I sailed on Royal Clipper on her New Year's cruise with my partner and another couple. We are in our early 40's and this was our 46th cruise. Embarkation involved standing in line for an excruciating hour and a 10 minute walk to the ship as we didn't feel like waiting in another long line for the shuttle.
The cabin was compact but well-appointed. The low shower-floor lip and lack of enclosure walls except for a curtain all but guaranteed flooding of the bathroom with each use. The ship was beautifully decorated in an Edwardian yachting motif. The gym was minimally equipped with two treadmills limited by a low ceiling and two ancient recumbent bicycles.
The open-seating dinners were fine with good service and reasonably priced wines but the seating could be extremely tight depending on location. Breakfast and lunch buffets were of variable quality but a beach barbecue was terrific.
Those accustomed to large ships were shocked by the ship's extreme movements in all directions but this was to be expected. The sails were magnificent but generally used more as a display than as an active means of propulsion. The ship primarily sails under diesel power and usually engine noise and cooking exhaust smells were present on the open decks.
Activities are minimal to nonexistent. The Cruise Director is a glorified shore-excursion salesman and a font of misinformation. He lead no activities and showed no leadership or entertaining skills. There are few onboard activities, no daily summaries or navigational information and a surprising lack of sailing-related information or exercises. Entertainment consists of a solo piano player generally playing 70's melodies backed up by preprogrammed disco beats.
New Year's Eve was particularly poorly planned. We were told to go on deck at 11:30, were served warm "bubbly" and looked at each other until 12:05 when some passengers counted down to artificially start the year. No music, no horn, no sign of the Captain or officers and no Cruise Director. When questioned the next day, the Cruise Director said the Captain was "ill" and that he himself was "elsewhere".
When we returned to the cabin after the New Year's Eve "celebrations", the annoying nightly noise (I had previously used ear plugs and sleeping pills) of the Crew Mess located directly under our cabin became intolerable with loud singing, yelling and music. There was no-one on duty at the front desk and when I brought the matter to the Hotel Manager the next day, he basically "blamed" me for only complaining on the fifth day. When I said that I hadn't complained earlier as the ship was full and there was likely no recourse, he agreed and offered me a complimentary downgrade (he actually used the expression "downgrade") where we could sleep in a smaller cabin while occupying our original cabin. Uh, right. He acknowledged the noise problem, showed no particular concern and offered no apology.
Other passengers expressed numerous concerns about the senior officers and their ill-treatment of the general staff and the overall unhappiness of the crew. It was also extremely concerning to hear passengers commenting on how they observed heavy alcohol consumption of officers at some of our beach stops.
Disembarkation was extremely relaxed and their was no hurry to get us off the ship although our requested wake-up call was never delivered.
While Royal Clipper is a first-rate ship, she offers an overall disappointing cruise experience, generally omitting any and all of the sailing-themed activities and ambiance that attracted us to her in the first place. Her poor onboard atmosphere, absence of "joie de vivre" and lack of understanding of what makes passengers happy will ensure that I avoid Star Clippers in the future.