Vitamin Sea: A SeaDream Come True
The company SeaDream provides its lucky passengers with the opportunity to enjoy yachting, not cruising, at its very best. (below: SeaDream lives up to its name!)
The French Riviera has been one of the world's most famous travel destinations for more than 100 years. Its popularity shows no signs of declining anytime soon. Unusual in that it appeals to and caters for both budget and luxury travellers, Nice is the largest city along the exceptionally beautiful south eastern coast of France. (below: Museum of Fine Arts, Nice).
As a real city with real inhabitants, as opposed to a place that exists solely for tourism, Nice offers the amenities expected in an urban location. The airport―itself already impressive as planes land on runways constructed on reclaimed land surrounded by the azure Mediterranean Sea―is a short and easy bus or taxi ride away from the city centre. Except for finding a hotel room during the weekend of the Grand Prix of Monaco, it seems everything is rather easy in Nice, including the easy-going lifestyle that makes sunny Provence such a special part of France.
(below: Nice's famous Promenade des Anglais).
Nice is home to several interesting attractions that add a significant cultural aspect to a place more widely regarded for its natural attributes. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée Masséna are both housed in grand villas of the Belle Époque; the former homes are as impressive as the artworks displayed within them.
The famous St Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Cathedral (above) draws many visitors curious to see the largest cathedral of its type in Western Europe. Displays in the Museum of Contemporary Art contrast with the traditional works found in the other venues and include many avant-garde and unusual items such as the garden of local art hero Yves Klein where his famous International Klein Blue is the colour of the stones covering the ground of this rooftop escape.
(above: Relax in the SeaDream Pool).
At the same time, Nice retains the air of a village true to its Provençal roots, especially in the Old Town where street signs are written in both French and Provençal. Vieux Nice is undoubtedly the most charming part of the city; meandering along its narrow lanes, the visitor finds shops for tourists, yes, but there are also shops for the locals who live in what is essentially still a residential neighbourhood.
(above: Monument in Calvi).
Butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers keep the ravioli shops and small hardware stores company. Also in the Old Town is the Palais Lascaris, a former aristocratic home that is now an impressive museum of musical instruments. Seductive and beautiful though the Queen of the Riviera may be, the recompense for leaving Nice behind is looking ahead to the luxury of a voyage on board SeaDream I, one of SeaDream Yacht Club's two identical yachts that take passengers to exciting destinations in Europe and the Caribbean.
SeaDream's Mediterranean cruises often feature Nice as a port embarkation or disembarkation on its itineraries. With a maximum of 112 passengers, the intimate ambience of SeaDream's yachts is worlds away from the floating cities obliging passengers to travel with 2000 strangers. The small size of the vessels also allows passengers to visit smaller, more exclusive destinations where megaships cannot go.
So popular is SeaDream's yachts' size that the vessels are often chartered for private use by corporations and wealthy families wanting to have a truly extraordinary yachting experience in total privacy.
In contrast to Nice's urbanity, Saint-Tropez seems more a small village. Often the first or last port of call when departing from or arriving in Nice on a SeaDream voyage, Saint-Tropez is the quintessential French coastal village; the pastel colours, sunny climate, pretty beaches and beautiful people are all here.
(below: Pastel-coloured facades, anyone? This Saint-Tropez Fromagerie delivers!)
Much as it does in the numerous towns and villages in this most attractive part of the
world, life in Saint-Tropez proceeds at a languid pace in a place where friendly locals strive to
maintain a true community atmosphere. Despite a name famous throughout the world, Saint- Tropez is unexpectedly shy about its global recognition. This may come as surprise to the
visitors who visit Saint-Tropez seeking a sybaritic holiday on the Mediterranean. Aside from the try-hards whose attire is held together by myriad designer labels displayed prominently head to toe on their clothing and accessories, visitors to Saint-Tropez are happy to discover a real town
beyond the touristy façade.
(below: Welcome to Saint-Tropez!)
Saint-Tropez's two principal attractions could not be more different. The fish market is located
in a covered passage lined with vendors selling the day's catch, curiously evocative of the livelihoods of the fishermen who follow in the wet footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers.
(above: Annonciade Museum, Saint-Tropez) A different aspect of French culture is apparent in the Annonciade Museum, located in a
deconsecrated chapel right at the scenic port. L'Annonciade may look like an insignificant, smalltown cultural centre, but in France the size of a museum often belies the quality of its contents. So it is in L'Annonciade, where on display are priceless works by famous French painters as well as a highly regarded ceramic collection by Pablo Picasso.
One of the pleasures of small-ship sailing is visiting smaller ports such as Saint-Tropez which behemoth vessels (thankfully) cannot access easily. SeaDream yachts are the perfect option for yachting rather than cruising to wend a way down less trodden paths or even create a brand new path to destinations previously unknown. The excitement of discovery is very much part of the SeaDream experience, though passengers also get excited about what they find on board SeaDream I and SeaDream II, the two vessels currently maintained by this exclusive company catering to refined travellers.
