Palma to Palma - Fay's Blog
2nd September 2014
General Manager of Star Slippers UK, Fay McCormack set sail on board Star Flyer with her family and friends from Palma. Here she tells of her experience.
We opted to spend a few nights on the beautiful island of Majorca prior to sailing, which we all agreed was a great idea. By the time we arrived at the port on Saturday afternoon, we were well and truly rested, slightly less pale and altogether very much in holiday mode!
As always, our first glimpse of Star Flyer was a moment that all of us found very special. Palma is a busy and bustling port, and nestled amongst the huge cruise ships, container vessels and passenger ferries sat our little haven of peace and tranquillity, her masts standing tall and proud, paintwork bright and glossy and her brass shining like gold. We all scampered eagerly up the gangway, warmly met by the Captain, Hotel Manager, various officers and crew and of course, a delicious welcome on board cocktail.
The teenagers scampered off quickly, keen to see their ‘sleeping quarters’, whilst the adults sat in the sunshine, savouring the moment. For our friends, this was their first experience of Star Clippers, and of course I wanted it to be as special as possible. But I needn’t have worried, it was already much more than this, it was Star Clippers magic and it had well and truly caught another family of hearts already.
After a delicious welcome dinner, we had a first sail away of the week. Now, of course many of you reading this will already know what this feels like, but for those who don’t, it’s almost impossible for me to describe with any real justice. I have been lucky enough to experience many of these now, but you never tire, you never really lose the urge to pinch yourself as you glide out of port, the chilling music of Vangelis playing in the background and the twinkling lights of the port waving you off as Star Clippers’ sails wave back. I watched my friends faces during this first sail away for them, and I knew that they got it too.
The ports of call of this sailing were delightful. First stop was the Island of Formentera , and this was a new one for me. We arrived wet. Very wet in fact. Our teenage girls literally screamed in delight as the tender dropped us off some way from the shore, and we found ourselves in waist high water wading to shore, bags held above our heads and trying not to laugh ourselves head over heels into the sea. We were however, treated to one of the most beautiful, white sanded pieces of paradise, fringed with tropical blue water, so clear we could see the marine life beneath the surface. We spent the afternoon enjoying the beach, swimming and paddling and arguing about who had left the sun cream in the sand with the lid off. The girls tried out a bit of kayaking, safely supervised by the Sports Crew before it was time to head back on board. This time the girls were a little cleverer, and had already talked their fathers into giving them piggy backs back to the tender ladder, despite already being dripping wet. The Dads of course obliged with gusto, and everyone was delivered back safe and sound and in time for the afternoon tea served in the Tropical bar. Because of course, after a huge cooked breakfast and an impressive buffet lunch we were famished and couldn’t possibly make it through till dinner without something else to eat.
After another delicious 5 course dinner we ventured up to the Tropical Bar to watch the infamous fashion show, which is one of the highlights of the entertainment programme for the week. It’s fair to say that Star Clippers do have their very own unique entertainment programme and again, those who have been lucky enough to experience Star Clippers will understand this already of course. I personally love the low key evenings, the Tropical Bar, the way the crew and passengers come together after dinner to enjoy a cocktail, talk about their lives and dance under the stars together. And I also love the way that you can find a quiet spot up on deck, and watch the world sail past under the moonlight, only to be interrupted by the sounds of the waves, the flapping of the sails and of course the crew who seem to move around almost silently as they sail these beautiful ships onwards towards the next port of call. And of course don’t be surprised to approached by the Captain and the Officers, who are always around and ready to share their tales and wisdom about life at sea and our beautiful tall ships.
The next morning brought us to Ibiza Town, and I was excited about this one. I had imagined myself sitting in one of the very chic cocktail bars I had seen in ‘Hello’ magazine, sipping a Mojito and putting in a good shift of people watching . But the girls, who had already made good friends with a journalist who was on board, had been reliably informed that Ibiza Town was the best port of the week for shopping and they were on a mission. The port of Ibiza Town itself is almost split into two and when you get off the ship you can go either way- Left for the historic, more traditional part. Here you will stumble across cobbled streets hiding small white churches, little cafes and very traditional shops selling lace and wood crafts- Or turn right for the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan part of town, and it is here where you will find the shops, including international brands, cocktail bars and restaurants. It was with a very determined stomp to the right for our girls, and they spent a happy couple of hours browsing the shops for bracelets, trying on flip flops and searching for the perfect t-shirt. Exhausted and hot, but very happy with their morning’s work we set off on the very short stroll back to Star Flyer for lunch and some shade!
Next day after breakfast we arrived in Valencia. I have been to some of Spain’s more famous cities previously, but knew little of Valencia so was curious about Spain’s third largest city. We took a local bus from right outside the terminal for 1.50 Euros, and 20 minutes later, found ourselves in the Old Town and right outside the Cathedral. We had heard that the Cathedral has a bell tower, which affords magnificent views over the entire city and beyond for those brave enough to climb the 207, very steep, spiral steps. Now, we had all enjoyed breakfast that morning, and if we are being very honest, perhaps a little too much breakfast, so agreed that there was only one thing for it. The girls of course sprinted up in about 20 seconds, the rest of us huffed and puffed our way to the top and prayed that we would survive the climb as it was Italian Buffet lunch on the ship later, and no one wanted to miss that. But wow, what view when we did make it to the top. A complete, 360 degree view around Valencia, in the morning sunshine, with just a handful of other tourists to share it with, well worth it and we spent a happy hour or so taking in the views and taking photos. And psyching ourselves up for the climb back down. The rest of the morning was spent wandering the streets of this fascinating place, and we stumbled across an indoor food market frequented by the locals. The market sold every food type, from fruit and vegetables, to sweets, olives, nuts and cheeses, to whole hams hanging from their hooks. But it was the fish that fascinated (and revolted in some instances) our girls the most- Whole octopus, lobsters, prawns the size of their hands and even eels, alive and wriggling, as they witnessed one of these poor creatures being plucked from his tank and removed of its head. Not something they have seen in Sainsbury’s before, that’s for sure. But, before long it was time to head back to Star Flyer and just in time for that Italian Buffet!
