Sicilian Splendors was our final leg of our back2back2back cruise celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and my husband's 65th birthday. Our first leg of our journey was Treasures of Southern Spain & Morocco (Lisbon to ... Read More
Sicilian Splendors was our final leg of our back2back2back cruise celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and my husband's 65th birthday. Our first leg of our journey was Treasures of Southern Spain & Morocco (Lisbon to Barcelona); the second Yachtsman's Harbors of the Rivieras (Barcelona to Rome/Civitavecchia) and now Sicilian Splendors, our third and final leg of our 25 day cruise.
Because this was our third leg of our journey, we already had our keys and used the embarkation day as a regular port day. And since we were staying on board we had been able to book our Candles and Stella Bistro reservations the night before.
We wandered around Civitavecchia on our own and took in the local market and stopped for pastries and coffee at a local place. It's definitely a working man's port but we saw lots of families out and about too. It wasn't as scenic as some of our other stops but it is a big city. We walked the waterway and stopped for a beer and free WiFi before heading back to the ship.
The next day was our one day at sea on this itinerary. Unfortunately the seas were rough and I was pretty happy I hadn't booked a massage for the day! We relaxed and just hung out.
On our roll call, I had met another couple that wanted to tour on their own out of Catania so the four of us booked Sicily Life tour's "Taormina and Winery on the slopes of Etna" and off we went. We enjoyed our tour and it was fun meeting new friends.
We were suppose to anchor here the following day but because of more rough seas, the captain felt it was best to skip this port and head directly to Valletta, Malta. Sadly, due to the extreme rough seas we were unable to dock in Valletta that evening (as our itinerary had said) and we spent it at sea waiting until morning to continue on.
We docked in the morning and we headed off on our own. What a lovely port this is and so doable on your own! We wandered all over and stumbled upon a bar called The Pub which was made famous by the fact that during the filming of Gladiator, Oliver Reed had drank his last drink there and died shortly afterwards. We had to stop and have a pint with all the English tourists who had stopped there as well. Afterwards we found a fantastic Italian restaurant where we shared lunch and a lovely bottle of wine. The architecture is beautiful and there is a large British influence. We saw the firing of the cannons but too quickly our time was over. (How I wish the weather had cooperated so we had had our overnight here!)
We stopped for a drink and to use the restaurants WiFi close to the dock and ran into a lot of the crew. Once back on board, we realized over the loud speaker they kept calling two names. Turns out, there was a couple that didn't get back to the ship on time and they were attempting to find them. It must have been almost an hour before this couple reappeared. They had been at a close by store buying jewelry and hadn't noticed the time nor heard the loudspeaker. We think they got lucky the ship didn't leave them since there was another ship ahead of us. It is a very small opening you have to sail through with bumpy seas. Because we were late leaving we had the most spectacular sunset over Valletta we won't soon forget.
Porto Empedocle, Sicily
We joined the WS excursion "Temples Valley" and ended up with blue skies, a lovely guide and some fascinating ruins. It was a short bus ride to the valley and then lots of ruins to see. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. And because it was only 3 hours, we had time to walk around the port on our own. We weren't sure how far it was to find the shops and restaurants so we waited for the shore bus to take us. The joke was on us since we rode less than 5 minutes! We did found a quiet restaurant where we had lunch and then we walked back to the ship. There weren't very many shops in the area close to the ship and it wasn't the prettiest port either but we felt safe and enjoyed our time there.
Another fabulous day on our own! We wanted to head to Erice and as we wandered off the ship, another couple was looking for a taxi so we finally found one (not the easiest thing) and headed to the cable car station. Now, our taxi driver wanted to give us a tour and drive us to Erice but we insisted he just take us to the cable car station. It took a bit of convincing but after telling him we would call when we were ready to come back to the ship, he dropped us at the cable car station. We purchased a round trip ticket and up we went. It was a Sunday and we weren't sure how much would be opened but just about all the restaurants and shops were. We walked all around and saw the sights. We stopped for some delicious pizza and wine. We visited several bakeries and ate some yummy Sicilian cookies and pastries. We shopped and purchased a ceramic pasta bowl for our son. Finally, we found a bar with WiFi and had a beer. After church the families wandered around and it was just a lovely feeling, being a part of this unique town. When we arrived back to the cable car station at the top, I spoke to a taxi driver and he called a taxi to meet us at the bottom. We hopped on the cable car and the taxi was waiting for us at the bottom. It was a good thing we had called because another group was trying to get in our taxi! Back to the ship and another wonderful day in the books. That evening, we ate at Stella Bistro and brought along some of the pastries we had purchased that day.
