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Why Sea Cloud Is the Luxury Cruise Line for You

Contributor
Ramsey Qubein
Executive Editor, U.S.
Chris Gray Faust

Last updated
Jan 24, 2024

Read time
5 min read

Sails up! In a world where cruise ships like to outdo themselves by getting bigger and bigger (we’re looking at you, Icon of the Seas), sometimes people search for an alternative. And that’s exactly what Sea Cloud provides on its trio of true sailing ships that make you feel straight out of a pirate movie.

The original Sea Cloud, owned by heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post who received it as a gift from her financier husband E.F. Hutton, was the world’s largest sailing yacht when it debuted in 1931. Today, the 65-passenger ship still feels like a private house museum at sea, in part because Post’s original 410-square-foot cabin is intact, in all its glory.

Sea Cloud Spirit docked in Cartagena (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sea Cloud Spirit docked in Cartagena (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

The line’s subsequent ships, Sea Cloud II and Sea Cloud Spirit, are built for the modern era. But there’s something about being on a windjammer, where up to 24 sails are still manually raised, that harkens back to another era. Of the two, Sea Cloud II is smaller, with only 94 passengers, while Sea Cloud Spirit can carry 135.

Cruise Critic sailed on Sea Cloud Spirit on a holiday cruise through the southern Caribbean. Here is our take on who would love this luxury sailing cruise – and who should look elsewhere.

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Sea Cloud might be the luxury line for you if...

Sea Cloud Spirit crew in the rigging (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sea Cloud Spirit crew in the rigging (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

You Love Sailing

Without a doubt, the sails are what draw passengers to the Sea Cloud fleet, and the ships’ captains try to give the guests what they want – lots of time under sail, without the aid of motors. Raising and lowering the sails is an event that involves crew members scampering on the rigging, up to 150 feet high. It’s fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

Sea Cloud has an open-bridge policy during the day, even when sailing, which allows passengers to stop by and take a look. They are always welcome to chat with the captain, and tours of the engine room are also given periodically. That being said, unlike other sailing cruise lines like Star Clippers or the Maine Windjammer ships, passengers are usually spectators and don’t help run the ship.

You Like Traveling with International Passengers

Lido Deck restaurant on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Lido Deck restaurant on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Sea Cloud has a strong fan base in Germany, where the cruise line is based. On our cruise, the passengers were all from Europe, except us. That being said, most people spoke English -- the crew are all bilingual -- and we received invites to sit with others at lunch and during cokctial hour. And Sea Cloud is expanding into North America, with more inclusions, changes to programming and dining.

You Like Authentic Décor, with Modern Amenities

Junior suite on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Junior suite on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

While cabins are designed to imitate the layout and look of traditional windjammer ships, there is no shortage of modern perks. These include complimentary nonalcoholic mini-bars, 220-volt power outlets (converter needed), flat-screen TVs and safes. Marble bathrooms continue the upscale theme with L'Occitane toiletries and full-length mirrors.

Balcony for junior suites on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Balcony for junior suites on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

In a rarity for a sailing ship, the junior suites on Sea Cloud Spirit have balconies.

You Want to Unplug and Relax

Sundeck on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sundeck on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

A Sea Cloud cruise is the ultimate experience in unplugging. Although the ships have Starlink so you can stay in touch, most passengers were content to spend their days sprawled in the plentiful clamshells and loungers under the sails.

Sauna on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sauna on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Sea Cloud Spirit also had a nice sized spa onboard that included a sauna and steam room. Note: German rules for saunas are in effect -- so bring a towel if you're modest.

You Like Sailing to Smaller Ports

St. Barts (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
St. Barts (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Unlike large cruise ships, sailboats are able to slip into smaller ports that are otherwise incapable of handling the crowds (think St. Barth's or the Grenadines). Sea Cloud ships-- with their beautiful sails and masts -- are head turners, and it's common for locals to snap photos or watch as the ships sail into port.

