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We have cruised about a dozen times before, on the large cruise ships of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, and Celebrity. We were intrigued with taking a cruise on a smaller-sized, real sailing ship (no big entertainment, ... Read More
We have cruised about a dozen times before, on the large cruise ships of Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, and Celebrity. We were intrigued with taking a cruise on a smaller-sized, real sailing ship (no big entertainment, no casino, no long lines). The Royal Clipper is a beautiful new sailing ship of the Star Clippers cruise line. Friday Judy and I flew out of Minneapolis on American Airlines on a Friday morning. We had decided to fly a day early to our cruise that started in Barbados, and spend one night in a hotel to ensure we wouldn't miss the boat. It was a long day of traveling. Our first plane was to Chicago. Second to Miami. Third to Barbados. We arrived in Barbados late, about 9:30 p.m., and got a ride over to our hotel for the night. It was raining - the hotel staff told us December is usually their driest month, but they had been having a lot of rain this year (it figures). They have had some trouble with Dengue fever on the island, so our room had a mosquito coil slowly burning on the floor (nice touch). The cruise line was supposed to pick us up at 3:30 the following day (Saturday) to take us to the ship, which was supposed to dock at 6:00 a.m., unloaded the passengers, then let us new passengers on the ship by 5:00 p.m. for a 10:00 sailing. Saturday We checked out of our hotel at noon, and sat around the pool and read our books and relaxed until 3:30 p.m. I had a funny feeling that nobody would actually come get us as promised. Then a taxi driver looking for someone else asked us who we were waiting for, and when we told him we were waiting for a taxi to take us to the Royal Clipper, he said he had overheard some bad news - it wasn't coming back until the NEXT day because of problems! I asked him if this happened often, and he said, no. So I called the agent for the cruise company and found out that indeed, the ship was very late getting back from Martinique to Barbados (the longest leg of the cruise) they had run into very strong head winds (were probably relying on their engine), and were due in about 8 or 9 p.m. They said we could stay at the hotel until they were ready to take us to the ship, or they could pick us up now and take us to a bar/restaurant/beach area downtown (Bridgetown) where the other passengers would be arriving. They would take us to a restaurant for dinner (a pretty forgettable meal), and then when it was time to board the ship, they would take us to the ship. We opted for the second option - we did not want to hang around the hotel anymore. While we were waiting in Bridgetown, we met some of our fellow passengers on the voyage, including a nice older couple from Florida, whom we spent a lot of time with on the trip, as well as couples from England, Germany, and Virginia. It turned out there were only 97 passengers on our trip, on a boat that accommodated over 200. September 11th definitely had something to do with it. There were many English and German people on the cruise, so all announcements were made in three languages. On the menus in the dining room, French came first, then English, and then German. I also met an Austrian man who had cruised more exotic, adventurous places, such as the high arctic and Antarctica, and was looking forward next year to a voyage on a Russian icebreaker to reach the North Pole. We finally were taken to the ship at 10:00 p.m., and the captain got us underway a little before midnight. Once we got out of the harbor (at each port) by engine power, the crew would start hoisting the 33 sails (give or take a couple) to the theme music from the movie, "Christopher Columbus: 1492." It was all very interesting and moving. The passengers were never made to feel they were in the crew's way. This was a beautiful 2-year old ship, not an old Windjammer, and the passengers WERE NOT asked to help with the sails. Once we got underway, we had to cross the Atlantic from Barbados to the first destination, Carriacou, an island north of Grenada. The rocking and tossing of the boat made me feel a little nauseous, so I decided to just lie down on my bed (wishing I hadn't eaten dinner). It was not that bad, and apparently did not affect Judy much. I was happy to discover the next morning I had fallen asleep, and we were now on calm seas. Sunday Some drizzling on and off, but we took the tender boat that landed on Carriacou, and then went on to a tiny island called Sandy Island, where we did some snorkeling before it rained again. It was not much more than a sand bar with about 5 palm trees on it, but somebody later told me the island had a lot more trees before the most recent hurricane decreased their number. Breakfasts and lunches on the ship were always buffets (breakfast also featured a chef making omelets to order), and you sat anywhere and with whom you wanted. The food was good, but I thought the quality (and variety) was a little bit below what I've usually experienced on Princess. Dinner was a choice of two entrees, as well as salad, soup, appetizer, and dessert. Because they put out an afternoon snack at 5:00, we never went to dinner before 8:00. Dinner also was come when you want and sit with whom you want. We met some other nice people this way, including a travel writer from Manhattan who was on board with her mother, and a schoolteacher from England. One night we ate with three of the four young Swedish people who were the water sports staff. We met some other English couples on the trip who were also very charming. One of them had been on the ship the previous week (a different island itinerary) and told us it was so rough sailing back to Barbados the previous Saturday that two women fell off their chairs in the dining room, and the silverware and glasses were falling off the tables. I was glad we missed that voyage. Monday We took the tender from the ship to Grenada. The taxi drivers here were VERY aggressive trying to engage you in conversation so they could take you on an island tour in their taxis. I do not think they believed us when we told them we had been to and seen much of the island before (we had). We walked around the markets, but did not find much to buy except for the usual spices. We did find a store that sold some exotic flavors of ice cream, and after we bought two cones, the owner gave us a golden-foil wrapped nutmeg, which is the leading export of Grenada (without the gold foil), and even appears on their flag. We bought some real cinnamon bark and some locally made vanilla extract for presents to friends back home. We had been told that our ship would be moved at 4:00 p.m. to dock at the pier, so we would not need the tender boats to get back to the ship later. We got back to the pier at 2:30 and waited and waited but no tender ever came. I was starting to become annoyed, as we were running out of time left in Grenada to get to a beach. There was a huge container cargo ship blocking our view, which it turned out, prevented us from seeing that our ship had moved EARLY, and was around the corner from where we were waiting. I finally asked a woman in an information booth if she had heard of anything, and a man talking to her told us our ship was docked around the corner! So we went back to the ship and got changed into our swimsuits and got our snorkeling gear together, and took a taxi to Grenada's probably best-known beach, Grand Anse. It is supposed to have good snorkeling, but it is a very long beach, and apparently where the taxi dropped us off there were no fish. Tuesday This was the highlight day of the cruise for most people. We were now in the Grenadines, which included many small islands, some of which had beautiful beaches and coral reefs but no inhabitants. We first took an excursion that showed us Palm and Union Islands, then we stopped at a beautiful beach (Salt Whistle) on Maryeau for a swim, where the water was nice and warm, and different shades of aquamarine and blue and teal. Then we went snorkeling on the famous Horseshoe Reef circling the Tobago Cays (four uninhabited islets), and then were let off on another small island, I believe named Petite Bateau, where the rest of the ship's passengers were enjoying a very tasty beach barbeque lunch. Just when we got our food, the skies opened up and everyone got wet. But it didn't spoil what had been a terrific day. One of the few disappointments on the cruise was that the cruise/excursion director did not appear to be very familiar with some of the islands, where to go, etc., but only knew about the excursions he was selling. In fairness to him, I think he had only been in the islands for a few weeks. But it was frustrating that, unlike the large cruise ships, this did not supply us with any island or city maps except for St. Lucia, and we never knew where exactly the ship would be stationed if it took people to a beach. In fact, because of the low passenger level, several of the shore excursions had to be cancelled because they didn't get the minimum amount of people needed. The more we cruise, the more independent we seem to have become, especially if we have been to an island before. It is usually a lot cheaper to hire a taxi to take you where you want to go or see by yourselves, instead of paying for a tour through the ship. The only drawback is that you have got to make it back to the ship before it sails - they won't wait for you if you are late and are not on one of the ship's shore excursions. Wednesday We were supposed to be in St. Vincent in the morning, and the small yet quaint island of Bequia in the afternoon. The whole day it rained. The only washed-out day of the cruise. Judy and I walked around the markets in Kingstown in the morning, but didn't find any place that sold any kind of tee shirts or souvenirs; but we did find an Internet Cafe, which was very reasonable - $2 for 15 minutes (the ship's PC available to send an e-mail for $35 did not work, and I had to argue a little to get a refund). I sent an e-mail to our younger son at college, to tell him that if our voyage was delayed getting back to Barbados (as the last week's one was), when he got to the airport the day AFTER we were supposed to come home (Sunday), and called us to pick him up, if we didn't answer the phone, to take a taxi home. I had been planning on getting a taxi driver to show us around the small island of Bequia in the afternoon, as well as let us off for an hour at one of the beautiful beaches on the island to swim and snorkel, but the rain changed all of that. We decided to walk around the small main street of the harbor (Port Elizabeth) anyhow, and bought a couple of souvenirs. There is a famous wooden boat shop in Bequia (the models sell for $200-$300), but the place was closed. But at least we weren't disappointed about the excursion to the very exclusive island of Mustique (homes owned by Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, etc.) being cancelled (because of the bad weather). Because we were only going to be in Bequia for a few hours, we had to decide before today between taking the Mustique excursion or spending the time on Bequia, and we had chosen Bequia. Thursday Nice weather today in St. Lucia. We did not think we had enough time to take a taxi down to the southern end of the island where the snorkeling was (Anse Chastanet) as well as a beautiful view of the Pitons (two green mountains rising out of the sea), so we took a taxi north to Pigeon Island, where the Hyatt Hotel (which was pretty empty) had a beautiful swimming beach. This brings up one minor disappointment with the cruise: in several places the ship left at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, unlike the usual 5:00 or 6:00 on the large cruise ships. So our time on any one island was more limited. However, the second highlight of the trip took place in the afternoon. Since the weather was nice, the captain let people get onto a tender with their cameras, and after we sailed away from the ship, put up all the sails so we could take pictures of the ship in all of its glory. It was really something to see. Our tender even briefly maneuvered in front of the path of the ship, where it became very obvious how fast the sailing ship was really moving through the water, right at us! The evenings on the ship were pretty quiet. One night they had a Caribbean party with a local steel drum band on board, another night a passenger talent show that turned out to be an all- CREW talent show, except for one older woman who belted out some aria from some opera we weren't familiar with. There were two channels on the in-room television showing