Time 30 Aug, 2019 01:15 PM
User by james
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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 of yoga, 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.

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 Portofino. 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 Portofino National Park 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 are moored in the bay, the piazzetta is strangely quiet, perhaps because it’s almost the end of the season.

L’Isle Rousse

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.

The way is marked by yellow flashes and I climb steadily reaching Occiglioni, at around 400m, only a cluster of houses, before reaching the 9th century hilltop village of Sant’Antonino. It fully deserves its title as “one of the most beautiful villages in France”, its rectangular stark stone buildings silhouetted against the sky. From here I can see the railway line wriggling its way along turquoise coast below.

Conscious of time, I pick up the pace, and manage to reach the station just before the scheduled departure of 4.45. I’m now beginning to worry as the last tender leaves port at 5.30 and there’s no sign of any train. The station is unmanned, with no information, so I set off to the main road to try my luck hitch hiking. Of course, five minutes afterwards, I hear the sound of the train arriving and see it vanish into the distance.

It’s too far to walk all the way back to L’Isle Rousse and panic is now setting in. My thrusting thumb doesn’t work as nobody stops. Worse, my phone has died so there’s no way I can communicate with the ship. In desperation I approach a couple of parked cars and beg them to give me a lift. Fortunately the second family takes pity and drives me directly to the port. I make the final tender with minutes to spare.

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