Riding an A-list wave to the Med Riviera

Did you know that throwing a coin into Rome's Trevi Fountain is only lucky if you chuck it over your left shoulder with your right hand? Or that you can actually sit and eat in the St Tropez boutiques of Dior and Roberto Cavalli?

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 10th September 2016, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 4:30 pm
Azamara Club Cruise ship
Azamara Club Cruise ship

I learned these pub quiz gems during my first ever cruise, a stay-and-sail trip through the glamorous Italian and French Riviera.

Developed by Kuoni in partnership with Azamara Club Cruises, the new five-day trip includes a one-night stay in Rome before embarking on a gentle sail to St Tropez and Portofino, stopping for the best part of a day at each port, so guests have a real chance to explore.

Think luxury accommodation, top-end restaurants and evening entertainment all in one place - but with a whole new scene at your doorstep every day.

As soon as I step into my gorgeous en-suite stateroom, I almost squeal with joy at the sunlight drenching my private balcony. But it’s the ship’s excellent restaurants that really send me into a head-spin.

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    I’m not much of a carnivore, but the juicy sirloin cooked to perfection and slathered in rich mushroom sauce on board the ship’s speciality steak restaurant Prime C is sublime.

    I don’t have long to explore the ship though, as we soon arrive at our first stop, Rome.

    Having never visited before, I can’t wait to start our evening tour. I fight the urge to get embarrassingly trigger happy with the camera as we drive past the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Piazza Venezia - impressive by day, but spectacular when lit-up at night like fairy-tale palaces.

    We stop for a three-course dinner in a backstreet restaurant, gorging on fresh pasta and creamy pannacotta. Our tour guide, Sofia, then whisks us through the city she describes as an “architectural lasagne”, starting at the magnificent Trevi Fountain and finishing in the bustling bohemian streets of Trastevere.

    When we reach the church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi, I’m glad I’ve already digested my dinner. Among the astonishing artefacts on display is a stomach-churning selection of 25 preserved Popes’ hearts.

    Back on board the ship, we spend a night partying to DJ Marcio’s tunes and trying our luck (responsibly, of course) at the casino.

    Our next stop is St Tropez, made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 film And God Created Woman. Today, it’s still a swanky holiday haven for the world’s rich and famous.

    As we only have an afternoon to explore, I opt for a boat tour. I’m so busy gawping at perfectly tanned families soaking up sun (and champagne bubbles) on super yachts that I almost miss a glimpse of Ms Bardot’s house.

    I have the chance to indulge my own A-lister fantasies at a super chic White Night party on the pool deck as we set sail again. We enjoy flowing wine and made-to-order Crepes Suzette, and go to bed as the lights of the French Riviera fade into the distance.

    When I wake up, I’m greeted with the luscious green hills of Liguria’s Portofino. With its palatial red and orange mansions dotted here and there, I can confirm the region is every bit as beautiful as Hemingway promised.

    We drive from the colourful beach of Santa Margherita to the town of Rapallo, as our guide points out the olive groves, which produce oil so precious, it is never exported beyond the region.

    After preparing a lunch of handmade ravioli swimming in a rich, herby sauce, chefs at a traditional hilltop restaurant show us how to make bread stuffed with creamy stracchino cheese. I even try my hand at making pesto from scratch.

    Our voyage comes to an end all too soon the following morning, but we still have time for a final stop at the Roman city of Ostia Antica. I hire a headset for eight euros, and wander through the extraordinarily preserved walls and columns of ancient buildings, imagining what life would have been like wearing a toga.

    Spending days at sea has never really appealed to me before, but with so much time spent on land, this trip has eased me gently into the world of cruising. Floating between destinations is actually a very pleasant way to see the world - along with my new-found factoids about Brigitte Bardot, that’s another gem I’ve gleamed from this holiday.