By Ginger Dingus, Cruise Critic contributor
Royal Clipper, the largest square-rigged sailing ship in the world, joined Star Clippers' three-ship fleet of sailing vessels in 2000. Mikael Krafft modeled the striking five-masted clipper ship after the Preussen, which in its day (1902) was the largest, fastest, fully rigged sailing ship on the seas. Royal Clipper's blue and white checkerboard hull mirrors the pattern of this classic merchant sailing ship, with its faux gun ports painted to frighten away pirates.
It doesn't take much imagination to feel like a pirate onboard Royal Clipper, the ultimate sailing experience in today's cruise market. From our first sail away, it was obvious that our Captain loved to show off the ship's sail power. Watching 42 sails unfurl one by one is an impressive sight. The sounds of squeaking lines, hundreds of yards of Dacron flapping in the wind, and symphonic background music are the stuff of daydreams. I totally agree with the captain that feeling the wind propelling this large a vessel is truly an awesome experience. It was just as exciting on the last day as it was on the first.
The chance to sail (not motor) from port to port is what a cruise on this unique vessel is all about. If there's a downside, it's that you may not get to see your own ship under sail. The Captain tries to schedule a photo op via tender. Unfortunately, ours was canceled due to heavy swells.
Ultimately, Royal Clipper offers an experience that's a bit of a blend of casual barefoot sailing and Windstar's more upscale onboard vibe. Add to that a European feel -- the ship attracts an international passenger base and, indeed, not only issues announcements in three languages (English, German, French) but also uses the Euro as its standard currency.
Royal Clipper Fellow Passengers
Royal Clipper attracts a mix of ages, the average being 50-plus. On the whole, it's an active, energetic and physically fit group. Most are seasoned travelers. Many have a sailing background. Royal Clipper inspires passionate loyalty among past passengers, and there are usually a large number of repeaters (50 - 60 percent). On our cruise, about a third of the passengers were Americans with a substantial European contingent made up mainly of Brits and Germans.
Royal Clipper Dress Code
Shorts and T-shirts are not permitted in the dining room at night. The brochure encourages men to wear long sleeved shirts for dinner, but polo shirts are the norm. Women wear slacks or casual dresses. At all other times, shorts and T-shirts are the accepted sailor's uniform for crew and passengers alike.
Royal Clipper Gratuity
The ship operates in Euros, not dollars. A tip of 8 Euros per passenger per day is suggested -- 5 goes into the wait staff pool and 3 for your cabin steward. Tips may be placed in a box at the purser's office, or you can add the amount to your onboard account. A 12.5 percent tip is automatically added to bar bills.
I'm ordering photos online to make Christmas gifts and am reliving the experience all over again. I've been on a few cruises, mainly as a child with my grandparents on big cruise lines (Alaska and Hawaii). My family likes to travel and we ...continue
The best part of the cruise was the fabulous staff. The food and the staff were wonderful. I thought we were in trouble when check was a terrible experience. All other ships had signs and staff to organize the incoming passengers. Star ...continue
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Boarding the Royal Clipper in Venice, we knew we were in for a voyage of a lifetime, such a magnificent sailing ship with its 5 masts standing tall and erect. Champagne to welcome us as we made our way to our cabin on level 3. If you can afford ...continue