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The thrill of a showstopping traditional clipper cruise around the good sights of the Mediterranean

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Speak about making a trendy entrance. With sails billowing within the buffeting breeze, our tall ship Star Clipper sashays like a supermodel on its approach to the glitzy Riviera playground of Monte Carlo.

As we sweep into the marina, I’m mesmerised by Monaco’s mountainous backdrop soaring above the Monte Carlo skyline of uber-modern apartment blocks and statuesque Belle Epoque buildings.

Yet as I watch a clutch of futuristic gin palaces gliding past within the marina, I can’t help feeling superior. They’re mere pretenders when put next to the authentic variety of our elegant barquentine.

Sara Macefield boards the tall ship Star Clipper (above) – an ‘elegant barquentine’ – in Monaco for a cruise of the Mediterranean 

Above is Monte Carlo casino. In the city's harbour, Sara spies 'a clutch of futuristic gin palaces gliding past in the marina'

Above is Monte Carlo casino. In town’s harbour, Sara spies ‘a clutch of futuristic gin palaces gliding past within the marina’

As Star Clipper sets sail, Sara is 'mesmerised by Monaco’s mountainous backdrop soaring above the Monte Carlo skyline (pictured) of uber-modern apartment blocks and statuesque Belle Epoque buildings'

As Star Clipper sets sail, Sara is ‘mesmerised by Monaco’s mountainous backdrop soaring above the Monte Carlo skyline (pictured) of uber-modern apartment blocks and statuesque Belle Epoque buildings’

Star Clipper is as far faraway from a standard cruise experience as you may get; reliving sailing’s golden age with ropes snaking across teak decks and stretching into rigging resembling a colossal cat’s cradle, or just coiled up like giant cobras.

Each departure is an experience to behold as crew members swarm between masts, nimbly heaving ropes around winches that whine and groan with the trouble of unfurling vast sails to the stirring notes of Vangelis’s Conquest of Paradise, which plays on every sailaway.

Early mornings are one other highlight during this Mediterranean sojourn along the French Riviera to Corsica after I’m often the just one treading the freshly-hosed decks. That is prime time for dolphin and porpoise-spotting and my husband, Geoff, strikes lucky when a pod of porpoises appears, diving and twisting with abandon within the ship’s prow wave.

'Each departure is an experience to behold as crew members swarm between masts, nimbly heaving ropes around winches that whine and groan with the effort of unfurling vast sails,' says Sara

‘Each departure is an experience to behold as crew members swarm between masts, nimbly heaving ropes around winches that whine and groan with the trouble of unfurling vast sails,’ says Sara 

I’m dismayed to miss such marine acrobatics, but am engaged by myself voyage of discovery. With yoga classes hosted by an enthralling instructor, I try her pre‑breakfast sessions on deck. I’m the one beginner and do my best to master the seemingly inconceivable positions. But the heat of the sun, irresistible lapping of waves and mild flapping of sails make this essentially the most evocative of experiences.

Unfortunately, our twin teenage daughters don’t share this enthusiasm for early rising. But once they’re (finally) up, they relish ship life, with Holly and I climbing the rope ladder up the mast to the crow’s nest 65ft up, and Dani perfecting selfie poses across the deck in between chilling by considered one of the 2 small pools.

Admittedly, this isn’t a cruise suited to the very young, the elderly (most of our fellow guests are of their 60s) or anyone with mobility issues because of steep stairways and deck areas cluttered with ropes and pulleys. Yet children aged from eight upwards, and ideally teens, will relish the sensation of adventure even when capricious coastal breezes mean sails are swapped for engine power.

