Jetset Report: Four Chic Luxury Cruise Ports to Check Out

Saint-Tropez in France, a fishing village of the past, became a popular jet-set port after Brigitte Bardot arrived to make a movie in the 1950s.
Saint-Tropez in France, a fishing village of the past, became a popular jet-set port after Brigitte Bardot arrived to make a movie in the 1950s.

Each summer, luxury cruise ships sail into Mediterranean ports frequented by private yacht owners and celebrities. Here’s a snapshot look at the luxury cruise options for four of our jet-setting favorites — Saint-Tropez, France; Hvar, Croatia; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Ibiza, Spain.

Saint-Tropez, France

Artists and writers, including Guy de Maupassant, discovered this lovely fishing village in the 19th century, but Saint-Tropez really drew the “in crowd” after Brigitte Bardot arrived to make a movie in the 1950s. Today, the harbor is as pretty as ever, drawing yachters, VIPs relaxing in private villas and luxury cruise guests. Going ashore, travelers can watch artists painting quayside before strolling to the Place des Lices market (spices, olive oil and lavender are among the specialties) or Place aux Herbes, with flower, fruit and vegetable stalls.

Why not savor a glass of Côtes de Provence wine at a sidewalk cafe or browse oodles of designer boutiques and art galleries? Rondini has chic, high-quality sandals, while Kiwi Saint-Tropez is best known for its brightly colored men’s swim trunks; it also stocks cute bikinis. For a casual, tasty fresh fish or seafood meal, La Pesquière, 1 Rue des Remparts, is a cozy favorite of local residents. Beyond Saint-Tropez, Provençal hill towns and their cobblestoned alleys and vineyards await.

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In summer 2016, SeaDream Yacht Club’s 112-passenger SeaDream I and SeaDream II sail many voyages with Saint-Tropez calls. Among them is SeaDream I’s week-long, roundtrip voyage from Cannes on October 8. The line’s Provençal countryside excursion will take guests for wine tasting at Gassin village with views of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. For the ultimate pampering, SeaDream I’s Owner’s Suite has a spacious living and dining area, guest half bath and a master bedroom with a queen-size bed and a master bathroom with massage shower, separate soaking tub and sea views; guests also have a refreshment area and high-tech entertainment system.

On August 7, Oceania Cruises’ newly acquired and refurbished Sirena will call at Saint-Tropez on a 22-night “Western Europe Explorer” voyage from Paris (Le Havre) to Rome (Civitavecchia). The 684-passenger Sirena will offer two new specialty restaurants. Tuscan Steak, adorned with an entryway wine cellar, will feature elements of Polo Grill and Toscana with such dishes as Tuscan porterhouse steak, pork chop with Gaeta olives and Maine lobster. The second new venue is Red Ginger, popular on Marina and Riviera. Also, at lunchtime, the Grand Dining Room will transform into Jacques Bistro with creations by Chef Jacques Pepin.

A sampling of the slew of upscale ships calling at Saint-Tropez in 2016 includes Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest; Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity; Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2; Holland America Line’s Oosterdam; Oceania’s Riviera; Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Navigator; Seabourn Cruise Lines’ Seabourn Sojourn; Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit; and Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze.

Hvar in Croatia, visited by luxurious private yachts and luxury cruise lines, is known for waterfront eateries, jewelry stores and designer boutiques.
Hvar in Croatia, visited by luxurious private yachts and luxury cruise lines, is known for waterfront eateries, jewelry stores and designer boutiques.

Hvar, Croatia

From medieval times through the 18th century, Hvar, an island and town of the same name, was an important harbor for Venice’s naval fleet. In contrast, luxurious private yachts and luxury cruise lines now call here. Hvar’s Old Town is home to St. Stephen’s Square with a colorful market, as well as the Cathedral of St. Stephen; the Arsenal, which also houses Europe’s oldest theater; waterfront eateries; jewelry stores; and designer boutiques.

As Croatia is a big lavender producer, cruisers will likely get a whiff of lavender in the air, along with heather, laurel and rosemary scents. For those seeking creatively designed jewelry, we suggest visits to Tanja Curin, I.K. Design and Thesaurus Jewelry for lovely gold and coral bracelets. Above Old Town is Spanjola Fortress, the perfect selfie-snapping perch with Adriatic and town views. Farther out, Milna is a draw for its pebble beach and waterfront restaurants while Stari Grad boasts a historic Dominican Monastery.

