After reading some great reviews (especially from Budaman) for Royal Clipper nearly 12 months ago we decided to book the 10 day Christmas cruise from Barbados to the BVI's. Thanks to all for the advice given in the forums, the best of which was to go with the flow. This was our first cruise and while a little apprehensive we were really looking forward to it. Sorry if this is a little long winded but we have tried to answer the questions we wanted to know. Overall the cruise exceeded high expectations.
We were concerned that weather could delay us so we headed off from Dublin via Gatwick on the 15th December. After a pleasant flight with BA we arrived in Barbados and within an hour, we had our bags and were on our way to Bougainvillea Resort near St. Laurence Gap for 2 nights. We had never been to the Caribbean before and were very pleasantly surprised by the welcome and particularly the beach. 2 very relaxing and quite reasonable nights followed (â‚¬130 a night) and can definitely recommend. Friday night in Oistins was great fun and memorable. Best fish I have ever had.
First Day - 17th Dec
On advice from others, we arrived for check in at about 3.30 or so. The check in was done inside the terminal building by the sports team and was quite efficient as we were on the ship at about 4.30pm where we were welcomed by a drink and some bites. After a while we were brought down to our cabin with our bags arriving soon afterwards. We then took a tour of the boat (library, gym, restaurant, deck etc..) and then went to the tropical bar for a drink where we got talking to a few of our fellow travelers. At this stage there was an orientation done by the cruise director who warned us of heavy seas that night (in the end they were ok) and the offer of seasick tablets at the pursers desk). We had dinner at 7.30 and then went on deck for sailaway which was memorable we recommend to go on deck for all of these .
Day 2 -- At sea
Relaxing and pleasant day at sea. Great to get to explore the ship a bit more, enjoy the great food and get to know some of our fellow guests. Did the compulsory lifeboat drill in the morning. Climbing the mast was offered in the afternoon and snorkelling gear was given out before dinner. Would recommend taking your own mask and snorkel but use their fins Entertainment was a fashion show from the sports team which highlighted what was on offer in the shop. Light hearted fun. After a few after dinner drinks, had a good night's sleep as had got my sea legs at that stage.
Day 3 -- St. Barth
After a pleasant breakfast the ship arrived in St.Barth at about 11am. We had lunch on board and then went into town for a wander around and buying a few souvenirs. Gustavia is a pretty town but a lot of the shops were closed. Also had to deal with our first experience of feeling nauseous on land -- weird experience. We came back and did the organised snorkelling safari. Saw a few nice fish but the compulsory life jacket was awkward. The ship should invest in better buoyancy aids given the prices paid -- one of very few criticisms. We did not do any of the organised excursions. If we were back we would recommend renting a car and seeing some of the island -- there are some notable beaches on the other side. That night, there was bingo in the bar which was a good laugh although the cruise director should learn some of the bingo sayings to make it a bit more fun. As on other nights we enjoyed the company of our fellow guests with a few drinks in the Tropical Bar.
Day 4 -- BVIs -- Norman Island and Sopers Hole (Tortola)
Sailing up to the BVIs is memorable and can highly recommending as much time on deck as you can. It is incredible scenery with all those little islands.
We went over to the beach on Norman Island as early as we could. It was a fun place to snorkel and we had a few beers over in Pirates before making our way back to the ship for lunch. This was one of our favourite beaches -- had a real isolated feel about the place and one you will never experience on a big cruise ship.
After arriving back for lunch, we had a relaxing afternoon as we set sail for Sopers hole where we would be docked for the night. After another pleasant dinner we got the tender into Sopers Hole to go to a local bar. A lot of the crew were there, and after dancing and drinking we got back to the ship about 2am (even the midnight snack was gone)
Day 5 -- Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda
Similar to the previous day, we (tenderly) went over to the beach which was pretty cool with the soggy dollar bar and one love. We did some snorkelling, walked the beach, bought a t shirt and headed back for lunch...perfect!! It is hard to describe these places but paradise comes to mind.
Afternoon was again similar, reading on deck, having a beer, and enjoying the scenery as we sailed the short but very scenic distance to Virgin Gorda where we arrived at about 6.30. We did not go over to Virgin Gorda (Bitter end) as we would be there the next morning -- we were told it was pretty quiet so no regrets.
After dinner the music quiz was held which was surprisingly competitive for some -- men v women. Might have been better to have teams but so be it.
Day 6 -- Virgin gorda
Had an early start for breakfast as we wanted to do the mast climb which was good fun, and is for all ages. We are in our 30's but a fellow guest in his mid 80's went up in about half the time I did. After that we went over to the Bitter End yacht club in Virgin Gorda. Unfortunately due to rough seas the trip to the baths was cancelled but this was a pleasant place to spend a few hours, and an excuse to come back. We walked some of the trails and got t shirts and Christmas decorations plus some props for the Pirate evening. Came back to the ship for lunch on the deck and then chilled for the afternoon particularly as we sailed off from the BVIs on our way to St. Kitts.
Unfortunately we soon hot some very rough weather. While I did get a little ill, with the help of a sea sick tablet and plenty of bread I was ok for dinner but at least half the guests did not make it. Unfortunately Pirates night was cancelled but still had a very memorable meal and a good laugh. Surprisingly I slept very well -- was getting used to this living on a ship!!.
Day 7 -- St Kitts
We arrived at breakfast time in Basseterre but only the people for excursions got off the boat here. We then sailed to South friar's Bay and tenders went off at 11am. We (and our crew) decided that we would visit the ship wreak bar which is a ten minutes walk up from where the tender lets you off where we would sunbathe, snorkel and have lunch. Had a really enjoyable day with a few Caribs and a burger before heading back to the ship.
