Posted on Monday, October 22, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego wraps up his voyage from Piraeus to Civitavecchia aboard Windstar Cruises newly refurbished, four masted staysail schooner WIND STAR with visits to picturesque Sorrento and Capri.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, October 19, 2012
The first thing I saw when I stepped onto the freshly scrubbed teak decking near the Veranda was the saddleback form of Mt. Vesuvius beckoning from its commanding position in the Bay Of Naples. Unlike last night’s Stromboli with its pressure-releasing, peaceful plumes, Vesuvius remains deceptively silent and majestic but waiting to wreak havoc once it erupts.
It was yet another perfect morning for an al fresco breakfast, warmed by the blazing morning sun and tempered by a gentle breeze. Backlit, the cliffs of Sorrento blended into the rugged landscape with its thick foliage and rows of villas punctuated by plumes of smoke from burning brush.
WIND STAR dropped anchor at 10:00 AM and proudly unfurled her dacron plumage to a trio of cruise ships that were also nestled underneath the cliffs.
Before long, I was off in a skiff, circling the ship for optimal views of the ship in such dreamlike conditions. Once the memory cards were satiated, the cameras were stowed and we headed back down to the marina for a plunge into the soothing-if-slightly-nippy Tyrrhenian.
Then it was back to the Veranda for some glorious pasta with homemade pesto sauce, various marinated appetizers and a slice of flaky, crispy blueberry pie a la mode.
Not much later, we were in a small van winding its way above the cliffs, on our way towards Naples and the flanks of Mt. Vesuvius for a visit to Herculaneum, one of three Roman cities destroyed by the catastrophic eruption of 79 AD.
Herculaneum is south of Naples in a neighborhood our guide Margherita described as poor and “highly unemployed”. Apparently, the traffic lights were not working because their copper wiring had been plundered.
Unlike the larger and more famous Pompeii, whose inhabitants were suffocated in ash before being consumed by lava, Herculaneum’s residents were hit by a pyroclastic mud flow that stewed them at an average temperature of 400 degrees.
While hot enough to extinguish all life, the mud flows actually preserved Herculaneum’s myriad villas, many of which contained frescoes, mosaics and items of archaeological significance.
We opted for a self-guided tour in order to get unencumbered photos but found the narrative and the order in which many of the ruins were numbered to be curious, at best. Nonetheless, we enjoyed meandering the streets of this small Roman town, much of which remains buried.
Pompeii has a far more spectacular setting but Herculaneum is where many of Rome’s ancient treasures can still be enjoyed.
When we returned to Sorrento, the other ships had departed. WIND STAR would remain the entire night, although tender service would stop at midnight.
We were back on board just as the gala deck barbeque was getting underway. Chef Zomie and his team pulled out all the stops under a canopy of sails, billowing signal flags and the twinkling lights of Sorrento. There was a veritable plateau of paella, a roast suckling pig, another great salad bar, steamed lobster, a barbeque, cakes and even a chocolate fondue.
Who knew that our shy-but-uber-efficient cabin steward Zillo could move like Jagger or that our friendly dining stewards could actually sing as well as serve up delicious meals. The party culminated a spirited line dance or two as guests, staff and crew alike joined in while we watched from the cloisters of aft Deck Five.
And on it went, well into the night, until WIND STAR finally made her wee hours crossing to nearby Capri.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Sometimes, “far niente” is the best option, especially when a wonderful cruise begins to wind itself down. In the week prior, we had experienced a procession of spectacular places and scenery, so today would be devoted to getting a little bit of work done in one of the best backdrops in the world: Capri.
We were tendered ashore by a local boat to Capri’s “grand marina” and settled in at L’Isola Sapori cafe with its rich cappuccini and equally potent wifi waves.
We returned to the ship just in time for one last splash in the Bay of Naples, before WIND STAR’s marina was hauled in to allow the ship a timely 1:00 PM departure for Civitavecchia.
An afternoon of writing, packing and, of course, eating ensued. None of the food we had on land in Italy during the week and even after disembarking could match Chef Zomie’s fresh garlic-wine-and-pomodoro-drenched spaghetti under a mini-mound of Reggiano Parmesan. Today, there was some tender chicken satay and peanut sauce to accompany it.
It was time to bid goodbye to some truly lovely faces. In all my cruises, it would be hard to find a receptionist as sweet, helpful and hard working as WIND STAR’s Lai.
Meanwhile, the staff would carry on with their duties, polishing up the ship for another group of lucky guests.
One more dramatic sunset, this time toasted with a small glass of Veuve Clicquot, among newfound friends by the pool.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
The best of my three wonderful Windstar Cruises had come to an end on a fine morning in Civitavecchia.
One relatively brief but poignant adventure lay ahead before I would make my way home.
End Of WIND STAR Trek
Special thanks: Belinda, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Amanda Graham, Jeffrey Jack, Captain Chris Norman