Imagine private access to the most fashionable ports in the Italian and French Rivieras. Envision elite access to the most exclusive events in the world like the Grand Prix of Monaco, olive oil tasting at the beautiful Belmond Splendido in Portofino, and sunbathing with the glitterati on the unspoiled beaches of St. Tropez. How many cruise ships can take you to these intimate ports? Zero. How do you really gain entrance to these intimate destinations? Well darling, only by yacht! What yacht did we choose? None other than Windstar Cruises.
Summers in the Mediterranean are unlike anything else in the world. The bright turquoise and deep blue waters shine bright like diamonds underneath the Riviera sun. We’ve visited the Mediterranean before and we’ve always admired the mega yachts hugging the coastlines of the Italian and French Riviera’s. This time, we didn’t have to admire from the shores. This summer, we were able to vacation on the Mediterranean the way we only dreamed of – via mega yacht. It was a week of beautiful coastlines, amazing adventures, and bespoke romance.
- Exclusive Access to Ports
“It felt like we had our own private yacht…We swam off the back in the morning then took the tender to town after lunch…”
You must be wondering, “did they hit the jackpot?” We absolutely won the vacation lottery when we found Windstar. Windstar is a small cruise line, specializing in intimate and upscale adventures. But this vacation was not just going to be a “cruise,” it was a yacht that could take us to one of our ultimate bucket list destinations, The Grand Prix of Monaco! Not only would it take us to the Grand Prix, but also it would take us to other chic destinations such as Portofino, Cinque Terre, and St. Tropez.
The experience was “180 degrees from ordinary.”
Cruises usually conjure the thoughts of overloaded cruise ships, old people, and being corralled like cattle for a week – basically the opposite of how we like to vacation. Cruise ships are about the actual ship – giant casinos, dozens of restaurants, and way too many people. Unfortunately, you end up spending more time on the actual ship and never fully immerse yourself in a destination. With Windstar, the experience was “180 degrees from ordinary.” It was as though we had chartered a private yacht in the Mediterranean with 200 soon to meet friends. We didn’t have to wait on lines, we didn’t have to spend hours tendering in, and we had almost a 1:1 ratio of patrons to staff! This was a 5-star mega yacht, ready to yacht us through the Mediterranean for a week.
Because Windstar is so small and intimate, we were able to experience these luxurious destinations in an authentic way. We weren’t in giant tour groups; we didn’t take buses everywhere we went. We were able to elegantly arrive in the chicest ports on the Mediterranean and attend the most exclusive event in all of Europe – The Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco!
There isn’t a bad room in the entire ship because each room is a suite! Each suite has a beautiful ocean view, queen-sized bed, bathroom with a full bathtub, and a living room! The higher tiered cabins have incredible decks that allow you to sip champagne while enjoying the Mediterranean breeze. The suites are even outfitted with luxurious L’Occitane products!
Each destination got better than the last. We started off in the historical city of Rome and then went to Portoferraio, where Napoleon Bonaparte had his summerhouse. After that, we cruised up to Portovenere and Cinque Terre, soaking in the sprinkling of multi-colored houses stacked upon the seaside cliffs. After Cinque Terre, we yachted to Portofino, a favorite destination of the rich and the famous. Following Portofino, we crossed over to St. Tropez, France, the epicenter for the rich & the famous. Our final stop on the cruise was in Monte Carlo, Monaco, the home of the Grand Prix. We enjoyed an overnight stay in Monaco and we were able to attend both days of the F1 races (more to come on this!)
Map courtesy of Windstar Cruises
All of the food on the Windstar is delicious and what makes it even more delicious is that it is all included! You’ll never have to worry about the bill and you’ll never stress about spending money on vacation. We were able to choose from two dining destinations – the main dining room, Amphora and Candles, the seaside steakhouse. If there was ever an evening (or perhaps a late night) that we wanted room service, we were able to order room service 24 hours a day. You know what that means? Chocolate cake in bed. Let me repeat…chocolate cake…in.bed. Need I say more?
On the seventh floor of the Windstar, they have their in-house spa. Open until 11 pm, you can indulge in massages, facials, and salon services. After many days spent strolling the cobblestone port streets, Scott and I indulged in deep-tissue massages. As we lay on the table, we enjoyed the soothing rocking of the yacht as our massage therapists rid us of any of the stress that our bodies stored from travel. We emerged refreshed, revitalized, and ready to take on the next port!
Windstar gave us exclusive access to the most incredible authentic tours in the most elite ports in the Mediterranean. Our favorite of course was the event to trump all events, The Grand Prix of Monaco. Windstar organized a private dinner at the famous Café Du Paris, right next to the Monte Carlo Casino. We enjoyed a multi-course meal including wine and champagne while overlooking the Casino. It was hard not to feel like we were in a Bond movie with the Bugati’s and Ferrari’s whizzing by as we toasted champagne. This wasn’t just some “tour,” it was an experience. We didn’t feel like tourists, we felt as though we belonged. We were one of the glitterati and it felt good.
Amazing view of Monaco before the race
During the days in Monte Carlo, we attended the Formula 1 race. On Saturday, we attended the qualifiers and on Sunday, we attended the final Grand Prix of Monaco race, where Formula 1 drivers race 78 laps around the streets of Monte Carlo. The largest yachts in the entire world flood the Monte Carlo harbor, all in hopes of viewing the most popular race in the entire world. Windstar sat us in grandstand K, known as the best seats at the entire race. We had a full view of the track as well as of the yachts in front of us. For the moments when the cars weren’t zipping by, it was perfect people watching territory. Attending the Grand Prix of Monaco was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. The rumble of the energy reverberates through your entire body. The sounds of the crowd excite your every sense. And the view of the hundreds of mega yachts is like nothing else in the world.
You can feel the cars as they race by
While Monte Carlo took the cake in terms of our favorite activities, Windstar did not disappoint in the other ports. They organized a private olive oil tasting at the famed Belmond Splendido in Portofino, a private boat tour of Cinque Terre, and kayaking and biking around Elba. There were also days when we wanted to enjoy a port on our own, which we were able to do. We weren’t bound to a certain itinerary on Windstar, forced into activities. We were allowed to do anything we wanted. Isn’t that what vacation is all about?
View from our seats in Grandstand K
There are a plethora of activities to indulge in on the Windstar, most of them focusing on the destination. For those wishing to stay on board, you have your pick of decadent activities!
Whirlpool – Head to the front of the boat to enjoy views of the Mediterranean while taking a dip in the whirlpool.
The Bars – There are a few bars on board and there’s always someone there ready to share a drink with you! At night, the indoor bar comes alive with music and dancing. The outdoor bar is open all day and night and promises the best views for sundowners.
Casino – Once we were out of port, it was time to hit the casino! We tried our hand at some blackjack (and lost), but had fun while doing it!
Overall, our experience on Windstar was completely 5-star. The small ship cruise felt like our own private yacht. We felt attended to, special, looked after, and most importantly – we had fun! If you’re looking for an active luxurious adventure, book a Windstar cruise! Pack your bags now!Shop Samsonite