You Like Flexibility and Freedom Onshore

Moomba's Beach Club at Palm Beach, Aruba (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Moomba's Beach Club at Palm Beach, Aruba (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Sea Cloud is flexible in its offerings. The cruise director goes to great lengths to secure maps, detailed directions and alternative tour options for travelers. Other cruise lines often discourage passengers from booking outside their tour listings, making Sea Cloud rather unique in that sense. We weren't the only ones in Aruba taking ourselves to a beach club.

You Appreciate Good Service

Folded duvets in a junior suite on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Folded duvets in a junior suite on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

One thing about a smaller ship is that service is far more personalized. Name recognition is a hallmark at Sea Cloud, and that comes with remembering personal preferences, whether it's how you take your coffee; if you like sparkling or still water, or even if you want a fast or leisurely meal. Turndown service is the norm (and forget towel animals -- we loved the shapes that our steward made out of our duvet).

You Like Fresh Fish and Strong Cocktails

Fresh tuna on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Fresh tuna on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

The dining on the ships tends toward European; every breakfast, lunch and many dinners are buffets, some with ingredients and staples that aren't necessarily your typical American fare. That being said, we found the ship excelled in fresh fish, with choices every day. Two nights, sashimi was sliced before our eyes from a tuna.

The cocktails onboard are equally impressive. The bar has a long list of classic Caribbean cocktails, which the staff is happy to make.

You Like Fun DJ Dance Parties and Theme Nights

Dancing at the Lido Bar on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Dancing at the Lido Bar on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

While Sea Cloud Spirit was quiet during the day, things came alive at night. An onboard DJ from Brazil turned up the music, and the somewhat introverted Germans got jiggy with it, almost every night.

Sea shanties being sung on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sea shanties being sung on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Theme parties are also a hallmark of Sea Cloud. People looked forward to Pirate Night, where the staff brought out costumes for passengers to try on. Later, the crew serenaded us with sea shanties. What a blast.

Sea Cloud Might Not be the Luxury Cruise Line for You if….

Drinks Being Served on Sea Cloud (Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises)
Drinks Being Served on Sea Cloud (Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises)

You Want to Travel with the Kids

All ages are welcome, but there are few facilities on either Sea Cloud ship for young sailors. Teenagers will enjoy watching the intricacies of operating a sailboat, and they are more likely to appreciate the various cultural activities at each port. For those who know how to entertain themselves, it's not a problem. However, young children will find the lack of distraction to be a chore.

You Want Lots of Organized Activities

Sundeck on Sea Cloud Spirit under sails (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sundeck on Sea Cloud Spirit under sails (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Live music and chatting with fellow passengers are certainly entertaining, but this is not the kind of cruise meant to keep you busy from morning to night. Bring a good book, your favorite knitting, crossword puzzles or creative writing, as well as plenty of sunscreen. Self-made distraction is the name of the game when not dining or enjoying a port.

You Need a Pool in Hot Climates

Library on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Library on Sea Cloud Spirit (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

None of the Sea Cloud ships have pools onboard, and we found we missed this amenity in the humid Caribbean. Germans and Europeans as a rule aren't fans of air conditioning, and most people preferred to dine al fresco, on even the hottest night. My husband and I found ourselves retreating to our air conditioned cabin or the ship's quite glamorous library some afternoons for some respite.

Your Culinary Tastes Run Toward Basic

Shrimp appetizer at Sea Cloud Spirit gala dinner (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Shrimp appetizer at Sea Cloud Spirit gala dinner (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

As mentioned earlier, the ships trend toward European and heavier cuisine, although we did appreciate the fresh salad bar at lunches. Meals are also leisurely, and can run a bit longer than Americans are used to (we had an eight-course meal on Christmas day that ran three hours).

You’re Uncomfortable in a Bilingual Atmosphere

Sun deck on Sea Cloud Spirit on a sea day (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Sun deck on Sea Cloud Spirit on a sea day (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

We loved sailing with Germans -- it was like having two vacations in one (and we were able to dust off our high school language skills). As Sea Cloud continues to draw North Americans to its ships, the sailing population will become more even, but Sea Cloud's sophistication and uniqueness will also draw a more international passenger base.


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