Cruise Log: Portovenere, Italy
Our regular bloggers, Simon & Susan Veness, are taking a week’s cruise on Windstar Cruises’ unique Wind Surf – and reporting back exclusively for The Cruise Line on a daily basis on the whole experience. This is Day Three of the trip…
Is there ever such a thing as a truly perfect day on a cruise? You know: absolutely idyllic conditions, a wonderful port of call to explore, and then the utterly indulgent setting of returning to your ship, followed by a totally memorable meal.
Perfection, as such, may not exist, but we certainly came close on Day Three of our Wind Surf adventure, another day in Italy enjoying a rare destination in gorgeous weather and with the perfect backdrop of blue seas and a glistening white Windstar Cruises vessel at anchor.
We are already completely in love with many aspects of this unique ship, from the computer-controlled sails that unfurl to the sound of Vangelis every time we leave port, to the lovely grown-up retreat of the Yacht Club, where speciality coffees and teas are always on offer, along with tempting little sandwiches, pastries and desserts.
This latter has quickly become our go-to for breakfast, especially as we had to be up and out by 7.30 this morning for our shore excursion!
Actually, ‘shore’ excursion is something of a misnomer, as we tendered in to the harbour of Portovenere – another delicious one-off port of call on the Ligurian coast – where we were quickly directed to a waiting boat for a coastal voyage with a difference.
One-off barely even begins to describe it (but it also serves to highlight how – with a ship as small as Wind Surf – it is possible to get away from the cruise mainstream and discover these absolute gems). Set against the backdrop of towering granite and marble cliffs are five of the most astounding and historic villages you are ever likely to see, and the approach from sea is utterly thrilling.
They are called the Cinque Terre, or Five Lands, and these precipitously-poised pieces of human ingenuity date back around 1,000 years to early Medieval times, when the locals sought to make themselves as secure as possible against the raids of pirates and other ne’er-do-wells who sought to plunder the hapless coastal settlements hereabouts.
Just to start with, each of the five look like they have been organically engineered to be as unapproachable as possible, levered into the nooks and crannies of the cliffs so as to be partly invisible and wholly defensible against seaborne marauders. Land-based ones would find it even more implausible.
Our chartered excursion boat took us alongside each of the first three in turn, highlighting just how unfeasibly perfect they are in their unlikely setting, and then took us in to the narrow man-made harbor of the fourth, Vernazza, which looks as if it could be the setting for a new Lord of the Rings movie, if Middle Earth was ever given a thoroughly Medieval makeover.
We also called in at Monterusso, the fifth of the Cinque Terre (which, collectively, is officially a UNESCO World Heritage site sprawled along the massive cliffs), getting another close-up perspective of these unexpected marvels before returning to Portovenere for a thoroughly enjoyable lunch featuring the local focaccia bread, wine and caprese.
Sitting on the harbourfront with a glass or two of Vermentino, watching the comings and goings of various tour boats while our vivid white quintessence of cruise distinction lay lazily at anchor out in the bay, we were both struck with that sense of timeless wonder that good travel experience engenders.
True, it may have been the glow of the local vino, but this had definitely become a day set in rose-coloured glasses that had nothing to do with any beverage, and everything to do with picking exactly the right vessel, on the right itinerary at the right time of year.
Tomorrow we will be in yet another bastion of Italian cruise splendour, Portofino, but already we are of the mind that we may not want this voyage to end. Either that, or we may well have to stow away for at least another week or two…
Simon & Susan