One of the ship's cabins. Despite enjoying the scenery along the way, Sara describes the tall ship as the 'real showstopper' of her voyage

Considered one of the ship’s cabins. Despite having fun with the scenery along the best way, Sara describes the tall ship because the ‘real showstopper’ of her voyage 

Wood and brass interiors extend through the public areas of the tall ship

Wood and brass interiors extend through the general public areas of the tall ship 

Sara reveals that because of the ship's petite size, it can moor in the centre of small, atmospheric ports off-limits to larger ships. Pictured above is the ship's library

Sara reveals that due to ship’s petite size, it might probably moor within the centre of small, atmospheric ports off-limits to larger ships. Pictured above is the ship’s library

Lying within the bowsprit nets on the prow, just above the waves, becomes considered one of our favourite pastimes, and one evening we’re rewarded with perfect views of a shoal of giant yellow-fin tuna coursing through the inky depths beneath us.

Star Clipper — considered one of three tall ships belonging to family-owned and Monaco-based boutique line Star Clippers, established by Swedish entrepreneur Mikael Krafft — holds around 170 guests, though our sailing is lower than half full, with a combination of mainly British, Australian and American passengers plus a smattering of Germans and French.

Such a comfy international mix contributes to the house-party ambience and relaxed vibe that’s centred across the Tropical Bar, the ship’s de facto social hub where party nights brighten up evenings.

Ship life is comfortable in a sensible nautical way, with wood and brass interiors extending through the general public areas and into our cabin with its small porthole and bijou ensuite.

According to Sara, the dining room, pictured above, is 'light and airy' and meal times are a 'treat'

In keeping with Sara, the dining room, pictured above, is ‘light and airy’ and meal times are a ‘treat’

Pictured is the Tropical Bar, which Sara reveals is the 'ship’s de facto social hub where party nights liven up evenings'

Pictured is the Tropical Bar, which Sara reveals is the ‘ship’s de facto social hub where party nights brighten up evenings’

Star Clipper is one of three tall ships belonging to family-owned and Monaco-based boutique line Star Clippers

Star Clipper is considered one of three tall ships belonging to family-owned and Monaco-based boutique line Star Clippers 

The dining room is light and airy and meal times are a treat with delicious buffet lunches, sometimes Italian or Asian-themed, and substantial five-course dinners where we feast on steak, lobster and fresh fish.

Better of all, the square rigger’s petite size means we are able to moor within the centre of small, atmospheric ports off-limits to larger ships, making it easy to explore under our own steam.

Corsica meets our requirements for rustic charm and rugged scenery overlaid with Gallic influences and the enduring spirit of Napoleon, whose family hailed from here. Within the capital, Ajaccio, its streets lined with chic boutiques and cafes, we visit the Bonaparte family home.

Sara enjoys 'glorious views' in historic Portoferraio (pictured) on the island of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled in 1814

Sara enjoys ‘glorious views’ in historic Portoferraio (pictured) on the island of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled in 1814 

Above is the medieval Corsican town of Bonifacio, one of Sara's favourite stops on the voyage. She says that its 'smart marina and chi chi restaurants are a fitting foil to the winding streets of the old town and its 9th-century citadel'

Above is the medieval Corsican town of Bonifacio, considered one of Sara’s favourite stops on the voyage. She says that its ‘smart marina and chi chi restaurants are a fitting foil to the winding streets of the old town and its Ninth-century citadel’

One other stop takes us to Portoferraio in Elba, where Napoleon was exiled in 1814, splitting his time between two residences (now museums), before giving his British overseers the slip and fleeing after lower than a yr. 

Such a combination of history and glorious views make this considered one of our favourite stops, together with the medieval Corsican town of Bonifacio, whose smart marina and chi chi restaurants are a fitting foil to the winding streets of the old town and its Ninth-century citadel.

Yet, beguiling as these ports are, they’ll’t compete with Star Clipper, which proves to be the actual showstopper of this voyage.

TRAVEL FACTS

Star Clippers (starclippers.co.uk) offers a seven-night sailing from Cannes to Civitavecchia (Rome), including calls at Monaco, several points in Corsica and Elba, departing May 13, 2023. From £2,039pp, including flights.

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