The spacious staterooms and suites, (above) complete with full-size showers, are on par with many a deluxe European hotel room. The food served on SeaDream yachts is superb; the highly experienced executive chefs are masters at creating interesting menus related to the places visited, using the freshest of local ingredients loaded at ports of call along the itinerary, making the onboard culinary experiences among the most pleasing aspect of a SeaDream voyage. Attentive servers remember guests' favourites and of course adjustments to the menu are made to accommodate specific dietary needs.
One of the pleasures of a SeaDream visit to Saint-Tropez is the private wine-tasting experience on a small square during market day. Anyone passing by La Cave du Golfe wine shop on picturesque Place des Herbes during one of these landside moments could easily mistake the excursion as a private party of friends. That is the SeaDream way. (below: Golfe de la Revellata, Corsica).
Some Mediterranean itineraries include the alluring island of Corsica. Although recognised as a
beautiful destination with a unique culture, and well known to French travellers, Corsica remains relatively unvisited by travellers from other continents. They are missing out on a lot. As were other islands of the Mediterranean, Corsica was considered back in the day to be of high strategic importance for seafaring nations and their trade routes. The result on this jockeying for position is still visible on Corsica today. The coastal towns and hilltop fortresses are among the most picturesque sights on the island. Those of Calvi in the north and Bonifacio in the south are among the most outstanding examples. (below: Bonifacio, Corsica).
Calvi, on the north-western coast of Corsica, is the city closest to mainland France, embracing
the same casual lifestyle found on the Côte d'Azur across the water. Cafés, boutiques, markets and festivals all play their roles in the daily life of the Corsican people, who refuse to surrender their culture to mass tourism.
Calvi's stunning location on a curved bay flanked by a fortress at either end, backed by snowcapped mountains, is one of the most impressive in the entire Mediterranean region. Yes, there is snow on Corsica; there is even skiing in winter. In fact, the island's varied terrain is ideal for all sorts of outdoor pursuits. The French Foreign Legion thinks so, too; Calvi is the location of the Legion's 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, whose members can often be seen dropping from the sky above the bay (below).
Bonifacio, at the far southern tip of the island, occupies an even more dramatic setting. Built on
cliffs high above the water on the very edge of a promontory that provides panoramas of both a sheltered bay and open sea, the city is one of the gems of the Mediterranean. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Italian island of Sardinia across the strait that separates the two islands.
A dizzying descent from the clifftop to the edge of the emerald and turquoise waters along The King Of Aragon Staircase is an unforgettable highlight of any visit to Bonifacio. (below: View from The King Of Aragon Staircase).
Many of SeaDream's Mediterranean itineraries include Italy, a country with seemingly infinite places to visit. Although Italy is one of Europe's―and the world's―most popular travel destinations, SeaDream manages to turn a visit here into an intimate experience different from the expected. Especially in summer, it can be a challenge for visitors to find 'the real Italy' and keep it for themselves. SeaDream, though, takes its passengers to places off the radar of other cruise companies. This means where SeaDream goes, there are no hordes of tourists descending on small towns, packing cafés, or swarming over the streets until it's time to go back to the ship.
In the town of Port Ercole, on the Tuscan coast, a complimentary bicycle ride to the neighbouring seaside village of Porto Santo Stefano was a highlight of the recent cruise taken from Nice to Civitavecchia. Riding almost the whole way on dedicated bike paths, enthusiastic riders of all athletic abilities were rewarded upon arrival at the destination with a quintessentially Italian experience, enjoying a gelato, a beer, or a glass of wine while sitting next to the Mediterranean, taking in the view and the breeze before starting the return journey.
The shops, bars, cafés, and restaurants in Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano are geared to a slower pace of life, the one for which Italy is justly famous and the one that visitors clamour to
experience, if only for a short period of time before returning to their hectic lives back home. In a sector of the travel industry that sees relentless competition, SeaDream appeals to a specific segment of the cruise market that seeks to explore the world in refined style.
Enjoying their spacious cabins and the exceptional cuisine on board, SeaDream passengers can have a perfectly rewarding holiday without ever leaving the ship. The exceptionally superb staff are impeccably trained and perfectly balance their interactions with just the right amount of familiar friendliness and polished professionalism. The ports of call, carefully selected to appeal to sophisticated travellers, are the added bonuses to the yachting experience. SeaDream yachts are also available for private charter, which of course means that customised itineraries can incorporate any itinerary desired by the client. (below: SeaDream I and II).
SeaDream's current European, Caribbean, and trans-Atlantic itineraries will eventually be
complemented by voyages to other parts of the world thanks to the addition of SeaDream Innovation, a new ship that will take the SeaDream luxury yachting experience across the globe starting in September 2021. It's not too early to start SeaDreaming of a holiday on board this splendid new vessel. seadream.com