Azamara Journey visits Hvar on an overnight call during its seven-night “Pearl of the Adriatic” voyage roundtrip from Venice on July 23. Guests might head out on the line’s “Hvar Islands Highlights” shore excursion, which visits Stari Grad and Vrisnik; they will also taste dried figs, cheeses and wines. Or, cruisers might take the line’s excursion to Petar Hektorovic Palace, home of the late Croatian aristocrat and writer. Among the many upscale cruise vessels calling in 2016 are Windstar’s Star Legend; Silversea’s Silver Cloud; and Crystal’s Crystal Symphony. If the thrill of being “under sail” appeals, Star Clippers’ flagship Royal Clipper is another option.

As SeaDream II makes an overnight call at Hvar during its ten-day sailing from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Venice on July 23, we asked Nikola and Tomislav Ivanovic, brothers, and SeaDream maître d’s, for dining ideas. They suggested the family-owned Gariful, a waterfront fish restaurant with a robust wine and champagne list. Diners can pick their own lobster out of a floor aquarium and the restaurant’s terrace offers great views of mega-yachts in the busy harbor. Cruisers going here will likely rub elbows with VIPs as past diners have included Prince Harry and Giorgio Armani.

The brothers also suggest taking a water taxi to the beautiful bay of “Pakleni otoci,” the small islands across from Hvar, for dinner at Zori Restaurant, featuring the Mediterranean cuisine of Chef Iva Tomlinovic. We’d opt for the luxury tasting menu, which includes: oysters and a glass of Dom Perignon Rosé 2003; fresh scampi carpaccio with capers and a glass of Sancerre Pascal Jolivet 2014; lobster buzarra and a glass of Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2011; and for dessert, a glass of Amphora Tomac Riesling, considered a dessert unto itself.

Monte Carlo, home of the iconic casino and host to the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, attracts cruisers looking for high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, spas and gastronomy.
 
Monte Carlo, home of the iconic casino and host to the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, attracts cruisers looking for high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, spas and gastronomy.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Nothing “oozes” class as Monte Carlo does. Cruisers going ashore will discover high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, world-class dining, spas and even a bit of a James Bond aura, given that some “GoldenEye” movie scenes were filmed here. A “must-do” is a visit to iconic Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House. Best views? We like the terrace of Prince’s Palace, where Prince Albert II and his family reside, for snapping photos of the city and harbor below. For more tips on dining, shopping and activities, see the accompanying Advisor Insight sidebar.

Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2, a luxurious vessel where both English and German are spoken onboard, operates a Civitavecchia (Rome) to Monte Carlo voyage on May 31, and Seabourn Sojourn also sails a 21-night voyage roundtrip from Monte Carlo on August 11. We like Seabourn’s five Owner’s Suites with up to 1,067 square feet of space, including the verandah; this category suite has dining for four, a separate bedroom and bathroom, guest bath, two flat-screen TVs, pantry with wet bar, convertible sofa for one and a whirlpool bath. Hapag-Lloyd’s 1,227-square-foot Owner’s Suite includes a spacious bathroom area that has a whirlpool tub and a large daybed facing expansive glass windows.

Oceania’s Riviera will call at Monte Carlo on its eight-day “Mediterranean Mosaic” voyage from Athens to Barcelona on October 5. New for 2016 at select destinations, including Monte Carlo, Oceania has introduced two- to three-night Culinary Creations Land Tours, taken either pre-, post- or mid-cruise. Cruisers interact with local culinary experts and visit local food markets, cooking schools, restaurants and other attractions. In Monte Carlo, guests opting for the new land tour will stay three nights at the Château de Berne, a private estate in the Var region. They’ll help prepare a Provençal lunch at the chateau, enjoy food and wine tastings, learn about olive oil production and regional specialties at Moulin de Pascaline, tour Le Thoronet and Cotignac and visit a private wine cellar for a tour and tasting.

Many lines sail into Monte Carlo in 2016 for the Grand Prix of Monaco. Planning farther out? On its May 23, 2017 cruise from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome), Silversea’s Silver Spirit will call at Monte Carlo, giving guests the chance to watch the Formula One race; the ship overnights in port, so cruisers can spend two days ashore. We recommend the ship’s Owner’s Suite, a 1,292-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, or 1,668 square feet in a two-bedroom configuration. Luxurious touches include Pratesi fine bed linens; marble bathrooms; and special inclusions like dinner at the officer’s table and dinner for two in Le Champagne, one evening per voyage.

