For those who hate the very idea of cruising – eating, sleeping and sightseeing among hundreds, or indeed, thousands of strangers – may I present Star Clippers.
This upmarket company offers cruises aboard fully crewed, elegant tall ships, with all the benefits of holidaying afloat included: visits to a number of places in the same trip while unpacking only once, a range of excursions, on-board activities and entertainment, and all meals.
Star Clippers operates holidays in Europe, Caribbean, Cuba and, new this year, Asia and Indonesia.
In full sail: The Mail On Sunday’s Wendy Gomersall went on an 11-night cruise on the Royal Clipper. The luxury sailing trip started out of Venice
Even aboard its flagship, Royal Clipper, which accommodates 200 guests, the experience feels more like sailing on your own private mega-yacht.
That’s chiefly thanks to smaller numbers but also the type of guest (middle-aged, middle-class, educated, well-off), service (friendly, efficient), atmosphere (relaxed, stress-free) and lack of showstopper facilities.
The largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world, Royal Clipper has miles of neatly coiled and tethered ropes on the scrubbed top deck. You can watch close-up as the crew raise and adjust the many sails. You can even try a spot of mast-climbing.
Some on our cruise had their own less flamboyant yachts, and were like kids at Christmas when, in full sail, Royal Clipper glided across the sea.
We began in Venice. Sailing out of La Serenissima has to be one of the best cruise experiences, as you drift past the Campanile, Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs.
The first official stop on our cruise was Rovinj in Croatia, and we went in search of recommended delicacies, truffles and prosciutto. It’s a busy little port, full of pampered pet dogs and souvenir shops.
We ambled up a hill to the pretty church to visit the big stone tomb housing some of the bones of Christian martyr St Euphemia, protectress of Rovinj.
Spas and ocean spray: On the boat, Captain Nemo’s spa offers wraps, peels and muscle-soothing massages
Cocktail hour: On the entertainment front, the Royal Clipper features a restaurant, piano bar and lounge
That’s the joy of a cruise, hearing intriguing stories wherever you go. The island of Hvar is famous for its lavender, but you needed to book one of the excursions to see the stari grad (old town). I wandered around the new town instead, admiring the many super-yachts and super-boutiques lining the harbour.
Local guide Sanja shared more fascinating stories with us on a walk in picturesque Dubrovnik.
Here, the clocks are put five minutes ahead of time because Croatians are always late, she told us. Children used to be given coral jewellery as it turns darker if the wearer has a fever.
The quaint old town of Kotor in Montenegro looks as if it belongs in a fairy tale, helped by a strange oversized park bench we all sat on for selfies.
It was a flying visit, as we’d been warned that a 3,000-passenger liner was due in at 2pm; I imagined the tiny centre would be swamped. It was shame, as it would have been nice to try a restaurant.
Still, an excellent dinner awaited us on Royal Clipper. Six meals – early breakfast, breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner and midnight nibbles – are prepared each day. The cabins are spotless, and include a TV and DVD player and wi-fi.
There’s a small shop, piano bar and lounge, and the Tropical Bar is the venue for morning exercises and the evening quiz. And Captain Nemo’s spa offers wraps, peels and nice muscle-soothing massages – you’re going to need one if you climb that mast.
An 11-night Mediterranean cruise aboard Royal Clipper, departing September 2, costs from £2,485pp. Visit starclippers.co.uk.
Flights and transfers are extra.