Everyone knows what Italy has to offer, or do they, what of her sun soaked islands resting in clear blue waters off the Tuscany coast. A little over 2 hours from London has you landing at Alghero in the beautiful north west region of Sardinia. Its dark with torrential rain as we board our Trumpy Tours minibus to Hotel Catalunya in the town.
Unpacked and clothes changed its time to sample Sardinia’s famous cuisine, seafood. The family owned Restorante Jo’Pier, situated on the palm lined esplanade overlooking the small harbour where street lights reflect in the calm water is one such restaurant. Soft, fresh baked bread, crisp pani carasau, varieties of Salami, Hams, Cheese and Olives, followed by fresh Squid in vegetables, Octopus mixed with sweet potato, fish in tasty sauces, crisp topped Mussels, Crab, Langoustines, Rice and more, washed down by delightful choices of red or white wine. If you have room, which is doubtful, deserts and coffee will follow.
Back to the hotel and sleep, its been a long day. Next morning, the rain has gone, replaced by a clear blue sky and a sun that is pushing the mercury up towards the high teens. Breakfast in the hotels 9th floor Sky Bar affords breath taking vistas across the harbour, fishing boats bobbing gently in the water, a sea where the sun dances on small wave crests, out across the bay to the hills beyond.
All packed its back aboard Trumpy Tours minibus as we head across the Sardinian countryside, passing small farms, cottages, ploughed fields, so peaceful and tranquil it’s hard to imagine in time gone by this and other Mediterranean Islands was home to the now extinct Dwarf Elephant, trumpeting their way across the landscape. Porto Torres beckons where Saga’s latest luxury, all balcony, boutique ship awaits.
Named in July 2019 by the Duchess of Cornwall, Spirit of Discovery marks a new era in cruise ships for SAGA. Weighing in at a little under 60,000 gt. and carrying under 1,000 passengers makes for a very spacious ship.
Ensconced in cabin B040 on deck 10, a standard twin, boasts an area of 220 sq. ft. Large double bed, bedside lights incorporating USB ports, small spot reading lights, dressing table fronted by illuminated mirror, 2 comfortable chairs, large flat screen tv, hairdryer, binoculars, tea making facilities, clothes brush, shoe horn, dressing gown, slippers, cold cabinet, safe, the list is endless and plug sockets of British style 3 pin so goodbye adapters. Sliding doors conceal large wardrobes, add to these numerous drawers and you have enough room to swallow clothing for a long voyage. A glass sliding door gives access to the glass fronted balcony ensuring the perfect view from comfortable wicker style chairs, even a matching table to rest drinks on. The well designed bathroom adorned with large bottles of quality shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturiser, cleansing hand wash, tablets of soap, glass shower cubicle, large soft towels, tissues, razor/hair dryer point, discreetly placed handles to assist the less able, the toilet even sports a soft closing seat and lid.
Public areas scream luxury, comfortable chairs and settees, tastefully co-ordinated décor, pastel shades abound. Something that passengers will welcome is the Library, an area of well stocked book cases interspersed with comfortable chairs plus an area to obtain fresh coffee and cakes that are replenished throughout the day. The Living Room, an ideal venue for coffee or drinks with friends depending on the time of day or Cape Bar, an elegant venue the width of the ship.
Britannia Lounge, dance the night away whilst during the day, relax with a drink taking in the expansive view afforded by floor to ceiling glass. The Lido, bar, swimming pool, sun bathing area, comfortable loungers, a stage from where musicians can perform in warm climates, even an ice cream machine with a choice of original or gluten free cones.
The Grill, a buffet area where at any meal time there’s a choice of fruit, salads, meats, fish, carved joints, breads, deserts, ice cream and much, much more, certainly sufficient to satisfy the most discerning stomach. The Grand Dining Room on Main Deck is waiter service with the exception of breakfast but even then, you only collect the fruit, cereal etc. and then order your main breakfast from the waiting staff. Three speciality restaurants, Club by Jools the home of mouth watering steaks, start with one of the largest shrimp cocktails anywhere, move onto a Tomahawk for two or the traditional New York Striploin, Filet, Sirloin or Rack of Lamb. Vegetarians are also catered for. Coast to Coast for succulent seafood, starters of Arctic Tuna, grilled Atlantic Scallops or try the hotpot of Prawns and Mussels. Follow this with choices such as Fish and Chips, Lobster Thermidor, a Seafood Plater, Dover Sole and others, seafood at its best and of course a wonderful selection of deserts.
Now my personal favourite, East to West, starters from Japan, Goa and China, mains of asian style Surf and Turf, marinated roast Peking Duck, Himalayan spiced marinated Loin of Lamb, spicy flavours from the Orient, delights to set the taste buds dancing. Deserts such as Chocolate and Chilli tart with Lychee and Jasmine ice cream.
All restaurants offer a selection of cheese, 10 varieties, a meal in itself and a choice of Red, White or Rosé wines.
To be rid of the pounds unavoidably gained visit the gymnasium, sauna, steam room, spa, hydrotherapy pool or golf nets to lose them. For the evening, The Playhouse, the ships large comfortable theatre offers shows, cabaret and other quality entertainment.
Next port, Piombino on the Italian mainland, embark the ferry to Isla de Elba, one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean. Just 18 miles in length and 11 miles wide overflowing with picturesque scenery, golden sand beaches others of stone, green rolling pine clad hills, rich valleys, streams meandering past small villages and farms, the small palm lined resorts of Marino di Campo and Porto Azzurro the fishing village of Marciana with welcoming restaurants, bars and cafes.
Our final port, Civitavecchia, the port for Rome that’s just over an hour away by coach. Join the ships ‘Vatican Behind the Scenes’ tour. Enter Vatican City defended by the Papal Swiss Guard in their uniforms dating back centuries, visit the Vatican Museum, walk and explore the Popes Gardens, admire the work of Michaelangelo in the beautiful Sistine Chapel. Explore St Peters Basilica, the largest basilica/church in the world, gaze in awe at the vast interior and the exquisite ceiling, its statues, the tomb of St. Peter together with tombs of many Popes, side chapels and a main alter that takes your breath away such is the beauty. After all this it’s time to relax, travel the short distance to Peoples Square, sit with a cup of well deserved coffee, take in the atmosphere and scenes before boarding the coach for the journey back along the motorway to the ship.
Spirit of Discovery operates truly ‘all inclusive’ cruises, the price includes transport from your home to the port or airport of departure and return, insurance, gratuities, drinks, wi-fi and speciality restaurants. Built for the 50 plus market, it certainly succeeds. Alan was a guest of Saga Cruises.
For further information:
Alan Fairfax -
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for
Atlantic Print Media with regional papers across Kent with high circulations and regular holiday & travel sections
in all editions
and is Assistant Editor for
Your Holiday & Cruise Magazine
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Published January 2020