That night was Captains Dinner so as all the women got dolled up for dinner, we had a nice pre dinner drink and a very enjoyable meal, followed by the excellent talent show. Who knew there was so much talent on the ship, especially the captain!!
Day 8 -- Antigua -- Christmas Eve
Arrived fairly early in Falmouth Harbour with tenders to the beach and the marina. We walked over to Normans dockyard which is very dinky. Admired the buildings and the boats, before having a nice beer and then heading over (15 mins walk) to the beach for the beach BBQ.
Went back to the ship early afternoon as we had an unscheduled stop in St. Johns to pick up water supplies. While unscheduled the ship arranged for taxis to bring guests to Christmas eve mass in the local church. This was a welcome surprise for many, there was also a special afternoon tea with nice Christmas treats on board. Another nice dinner was followed by the excellent steel band in the tropical bar. This was a great experience to see local culture and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely.
We had a very special sail away at 12.30 which followed stories by the captain on deck. We were led out by the pilot and bonfires were burning in St john to mark Christmas. A very special experience.
Day 9 -- Ils des Saintes -- Christmas Day
Unfortunately it was raining in les Saintes when we got over there but it was a pleasant wander around the town, visited the nice little church, bought a few bits in the shops and then went back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we took the tender over to the beach, which was on a small island. Did some snorkelling and kayaking and then back to the ship. Very pleasant time on deck watching the kite surfers and the boats.
Christmas evening was great fun. Started off with Irish Coffees in the bar, followed by a lovely meal and then adjourned to the bar with our friends for what ended up being a late night. I was also talking to the owner's daughter who works for the company and was on board for her holidays. She was interested in the guests and their experiences, was down to earth and showed exactly why this ship differentiates itself from the floating vegas ships. Certainly very different to normal Christmas days!!
Day 10 -- St Lucia
Unfortunately our last day and the atmosphere was changing a little as people realised that we would have to start packing. The morning stop was in Marigot Bay -- it was not the most exciting but one thing to note is that there is free wifi if you want to email/skype home. Over lunch we sailed to Soufriere where were to do the zip lining excursion. This was good fun and suits all ages. Only regret was that it clashed with what we were told was the best snorkelling of the trip. After getting back to the ship, we were back on a tender within 15 mins while we got the opportunity to see the ship in full sail. All I can say is wow.
Back on board, we did our packing and then went to dinner where everyone was a little sad to see the trip coming to an end. One of our friends had her birthday so we had a nice cake and sang happy birthday. A few post dinner drinks was followed by star gazing on deck and then an earlyish night.
Day 11 -- Barbados
The ship arrived into Barbados early. We spent the morning saying our goodbyes, had our breakfast, settled the bill and were off the ship at 9.30. there are excursions for those who have late flights (a tour or a beach day). We were staying 2 more nights in barbados so we headed off to get a taxi. After messing from a driver at the rank where he wanted to stick 2 more people into the taxi when we clearly would not fit we decided get our bags and walked outside the port. Here we got a taxi for less and no messing. While the next 2 days were pleasant it was a little bit of an anti-climax so next time we will just leave for home that day.
Generally the food was excellent, with
Early bird Breakfast from 6 -- 1030 in the paino bar
Main breakfast from 8 -- 10
Lunch from 12 -- 2pm
Afternoon snack from 5 -- 6pm in the tropical bar
Dinner from 7.30pm to 10pm
Midnight snack from 11.45 pm to 1am n the piano bar
Early breakfast was usually fruit and some pastries.
Main breakfast was buffet style in the dining room. There was a good choice of cooked breakfast, cheeses, omelette station and fruits.
Lunch was also a buffet and had different selections everyday and sometimes themes like seafood, international, Italian etc. The desserts at lunchtime were generally better than at dinner as you could try more than one.
Afternoon tea involved fruit and snacks such as chicken wings, goujons etc.. We tried to stick to the fruit to save our appetite for dinner.
Dinner was a la carte and the food was generally of an excellent standard with soup, starter, sorbet, main, salad, cheese, dessert. There was also the option to have Steak and Chips every night. This sometimes made a change from the richer foods served. Overall very happy with the food, and dinner was usually a 2 hour affair.
Midnight snack was fruit and something hot like chicken goujons, tacos, spring rolls etc.
Tea (good selection) and coffee was always available in the Piano Room. This was great although sometimes the bar staff had to be reminded to top up the kettle. No big deal.
Beers started at 3 euros including service. Cocktail of the day is 4.50. Others are 5.50. Wines ranged from 13.50 for the house wines (white was wine, red was not), to 18 for a bottle of prosecco to early 20's for decent wines to 30 for very decent wines. If you don't finish your wine, it can be stored or they will bring it up to the bar for you.
All the staff were great from the captain to the bar staff to the rigger. Special mention to Vira, Sylbert and Peter in the Bar, Manny and the omelette chef in the restaurant, and to Sunny the chief engineer who we hope to see again.
We only did ziplining as the baths were cancelled. Others mentioned the swimming with rays as a highlight.
Looking at the stars as we sailed
Nice beach stops
You can do as little or as much as you want
The Ship itself
Things to improve
Better instruction from the watersports team. Some also said the snorkelling was not as good as before.
We will definitely do this again and don't think that a regular cruise ship would suit us. The people on board are very interesting with a mix of backgrounds and ages.