Small ships like Windstar Star Pride reach hidden gems

Update: June 20, 2016: The Star Pride gets $4.5 million makeover. Read more in Breaking News
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Windstar Cruises’ new Star Pride ship features so much marble on board – from marble bathrooms in every cabin to marble floors in the foyers – it’s a wonder that the ship can float.

The polished stone combined with crystal chandeliers, brass railings, teak deck furniture and all-suite cabins with bathtubs, walk-in closets and silky bedding, are enough to make you want to stay on board and skip the fabulous Mediterranean ports that it visits.

The 212-passenger ship is one of three that Windstar recently purchased from Seabourn, a six-star cruise line. The Star Pride only needed some freshening up to make it even more fabulous. It now offers passengers the opportunity to enjoy six-star surroundings at Windstar’s four-star affordable prices.

With so few passengers, Windstar’s super-attentive crew can spoil guests. The line just hired Canadian Michael Sabourin as their corporate executive chef. Sabourin, from Montreal, is well-known for his sumptious menus for Royal Caribbean and Sandals resorts.

With this small ship, Windstar can also reach the hidden gems of the Mediterranean between Barcelona and Rome that the big ships can’t access. The unique ports are less crowded when you go ashore – making the experience even more enjoyable since you’ll be the only tourists in town.

For the Star Pride’s inaugural Mediterranean season, Windstar chose lesser-known ports in France such as Sete and Sanary, as well as Portoferraio on the island of Elba in Italy. These gems are sprinkled among popular ports such as the celebrity haunts of Portofino and Monte Carlo.

Sanary is a French fishing village that’s considered the sunniest place in France since it gets less than 60 days of rain per year. The charming harbour is lined with palm trees and pastel-painted houses. It’s a permanent home to about 100 heritage boats dating back to 1895, giving it authenticity that some French towns have lost with increased tourism.

Sete is a large fishing port and because it sits between the Mediterranean and the saltwater Thau Lagoon, it’s known for its oyster and mussel fields. The town is criss-crossed by canals and bridges and some of the finest beaches in France are found along the coast that separates the lagoon from the sea.

Portoferraio, Italy, on the island of Elba, is a delightful surprise. It’s where Napoleon was exiled 200 years ago. The harbour is charming and an ideal spot to enjoy a heaping dish of gelato. You’ll have no problem working off the calories if you walk the steep cobblestone streets to the San Giacomo fort. You’ll also be rewarded with gorgeous views of the emerald waters below.

Portofino is famous for its tiny harbour of brightly painted fishing boats and narrow, pastel-painted buildings. The village was the celebrity getaway for Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and other celebs.

Walk the steep pathway to the famous 16th century Brown Castle for its views of the harbour. You’ll also see the Villa Olivetta mansion owned by the Dolce and Gabbana family, and where Madonna celebrated her 51st birthday.

Monte Carlo is a town teeming with the toys of the rich and famous – Lamborghinis and Ferraris slink along the streets and multi-million dollar yachts bob in the harbour.

With stores such as Chanel and Dior, window-shopping has wow-factor with $100,000 watches and more. The casino is a highlight for its stunning architectural details, paintings and chandeliers that hang above the card tables.

Tour the Prince’s Palace for its 15th century frescos and Louis the XVth décor. You an also visit the Cathedral of Monaco where Prince Ranier III and Princess Grace were married.

Nearby is the Oceanographic Museum, made famous by Jacques Cousteau. There are about 90 tanks of sea creatures to excite the underwater enthusiast.

After exploring the museum, you will be inspired to go for a swim back at the ship. From the drop-down marina platform, you can swim, take a banana boat ride, kayak or waterski around the ship – which makes the Star Pride feel even more like your own personal mega-yacht, than a cruise ship.

For more information visit Windstar.com.

Published March 2013

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