Next on the list was Sant Carles de la Rapita. This is a new port of call for Star Clippers, and in fact, Star Clippers are the only Cruise Line to have visited Sant Carles de la Rapita, and we arrived to quite a welcome! It felt that half the town was there to greet us, with various information stands in the terminal, musicians, and shuttle buses ready to take us to the town or beach, depending on your preference. This port of call is famous for its birdlife, and in particular, the flamingo and gulls and many of the passengers headed off for a spot of twitching. We opted to visit the little town, and spent a happy couple of hours wandering the little streets, browsing the shops and enjoyed a coffee in one of the cafes. We then took a look at the beach, which is where the Sports Crew had set up camp for the day and were able to offer a wide range of sports, all safely overseen by their expert eyes. We headed back to Star Flyer ready for sail away to our next port of call.
Back on the ship we got ready for the mast climb. On most of our sailings, we offer the opportunity to climb to the Crow’s Nest and for some, this is the highlight of any voyage. The girls were very keen do this and got themselves ready for the challenge. My daughter had already done this before, but again, this was a first for the twins and very exciting. Under the ever watchful eye of the Sports Crew, the girls were dressed in their safety harnesses and given a brief on how to climb safely and successfully. Wide eyed and showing just a hint of nervousness, the twins listened carefully, taking in all the instructions and preparing themselves for the climb. My daughter went first to show them how it was done, followed by twin one, then twin two. Slowly but surely, they climbed the rope ladder, higher and higher, with encouragement from half the ship who had gathered around the bottom of the mast to give their support to our brave explorers! Finally, after a few tense minutes they were all up and reunited on the Crow’s Nest. A very special moment for the three of them.
Mahon was next on the list, and we were delighted to see we had a midnight departure, meaning we were able to experience it by night. Mahon is a beautiful town, white washed and cobbled, with a charming splatter of shops, restaurants and little churches. Mahon actually boast the second largest natural harbour in the world, second only to Pearl Harbour. From a shopping point of view, if you are after shoes, then you could pick up a pair of Pretty Ballerina pumps, usually seen in the boutiques of Mayfair, London, but actually the shoes have been made in the same village in Menorca since 1918! Mahon is a well thought out town- with tables occupying almost every available outside space, finding a place in the sunshine to enjoy a cold beer or an ice cream will never be a problem. As we were there till midnight, we had an early dinner and headed into town just after dark. We had coincided our visit with a Festival of Music, and it seemed like the whole of Menorca, plus the other islands too, had come to Mahon! The town was literally buzzing, with markets stalls in the pretty squares, and live bands playing outside every bar and café and the shops staying open later than usual hoping to cash in on a bit of extra trade. We were fortunate enough to find a table outside of a very traditional wine bar, and nicely installed with a bottle of Rioja and a bowl of olives, we settled down for the evening and watched the world go by, accompanied by a local jazz band. It didn’t get much better than this, that’s for sure.
The next morning we woke with that familiar feeling, almost slight apprehension, as we knew this was our last day on board Star Flyer and no one was ready to go home yet. But, we put that to one side, determined to enjoy the day ahead which we were to spend on the island of Majorca, in the pretty little town of Puerto Soller. First stop for us was to take the little vintage tram up to the town of Soller. The little tram runs between the port and the town almost continuously throughout the summer months, taking about 25 minutes to compete it’s journey. It’s the only working tram on Majorca now. On route, we are treated to a rare glimpse into how the Majorcans live , as we rattle slowly past private homes and gardens, brushing against citrus trees and sneaking a peak into their lives. The town of Soller is charming, and one is totally forgiven for just sitting outside in the main square at one of the many cafes and restaurants, soaking up the atmosphere whilst sipping on a freshly squeezed orange juice. But, as nice as it was, the beach was calling the girls and it was time to go back down on the little tram to Puerto Soller. The rest of the day was spent on this magnificent, horseshoe bay, which is spotlessly clean and bordered by shops, restaurants and cafes. It’s a busy beach, and a busy bay, but so perfectly formed and put together it literally oozes charm. We spent every last minute we could on this beach, and took the very last tender back to Star Flyer to prepare for our final dinner and our last evening on board.
The Palma to Palma sailing is a wonderful itinerary and I would recommend it to anyone- Although I had visited some of the Islands previously on other holidays, I was surprised once again just how much I love these little Islands, how charming they are, with their little towns, and their own way of life. We spent our last night discussing the highlights, and asking the girls in particular what they had enjoyed the most. They had endless highlights, from the mast climbing, dressing as pirates, the Star Flyer talent show, discovering the on board ‘mocktails’, the wonderful and plentiful food, the water-sports, beaches, shopping and of course watching their parents pant their way up 207 steps which they all found hilarious. But mostly they enjoyed each other, and the friends they made, friends of all ages, and the experiences they had on board one of the most beautiful ships in the world. And memories which will stay with them for a lifetime.
To experience your own voyage from Palma, just like Fay, call us today on 0845 200 6145 and book your tall ship cruise.