year-old movies, one in English, one in German or French with the other language in subtitles. So I ended up rewatching some movies I had already seen, but were pretty good (like "Billy Elliot, Christopher Columbus: 1492," etc.) They showed "Columbus" because that's the movie whose music they played when the sails went up leaving port. The movie was over two hours long, but when it hit the two-hour mark, the movie stopped! Several of us at dinner shared our disappointment, and none of us (without the end of the movie) could remember if Columbus ended up being killed on his fourth voyage, or how his story ended. I found the answer on the web: "Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid, Spain, on May 20, 1506, at the age of 54. He had suffered through a long terminal illness that first showed symptoms on his third voyage eight years before." According to his son Fernando, the cause of death was "gout." But in those days, gout was a catchall diagnosis for anything that caused joint pain. Recent research by Gerald Weissmann indicates that the most likely cause of death was Reiter's Syndrome, a rare tropical disease. Friday Last island of the trip, Martinique. We signed up for our only other ship's excursion - a morning catamaran ride down to a black sand beach that had snorkeling. When we got down there, they took us in a Zodiac boat to see the only two bat caves on the island. For some reason I could not get a picture of the hundreds of bats in the dark in the caves. Then we spent an hour snorkeling before it was time to sail back to the Royal Clipper for the last time. On one side of the bay I watched thousands of small, silver fish circle around and around, a fish river in the sea. We had little over an hour left when we got back to the ship, and we walked into Fort du France, Martinque - it was a long walk, but all we found were restaurants, grocery stores, and shops for the locals. Martinique is much more cosmopolitan, white collar, and upscale than some of the other nearby islands like St. Lucia. We almost got lost trying to find our way back to the streets we needed to take back to the ship but fortunately found our way back. In the afternoon, I went up on deck to attend a knot-tying class conducted by a member of the crew from Trinidad. His English was a little hard to understand, and of the six or seven students, I had the most trouble with one or two of the knots. He went through about seven different knots, all of which sounded like they had the same name, yet a different specific purpose. He would check each student's knot, and say, "Very good, excellent, or sometimes in my case, "I've never seen THAT one before!" I would have been happy if he had stopped after the first couple of knots so that I would remember something. In fact, after the class was finished, I realized I had become so confused about tying knots, that I temporarily forgot how to tie a simple bow or shoelace! Fortunately this knowledge returned later on that day. We had our last dinner, and Judy started packing. Our bags had to be out in the hallway by 4:30 a.m. (the big cruise ships have a midnight deadline). Thankfully the seas were not too rough, although we had some bad vibrations shaking the doors in the room all the way back to Barbados on Friday night/early Saturday morning. Saturday We had our early bird breakfast and left for the airport to catch our 9:00 flight from Barbados back to Miami. When we got to the airport, there was a really long line with just one security agent working on our flight. She had on plastic gloves and was opening up EVERY piece of to-be-checked luggage, and going through everything, including lots of dirty laundry. It went so slow, I do not know how our flight was ONLY 30 minutes late. When we got to Miami, going through customs was awful - the place was a madhouse of hundreds and hundreds of people dashing one way or the other, or standing in very long lines. When we went to the baggage carrousels to claim our luggage, they changed the carrousel number (1 to 8) THREE times without posting it on the electronic signs. Then, after we rechecked our luggage and went to catch our next flight, when we went through security, I was taken aside, padded down and "wanded," and also asked to show the soles of my shoes (something new and odd). We did not know until we got home that night about the incident that day on another American Airlines flight with the "shoe bomber" who had plastic explosive in his shoe and was trying to ignite it. Some Additional Thoughts The ship had three tiny saltwater pools, but we didn't use any of them. The rear of the ship on the first level had a marina platform that went opened down over the water, where they offered scuba, sailboating, wind surfing, water skiing, etc. on a couple of the islands, but we didn't have the chance to use it. The cabins themselves had nice wood paneling, and the bathrooms had marble floors (but also a tiny shower with a curtain that tended to want to stick to your rear and become more intimate with you than you desired). The captain and entire crew of the ship were warm and gracious. With only 97 people on our voyage, we got to meet a lot of people and sometimes it felt like one big family. Indeed, there were about 23 people on board having a family reunion, complete with some children. One evening the captain of the ship gave a basic navigation lesson, and passed around a real sextant, which would be useful if the global positioning satellite system went down. I was disappointed the lesson did not get into actual information about how they use the sails to propel the ship, or what the different 33 sails were for. Another afternoon Louis, the chief engineer, gave us a quick tour through the engine rooms of the ship. Some of the engine rooms were very hot and very noisy. Below the waterline on the lowest level of the ship was a small gym/health spa. I used the treadmills there several afternoons. One wall had portholes that were underwater, but I never saw any fish swim by. All of the ports we visited accepted American currency. The other islands, except Barbados and Martinique, also took EC (Eastern Caribbean) currency. Many of the people on the ship had only been on one or none of the large cruise ships before, yet were pretty negative about them. I found myself a minority of one saying I have enjoyed both types of sailing experiences. But understand that this type of cruise on a real sailing vessel is NOT for everyone. All in all, it was a real fun week and cruise, and we were all saddened to have to leave the ship and the people whose company we enjoyed during the week. philminn@spacestar.netJanuary 2002 Read Less
My wife and I have cruised four times previously, three times with Celebrity, which we really enjoyed and once with Princess on the Grand, which we also enjoyed but found the ship to be too large and impersonal. So, we were looking for ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised four times previously, three times with Celebrity, which we really enjoyed and once with Princess on the Grand, which we also enjoyed but found the ship to be too large and impersonal. So, we were looking for something different and smaller and, after much research, decided on the Royal Clipper with its maximum complement of 228 passengers and an interesting itinerary. We chose the February 15th , 2003 Windward Islands itinerary, leaving from Barbados and visiting five islands which we had never before visited. From the time we embarked in Barbados to the time we disembarked back in Barbados a week later, we had the best cruise and vacation of our lives. There were only 125 passengers on this cruise, which I am sure contributed somewhat to the feeling of never feeling crowded. We were the only two Canadians on board as the main mix of passengers was British, German, American and French. Age mix was probably on average, between forty and sixty-five, with some passengers being below or above both ends of this scale. The ship is amazing and its officers and crew were outstanding, all being very approachable with a positive, can-do attitude. Following are various points of reference concerning the ship and our overall cruise experience on the Royal Clipper. The Ship: Truly magnificent. Five masts, 42 sails and over 50,000 square feet of sail. It is a true sailing ship and we spent most afternoons and evenings under full sail. Take note though, that there is a lot of ship movement, depending on the strength of the wind. Our entire week, the wind was strong but perfect for sailing, resulting in quite a bit of "rocking and rolling". However, you soon get your sail legs and become used to the movement. During the dinner hour, the Captain does lower the sails each night and proceeds under engine power to reduce the ship's movement. The most movement was felt on the first and last nights, leaving from and going back to Barbados as the ship is sailing in the Atlantic Ocean on these two legs of the journey. The Royal Clipper is beautifully appointed, with all decks being finished in teak and the interior rooms and cabins sporting loads of wood. Cabins are very comfortable, with marble bathrooms. We were in cabin 315, which was one of two cabins located at the ship's stern on the main deck, with the entrance directly off the rear of the deck. We even had a real key. Our bed was a true queen and had two thick duvets on it. My wife and I both agreed that the bed was the most comfortable we had ever had, including hotels and other cruise ships. The bathroom was also the best of any cruise ship we had been on to date. It had a full size Jacuzzi tub with a great shower (tons of pressure) and never, ever any shortage of hot water. The room was well kept over the week by our cabin steward. The heart of the ship is the Tropic Bar area, amidships on the main deck. It is a large, open-air area (but covered overhead with wood and canvas) where all activities take place. It's where you arrive, where all the entertainment takes place and is the meeting place for all excursions or other activities that take place. It is also where you meet a lot of the passengers as it is the social center of the ship as well. The atrium area consists of the piano bar on the uppermost level, a mid level walk around and the dining room on the lower level. The piano bar is a comfortable lounge area, perfect for before dinner drinks and chats. Each of the dinner selections are set out here on plates each night before dinner, so you can see exactly what the dishes are (a very good innovation). Light snacks are also served here later at night for an hour from 11:30 pm. The dining room is also very comfortable and well appointed. Both outside walls have portholes, which, when going through large swells, fill with water and look like front-loading washing machines. There is also a small purser's desk and store on the mid-level, which sells a nice line of various types of sportswear with the Royal Clipper logo. A reasonably well-equipped gym and spa area is located on the lowest level and it has underwater portholes on the walls. Finally, there is a forward Observation Lounge where lectures can be given but this room was not used once during our cruise. Every night around 11:30 pm, myself and a regular group of passengers went up to the Bridge deck and stood under an incredible starry night, with the wind in our faces and the ship under full sail, cutting through the large swells. It was a great experience. I also went into the bridge a few times (the Royal has an open bridge policy) to talk with the Watch Officer to find out exactly where we were and how fast we were travelling. They are very accommodating on the bridge and will patiently explain how all the bridge equipment works and what it does as well as answer any questions you may have. Try doing that on one of the mainstream cruise liners! The Food: Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style and the food was very good at both these meals. Breakfast has all the items you may want as well as a chef cooking you custom eggs and omelettes. Lunches had lots of selections and had a very fresh and varied salad fixings bar as well as a number of just cooked hot items. The sweet trays at lunch were to die for! Dinner was served "a la carte" from a menu that usually had three different entrees to choose from as well as a vegetarian dish. Not the full selection available on the large ships but more than sufficient for most people. My wife and I and the other three couples we ate with each night never had a problem finding something that appealed to us. The food was well prepared and nicely presented and portions were more the "European" style (smaller) but were very sufficient. Again, desserts (usually three choices) were delicious. Dinner is open seating and served from 7:30 to 10:00. Our group