Lipari was another day we spent on our own. We anchored at this port and was immediately in the thick of the shops and restaurants. I found several cute shops where I bought some trinkets to bring home. We wandered up a hill to one of the basilicas with the most beautiful ceiling. We stopped for pizza (not as good as in Erice) and some beer and WiFi. We found some streets that had more locals than tourists and enjoyed our wanderings. We also got some great photos of Wind Surf in the harbor. We set sail and cruised past Mt Stromboli which was magnificent and we even got a show from the volcano!
Sorrento, Italy/Salerno, Italy
We had big plans in Sorrento. I had booked a private tour and we were so looking forward to it when the weather and rough seas interfered with our quest. We were suppose to anchor in Sorrento, but due to rough seas, we were unable to make it to Sorrento. Naples was all booked up so the captain made the decision to take us to Salerno, Italy. We were told of the change the night before so we had some time to attempt to get a hold of our tour company and see if they would be able to pick us up in Salerno instead of Sorrento. They were so lovely and really wanted to accommodate us but due to the fires above Positano, they couldn't do it. So, what to do? We got together with some new friends and wandered from the dock and found a nice man who called his friend the taxi driver who agreed to take the 6 of us to Ravello for the day. The drive was crazy with lots of twists and turns. When we arrived in Ravello it started to rain but we found a restaurant and had lunch and afterwards, the sun came out. Ravello is known for ceramics and we found a place that made us some special pieces and shipped them home to us. They arrived in about 6 weeks and we couldn't be happier! Our taxi took us back to Salerno and because we had until midnight to be back on board, we decided to venture out on our own. We found some streets filled with locals enjoying the evening; we had dinner, shopped and finished with some gelato before heading back to the ship. I'm so happy we headed out in the evening and could experience Salerno by night.
That evening was the deck BBQ and we made it back just in time for the dancing. All our favorite crew entertained us and I had fun joining in too.
Today was a short day so we headed right off the ship and purchased tickets for the local ferry to take us to Positano. We arrived in Positano before any other tourists and enjoyed the quiet. The beach is pretty and we started wandering up the hill. Just as we got close to the top, the tourists from the daily buses started making their way down. It got too crazy after that so we headed back to the ferryboat and back to Amalfi. We had just enough time in Amalfi to find a limoncello shop where the owners let us taste the limoncello (we had to purchase some too!) and told us their story. This is what it's all about for us. Finding the hidden gems and chatting with the locals. All too soon it was time to board and we had to say goodbye to Amalfi. I really wish we had had more time to explore this cute town.
As we sailed out of Amalfi, we passed Positano, the island of Capri and Mt Etna. The sun set on what would be our final night of our back2back2back cruise. We had an amazing time and when asked, we couldn't pick our favorite cruise out of the three; they were all memorable and fantastic in their own way.
Upon docking in Civitavecchia, we shared a taxi to the airport with the new friends off our roll call. It was easy and fast and too soon we were traveling back to the US.
A few notes about our total Wind Surf experience on our back2back2back...
We enjoy the wonderful folks who work so hard to make Wind Surf a special place. Captain Pedro, Hotel Operations Officers Calvin and Julian, Maitre d' hotel Merrick were out and about and available and willing to chat. Our favorite staff, Aladdin made our time onboard so very special as did Farid our cabin steward and Hari, Russ and Ada our servers. Anna at the tour desk and Anne at reception always had a smile and greeting for us as we walked by. Within a few days everyone knows your name and after 25 days on board, they really know all about you!
Our opinion on the food is that it is very good. That being said, having been on board for 25 days, we learned that the rotation of the menus is about 5 days. With more and more Star Collector choices being offered, WS must rethink this policy. I enjoyed most everything on board during cruise 1 but by the time cruise 3 came along, I'd had enough of a few of the choices. The deck BBQ was wonderful and they have re-done the layout of where the food stations are since we last sailed with Wind Surf which made it seem roomier.
I had originally booked a room on Deck 1 but the upgrade fairy came to visit several months later and we were upgraded to Suite 306. The location is towards the back of the ship and can be very noisy when the tenders are being used. But, it is so close to the Yacht Club and the Pool Deck, plus getting off the ship, we didn't let the noise ruin it for us. Plus, having 2 bathrooms in the suite saved my marriage after 25 days at sea!
We were lucky to have the laundry service during our cruise and it was amazing! I did specify for cold wash and hang dry and just about everything came back perfect. One black sweater wasn't so black anymore but other than that, we were very pleased.
We love Windstar and the port intensive itineraries. We love the smallness of the ships and the fact that you actually get to know other travelers and the crew on board. And after all the time we spent on board Wind Surf, she really became our home away from home. Read Less