The audience sat rapt as the baritone, with only a piano for accompaniment, delivered a beautifully haunting rendition of Purcell’s Cold Song.

But the talented Fabrice di Falco had a surprise for us. For the finale, his voice rose – seemingly impossibly – to falsetto, drawing thunderous applause from the small but intimate theatre and cries of “bravo”.

It was certainly not what most people would have in mind when thinking of cruise ship entertainment.

But then again, this was no ordinary cruise. For this opera-themed trip, French operator Compagnie du Ponant put together an impressive roster of singers and dancers to keep us entertained during our short tour of the Adriatic.

It was my first cruise, so it was with excitement that I caught my first glimpse of L’Austral as our minibus descended a winding mountain road into the Greek coastal town of Itea.

This 142-metre mega-yacht, the youngest in le Ponant’s fleet of six, looked majestic at port and far from out of place in these stunning surroundings.

I was immediately impressed by my cabin which, like most of the 132 on the yacht, was spacious and had its own balcony.

Once refreshed, our group opted for an informal dinner in the buffet restaurant before taking in the night’s show – a compilation of light-hearted opera pieces.

I found it soothing that night to be gently rocked to sleep by the sea as L’Austral made her way to the seaside retreat of Parga.

The next morning we took in the Ethnographic Museum within the converted 17th century Aslan Pasha mosque. Inside was a permanent exhibition of swords, guns and costumes detailing the history of the city’s people and its eventual liberation.

Just a short boat trip away was the small island of Nissi on Lake Pavotis, where you can find the Ali Pasha Museum – housed in the former monastery where the Ottoman tyrant held out for his last two years.

Back on board L’Austral, it was time for the captain’s cocktail reception and gala dinner.

The following day we dropped anchor off sunny Dubrovnik for my first visit to this beautiful Croatian city.

It can be extremely busy here during the daytime, so a boat trip to tranquil Lokrum Island with its 12th century Benedictine monastery, avenues of cypress trees and botanical gardens was the ideal place to start for a relaxing couple of hours.

By late afternoon, things had quietened down on the mainland and it was the perfect time for a stroll around the city walls which offer breathtaking vistas of the city’s harbour, landmark churches and distinctive orange slate roofs.

Back on board there was more good food and later some literary readings mixed with the more universal language of ballet. By bedtime, L’Austral was already on its overnight 230km journey north along the Dalmatian Coast to Croatia’s second city, Split.

We were up bright and early for our excursion – a trip to the spectacular Diocletian Palace.

This well-preserved piece of Roman history was built by emperor Diocletian in the 4th century and now forms the basis of the Old Town.

Within the walls and cellars are narrow streets of homes and shops, the fascinating Temple of Jupiter and the smallest church I’ve ever visited – which had capacity for 10 worshippers at the most.

L’Austral now had a longer journey to the Istrian peninsula and the historic town of Rovinj, but there was plenty of time to relax and soak up the sun before the evening’s entertainment.

Things kicked off with a spot of cabaret in the main lounge, a chance for the ballet dancers who put the show together to let their hair down a little, then it was back to the lounge for some dancing into the early hours.

Feeling slightly worse for wear the next morning, the perfect way to recover was to get some fresh sea air during a stroll around the pretty harbour city of Rovinj.

The town is dominated by the baroque 17th century Church of Saint Euphemia and its 63-metre high bell tower.

The church was the perfect setting for a stunning recital of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, from the aforementioned Monsieur Di Falco and soprano Anne-Marguerite Werster.

That evening’s gala dinner was followed by the farewell concert and it was here that I heard Fabrice’s performance which so stirred me.

It was time to say farewell to L’Austral the next morning, as she sailed into Venice, offering some incredible views.

Does opera music mix well with cruises?

Well, it certainly beats Jane McDonald.

Travel facts

James Powell was a guest of Compagnie du Ponant, which offers seven-day/six-night Adriatic cruises on L’Austral from £1,785.

Passengers arrange their own travel to and from the ship, although the cruise company may offer flight credits as a sales incentive.

Package includes all meals (from dinner on day of embarkation to breakfast before disembarkation), cocktail parties, gala dinner, wines served with meals, 24-hour room service (selected menu) and evening entertainment and/or organised events.

For reservations call 0800 980 4027 or visit