Peter Knego continues his voyage from Piraeus to Civitavecchia aboard Windstar Cruises newly refurbished, four masted staysail schooner WIND STAR with a day crossing the Ionian Sea and visits to the Italian ports of Messina and Lipari as well as a spectacular “sail-by” past the volcanic islet of Stromboli.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
It was nice to sleep in on our only sea day as WIND STAR crossed the Ionian on her way to Giardini Naxos on the eastern coast of Sicily. Our scheduled tour to Mount Etna had been cancelled due to heavy fog, so we anticipated challenging weather as the day progressed.
At 10:00 AM, Executive Chef Zomie hosted a galley tour for a small contingent of curious guests. For the variety and quality of the cuisine WIND STAR offers, the galley space is rather tight but obviously well-equipped.
Lunch in the Veranda was yet another delicious affair with Windstar’s fabulous salad bar, a wonderful assortment of marinated veggies, sandwiches-to-order, hot entrées, desserts and Chef Zomie’s pasta of the day, which provided an aromatic soundtrack of sizzling garlic in extra virgin olive oil and marsala wine.
WIND STAR’s gorgeous canopy of new sails was fully unfurled for all to enjoy as a wonderfully lazy day progressed.
From 3:30 to 4:30, the bowsprit was opened up for guests to pose “TITANIC-style”. I was thrilled to have the chance to dangle my cameras through the grating for some views of that lovely clipper bow piercing the sea.
Dinner in the Amphora began with a superb insalata caprese.
A magical herb-roasted chicken, cous-cous and spinach main course was followed by a frosty rum raisin ice cream. Our lazy day transitioned into a lazy night, chatting with newfound friends under a brilliant band of stars and then heading down for a deep sleep as WIND STAR slowly made her way west.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
I was up rather early and surprised to see the Straits of Messina off our starboard bow. We were supposed to be anchoring at Giardini Naxos, a small town to the south of Taormina, which was clearly behind us. Before long, Captain Norman announced that WIND STAR cold not anchor as planned due to heavy swells and that the ship was proceeding onward to Messina, instead. Tour manager Gonzalo whipped up a presentation in the Lounge and offered some sightseeing tips to those of us not on a scheduled excursion.
This would be my first ever visit to Messina, a place that I had sailed past on several occasions and a variety of ships, from ACHILLE LAURO to DEUTSCHLAND, INSIGNIA, EMERALD PRINCESS and, most recently Oceania’s RIVIERA. WIND STAR passed under the gleaming Madonna del Porto statue and tied up at her berth just after noon.
After lunch, Rob and I hiked up to the Tempio del Christpo Re, originally built as a Norman Castle and later a royal residence and prison before becoming a tomb for Messina citizens who died in World War Two.
We took in the picture postcard view of criss-crossing ferries in the Strait, the shores of Calabria at the southern tip of the mainland and the sprawling town of approximately 250,000 at our feet.
The next stop on our self-guided tour was the Sanctuary of Montalto, the site of which dates from 1295.
The original structure was destroyed in the earthquake of 1908 and the present structure was designed by Valenti and Barbero in a neo-Romanesque style and built in 1930.
Perhaps the most famous monument in Messina is the Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1197 but heavily rebuilt over the centuries. The bell tower is almost 300 feet high and contains an animated clock.
In Piazza Duomo at the base of Messina Cathedral, there is the Fountain of Orion (by legend, the founder of Messina), which was erected by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli (one of Michelangelo’s co-workers).
While not as ornate and rich in culture as, say, Florence, Venice or Rome, friendly Messina has plenty to offer the wandering tourist. I was particularly struck by the bronze statue of Minerva (Goddess of Wisdom, etc.) and a quartet of her horses atop the municipal courthouse, dating from 1928.
We discovered a considerably appealing likeness of longtime Mount Etna resident Medusa, the serpent-headed nymph who turned all who looked upon her to stone.
We returned to WIND STAR in the late afternoon so I could make a quick visit to the machinery spaces.
Conditions permitting, Windstar provides engine room tours to inquiring guests if they first register at reception. A small group of us followed Bulgarian Chief Engineer Stanimir Nedelchev into the control room where he explained most of the “technicals” before we donned earplugs and entered the machinery space.
WIND STAR is powered by a trio of Wartsila diesels that drive a single screw, which, in combination with her sails, can drive the ship at a top speed of 15.8 knots.
Afterwards, we headed back ashore for a cappuccino at friendly Cafe Cavallino near the harbor entrance where the images for this blog were summarily uploaded.
All lit up, WIND STAR looked ravishing when we returned.
We raced to the dining room for another excellent meal that was capped off with a monumental chocolate soufflé. Soon, we were sailing past now-dormant Scylla and Charybdis, through the Straits of Messina and transiting from the Ionian to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
We arose shortly after 8:00 AM as WIND STAR was dropping anchor off Lipari’s Castello. Once again, our planned excursion (a boat tour of adjacent Volcano Island) was nixed, so we decided to just wander about and explore the little seaside town in the largest of the rugged Aeolian Islands.
What looked like mist on one of the adjacent mountains was, in fact, a fumarole (or steam vent). Lipari’s volcanic origins have made it one of the world’s largest obsidian and pumice sources.
We tendered ashore to the marina, which has a cobblestone square lined with stone-and-stucco-fronted shops and restaurants.
It was a short walk to the Castello, where we climbed a stepped street to the top.
From the courtyard, in the midst of visiting pigeons, cats and butterflies, there were lovely views of our ship and the marina.
On high, in the main cathedral, there were some impressive-if-oppressive frescoes of Biblical scenes, including a few featuring some rather shady dames.
Our favorite stop was a little shop offering local wines and delicacies such as capers, caper berries and olives.
Once back aboard, we savored a swim in the crisp blue waters off the WIND STAR’s marina and then I paid it forward for an extra serving of pasta in the Veranda with a romp on the elliptical.
WIND STAR hoisted anchor at 4:00 PM and sailed for Sorrento at 4:00 PM. Once Lipari was astern, Captain Norman announced that thanks to good wind conditions, we had time to divert course for a “sail-by” off Stromboli at sunset.
Fully rigged, WIND STAR must have looked absolutely splendid as she passed a myriad of rugged islands. The sun and a howling wind did their best to distract us but the sight of Stromboli growing ever larger was too beautiful to resist.
When we reached the north side of the volcano, puffs of steam were followed every few minutes by a geyser of magma that sprinkled like dying fireworks down its steep, blackened flanks.
Stromboli is one of the most awe-inspiring sights I have ever witnessed.
Fortunately, Stromboli is not known for violent eruptions like its distant cousins Vesuvius and Etna. Had WIND STAR not continued onward towards Sorrento, I would have probably stayed glued to the rail for the rest of the night.
End Of WIND STAR Trek, Part Three
More To Come…
Special thanks: Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Amanda Graham, Jeffrey Jack, Captain Chris Norman
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."