sat at the same table each night and had top class service from our waiter, Romeo. The other waiters seemed to also be providing very good service as well and I didn't hear one complaint all week about the food or service. Drinks and wine were very fairly priced. A can of soda pop was $1.50 and bottles of wine ran around $22 to $30, a very reasonable price, although wine selection was somewhat limited. It was also interesting to note that gratuities on the drink bills were 12.5%, as opposed to the 15% universally charged on the large ships. Never, ever were drinks pushed anywhere on the ship, and, in fact, a lot of the time you had to just go to the bar and get your own. Officers and Crew: The Royal is captained by Captain Sergey Patchenko, Ukrainian born, who appears to love his job. He is always around and gives talks and lectures throughout the week. He is extremely approachable and will stop to talk with you at any time. He gave a very interesting talk one morning on the different types of sailing ships and how you identify them. My wife and I were standing near the bridge one morning and he just came over and started talking to us. A very amenable person with great knowledge of the sea and sailing. The Cruise Director / Social Convenor / Excursion Manager (and a number of other jobs) is a wonderful lady from Sweden, Jenny. Without a doubt, she is the best and most personable CD we have ever come across. By the second day she seemed to know almost every passenger by name. Each day as we arrived in a new location, she would give a talk about the island port and what we should look for. No pushing of stores or shopping or anything like that. She would also hold talks each night in the Piano Bar to describe upcoming excursions, complete with pictures and personal insight and was always able to answer any questions. Again, she was not pushing any excursions but was just giving great descriptions of what to expect. Jenny fluently spoke at least five languages and had no problem switching from one to another, sometimes in midstream of a sentence. She is an absolutely lovely lady (her current contract expires in May and she is going home to Sweden for a while and hopefully she will return to the Royal after her time off). The rest of the Officers and crew were also extremely personable and were a lot of fun to be around. We also noticed that the crew were very friendly with each other, which only added to the great atmosphere on the ship. All the officers eat in the dining room as well and will sometimes sit with passengers during meals as space and time permits. Atmosphere: The whole atmosphere is very casual and laid-back. No rules, no "you can't do that" attitudes and no fancy dressing up, the only thing they ask is that long pants and shirts with collars be worn for dinner. A few people did dress for the Captain's dinner one night but they were very much in the minority. During the day, shorts or bathing suits were the "dress of the day". The passengers mostly seemed to be well-traveled people and were very friendly. Nobody was trying to impress anybody else and there didn't appear to be any pretentious passengers among us. Also, no complainers in this group. Some 60% were repeat customers, so this should tell you how people feel about this ship and cruise line. You should note also that there are no late nights, as everything pretty well finishes up each night after midnight. Shipboard Activities: No theater or casino on board. Entertainment was mostly organized and provided by the staff and crew and we really enjoyed it. One night was a crew talent show, which was very entertaining, another night was a fashion show of the Royal Clipper sportswear line, which was also a blast. There was also a night where live crab races were run, with people betting on individual crabs and the eventual winner walking away with some $300 in prize money. The entertainment really was a lot of fun and everybody seemed to have a good time in the evenings. The ship has a fold down dock marina at the aft and the watersports team uses it as a center for offering free sailing, banana boat rides, scuba and snorkeling excursions and some zodiac tours. When there is a beach day, all the equipment is located to the beach, where the same activities are offered. We were interested in snorkeling and managed to get in three different excursions, two of which were okay and one which was incredible, off of the beach near St. Kitts. We did have to press the watersports team (who I think were both relatively new to their jobs and were still learning it) somewhat regarding snorkeling as they didn't seem to be overly interested in providing snorkeling opportunities (this was the only minor complaint we could find all week). We took our own snorkel equipment but the ship offers you all the equipment you need free for the week. Three times during the week, you are offered the opportunity to climb the main mast up to the crow's nest (in a safety harness), weather permitting. My wife did it and said the climb was a little hair-raising (the ship was rolling at the time) but said the view was amazing and she loved the experience. You can also go out onto the netting around the bowsprit and laze around in it, high above the water as the ship cuts through the waves (it is like a huge hammock). Other interesting things, such as an engine-room tour and a knot-tying course were offered through the week. The Captain also makes "sailaway" from each port a big event. The hoisting of the sails while music is played is very soul stirring, especially on the night sailaways. We never missed this event and you have to experience it to understand it. Once during the week, the Captain offers a "photo tender" opportunity. All interested people are taken out in a tender, while the ship hoists all sails and begins sailing away. The tender then circles the ship for about 15 minutes allowing everyone to get incredible pictures of the ship from all different angles. Getting back on the ship is also a bit of an adventure as the tender pulls up to the ship while it is fully underway. Not dangerous but exciting. One of the highlights for us was the night we were sailing around the tip of Montserrat at around midnight. This is the island that has a very active volcano and just as we rounded the tip, it began spewing lava. One burst absolutely covered the mountainside with red-hot lava and fireballs. Better than any fireworks show we've seen and almost all the passengers were on deck, cheering and clapping at each eruption. Great fun and an awesome spectacle. Ports and Excursions: We enjoyed the different islands we visited. One thing we noticed was that there were never any "immigration" problems at any of the islands. No early morning lineups waiting for the immigration officials to come on board. In fact, it seemed that the ship was cleared each time within about 15 minutes of arrival. In one port, the officials even joined everybody for lunch after they had done their business. We anchored in every port except Martinique and had to tender in. However, there was never a problem with the tenders, never any line-up, no "take a number and wait to be called" scenarios or anything like that. You merely used your card to sign out and jumped on the next tender. There was also never any problem coming back on board with any purchases (such as soft drinks or liquor) as there are no scanners and no one is checking your bags. The crew simply swipes your card so they know you've returned and always had a word of welcome as you returned. We took three excursions and found them to be excellent value for the money (in fact, one was a bit too long and offered too much). The costs ranged between $40 and $52 per person, which, for the good quality they offered, seemed to be very reasonable. The one excursion we really recommend is the Eco Kayak Adventure in Antigua. This was one of the best excursions we have ever taken. Embarkation and Disembarkation: We could not believe how simple and easy both these procedures were. We arrived on Saturday afternoon at the Barbados terminal at 4:00 pm and were checked in within 5 minutes. The ship's Officers handle the check-in procedure and make it a very pleasant procedure. We then proceeded down the dock to the ship, were handed free welcome aboard drinks at the top of the gangway and then we were shown to our cabin. Our bags arrived within another 5 minutes. Incredible! Disembarkation was much the same. No rules or colour tags handed out, the only thing they ask is that you have your bags outside your room by 4:30 am and then be off the ship by 10:00 am as Barbados customs closes then. A full breakfast buffet is served all morning. We left at 9:30, had various crewmembers give us hugs and wish us goodbye and a safe journey home, picked up our passports (they were taken at embarkation) as we left, went into the terminal where our bags were waiting, took thirty seconds to get through customs and were on our way to our friend's house within a few minutes of leaving the ship. General Thoughts: You can tell, we really loved this whole experience. However, it is definitely not for people who are looking to be constantly told what to do, where to do it and who want to be constantly entertained. It is also not for people who are prone to motion or seasickness, as there is a lot of movement to the ship. There are no elevators on the ship and a lot of stairs so anyone with a mobility problem might find the ship to be a bit of a challenge as well. This is a ship for people who want to experience a great sailing ship that has a very friendly and casual atmosphere. We met more people on the first night of this cruise than we would normally meet during a whole cruise. We made some great new friends and will keep in touch with them going forward (we all had a small tear in our eyes as we all said our good-byes on departure day). When I was telling my daughter of the new friendships we made, the way the crew interacted with everyone and all the positive experiences we had, she said that it sounded like we at a "great summer camp for adults". And you know what, that is a perfectly simple way to describe our overall cruise experience on the Royal Clipper and we are already planning next year's cruise on the Royal Clipper to the Leeward Islands. rspratt@rogers.com May 2003 Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2006
We selected the cruise for the Windward Islands because of the unique island ports and the character of the sailing ship. The ship was recommended by several others that had been on this ship before as well as the travel agent. There was ... Read More
We selected the cruise for the Windward Islands because of the unique island ports and the character of the sailing ship. The ship was recommended by several others that had been on this ship before as well as the travel agent. There was very simple and quick boarding as well as disembarkation. The lines are short as there are about only 225 passengers. The crew of the ship are the staff of the ship that will be working on the cruise. The cabin was adequate in size and very well appointed. There was a marble bath with stand up shower. There is only a curtain and very small half inch threshold separating the shower from the rest of the bath. It was comparable to the baths on other cruises that we have taken unless you get an upgraded cabin. The television and DVD player in the cabin was great to provide entertainment if one wanted to avoid too much sun or wanted to be alone with a partner. The public areas of this ship are nautical, but also elegant. There is much dark wood and brass colors and carpet throughout. The outside decks are very much like a working ship. There was sail repairs going on and normal upkeep maintenance all around. This was good to see and showed the concern of the crew for the ship. The dining was buffet for breakfast and lunch. As reported by others, the variety and amount of food available was sure to please everyone. There was a pasta station one lunch and a roasted pig in that location the next. There was afternoon snacks that was more like buffet meals, although with a smaller variety. The after dinner dessert buffet was a great highlight of the evening for most of the passengers. This was served upstairs in the Piano Bar and was better in my opinion than any dessert served in a dinning room on other cruises. The staff and crew could not have made us feel more welcome or gone farther to accommodate the passengers. There were enough activities on board to ensure there was no boredom, but not too much to prevent a relaxing vacation similar to a beach or sailing vacation. I would recommend this ship for anyone that is not expecting the big ship experience but is eager to meet others on the cruise and experience a sailing vessel. There is the sound of the water against the lower deck staterooms and there is more movement than large ships. This was never to a point that was excessive or obtrusive. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