For a pre-cruise Monte Carlo stay in 2016, travelers might consider booking Regent’s 14-night cruise on Seven Seas Explorer from Monte Carlo to Venice, departing July 20. Among other upscale ships visiting Monte Carlo are Windstar’s  Star Legend and Cunard’s Queen Victoria.

Ibiza in Spain, popular for its nightclub scene, also has a softer side focused on art, history and eco-activities.
Ibiza in Spain, popular for its nightclub scene, also has a softer side focused on art, history and eco-activities.

Ibiza, Spain

Ibiza, within the Balearic archipelago, is famed for its pulsating — sometimes wild — nightclub scene, as well as myriad restaurants, tapas bars and watering holes. Celebrities head to Ibiza to see and be seen. Last year, Naomi Campbell lounged on an Ibiza beach, Orlando Bloom was seen at Cipriani and Puff Daddy was spotted on his yacht in the harbor. But while Ibiza is busy, it’s a fun spot for active travelers. Plus, it has a softer side focused on art, history, eco-activities and gastronomy.

Crystal sails into this chic playground for an overnight stay during its August 18 “Accent on Spain” cruise on the 922-passenger Crystal Symphony, which sails between Lisbon and Barcelona. Among other ships visiting next summer are Azamara Journey, Celebrity Equinox, Crystal Symphony, Europa 2, Oceania’s Marina, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, Seven Seas Navigator, Silver Cloud and Wind Surf.

Upon arrival, cruise guests might actually think they’re in Greece, given the white-washed homes with flat-roof terraces. But the island is Spanish to the core, with savory paella and Spanish wine served across the isle. Ibiza’s south side bustles with cosmopolitan activity. It’s also home to Ibiza’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where luxury cruisers shouldn’t miss seeing the Castle of Ibiza, Cathedral of Santa Maria (be sure to peruse the silver-and-gold holy cross), an archaeological museum and 16th-century fortifications.

Beyond the Old Town and to the north, travelers will find a more laid-back Ibiza with farmhouses, interior pine forests, olive and fig trees, small villages and Can Marçà Caves. Santa Eulalia, a gastronomic and cultural center, has restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Alternatively, cruisers can charter a luxury yacht, shop in designer boutiques, lounge on beaches, go snorkeling or head out by a catamaran or a 4-by-4 vehicle.

Judy Nussbaum, here seen in Gordes, France, has a liking for Monte Carlo’s Princess Caroline pedestrian area.

Judy Nussbaum, here seen in Gordes, France, has a liking for Monte Carlo’s Princess Caroline pedestrian area.

ADVISOR INSIGHT: Monte Carlo

When Judy Nussbaum’s clients go ashore at Monte Carlo, depending on their interests, the Protravel advisor, based in Boca Raton, recommends they rent an electric car at the port to experience Monte Carlo’s sites, check out the Prince of Monaco’s excellent Vintage car collection or relax in pampered style at the Monte Carlo Beach Club with its La Vigie restaurant, cabanas and pool.

“Of course, it’s just enjoyable to wander the Princess Caroline pedestrian area near La Condamine Market and many other shops near Rue Grimaldi looking for that perfect something,” says Nussbaum. She also likes the Metropole Shopping Center not far from the Monte-Carlo Casino and Opera House.

When it’s time for lunch, Nussbaum favors the family-run Restaurant Il Terrazzino, 2 Rue des Iris, near Hotel Metropole, as well as the cafe-style Restaurant Loga Monaco, 25 Boulevard des Moulins, where luxury cruisers can dine outside and “people watch.” For travelers journeying to Saint-Paul de Vence or Bordighera, she likes La Reserve in Bordighera for a delicious Italian lunch overlooking the Ligurian Sea.

For an over-the-top dinner, she recommends Louis XV at l’Hôtel de Paris, featuring Alain Ducasse’s creative cuisine; it’s closed for a few months undergoing renovations but will reopen in spring. A personal favorite? Nussbaum savors Joël Robuchon at Hotel Metropole.

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