Around Corsica Cruise with CroisiEurope

CroisiEurope’s La Belle Des Oceans

When your wife walks into a door and then apologizes to it, you know she is having a good time on the cruise.

When not long after and still not having found her “cocktail legs”, she stumbles into and completely wipes out the diminutive resident reflexologist and on-board shiatsu specialist, you might have good reason to think that the complimentary all-day “free flow” bar was taking effect.

You learn many things on CroisiEurope’s seven-day Grand Corsica Tour cruise. Not least, to show respect to Filipino pina coladas and sangrias made by a barman from Manila called Joel.

Circumnavigating Corsica is an education.

You also learn that Napoleon was the son of a winemaker. That he was born with teeth, was petrified of cats and that his penis was stolen by his chaplain and smuggled out of St Helena, auctioned off, exhibited and sold on before eventually coming into the hands of a doctor from New Jersey.

A certain Dr Latimer. A privates collector.

You also learn about myrtle and fig liqueurs and Corsican wines like Umannu, Domaine Pieretti Muscat, Lionel Wojcik’s Domaine Pardella Verminto and Christian Imbert’s wonderful Porto Vecchio Domaine de Torracia rouge, rosé and Cuvee Orniu which gets its name from the Corsican for “cache” of valuable things that should be stashed away.

On the only luxury cruise around Corsica, you are also taught invaluable skills like avocado-fileting and towel-folding. As practised and demonstrated by cabin attendant Corazon who can create everything from a peacock to a sloth from some ring spun absorbent 100 percent, soft feel cotton.

CroisiEurope’s La Belle Des Oceans Pool

She is the Picasso of face flannels and washcloths.

Accommodating 120 passengers and 69 crew members, “La Belle Des Oceans” has a Croatian captain, a happy all-Filipino staff and an exceptional cruise director in Parisian Stefan Loumu. The characterful (not new), seven-deck, 103m long boat has a fitness centre, spa, pool and two bars and two lounges.

It is the epitome of slow travel and the only ‘Around Corsica’ cruise.

The passenger list is 95 percent French, and you soon realize you should have listened more to Mrs Croft or whoever your French teacher was at school.

Because it’s hard to recover from being seen “colouring in” the “Le Figaro” crossword and to be sociable successful over a Pina Colada, house Chardonnay or a Scrabble board when the only words you can remember are “fenetre”, “circumflex” and “merde” And the only phrase you know is “Malheuresment, je suis fatigue.”

There are only so many times reading the restaurant menu, you can get away with saying “Sacre Bleu!” or “zut Alors to give the impression you are a bi-lingual gourmand.

You will find fewer anglophones on this sedate small ship cruise. All excursions, however, come with audio sets which pour the local culture into your ear canals in your native language. If desired. Stefan also speaks fluent tannoy English.

Chef Romeo (from Manila) serves three meals a day with high-quality, speedily and gracefully served lunches and dinners including suckling pig, a superb paella, chicken, tarragon and asparagus, lamb, veal, fish (red mullet and bream), beef, lamb and Spanish and Umannu Corsican wines. You can also try the local myrtle and fig liqueurs. All drinks, except Champagne and for some reason Jack Daniels, are complimentary. So, the bar is bottomless.

CroisiEurope’s La Belle Des Oceans anchored off shore

Starting and ending in Nice, the short “all-in” transfer taxi ride from and to the French Riviera’s seafront airport down Le Promenade Des Anglais must be the best way to start any cruise in the world.

The first port of call is Ajaccio where Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15th August 1769.  You can visit his birthplace museum. There is not much to see apart from a tiny bed, some chairs and some paintings.  The city’s Fesch Museum has one of the largest collections of Italian paintings outside Italy.

You can walk along the lengthy sunny beachfront, watch some pétanque (meaning, “fixed feet”), visit the cathedral where Napoleon was baptized, shop for coral jewellery or indulge in a pastry shop crawl, trying chestnut flour cakes, almond and anise “canistrelli” shortbread biscuits, “fritelli” fritter doughnuts and “fiadone” cheesecake. And try a Napoleon clementine ice cream. Apparently, the recipe came from one of his lovers.

At Pointe de la Parato you can strike a trademark Instagrammable Napoleonic pose with your hand through your shirt buttons. He did it, not because of heartburn but to touch a talisman he always wore.

There are also excursions to the Lavezzi islands, Porto Vecchio, Calvi, Isle Rousse, the old villages of Balagne and the Corsican caliches or calanques (French mini fjords) of Piana.

The entrance through the apricot cliffs into Bonifacio in the south is one of the highlights. The 180-step King of Aragon staircase up from the harbour is a pulmonary challenge. If you fear for your ventricles, there is Le Petit Train. The views are worth it.

The star of all the shore excursions is undoubtedly Cap Corse on the north-eastern coast near Bastia. It will further test your blood pressure, replacement kneecaps or hip bolts. The cruise is popular with the over-55s.

The D80 corniche, carved out of the rock face. takes you along 60 miles of sheer drops into the crashing waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea, past slate-roofs houses, family tombs, villages like Erbalunga, Santa Severera and Pino and the black beaches around Nonza on the Cap Corselt.  Elba, where Napoleon was briefly exiled, sits on the horizon.

Corse Mer Mediterranee Calvi in Corsica

A spinach pie, onion tart, brocciu whey cheese and PDO “lonzu” peppered pig strip lunch is taken at the Domaine Upozzu by the beach in Sisco. There is also a tasting at a vineyard on the Corsican wine road in the island’s Patronomie area.

If you don’t book in advance the Cap Corse trip costs €178. It’s unmissable because it showcases the best scenery of “Kalliste” (most beautiful), as the Greeks knew Corsica.

Apart from board games like Quirkle and retro 50’s Stop! on-board entertainment is provided by people watching and resident pianist Joshua, pianist from St Lucia.  One night a local band performs covers of famous Corsican crooners like Tino Rossi and Charles Rocchi. And there is a very good dinner “en plein air” with folk music at the Domaine Pozzo di Mastri Ferme Auberge near Figari.

And there is a hilarious crew cabaret headlined by Corazon and Joel who demonstrates he is more than just a pourer of very generous measures. He also does a double karaoke act singing both male and female parts. He suits half a blonde wig.

The ship’s spa therapist was nursing her cocktail-related bruises elsewhere.


There are daily flights to Nice via CroisiEurope’s seven-night Corsica cruise operates weekly between April and October with prices starting from £2,427 per person. This price includes the cruise with all meals and drinks and port fees. CroisiEurope can also arrange flights and transfers. Call 01756 691 269 or visit

Author Bio:

Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.

Photographs courtesy of CroisiEurope

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