We were so looking forward to being on a real clipper and sailing around Italy. The Royal Clipper was a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and our deluxe suite was very adequate with a balcony. BUT, the service was quite bad- no ... Read More
We were so looking forward to being on a real clipper and sailing around Italy. The Royal Clipper was a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and our deluxe suite was very adequate with a balcony. BUT, the service was quite bad- no bartenders to be found on the pool deck except the last day so you had to go downstairs to get even a coke or water. Most of the waiters can hardly speak english and the meals were just okay. Nothing spectacular and most times the food came out luke warm, (must have been all pre-prepared). And if you ask for seconds of anything, they are a little surly about it. The dining room maitre-d just catered to people from his country. Wine stewards were just bartenders brought to the dining room. It was hard to get a drink at dinner as you had to chase them down. I will say the dining room was spectacular. The sloop shop has nothing really, movie selection for the room is extremely limited and old. The spa is in the fitness room and you cannot relax due to the high power music coming through the door.Our cabin steward was the best thing on on the ship- he got us whatever we wanted. The security to get on the ship is virtually non-existent. They just tell you to put your luggage thru the machine and no one marks them or anything. Most people did not even bother to do this as on one is watching. A little scary. I'll go back to the Windstar ships as they are spectacular all around. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
First of all we had a great time and the crew was terrific. The cabins and common areas were always spotless. HOWEVER, there were four complaints that many of the passengers had that according to the crew "only management could ... Read More
First of all we had a great time and the crew was terrific. The cabins and common areas were always spotless. HOWEVER, there were four complaints that many of the passengers had that according to the crew "only management could solve." 1. Although cold water was always available on the main deck the majority also wanted ice tea. That proved to be impossible as "management" had to make all decisions regarding any beverage change. 2. In spite of the fact that were no middle eastern passengers the Arab TV channels ran constantly. The crew said that was because a large portion of the crew were from that area. The crew does not pay the bills. After a near revolt by the passengers it was turned off and we all went to the very good bar to celebrate. 3. Rabbit. The last night dinner heavily featured rabbit which few ate and most did not want at all. The answer was again "management." Otherwise the food was excellent at all times. 4. The steel band came on board for less than one hour. It was great but the answer was that we had arrived in port late and something about a customs issue. Although the passengers tried to find the ever elusive "management", he stayed well hidden. But having said that, it was a great cruise and we are going again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
Perhaps I should start by stating what this ship is not and who it's not for. It's not glitzy and full of neon, It does not have a casino or show lounge , no resident comedian or dancing girls,It's not Las vegas on the ocean ... Read More
Perhaps I should start by stating what this ship is not and who it's not for. It's not glitzy and full of neon, It does not have a casino or show lounge , no resident comedian or dancing girls,It's not Las vegas on the ocean in other words. It's not suitable for the weight or physically challenged, and perhaps not for those easily prone to seasickness This is a small classy sailing vessel, which does move with the waves and not plow through them as the mega cruise ships. Mahogany and brass is the decor which together with the colors of the carpeting and soft furnishings give the impression of a private yacht. This is also a vessel for the active passenger as the ship is without an elevator, climbing somewhat narrow stairs is a necessity. Also the Royal Clipper anchors off most islands and ports, so climbing up and down the gangway onto the tender to shore is the only way you'll get off the ship! We embarked from Barbados and boarding the ship was not the easiest we had experienced. Check in is 4pm and took way too long in the terminal, at least the ship did not leave until 10pm. However from then on the cruise exceeded our expectations. Our cabin while not large by some standards was comfortable, accommodating a double bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, writing desk and small but adequate bathroom with shower. Keeping the water from shloshing out of the shower when the ship rolled was a challenge! The public areas were excellent, plenty of room on deck. chairs/loungers were always available, unlike on some cruises we did not need to "reserve" with a towel. The "swimming pools" (3) were mere "dipping" pools but with a beach stop every day and plenty of watersports activities provided who needs the pool? Snorkeling gear is loaned for the duration of the cruise although only two or three of the islands had good Snorkeling off the beach. The ship carries two lasers and a windsurfer and water skiing from the zodiac is available at no charge. The food on our cruise was excellent and the service first class, I had read some other reviews prior to our sailing and was somewhat concerned with some of the comments, but we had no complaints. The open seating dining arrangements helped us meet new people every night and we made many new friends during our two weeks. Approx one third of our passengers were German, one third Brits and the rest of us were from Canada, U.S. France, Eastern Europe, the rest of the world in fact. When you arrive for dinner, The maitre'd asks if you would like a small or large table and "international" or English, unless you are multi-lingual I suggest you sit with people with whom you can communicate easily! The downsides to having a large European contingent are two. 1) All public announcements are in three languages, English, German and French, so can go on for a while 2) The Europeans have not yet grasped the no smoking attitude that is so prevalent in N.America, although no smoking in the dining room is strictly enforced, in other areas it can be a problem (for a reformed smoker) The entertainment onboard is limited. A singer and guitar player in the tropical bar performed nightly and a steel band was brought on board one night, the crew and some guests "entertained" us another night, but the highlight was the crab race night!. As this is a small ship it visits locations not generally frequented by the large cruise lines. You can see the true Island lifestyle which can be good and bad. Cleanliness depends upon the islands heritage, garbage can be an eyesore in some spots. We did not go on any of the organized excursions offered by Star Clipper lines so cannot comment, we prefer to do our own thing, which meant some days just laying on the beach, swimming or sailing was the order of the day. When we ventured into the local town or hopped a taxi for a tour we felt at ease and were not concerned with our safety, A great two weeks aboard a very friendly ship Read Less
Sail Date: February 2008
Summary: My wife and I have cruised before in the Pacific and through the Caribbean. Our trips were on typical vessels of Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Although entirely satisfied with those, we wished to do something special ... Read More
Summary: My wife and I have cruised before in the Pacific and through the Caribbean. Our trips were on typical vessels of Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Although entirely satisfied with those, we wished to do something special and we both enjoy sailing thus our choice of Star Clippers Line. SPV Royal Clipper was the ship that we selected to sail on. As we are 68 and 70 years old respectively, our holiday requirements were more sedate than years ago... With the help of our travel agent we found what we wanted by flying to Barbados five days prior to the cruise, staying at the Coral Mist hotel then sailing two seven-day cruises back-to-back on Royal Clipper. We offer our commentaries below hoping that they may assist fellow travellers. SPV Royal Clipper: We will not attempt to repeat all that has been said about Star Clippers and SPV Royal Clipper. We offer our comments relating to our specific experience under distinct headings below: Overview There are no superlatives that adequately describe what we experienced. A cruise on Royal Clipper is a romantic experience of a lifetime! If you are looking for a floating spa with disco, casino, and floorshows, you will be unhappy on Royal Clipper. If you enjoy sailing with a few friends in a romantic setting you will love it. (With good sea legs) The line's web site is good but lacks a few features. For example, we sent them an e-mail that they never answered using the "contact us" section. There is no possibility of pre-registration as offered by the main cruise lines. Given the small number of passengers for each sailing (227 passengers total) there is no anticipated delays on boarding. They offered an excellent DVD for free which turned out to be very useful in trip planning, and made our friends envious. Once aboard, there is no doubt that this is a special experience that is almost unique and worth repeating. In our case, we had an outstanding cruise aboard an outstanding ship. At every stop people came to stare at this marvellous oversized yacht. It is unique in the world. However, there is one caveat. This ship is open to passengers of all ages but there is precious little activity geared to the needs and interests of children. The five levels of the ship from the spa to the sun deck are only accessible by stairs. When walking around at sea the rule is one hand for the ship and one hand for you. While on our two-week cruise we noted some electronic glitches. For example, our door key had to be re-programmed a few times because it failed to open the door. In addition, the same card has a bar code used when leaving and returning to the ship. This did not always show the passenger returning thus a frantic call was made to ensure that the ship would not sail without the passenger. Great idea but rather annoying when it happens every day to the same individual who has dutifully returned on time. The reception clerk had a language problem thus it was difficult to explain the problem and have the card re-programmed properly; a small point in an overall wonderful experience. Caroline, the cruise director was a wonderful lady fluent in four languages and who never stopped looking after the passengers. She was simply outstanding. Embarkation They were well organized for the embarkation process, which began at the specified time. Drinks were available for people waiting in line although the line moved rather quickly. Those who arrived early complained of waiting in line but the instructions were clear that embarkation would begin a 4 p.m. Our recommendation would be for people to arrive one hour after the embarkation time to assure a smooth process. The reception on board was first class and very well handled; wet towels, Bellini, escort to the cabin where the baggage was already awaiting us. Cabin/steward/amenities The category 1 cabin is a very roomy 150 sq ft with more than adequate storage space. It was obviously designed by sailing enthusiasts and not a hotel architect. Every nook and cranny offered storage space in the form of shelving or drawers. Two roomy wardrobe offered more space than we expected. The safe is located under the writing desk and is also larger than expected. Music and an internal video is available on the TV which also had a DVD attached although I can't see anyone going on this ship to watch a DVD. The beds had excellent mattresses with duvet and pillows. We slept like babes. The marble bathroom is a sight to behold. Lots of mirrors, ample towels and a double floor drain that allows the water to drain while showering in heavy seas. Two hair dryers are available, one in the room and one in the bathroom. The usual amenities and toiletries are supplied throughout the cruise. The cabin exceeded our expectations. Of note, the current on board is 220v with an 110v outlet in the bathroom for a shaver. It will not accept anything else. Thus a converter