a very excited group of 19 who boarded the tender for the short trip to the Royal Clipper. The sea was choppy so it was quite a rough journey but such fun.

Once onboard we quickly unpacked and freshened up and were back on deck for the compulsory life boat drill after which we introduced ourselves to Jochen, the hotel manager, and we were delighted to discover that our request to eat in the private dining room on the first night had been accepted.  We had requested the private dining room so that the group could meet and get to know each other over a few glasses of wine.  We each hosted a table and quite a competition developed as to which table was having the most fun.

After dinner we were up on deck for sail away before returning to the bar where most of the group enjoyed one or two night caps before bed!!

Sunday 8th October

Today we were in Portofino, so after a leisurely morning Royal Clipper anchored off shore at 12.00. After an early lunch we went ashore for a wander around this pretty little port and then after a pleasant stroll several of us decided to enjoy a glass of wine in a small bar overlooking the bay. Shocked to discover the cheapest glass of wine was 15 Euros but it did say it came with nibbles. Disappointed when the smallest bowl of olives we had ever seen appeared at the table but much happier when 2 large platters of salami, cheese and prosciutto were brought to the table.

Sunday evening we were all invited to Captain Brunon’s cocktail party for repeat passengers.  Always a good way to meet fellow repeat passengers over a few glasses of champagne.  It was time for dinner and good to see that our group were already making new friendships. Moving upstairs for sail away most of us were having such a good time talking and reminiscing about previous Star Clipper adventures that we missed the fashion show (good job we weren’t in it this year).    

Monday 9th October

Another leisurely morning, though some of the more energetic passengers did take part in mast climbing. Several of us decided to lunch ashore today as once again the weather was perfect (and so much better than we could have hoped for in mid –October). Taking an early tender to Lille Rouse, Corsica, Tony managed to confuse everyone by announcing it was Calvi but what can you expect he has only been a travel agent for 40 years!  Leaving the tender we were in time to explore the small (very very small) market before a pleasant saunter around the quaint and narrow streets of this pretty little town. By now the sun was so hot that Joan was forced to buy a sun cap before rejoining several of our group for a drink in the main square which was very busy. Looking for lunch 6 of us found a lovely local restaurant in a pleasant side street and enjoyed an open air lunch including mussels, lasagne, salad and chips and 2 bottles of a very good local wine. Only 90 Euros in total.

After lunch we decided to stroll along the seafront, where, at the first bar we found another 3 of our group who called us over for a drink (already as you can see a pattern is developing).

Back on Royal Clipper it was time to get ready for The Vacation Company Group private cocktail party. We had organised for this to be held at the aft of the ship and enjoyed an amazing hour sipping champagne and wine watching the sunset, served by our 2 private waiters Manolito & Jessica. Captain Brunon and Jochen joined us for drinks and it was lovely when captain Brunon said he would be delighted to join us for dinner as well.

Tuesday 10th October

Tony finally gets it right when at 10 o’clock this morning Royal Clipper anchors off Calvi in Corsica. An early lunch onboard and then tender ashore. Another lovely sunny day and after exploring this quaint old town we enjoyed drinks in the harbour admiring the Royal Clipper anchored off shore before taking the tender back to the ship.

Sail away was 19.00 this evening so we all changed for dinner early ready for white night under the bright light. This was a first for us and took place on the sun deck with everyone encouraged to wear white, the ship fully illuminated and music until midnight. Another magical evening, just a pity several of us had brought our pirate outfits!

Wednesday 11th October

Today was a beach stop at Plage D’Arone, Corsica. Though we didn’t actually venture ashore today (we stayed on deck and caught up with writing our blog) several of the group went ashore and told us it was beautiful.

This afternoon Jochen held a virtual tour (behind the scenes) presentation in the forward lounge. A fascinating insight into how the ship operates, for example on an average week the passengers eat four and a half thousand eggs and the galley that produces such fabulous food is only the size of 3 cabins but in it work 1 chef, 12 cooks and 3 catering assistants.

Tonight we had the privilege of listening to an amazing jam session featuring Balazs the ships entertainer & Gabor the cruise director. Both are incredibly talented musicians and singers and entertained us all for over 2 hours with a repertoire covering classic songs from Bowie to the Beatles. For us the highlight was their original song on the life of Luke Skywalker sung to the tune of American Pie. 

Thursday 12th October

Today we had 2 stops, Porquerolles (am) and Sanary sur Mer (pm). After an early breakfast we transferred to the small village of Porquerolles. After sailing past the very busy marina, the first thing you notice as you step ashore is the large number of shops renting bicycles. Thankfully this morning’s stop was not long enough to allow time to rent one. We had a walk around the square imaging that, with the number of yachts in the marina, this would be a lively place each evening, although during the day it was very quiet. Walking back towards the tender we stopped for a coffee before returning to Royal Clipper for lunch. We had had a deck lunch earlier in the week which was so popular and the weather was so good Jochen repeated it again today. Lovely to be able to eat in the open air in October!

After lunch we went ashore at Sanary sur Mer which is a lovely port built around a large marina. Sitting with several friends in a bar facing the water we enjoyed a few drinks as we soaked up the sunshine and views of Royal Clipper in the bay. Only 18 Euros for a bottle of very good local wine. Very rough transfer back to the ship with lots of screams each time a wave splashed over the tender and everybody soaking wet – great fun! 

Tonight was captain’s night, as always a memorable evening and great to be able for the first time to share it with our group of friends as everybody had now become.

Friday 13th October

St Tropez today. This morning was a beach stop at Plage de Pampelonne and then we sailed to St Tropez port. Our second visit to St. Tropez and this time we fully explored all the streets behind the harbour. A beautiful little town and much more interesting than you might expect. After exploring we settled into a small Irish bar right on the harbour ( Le Grotte)  and again very pleasantly surprised at the prices only 18 Euros for a bottle of wine , 3 Euros for a local beer or 7 Euros for a pint of Guinness.

Tip; look out for how many people appear to carry their dogs everywhere in either a shopping bag or a buggy, very strange!

Lunch today was the Oriental buffet which included the suckling pig. Not to be missed.

Final dinner followed by talent night. As always an emotional meal as during dinner the whole crew appear in the dining room to sing “We are the World” whilst encouraging all the guests to sing along and wave their napkins in the air.

Talent show is always great fun and this was probably the best we have ever seen. Johnathon the bar man sang and played amazingly well and Manolito’s magic act now looks almost like a full audition for Britain’s got talent. Moving up on deck for our final sail away an already emotional evening, was made even more so as our group presented us with a card signed not only by the whole group but also by many members of the crew. Some amazing and very kind comments, which if you know Joan, you will know resulted in even more tears. What a brilliant way to end our first group and now we can’t wait for our second.

We could not have asked for a better group of people to join us on our first group sailing, we loved spending time getting to know everybody and now genuinely believe that we have seventeen more friends for life. 

Saturday 14th October

After an early breakfast and some sad farewells we took our final tender ashore, collected our cases and waited for our transfers back to the airport. Another amazing cruise completed, more magical memories and here’s to our next Star Clipper adventure. 

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