Francesca Gosling sleeps on board in the lap of luxury and hops off to explore a new Riviera destination every day

Did you know that throwing a coin into Rome's Trevi Fountain is only lucky if you chuck it over your left shoulder with your right hand? Or that you can actually sit and eat in the St Tropez boutiques of Dior and Roberto Cavalli?

I learned these pub quiz gems during my first cruise, a stay-and-sail trip through the glamorous Italian and French Rivieras.

The five-day Azamara Club Cruises trip includes a one-night stay in Rome before embarking on a gentle sail to St Tropez and Portofino, stopping for the best part of a day at each port, so guests have a real chance to explore.

Think luxury accommodation, top-end restaurants and evening entertainment all in one place - but with a new scene at your doorstep every day.

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Sunlight drenches the private balcony of my gorgeous en-suite stateroom but it's the ship's restaurants that make my head spin.

The sirloin is cooked to perfection and slathered in rich mushroom sauce at the steak restaurant, Prime C.

I don't have long to explore the ship though, as we soon arrive at our first stop, Rome.

As a first-time visitor, I fight the urge to get embarrassingly trigger-happy with the camera as we drive past the Vatican, Colosseum and the Piazza Venezia - impressive by day, but spectacular when lit up at night.

We stop for a three-course dinner in a backstreet restaurant, gorging on fresh pasta and creamy panna cotta. Our tour guide, Sofia, then whisks us through the city she describes as an "architectural lasagne", starting at the magnificent Trevi Fountain and finishing in the bustling bohemian streets of Trastevere.

When we reach the church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi, I'm glad I've already digested my dinner. Among the artefacts is a stomach-churning selection of the preserved hearts of 25 popes.

Back on board, we party to DJ Marcio's tunes and try our luck at the casino.

Rome's lucky Trevi Fountain. Photo / 123RF
Rome's lucky Trevi Fountain. Photo / 123RF

Our next stop is St Tropez, made famous by Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 film And God Created Woman. Today, it's still a swanky holiday haven for the world's rich and famous.

As we only have an afternoon to explore, I opt for a boat tour. I'm so busy gawping at perfectly tanned families soaking up sun (and Champagne bubbles) on superyachts that I almost miss a glimpse of Bardot's house.

I have the chance to indulge my own A-lister fantasies at a super-chic White Night party on the pool deck as we set sail again. Wine and made-to-order crepes suzette flow and we go to bed as the lights of the French Riviera fade into the distance.

When I wake up, the luscious green hills of Liguria's Portofino greet me. With its palatial red and orange mansions dotted here and there, I can confirm the region is every bit as beautiful as Hemingway promised.

We drive from the colourful beach of Santa Margherita to the town of Rapallo, as our guide points out the olive groves that produce oil so precious it is never exported beyond the region.

After preparing a lunch of handmade ravioli swimming in a rich, herby sauce, chefs at a traditional hilltop restaurant show us how to make bread stuffed with creamy stracchino cheese. I even try my hand at making pesto from scratch.

Before our voyage comes to an end we stop at the Roman city of Ostia Antica. I hire a headset for €8 and wander through the preserved walls and columns of ancient buildings, imagining what life would have been like wearing a toga.

Spending days at sea has never really appealed to me, but with so much time spent on land, this trip has eased me gently into the world of cruising. Floating between destinations is a pleasant way to see the world - along with my new-found factoids about Brigitte Bardot, that's another gem I've gleamed from this holiday.

Cruising off St Tropez.
Cruising off St Tropez.

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Getting there

flies daily A380 services from Auckland to Rome via Dubai, with Economy Class return fares from $1979.

Online
azamaraclubcruises.com