is required for any 110v appliance. The reception offers an array of converters for a small rental fee of €10. The cabin steward is a key person on a cruise ship because he/she will leave a lasting impression. Our cabin steward was a young lady from Bulgaria who provided excellent service throughout our two-week stay. She kept the ice bucket full and re-supplied us with bottled water as we requested from her at the onset. Using a red/green door sign, she would refresh our cabin as soon as we left it. Restaurant/food/service For a sailing vessel, the food services far exceeded our expectations just like the rest of the ship. Typically, they had fresh fruit available at all times with tea and coffee. Continental breakfast was available 0600-0800 followed by a huge breakfast buffet and a chef available to cook eggs and omelettes to order between 0800 and 1000. Theme hot/cold lunch buffet was served 1200 to 1400; snacks were available on deck from 1700 to 1800 prior to the evening dinner. Dinner was a seven-course meal served à la Carte between 1930 and 2200 with open seating. The wine list is extensive and storage service is available. Should you not finish your bottle it is labelled with your cabin number and available at the next meal. Finally, there is a huge snack available at 2330 after the limited in-house entertainment. The bar and restaurant service was outstanding. Even with open seating the restaurant staff would remember your preferences and chat with you freely. Public facilities The sun deck carries a huge amount of deck chairs and offers three small pools for a refreshing dip. The centre pool forms the ceiling of the atrium visible from the dining room. (Don't scratch) The tropical bar on the main deck is the focus of most activities including evening entertainment. The piano bar is in the atrium and offers an air-conditioned space quieter than the tropical bar. It is also smoke-free as are all indoor spaces. Smoking is tolerated on the sun deck and in the tropical bar. The three-deck atrium has to be seen to be fully appreciated. There is also a well-stocked library, a conference room with Internet access, and a gym/spa below sea level. Sports & entertainment There is a three-member sports staff that offers morning exercise and a host of free activities during the day. The ship carries three zodiacs, two sunfish sailing boats, two sea kayaks, and snorkel equipment. All this is free but the scuba gear requires an extra fee. In good weather the staff also provides water skiing. At just about every stop an excursion to a beach is also provided free of charge. For example, at anchor off Le Bourg in Isles des Saintes (Guadeloupe) there was a tender going to town and another going to the beach every 30 minutes. Entertainment was provided by a musical duo every day, a local steel band at one stop, on-board talent show featuring crew members and the odd passenger one evening, a fashion show, etc. Itinerary Our first week on board went from Bridgetown Barbados to Union Island, Grenada, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent/Bequia, Martinique, St. Lucia and back to Barbados. During the second week we visited St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, Iles des Saintes, Martinique and back to Bridgetown. The captain is a true sailing enthusiast who demonstrated a keen interest in showing the ability of the ship and crew to perform difficult maneuvers. For example, using sails only (including the square sails) he performed a 360-degree turn that was an extraordinary demonstration of sailing choreography. (I was at the helm) It was simply awesome to see a 5000-ton square-rigger perform that maneuver. · Bridgetown - Clean and friendly as are the Bajans. There is a nice walking tour of the City or various excursions · Union Island (Grenadines) - A superb beach · Grenada - The spice island. Lots of excursions available · Tobago Cays - Another excellent anchorage and beach. Ship BBQ on the beach · St. Vincent & Bequia - Ship stops at both islands for excursions and beach · Martinique - Very nice city. The sidewalk from the cruise terminal to downtown (15 mins) is painted blue for ease of navigation. The botanical garden tour is interesting. · St. Lucia - Lush island with lots to do. We recommend the zip-line rain forest tour · Bridgetown - For passengers staying for another week the transition is very easy. Just exchange your door key at reception and voilà! · Dominica - Drop off at Roseau for excursions then sailed north to Cabrits National Park for a swim · Antigua - One of the jewels of the Caribbean. Great beaches. BBQ on the beach near Falmouth Harbour. Excursions include one for swimming with stingrays. · St. Kitts - Nice island with a scenic narrow gauge train ride · Isles des Saintes (Guadeloupe) - Anchor of Le Bourg which is a lovely and quaint seaside village. Great beach nearby. Prettiest stop in the cruise. Sea motion The one thing over which we have no control is the weather. This is a sailing ship and the Captain is reluctant to use the engine for anything other that arriving and leaving a harbour. During our first week we encountered strong winds (35 knots) and heavy seas providing a significant amount of rolling and pitching which did not bother us or most passengers but there were some who grumbled... Shore excursions Every evening a newsletter is distributed to the cabins outlining the activities of the next day. It is quite detailed and very useful but we found two minor issues with this process. First, an insert should be added with more information about the country being visited and the specific harbour/anchorage. This insert could also have a diagram of the shore installations found upon landing. This would be consistent with what cruise ships normally offer and be very useful indeed for those wishing to plan their own activities. Every morning the cruise director would give an arrival briefing on the bridge just before either docking or anchoring. Very useful but it highlights the second issue that shore excursion bookings close a minimum of 36 hours prior to arrival for valid reasons (bookings through their agent ashore). If more information were available on the ports and the excursions, better planning would enhance the visits. In a few cases we discovered information at the verbal briefing that would have enticed us to take an excursion but the bookings were already closed. We used a number of the excursions offered and found them all to be well-done and good value for money. Many passengers were content to do their own excursions or just stay on board and enjoy what the ship had to offer. Costs On board costs were consistent with industry standards. All charges are in Euros. We found the whole cruise to be good value for money. SPV Royal Clipper: A superbly romantic ship that provides a great cruise. This is a ten out of ten for sailing enthusiasts! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2008
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 ... Read More
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.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2009
INTRODUCTION My wife and I sailed on the January 17, 2009 voyage of the Royal Clipper round-trip from Barbados. This was our second cruise with Star Clippers, having also sailed on the Star Clipper in 2006. Our previous cruises were on ... Read More
INTRODUCTION My wife and I sailed on the January 17, 2009 voyage of the Royal Clipper round-trip from Barbados. This was our second cruise with Star Clippers, having also sailed on the Star Clipper in 2006. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and NCL. We had grown tired of the larger ships and wanted to try a sailing cruise for a change. After sailing on the Star Clipper and Royal Clipper, we have no desire to return to the mass market cruise ships. ARRIVAL We took a taxi from the airport and arrived at the pier in Barbados around 4:00, and the check-in process had already begun. Check-in consisted of receiving our ID cards (which doubled as our room keys), dropping off our passports and leaving an imprint of our credit card for purchases on the ship. We finished with the process and were taken to the ship via a very short shuttle ride. As we boarded the ship, we were met by the Captain and Hotel Manager and given complementary cold drinks and light snacks on deck. We then were escorted to our cabin and our luggage was delivered to our room shortly after our arrival. SHIP The Royal Clipper is a fabulous ship. It is a sailing vessel, not a cruise ship. The ship is very elegant and sophisticated with none of the pseudo-glitz of the large ships. There are no casinos, ship's photographers, show lounges or elevators. There are three bars on board: the outside Tropical Bar; the inside Piano Bar and a Pool Bar. All of the nightly entertainment occurs at the Tropical Bar. The ship has plenty of teak and mahogany wood, all varnished to a high gloss. Additionally, there is lots of brass, which is also kept polished. The crew was working every day doing routine maintenance around the ship. The ship's passenger capacity is 220, and this week it seemed filled. The breakdown of passengers was international - from the United States, Canada and Europe. About one-half of the passengers had previously sailed with Star Clippers. There were several passengers on board for two weeks, combining the Grenadine Islands itinerary of this sailing with the Windward Islands sailing the week immediately prior to or after our sailing. The crew members were from 25 different countries. The ship offers several features not found on cruise ships: passengers could climb the main mast to the first level crow's nest (with appropriate safety equipment) on two separate occasions during the week; we could relax on the widow's netting at the bow of the ship anytime the crew was not operating the sails; there was an open bridge policy throughout the week; the crew lowered tenders one day during the week to give the passengers the opportunity to photograph the Royal Clipper at sea under full sails; and passengers were given the opportunity to steer the ship while at sea. Each day as the sails were raised as we were leaving a port, the ship would play the Vangelis soundtrack, "1492: Conquest of Paradise" over the sound system. The passengers would congregate on deck to watch the crew raising the sails and to listen to the music. The sailing during certain periods throughout the week was rough. We heard that some passengers were ill at points during the week due to the ship's movement. However, we did not feel any discomfort during the week. CABIN We booked a Category 6 (Inside) room, cabin 228. In retrospect, we would have booked a higher category (Outside) room to give us a little more space. The room had a fixed double bed. The bathroom had a shower, toilet, sink and a two-door medicine cabinet with plenty of shelving for storing toiletries. While most of the electrical outlets in the cabin are 220 volts, there are two outlets in the bathroom for 110 volts, which I used for charging our digital camera's battery. These outlets could also be used for electric razors or charging cell phones. There was a hair dryer attached to the wall in the bathroom. The cabin had just enough storage and closet space for the two of us. A safe with a programmable lock was located in one of the cabinets. There was a TV in the room, which received a few English speaking programs, including CNN International. A DVD player was also in the room, and video disks could be borrowed from the ship's collection. Our cabin attendant was excellent. Towels were exchanged each morning and evening. MEALS All meals were served in the main dining room. Like the rest of the ship, the main dining room was very elegant. It was very common for the ship's officers, including the captain, to join a group of diners at each meal. All dining is open seating, with service between 8:00 and 10:00 for breakfast, 12:00 and 2:00 for lunch and 7:30 and 10:00 for dinner. There are no formal nights - dress for dinner is resort casual for men and women. Buffet meals were served for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, there was an assortment of cereal, yogurts, pastries and fruits, along with scrambled eggs, French toast or pancakes, bacon, sausage or ham and potatoes. There was also a station for fresh omelets and eggs each morning. Lunchtime had a nice assortment of salads, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits and homemade soups, plus one or two hot entrEes. There was also a carving station each day with either fish or meat. The breakfasts and lunches were all very good. An afternoon snack would be served daily between 5:00 and 6:00 at the Tropical Bar. Like the breakfasts and lunches, the afternoon snack was very good. The snack would consist