Valerie Wilson has always spoken highly of Seabourn. Her continuous praise of the cruise line’s intimate atmosphere and exceptional service has put a trip with Seabourn high on my bucket list – because if she loves it, I know I will. Early October, my husband had a milestone birthday and we celebrated by joining Seabourn Ovation for seven days journeying from Barcelona to Rome. Because of my love for small hard-to-reach villages and being active and embracing the outdoors, the Mediterranean is an ideal location. What Seabourn does well is put the destination at the center – and that coupled with long days on land and perfect weather this time of year made for a vacation tailor-made for us.
I loved everything about Seabourn Ovation – it truly felt like a floating luxury hotel. The ship made its first cruise in May of 2018, and while it holds 600 passengers, felt like the perfect size. Not too crowded, not too loud, but elegant in every way. While I wouldn’t necessarily say this ship is for those who go on a cruise primarily for entertainment, there is still a lot to do. There is a huge spa and fitness facility with workout classes as well as two pools, a handful of sun decks, and a lot of areas perfect for quiet time. The ship has informational lectures, a library and nightly shows that are a lot of fun. Of course, the dining was incredible with just a few highlights being The Grill by Thomas Keller and my favorite, Sushi (yes, that is the name!) Every stop was full of adventure, and I wanted to share below what our days off-ship were like so that you can look forward to your own journey on Seabourn Ovation.
After deciding to stay on board during the first stop in the city of Palamos to check out the stunning spa, we were ready to take on a lot in Sete! Sete is the Venice of Languedoc, crisscrossed with canals and stunning cityscapes seen from the sea. We took a “barge” trip through Canal du Midi to fully take in the Waterways of Languedoc on our way to Nice.
The village of Nice has truly come alive. The cobblestone streets are full of cool restaurants with great proximity to the beach and a plethora of luxury hotels. We strolled the city visiting art galleries and speaking to local artists.
Only thirty-five minutes from Nice is one of my favorite hilltop villages, Saint Paul de Vence. The city is often dubbed the ‘second most beautiful city in all of France’ given its panoramic views, winding alleyways and charming old-stone cottages. If you are in the area, you must stop for a stroll.
Toulon is a port city located on the Mediterranean coast of France, West of Cannes and East of Marseille – away from the hustle and bustle of nearby, more touristy towns. The city is known as one of the top naval ports in France full of picturesque beaches, traditional French cafes, and a laidback lifestyle. Drawn to the outdoors, we visited Parc des Calanques known for its pebble and fine sandy beaches, miniature fjords with turquoise waters and breathtaking cliffs. The humble fishing village of Cassis is on the way back from the park, perfect for taking in the region’s past times and discovering seafront hideaways. We also had an amazing experience with a local fisherman who took us in his fishing boat on an inlet tour of every nook and cranny of the coast. This felt very local and different than your typical excursion – I would love to share the details if you are planning a trip!
I fell in love with Corsica fifteen years ago and fell in love again with Seabourn. The Mediterranean Island is smaller than the state of Connecticut, and consists of snow-capped mountains, deep gorges, pine forests, ancient hamlets, and stunning beaches. The island is commonly called a hiker’s paradise, so this stop was right up our alley. A coach dropped us off at Parata Point, the site of a Genoese watchtower. From there, we followed a path that led to a ledge that overlooked the Sanguinaires Islands with access to the beaches of Capo di Feno, famous for its surfing and turquoise waters. We spent two and a half hours on the beach before heading back to the city. Ajaccio, in Corsica, is a beautiful French town that is home to Napoleon Bonaparte. I recommend strolling the city that raised him, visiting the House of Bonaparte, seeing the Citadel and Cathedral, and taking in the charming, red-tiled roofs.
Livorno is a port city that sits on the western coast of Italy – Tuscany’s third largest city. The famous German poet, Goethe, once observed while being a tourist himself, that the city looks as Italy should. When docking, Florence, Pisa, Sienna, and San Gimignano (just to name a few iconic places) are all easily accessible for day trips. We decided to take an hour and a half drive along with a ferry to Cinque Terre (the five towns) and the charming sea village of Portovenere, on what is known as the Gulf of Poets. The small authentic towns are built into the mountains and feel far from tourists. This set of sites is perfect for people who like to be active as the cities, with a similar feel to Amalfi, are best explored on foot with an explorative spirit.
Perfetto Traveler, our destination-management company, made our time in Rome beyond fabulous. We started the day with a private guided tour of the Vatican Museums’ vast collection of frescoes, statues, and masterpieces, ending with a tour to the Sistine Chapel – the official residence of the pope. The icing on the cake was when our guide took just me on a private walk through the Vatican’s Gardens. There were nearly forty acres of manicured lawns, rose gardens and incredible views of the city arm’s length from the residence of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Other than being able to skip right over extremely long lines, a DMC like Perfetto Traveler gives you access to certain parts of the city you simply cannot miss.
Our trip continued to St. Peter’s Basilica where a tour guide gave us front row seat to pieces like Michelangelo’s Pietà and the Baldacchino before eating lunch at a local restaurant away from the crowds. After lunch, we did a three-hour golf-cart tour of the city which was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done. From what I observed, this is the new thing to do in Rome. Larger than a scooter and smaller than a car, a golf-cart is the perfect size for going where a van can’t in the most comfortable way possible. This tour was a perfect see-all of the city. Beginning at the Spanish steps, you will pass by iconic sights like the Borghese gardens, the Pantheon, Piazza Colonna, the Trevi Fountain, and many more. I cannot recommend this enough for someone exploring the city for the first time.