The Western Med rocks for Joanna Gilpin from Oasis Travel Holywood who recently blended a Silversea Cruise with a taste of Majorca, courtesy of Classic Collection.
A short and easy (two and a half hour) flight by Aer Lingus from Dublin into Nice, followed by a short road transfer and there I was, in the resort which virtually invented The Beautiful People!
There may be better ways to start your short break than strolling up the gangway of a luxury cruise liner in Monte Carlo but, just at the moment, I really can’t think of any. My welcome on board the fabulous Silver Spirit – complete with champagne of course! - set the tone and style for a glorious four night stay with Silversea, the cruise line whose name has become synonymous with chic.
As the bubbly flowed and guests mingled, we lounged around the top deck and chatted, taking in the stunning views of Monte Carol which surrounded us. From my stylish perch I didn’t even feel jealous of those in the multi million pound private yachts which line the harbour!
Silversea Cruises is a privately owned luxury cruise line with its headquarters in nearby Monaco. Founded in 1994, it pioneered all-inclusive cruising with its first ship, Silver Cloud and the company continues to be a leader in luxury. The Silver Spirit offers a range of suites for 540 passengers, with 376 crew to look after their every need … the high ratio of staff to guest is an indication of the service standards which apply on board. As you would expect on board this intimately sized luxury ship, the delight is in the detail; from Butler Service, to the personalised stationery and Bvlgari bath amenities in your cabin, perfection is clearly the order of the day.
Silversea is, famously, a foodie’s heaven so I was delighted to sample the gastronomic delights that await the happy diners and, as I discovered, excellent cuisine doesn’t need to be presented in stuffy formality.
Our first experience was at ‘Hot Rocks’ – and experience it was! A chance to cook your own dinner, but a long way from any home kitchen I have known! A super-heated volcanic rock is placed in front of you at the dinner table and you grill a selection of meat and seafood to suit your own taste – if you’re not a natural-born grill master, your waiter will happily do the needful! It was a gorgeous meal and unexpectedly informal, creating a nice buzz and sociability.
La Terrazza is open for casual, buffet-style breakfast and lunch with indoor or al fresco dining on the outdoor terrace. During the evening, La Terrazza transforms into an à la carte traditional Italian restaurant, bringing together authentic recipes and the freshest ingredients with flair and passion.
If innovative Asian fusion cuisine is your style go where Kobe beef and spider lobster vie for attention in the stunning setting of the new-Asia elegant Seishin restaurant. A large, round chef’s table is centrepiece and it is from here that chefs theatrically prepare fabulous dishes and sculpt fresh sushi and sashimi which are almost too pretty to eat … I did say ‘almost’!
Elegantly recalling the supper clubs of the 1930s, the Art Deco-inspired décor of La Dame by Relais & Châteaux sets the mood for the highest expression of excellence of French dining that Silver Spirit has to offer. Fine wines complement a set tasting menu of regionally inspired and truly extraordinary dishes in an intimate, elegant setting. Arrive early for cocktails and stay late as the mood is transformed by live music, dancing and nightclub-style entertainment.
The atmosphere on board the Silver Spirit was easy-going and understated, with entertainment calculated to complement the conviviality. Needless to say, I practically had to be prised out of my suite, but more delights were in store and I continued my exploration of the Western Mediterranean, this time with Classic Collection, a specialist company with an unerring knack for finding just the right hotels in just the right settings.
First stop in the gorgeous isle of Mallorca was at Puerto Pollensa, to see the 4* Illa D’or Hotel, a charming property with a friendly atmosphere and commanding bay views. Opened in 1929, the elegant Hotel Illa d’Or has a rich history alongside modern conveniences plus a small beach and private jetty. The main beach and resort centre are a short stroll away.
At Playa de Muro I checked out the adjoining 4* Iberostar Playa De Muro and the 5* Iberostar Playa De Muro Village, set in prime locations by a wide sandy beach in Alcudia Bay, with a fantastic selection of shops, bars and restaurants just 600m away. S’Albufera Natural Park is nearby, and there’s a regular bus service for the 5km journey to Puerto de Alcudia. Leisure facilities include a lagoon style swimming pool with sun terraces set in extensive, and beautifully maintained, gardens.
The 5* Hotel Pure Salt Garonda in Playa de Palma is an inordinately chic adult-only hotel, situated on the seafront with direct access to the beach. I loved the fact that it was close to loads of amenities and attractions yet managed to remain an absolute haven of well-managed tranquillity: a beautiful destination for a restorative break.
At Illetas the Bon Sol 4* is a legendary family run hotel, reminiscent of a grand old Spanish house, furnished in traditional Mallorcan rustic style and set in fabulous sub-tropical gardens. If getting around is an issue for you, be aware that there are lots of steps and uneven footpaths to negotiate, but provided your mobility is ok, it all adds to the iconic charm of this exceptionally friendly hotel.
The last hotel on my mini fact-finding expedition was the 4* Iberostar Jardin Del Sol Suites at Costa de la Calma near Santa Ponca. This hotel is in a quiet location directly overlooking the Bay of Santa Ponca and is only suitable for adults - no children welcomed under the age of 16. What a way to end my trip! The hotel’s outdoor free-form pool overlooks the Mediterranean and there is sea access from the rocks in front of the pool area; its spacious suites are decorated in calm, neutral colours, each with a balcony taking full advantage of those wonderful sea views, as does the panoramic restaurant, La Calma. I was certainly calma from my stay there!
If you’d like me to share my enthusiasm for the Western Med and cruising with Silversea, just give me a call … you’ll soon be plotting a course for a great holiday!
(Our stunning opening photo of Monte Carlo is by courtesy of Monaco Press Centre Photos)