of items such as finger sandwiches, fruit, a hot dish and dessert. The dinners have improved since our last cruise on the Star Clipper. On our prior cruise, we were disappointed in the dinners served, both in the nightly selection and quality of food. We were much more pleased with the dinners on this cruise. Dinner would feature four choices for the main course: a seafood entree; a vegetarian entree; a meat entrEe and a Caribbean chef's special. Lobster Tail was served on Thursday night, which is the Captain's Dinner. One nice thing about the dinner food on this cruise (and on the prior Star Clipper cruise) was that each night, the various entrEes would be displayed in the piano bar for the passengers to get an idea of what would be served that evening. An early morning breakfast of croissants and pastries was also available in the Piano Bar from 6:00 to 8:00 in the mornings. Many mornings, we would be up early and grab a croissant and coffee and tea and sit on the deck as the ship sailed to the next stop. Coffee, tea and fresh fruit are available 24 hours a day in the Piano Bar. The coffee on the ship is barely drinkable. I think that they must let it brew too long and leave it on the heat after it has finished brewing. The best thing I found was to grab a fresh cup as soon as the brew cycle finished or to mix the coffee with hot water to dilute it somewhat. SERVICE The service in the main dining room and throughout the ship was good. However, with the ship filled to capacity, the service seemed slower than three years ago. We often had to ask for refills on water or coffee. Bar service was mainly at the bars, with no bar waiters hounding you to purchase drinks every few minutes. The guys (and one young lady) on the sports crew were excellent. As noted above, our cabin steward was excellent. The crew that worked the sails was also very good, showing great patience as the passengers were on deck as the crew was trying to raise or lower the sails. They were also very helpful with any information that the passengers asked them for. ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment on the clipper ships is very limited - this is one area that could use improvement by Star Clippers. There was one entertainer on board who sang and played the keyboard during the afternoon snack period. He also played the piano in the Piano Bar during the dinner hours and served as the deejay for nighttime dancing. The music selection for nighttime dancing seemed strange and hardly anyone danced after the organized entertainment ended each evening. It would have been much nicer to have a talented duo or trio providing the dancing music in the evenings. There were organized entertainment activities each night at 10:00 at the Tropical Bar. The first night was a Welcome Aboard party. Other nights featured crab races, a musical trivia quiz contest and a fashion show. A crew and passenger talent show was held on another night, which was very funny and enjoyable. While we were docked Monday night in Grenada, a very good steel drum band came aboard to play for us. Other forms of entertainment centered around the cruise director's daily talk on the upcoming port and the captain's story time. Every morning before we reached a port, the cruise director would hold a briefing on the bridge. He would explain the history of the island and places of interest to visit. He detailed what times the tenders would operate to the town or to the beach, and what time the last tender would return to the ship at the end of the day. The captain held two story times. The first session lasted about one hour and consisted of the captain narrating a slide show of sailing ships and then answering questions from the passengers regarding the ship and sailing in general. He also held another story time later in the week, demonstrating sailing maneuvers from the bridge area. ITINERARY This is not a typical cruise ship itinerary. Because of its small size, the ship can fit into ports that the larger ships cannot. The stops are in remote islands and harbors. The focus on the stops is on sailing and enjoying the natural beauty of the islands. There is not a lot of activity going on in most of the ports. At most stops, the ship would run two tenders, one to the town for limited shopping and to meet the shore excursions and the second one to a beach. For each beach stop, the sports crew would take water ski equipment, a wave board (similar to a snow board), a windsurf board, sea kayaks, and small sailboats. All of these beach activities were provided with no additional charge. Snorkeling gear was also issued at the beginning of the week for use throughout the cruise, again at no additional charge. After departing Barbados on Saturday, Sunday we stopped at uninhabited Young Island for a full beach day. On Monday the ship called at Grenada and spent all day docked at the pier in St. Georges. Several excursions were offered by the ship but we opted to walk into town in the morning and stopped at a public library to use the Internet connection. During the afternoon, we took a private taxi tour of the island, stopping at a spice plantation, Annandale Falls and a scenic point overlooking the harbor. On Tuesday the ship stopped at an uninhabited island in the Tobago Cays for a full day. This was probably the most beautiful beach we have ever been on. In addition to the beautiful beach, the natural harbor was filled with sailboats in the area for the day. You could take a short walk to the other side of the island where more sailboats were anchored offshore. There was good snorkeling right off of the beach. The ship's crew provided a full beach barbecue for lunch at this island stop. On Wednesday morning, we stopped in St. Vincent at the capital city of Kingstown. This was by far the worst stop of the week. No one could understand why the ship stops at this island. The pier area is crowded and dirty. Once you leave the protected area of the pier, you are hounded by taxi drivers. We did not feel comfortable walking through the city and headed back to the ship. Fortunately, we left St. Vincent around noon and sailed to Port Elizabeth, Bequia. As bad as St. Vincent was, Bequia was just as good. It is a beautiful island. The beach area is wide and sandy, without any rocks. There is a small town at the pier with many charming shops, restaurants and pubs. I know that many passengers made suggestions that St. Vincent should be dropped and the whole day should be spent in Bequia. There were two stops on Thursday on Martinique. During the morning, we stopped at the capital city, Fort de France. We spent the morning walking the city streets. During the afternoon, we anchored off of Grand Anse Beach. While on the beach, the sports crew led a snorkeling excursion to another part of the island on their Zodiac boats. Two excursions were offered, each with a capacity of eight persons. I was fortunate enough to go on the first excursion, and it was simply the best snorkeling I have ever done. Our excursion stopped at the same site as the local scuba dive tours. The water was incredibly clear, as we were able to see the ocean floor at least 70 feet below us. The coral formations living on the rocks were fabulous. During our time in the water, we saw two eels and an octopus, along with many other colorful fish. The best part of the snorkeling excursion was that it was free - no additional charge for the side trip. After snorkeling, we stayed on the beach until the last tender at 6:00 and witnessed a beautiful sunset on the tender ride back to the ship. The final stops on Friday were St. Lucia. In the morning, we stopped at Marigot Bay. A tender service was offered into a small marina, which turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. There was a coffee shop with nice patio seating along with several small specialty stores. There were several beautiful sailboats and yachts docked at the marina. A very nice resort hotel with beautiful grounds, Discovery at Marigot Bay, was located at the end of the marina. In the afternoon, we sailed to Soufriere Bay, where the sports team offered another snorkeling excursion - this time a one Euro fee was charged as we snorkeled at a St. Lucia national park, and the one Euro fee was the entrance fee to the park. During this snorkeling excursion, we saw and swam with a sea turtle for 10 or 15 minutes. The ship also offered shore excursions and a tender service to the town of La Soufriere. The passengers who went into the town were very disappointed, as they were harassed by local youths begging for money. SUMMARY This was another great week with Star Clippers, and we would definitely love to sail with them in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Our March 2009 cruise on the SPV ROYAL CLIPPER was a delightful experience that exceeded our expectations. The ship is beautiful, the crew extremely friendly, professional, and helpful, and our fellow passengers were great and interesting ... Read More
Our March 2009 cruise on the SPV ROYAL CLIPPER was a delightful experience that exceeded our expectations. The ship is beautiful, the crew extremely friendly, professional, and helpful, and our fellow passengers were great and interesting cruise companions. We had the good fortune of fair weather with plenty of sun and only the briefest of rain, and, considering the sailing nature of this ship, we had plenty of wind all week to make our way under sail.We picked the SPV ROYAL CLIPPER primarily for propulsion by sail and for the smaller passenger complement. We have owned boats and done a lot of boating in the past 25 years, including living aboard and cruising for several weeks at a time on our own boats, principally in the northern Great Lakes. Our previous cruising experience is limited. We spent a week aboard the NORWAY (formerly the SS FRANCE) in the eastern Caribbean in 2002. FOOD The food was excellent, served in elegant fashion, and in great variety. There was a bit of a European style to the cooking and some of the dishes. Breakfast and Lunch are buffets. Dinner is a grand meal, often stretching to almost ten o'clock at night. The main dining room is wonderful, filled with mahogany and brass, very nautical, with large port holes just above the waterline which are often filled with white foam from waves as you enjoy dinner under sail. The dinner menu offered fish, meat, and vegetarian choices each night. Wine can be bought by the bottle, and if you don't finish the bottle, you can have it stored and brought out the next night. The waitstaff is very congenial. Don't expect to eat and run. With our permission the Maitre d'Hotel seated us each evening at a different table with an interesting variety of dinner companions. He seemed to have a knack for mixing up congenial groups at each table. For the reclusive, there were a few tables for two available. Most people dined in parties of four, six, or eight. CABIN Our cabin was large, comfortable, and beautifully appointed. It was one of the better cabins on the ship, but we discovered that other than a bit more room and the luxury of a tub with a jacuzzi, there really was not much difference between our cabin and the less expensive ones. They are all quite elegantly furnished. We were in Cabin 316, an aft cabin on the main deck, somewhat removed from most of the other passenger accommodations. We could walk out our cabin door directly to the open deck and railings. Most of the time there were no other passengers in our deck area, so it was almost like being aboard a private yacht. Although we were near the Tropical Bar area, the sounds of its music or other activities were never intrusive. Being near the stern there was a bit more vertical motion from the ship. Cabins located amidships and lower will have less movement. ACTIVITIES ON BOARD Being a smaller ship, there are not a great deal of on-board activities, which was fine for us. Each evening around ten o'clock the Tropical Bar (on-deck but under canvas) hosts some entertainment or dancing. Passengers have free run of the ship and its decks. You can climb 60-feet to the first crow's nest on the main mast under supervision of the crew, or you can scramble out on the bow sprit's netting whenever you feel like it. The Chief Engineer gives a tour of the engine room. There are water sport activities each day, and you can go to the beach to swim, snorkel, sail small boats, or kayak for no additional charge. There are also diving activities almost daily, but at added cost. The snorkeling was conducted by a marine biologist, and it was every informative and pleasant. The marine biologist also presented one or two lectures during the cruise. The principal on-board daily activity is the sail-away each evening. This usually brings all passengers on deck to watch the sails being hoisted and set, done to the accompaniment