Photo courtesy of Tori Ward
by Tori Ward, Cruise and Resort Specialist, ROX Travel
A recent study conducted by the American Society of Travel Advisors identified three priorities for Americans rebooting travel in the post-pandemic world — unique experiences, robust customer service and nostalgia for favorite destinations.
Having recently experienced two such adventures, I’m ready for a third — a curated cuisine and wine voyage in Northern Italy and the French Riviera with an extended stay in Rome.
Although the summer months are beautiful in the Mediterranean, the generous vacation culture that Europeans enjoy creates crowded beaches, limited accommodations and shuttered businesses. That informs my travel strategy to explore opportunities in the spring, fall and winter.
A luxury yachting experience provides an ultimate expansion of culinary and wine knowledge of the region while basking in early fall’s vibrant colors and moderate temperatures.
Sailing either from or terminating in Rome in October, there are a number of elegant yachts that cater to fewer passengers, while delivering generous guest services and amenities. There is also the ability to charter an entire yacht and construct a personalized itinerary.
To drive loyalty, these companies have a commitment to experiences that deliver top tier service before and during your voyage such as luggage handling from home to the ship, meet-and-greet airport transfers and champagne and caviar welcome on-board parties.
Much like a floating five-star hotel, amenities may include complimentary fitness classes, air-conditioned golf simulator zones, pools, Jacuzzis and water sport platforms equipped with all the toys.
Fine wines and gourmet meals are the hallmark of these voyages; some are hosted by celebrity chefs or at local vineyards where owner’s wines are featured.
Recognizing that not all guests want to be entertained, there are quiet and comfortable shipboard areas where your privacy and need for relaxation to curl up and read or nap while you drift along azure Mediterranean waters will be respected.
The yachting lifestyle is not considered formal so country club casual will be your template to pack by, remembering many of the ports of call included in itineraries such as Nice, Monte Carlo and St. Tropez have wonderful boutiques.
Ports of call that appeal to me include Portofino, where I have sweet memories of milky pastel buildings curving around a small turquoise harbor where yachts and smaller vessels bobbed. The Italian Riviera, usually so crowded in the summer, has a more relaxed and unhurried service style in the fall with most restaurants open and the ability to secure a table without a reservation easier.
While docked in Portofino, one of the cruises I like offers an opportunity to travel by boat along the seaside cliffs and then chartered bus through vineyards dressed in autumn’s jeweled colors on the route to Monterosso in the Cinque Terre. The vineyards are heavily terraced in this Ligurian region, and perhaps your visit will coincide with the annual harvest when you visit one of the local vineyards for a wine tasting.
Visiting Rome once the cruise ends, a travel agent can arrange for chauffeur service from ship to the city and accommodations close to the area you most desire — from the Vatican to the Spanish Steps or perhaps in the shadow of the Colosseum.
Private tours of two, three or more days visiting all of the significant sites of this historic city also can be arranged. Local guides not only know all the stories that won’t be covered in a guidebook, but they will help you select great restaurants that only a local can navigate.
Finally, when you are ready to return home a travel agent can arrange for car service to the airport and your final destination.