I initially planned to be onboard for one week for the cruise to the Windward Islands. I have been on many regular cruises, and I have been on sailing vacations on 50 - 60 foot yachts. This was completely different from either. What a ... Read More
I initially planned to be onboard for one week for the cruise to the Windward Islands. I have been on many regular cruises, and I have been on sailing vacations on 50 - 60 foot yachts. This was completely different from either. What a special experience! The Royal Clipper is a true sailing ship, and the captain had her sailing without the diesel engine running, as much as possible. To see the sails unfurled each time we weighed anchor as the Vangelis music from 1492 played -- it was powerful.
How much did I like being on the Royal Clipper? By mid-week, I knew I was not ready to return home. One call to my travel agent, and I was on for the second week to the Grenadines.
As many have mentioned, you need to be physically fit to be a passenger on the Royal Clipper. There are many stairs and no elevators. You will feel the water. The ship moves -- she's supposed to -- that's the point. You are sailing. Then at almost every port, you will tender to the shore. If you are unsteady on your feet, this is not the cruise for you.
Seasickness: the ship moves a lot. I have had problems with seasickness in the past. I simply brought tablets, and I used them. I was fine. I had no problems, and would simply say, go prepared.
The ship is in fine condition. It looked like carpet in many places was new. Someone onboard mentioned seeing the Royal Clipper in dry dock last year, so some freshening was probably done at that point. Embarkation was easy and well organized.
I was in two different cabins (since the second week was a last minute addition). Cabin 206, week 1, was wider than cabin 201. This makes sense of course, because the clipper tapers towards the bow. I was by myself, and the cabins were very comfortable for one person. For two people, I would recommend staying away from the narrower cabins -- 201 and 202, and corresponding cabins on the deck below. Several couples that I met on the the cruise were in the luxury cabins one floor up, and said they were very spacious. I was quite happy with my cabins.
The food onboard was outstanding. Our chef, Devon, was from Jamaica, and his staff produced amazing meals from what I am sure is a fairly small galley. Dinner entrees between the two weeks did not repeat, with the exception of the lobster, which is served for the Captain's dinner. The bar staff was equally fine -- friendly, funny. And they may make the best mojito I've ever tasted.
Ports and excursions: okay, this is different from what I was accustomed to on a large ship. I took 2 - 3 excursions from the ship each week, and they were all well done. On all cruises in the past, I have made arrangements myself through local vendors. This is more difficult to do on Star Clippers, for two reasons. One, she rarely docks where the big ships go (a wonderful thing) so meeting other excursion people can be difficult. Two, you are often not in port as long as you would be on a regular ship. I would tell you that over my two weeks on the Royal Clipper, I am very content with the way this works. We were in some small, amazing places. They sent us on tenders into lovely beaches . . . excursion? who needs an excursion? I borrowed a mask and fins each week from the water crew onboard the ship, would hit the beach, snorkel, have a drink at the beach bar . . .
Places that I strongly recommend taking an excursion: Fort de France, Martinique. Lovely island, gorgeous gardens. The city of Fort de France -- um, no. Get out of the town, and you will like Martinique.
Soufriere in St. Lucia: this is a great stop because the Pitons, the most photographed mountains in St. Lucia, are right there. But the town is not wonderful. I have been to St. Lucia a number of times, and the perfect thing to do is to take a water taxi from Soufriere to the beautiful beach between the two Pitons. It's perhaps a fifteen/twenty minute ride. Two resorts share the white sand beach. Water is gorgeous, and there is snorkeling along the right side (right side, as you stand on the beach and look out to sea). Lovely bar and restaurant.
What can I say? I loved my experience with Star Clippers. I am not sure that I will ever be able to return to a large ship. The sailing experience is the heart of a cruise on the Royal Clipper. Doing things like crawling out onto the net along the bowsprit as the ship sails -- transformative. I am obviously a convert -- and I would say, with great enthusiasm, if my description sounds appealing to you, you will have a wonderful time. Read Less