of music by Vagelis, "CONQUEST OF PARADISE" (from the sound track of the cinematic feature "1492"). This literally puts a tear into everyone's eye as it is a very moving experience. The process of hauling the anchor, raising the sails, and gently gliding under sail from the many cozy anchorages we visited was universally enjoyed by all passengers. The Captain is an excellent ship handler and often sailed us into or out of crowded harbors without resorting to any assistance from the engine or bow thrusters. Every day is a new port and there typically are multiple shore activities available. We only went on one excursion, snorkeling at Dominica, which was billed as being some of the best available in the Caribbean. The snorkeling was good, but the overall excursion was not quite what we expected. It was too long, included a luncheon, and too much bus riding. We were very glad to get back to the ship. THE SHIP The most impressive element of the trip was the ship itself and the amount of time it spent under sail. The captain truly likes to sail, and the SPV ROYAL CLIPPER moves from port to port under sail power as much as possible. As a result, there is more motion to the ship than might be comfortable for those accustomed to very large and very stable ships. My wife and I are both experienced sailers and have spent a lot of time underway and living aboard moderately sized sailboats boats. For a 430-foot ship, the SPV ROYAL CLIPPER surprised me with how nimble it was. It has a rather quick roll period, must faster than I expected for a big sailing ship. I got a chance to take the helm on afternoon while under full press of sails and at 11-knots. The ROYAL CLIPPER is very responsive to the helm and responds quickly to any rudder input. We embarked at Barbados, which is quite separate from the other islands. You have at least 125-miles of open water sailing to the closest island, and the trip from and to Barbados generally brings higher seas than any other portion of the cruise. On our week the winds were unusually strong. We left Barbados on Saturday evening with a Force-6 (25- to 30-knot) wind on our starboard bow. Once we cleared the lee of Barbados, we were in open seas with significant waves, their tops being blown off into spray by the wind. There was considerable motion on the ship. The Captain had the cabin stewards deploy the lee boards on all berths as a precaution. With large seas and the wind well forward, the ship was put under motor propulsion, although several staysails were up for steadying. Quite a few passengers did not fare well on this first night at sea, including me. I used to be able to say I had never been sea sick, but I can no longer make that claim. I would recommend taking Dramamine or similar anti-motion sickness medication for this first night unless you are truly immune to sea sickness. Compared to the rough first night, we sailed comfortably after that, and with our sea legs regained, we never had any problem with sleeping or discomfort again. The run back to Barbados was again in rougher seas, but the wind was just far enough aft we could sail all the way. In general, sailing gives a more pleasant motion to the ship, in my opinion, and although we were rolling down the seas, the last night was not a problem. The ship is a thing of beauty and it is maintained in tip-top condition. If you arise early you will see the crew washing down the teak deck every morning, wiping down all the varnish and brightwork, and polishing the brass. They even re-painted the huge anchors during the trip so that they looked perfect. While you are ashore during the day, the crew goes over the side and touches up any little blemish on the hull. The mast and rigging all appear to be in perfect order, and the sails themselves are mainly new and without stains or patches. Even when you are ashore, your gaze will be drawn back to the ship as it rides at anchor in the harbor. It dominates every setting and attracts attention wherever it goes. It is beautiful. The other passengers were an interesting mix of Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and South Americans. On our trip there was a large German contingent, so all announcements were conducted in English and repeated in German. The several French speaking passengers were comfortable with English, so we avoided a third language in the public announcements. Menus and other ship information are printed in English, German, and French. Americans were probably about 40-percent of the passengers. The rest were mainly European, with a few Canadians and South Americans in the mix. The crew is composed of men and women from many countries. The Captain, Chief Engineer, and one of the senior Officers were Russian, which is probably due to the necessity of having proper licenses and ratings for a very large sailing ship. Russia had or has a fleet of large sailing ships, so there are more officers qualified on large sailing ships from Russia than anywhere else these days. Every one of the ship's crew with whom we came in contact was very pleasant and friendly, and we never lacked for service or assistance. Our weather was wonderful, with sunny skies and warm temperatures, made even more comfortable by a constant sea breeze. The many shades of blue of the Caribbean Sea sparkled at us day and night. We enjoyed several sun sets from the aft deck, including a rare Green Flash sunset one delightful evening while at sea. The rhythm of the cruise puts you into a new port each day, generally arriving in the late morning. The ship sets anchor, and tenders are deployed. You can go ashore to explore, swim from the beach, or just remain onboard and enjoy the expansive deck. The last gangway is typically in the late afternoon. The anchor is then hauled and the ship sails away. After sunset, everyone retires to their cabin to prepare for dinner. After dinner the ship sails into the night to the next port. Repeat this six times. A delightful week of cruising. We were told that Star Clippers has a very high repeat business rate, and I am not surprised. After this trip we are very likely to cruise with Star Clippers again. Most of the people we met aboard were veteran Star Clipper cruisers and were on their second, third, fourth or even tenth trip with the line. Most other passengers had more cruising experience than us, and they expressed a strong preference for the Star Clipper style of ship and cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
My May 9 - 16th sailing on the beautiful Royal Clipper was a dream vacation from start to finish. The ship, now 10 years old, looks as it was just being built. She shines and sparkles and ist one of the most beautiful ships I have ever ... Read More
My May 9 - 16th sailing on the beautiful Royal Clipper was a dream vacation from start to finish. The ship, now 10 years old, looks as it was just being built. She shines and sparkles and ist one of the most beautiful ships I have ever seen, with or without sails being out. Lot´s of wood and brass. Very classy! Crew and officers very friendly and always mingling with the passengers. Captain Vlad from the Ukraine a very nice, approachable and sympathetic person! Cruise director Petra from Germany, fluent in English, German and French very lively, always around, equally sympathetic and on duty 24 hours ( her words! ). They did a fantastic job keeping everybody happy. As did a marine biologist, Mariano from Italy. Passenger came from many different countries, such as US, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, UK, Denmark, many over 50, quite a few under, during our cruise. The ship sailed below capacity which was nice. However there is enough deck space and it is unlikely that one feels cramped even when full. Cabin was very compact and storage space limited but since noone needs to dress up ( dress shirt for dinner is fine ) it is sufficient. Meals were wonderful and pleased most passengers. Breakfast and lunch were open seating buffet style ( very good and always varied! ), whereas dinner is open seating a la carte. Dinner options are displayed on plates early evening, which makes it easy to pick the right choice when seated. Very good and reasonable wines available. Staff ( mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia) was very quick and efficient, always smiling, sometimes a bit too quick for the European taste though. Entertainment at nighttime not really existing ( with a few nice exceptions), but due to ports of call and their hours, no deal and not necessary at all. Everybody seemed happy with what was available and seemed to have a good time.Ports of call were all exceptional, very well selected and downright beautiful. Ponza on the Pontine Islands a beautiful hideaway for Romans on their weekends. Very picturesque. Hopped on a local bus and drove around the island up and down the hills to see some of the most beautiful sights from high above onto the dark blue mediterranean sea. Fantastic. Next stop Sorrent. Another beautiful place on this planet. Went on a great ship excursion to Pompeii. Later in the afternoon we set sail fo Capri, my favourite stop where we anchored around 5.00 p.m. Very wise to do so because most other tourists leave this beautiful island and so you have its beauty (almost) to yourself. It was really really beautiful with the sun later going down, putting everything into magical light, the wonderful smells of spring and its flowers in the air. Truely magic!Around 11:00 p.m. we set sail again for our next port of call. Amalfi. Optioned for a lovely ships tour to Positano. Again a good choice and a wonderful day at a place one has to see to believe it, as pictures and words cannot describe its beauty!Next stop was Taormina, Sicily. A beautiful tourist village high on top of a hill with a snow covered Mount Etna (vulcano) in sight. Another day in paradise, full of surprises for all senses ! We did not set sail again till 11:00 p.m. in order to be able to experience this wonderful place at day and night. Great! Next stop was Lipari, a beautiful harbour in the Lipari islands. Opted for a ships tour to Vulcano, another vulcanic island nearby. Great day. That night, after setting sail again on our way back to Civitavecchia again we were all in for a treat. We closely passed by the island of Stromboli, an active vulcano, around 11:00 p.m. We were able to see the vulcano erupting several times spitting out yellow lava. It was magical, very special and something I will never forget!Last day was a seaday. We passed Capri again, this time on the other side of the island. Captain gave some interesting information about the island in his daily captains´storytime.We sailed most of the day with winds finally strong enough to keep us going. Movement of the ship was noticeable but definitely tolerable and no big deal.It was a wonderful week, hard to top. I´d do it again in a heartbeat, even the same routing. Will I do Star Clippers again? Most definitely! No wonder 60 percent of their passengers are repeaters. Staff and crew did a great job and I met some of the nicest people from around the globe. The sports team on board fulfilled every wish, if you had one, from diving to mast climbing. Thank you Star Clippers for this exceptional week! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2009
Our 08 cruise to the Black Sea was not as much fun as previous trips and so when our niece announced he wedding in Croatia, we decided to see if we could cruise before the ceremony. We selected the cruise because the last port was close to ... Read More
Our 08 cruise to the Black Sea was not as much fun as previous trips and so when our niece announced he wedding in Croatia, we decided to see if we could cruise before the ceremony. We selected the cruise because the last port was close to our destination and we had never done the "sailing vessel" thing before. We liked the idea of only 200 guests. My observations are possibly tainted as I have cruised NCL, Celebrity and HAL, I am always amazed at the star ratings that certain lines and ships receive but these are my observations and I recognize that not everyone grew up in my house, I just hope my review is helpful cause a vacation is a terrible thing to waste. We had calm seas, except for the first night, my wife was sick, there is much more motion on these smaller ships, caveat emptor. We upgraded to a first class cabin, classes 2-5 were basically large closets with port holes, this basically doubled the cost of the cruise, it was nice and the cabin steward was excellent. The lunch buffets were excellent, breakfast got a little boring and dinner was good, but just not the overall quality and depth of selection I have enjoyed with Holland America. We made some great friends, there were several ugly americans about however and unfortunately we were paired with them for one meal which was not pleasant. An interesting trip, I did not think the "sailing" was that big a deal and I think there are much better values out there, but then Star Clippers does not tell you they are about value, but there virtual tour of there cabins is a little misleading, Bon Voyage, Veindoc Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
It came & went so quickly, thankfully we have many pleasant memories and pictures to tide us over until our next adventure. Once again, Star Clipper's treated us to an excellent voyage......this time on the Royal Clipper as we ... Read More
It came & went so quickly, thankfully we have many pleasant memories and pictures to tide us over until our next adventure. Once again, Star Clipper's treated us to an excellent voyage......this time on the Royal Clipper as we sailed through the Grenadine's. We visited Union Island, Grenada, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent, Bequai, Martinique & St. Lucia after starting our journey in Barbados between Nov. 14 & 21st. We left Austin, Texas on Friday the 13th at 9AM on American Airlines and arrived in Barbados at 11PM after connections in Dallas & Miami. While the flight was long, everything went without a hitch. We were expecting the worse when we arrived in Barbados and hoped we would be at the Hilton by 1AM. To our delight, we cleared customs, caught a cab & were in our room by 11:45. One thing that has stuck with us was how nice and helpful everyone was: the Airport personnel, Customs Officers, Taxi driver and the Hilton staff. It bode well for an excellent vacation. The Hilton is a very nice hotel....large, but clean & well managed. Our room was on the 7th floor in the Lighthouse wing. We ordered room service when we got settled, and it arrived quickly and was very good. I had heard reports of how expensive dining is at the Hilton and Barbados in general, but we didn't think it was any more expensive than any other travel destination we have encountered. The package we booked included a bottle of Champagne, but as late as we checked in, and the number of cocktails we had on the flights, we decided to not pop the cork at that time. We awoke Saturday morning and looked over the balcony to see the most beautiful white sand and blue ocean. We went down to the Lighthouse Restaurant and had breakfast as it was also included. The buffet was well laid out with the usual assortment of breakfast items. After sitting down, the wind started up & we had a very heavy shower that lasted about 10 minutes....stuff was blowing off the tables and folks were scurrying around trying to stay dry. As quick as it came, it was over and the rest of the day was postcard perfect. Checkout is at noon, and since the Hotel was full, they couldn't extend check-out, but they do provide Hospitality Rooms for guests. These are reserved for 30 minutes, so we made ours for 3:15. After checking out, the Hilton staff stored our luggage and told us to enjoy the facilities and check back at 3. We hung around the beautiful beach & pool area, soaking up the sites & sun until it was our Hospitality time. We were able to take showers & iron some clothes and just relax a bit before heading to the Port and our date with the Royal Clipper, which we could see at the dock from the Hilton. Remember the bottle of Champagne? We never did get around to drinking it, but the Hilton said they would store it in the fridge & have it waiting for us when we returned the following Saturday. Finally it was time to head to the Port, so we hopped in our cab and we were off! On the way, we asked our driver f there was anywhere we could pick up some Rum to take aboard. He took us to a little market downtown & I ran in while he parked. The market was packed & as I was about to give up, our driver came in and said to let him handle it. He went up to the front of one of the lines and asked the next in line if he could cut in, which he kindly agreed to. That was indicative of everyone we met in Barbados. I was so grateful, I assisted with his groceries, so hopefully, I made his day a bit better also. After a short 10 minute ride, we were at the Port. Embarkation: We arrived shortly after 4PM, which was apparently the same time everyone else decided to show up. This was one of the few negatives for the trip. It was very hot & humid, we were in a non A/C building and it took about 1 ½ hrs to get processed. They did pick up our bags & take them to the ship, so we didn't have to mess with those while we waited. There were also a few shops that were open, so we would take turns exploring while we waited. I was able to find some Cuban cigars at one of the shops. As an ex-smoker, that is one of my guilty pleasures on our vacations. One cigar for the week and a few to take home to friends.....I don't know, maybe 'cause they are illegal here or just to buck doctors orders. I really don't like smoking them. Once we had our flu checks, turned in our passports & filled out all the liability releases, we were off to the ship! On Board at last! We headed for the gangway, and as we reached the deck, we were greeted by Capt. Sergey Utitsyn, who welcomed us aboard. Hostesses passed out towels to freshen up and others passed out what I think were Rum Punches. There were also finger foods set up in the Tropical Bar. We mingled for a short time and headed to our cabin to check it out. Since we were offered some terrific discounts, I decided to splurge on one of the Suites. We had 314, which is the furthest aft of the Suites on the Port side. This cabin, along with the the corresponding cabin on the starboard side are arranged a bit different from the other Suites. They are a little longer than the others & have a slightly larger veranda. It was definitely larger than the cat.2 cabin we had on the Star Flyer and had quite a bit more closet space and the whirlpool tub wasn't a bad perk also. It also opened directly to the deck instead of into a hallway like the others. This night, we decided to utilize one of the main perks of the Suites....room service! Our Steward, Augustus, brought us the menu & told us to just check off what we'd like & he'd get it handled. We requested it for 8 and like clockwork, it was there. Augustus took very good care of us that week. Anything we requested, was handled prompt & correctly. We really missed him when we got home! Rachel at Star Clippers also sent us a bottle of champagne which went very well with dinner. It was a great start o the voyage. As we sat on our veranda relaxing, the other ships in Port started leaving. One was a Celebrity ship & the other the Sea Princess. They looked so huge next to the Royal Clipper. We anxiously awaited sail away at 10PM and proceeded up to the deck. We departed on time & as we motored out of the harbor, we passed a Dutch nuclear submarine that was tied up at the pier just as we cleared. That explained why there were no other ships in that section of the harbor. Once we cleared the harbor, the familiar strains of 1492, Conquest of Paradise began playing over the sound system and Capt. Sergey gave the orders to raise the sails. There are so many sails on the Royal Clipper, it requires repeating the song three times.....they could remedy this with a little tool called Garage Band that would make it flow a little better, but that's another story. Finally, sleepy time called & we headed off for our first night at sea, with visions of Union Island dancing in our heads. Oh, the beds were extremely comfortable and the gentle rocking made us sleep like babies. Sunday...Union Island Our stop in the Grenadines was to be Union Island and we were scheduled to anchor at 12:30 in the afternoon. The morning leading up to arrival was a full one. We started with a good exercise with Emma from the Sports Team. She would lead a morning workout each day in the Tropical Bar. Next was breakfast followed by a meeting with the Sports Team to go over all the Scuba activities for the week. That was immediately followed by the Muster drill. The captain followed with the introduction of all the officers. Finally, the snorkel gear was handed out for those that wanted...they kept this equipment the entire week.We arrived at the island right on time and most people spent the day at the beach. There were a couple of establishments for refreshments, but mostly it was just a kick back and relax kind of day. We went on the early scuba dive. There was quite a bit of marine life, but the reef where we dove was a bit underwhelming. After returning, we caught a tender and went ashore where we spent some time kayaking and walking the beach. Alas, the time went much too quickly & it was time to return to the ship and sail off into the sunset. Monday...Grenada Started with a workout with Emma again...helped us feel better about eating too much! We arrived around Noon and although we were expecting to tender, we were fortunate to be able to dock. We caught up with the Sea Princess in Grenada as she was docked also. We were looking forward to diving here at a spot called the Underwater Sculpture Garden. It is a series of sculptures designed to promote quicker recovery of the reef that was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. They are life size figures placed around the reef. Pretty amazing sight! We scheduled this in advance with Dive Grenada as we had discovered the ship did not offer this dive. We are so glad we arranged this because as things turned out, Grenada was perhaps our favorite stop on the trip. The dive shop had arranged for us to be picked up at the pier, and as we walked into the terminal, a gentleman by the name of Garfield was waiting. As we proceeded to the dive shop that was located on Grand Anse beach, Garfield was giving us a history lesson on St. George. Since we were not scheduled to depart till 11:45 that evening, we asked Garfield if he knew of anyone we could hire to show us around the island after we finished with our dive. He said he would be pleased to show us around and as promised, was sitting at the dive shop when we returned from the dive. Now, since we didn't really have this planned, we didn't carry any money on us and Garfield said no worry, when we get back we would settle up. We had a great afternoon with him visiting little spots where we could get Caribe beer and sample some of the many spices found on Grenada. We also visited the fort, some waterfalls and the Grand Etang rainforest. It was simply an awesome day for us. FYI on the terminal area.....there are quite a few shops there, but most close by 6PM. Also, they do have security screening set up before heading out to the dock. That evening, we had the past guest cocktail hour with the Captain on the aft deck. Following dinner, they had the Fashion Show, but we didn't make it that late...the getting up at 5AM for the sunrises was catching up with us. Tuesday...Tobago Cays We spent the morning sailing around islands...we kept asking ourselves...is that it, is that it? Finally around 9:30, we dropped anchor off one of the beautiful islands. We had a dive scheduled this morning, which was very enjoyable. About a 60' wall dive with just a slight current. Not as much marine life as Union Island, but the coral on the reef was in much better shape. After the dive, we headed for the beach, where they had the Bar-B-Q set up. Nice spread...burgers, fish, chicken and all the fixings, and lots of desserts for the kicker. They also set up a small bar for cocktails. There were several venders set up selling t-shirts, jewelry & other little trinkets, so take some money ashore. After eating, we took a path to the other side of the island away from the crowd and worked on our tans. As the last tender took us back to the ship, we were getting excited about the evenings activities.....Pirate's Night & the Crab Races. First though, it was time to participate in the sailing maneuvers which enabled those that wanted to work the sails and lines. Dinner time brought out the pirates....all the crew and about a dozen passengers were dressed up. We dressed as Jack Sparrow & Elizabeth Swan. The Crab Races were a hoot as usual & it didn't hurt to win a couple of the races either! Wednesday...St. Vincent & Bequia Arrival in St. Vincent was an early 8AM, so no workout with Emma this morning. She was there, but no one else was. We anchored in the bay at Kingstown instead of Young Island, so there was a small cruise terminal with a few shops and an information center. Cabs were available just outside the gate, so we grabbed one and headed up to Wallilabou Bay. This is where the scenes of Port Royal in the movie Pirates's of the Caribbean were filmed. On the way we passed by Ft. Charlotte and saw some amazing views of the coastline and passed through several small communities, each with it's own uniqueness. You could still see some of the remnants of the filming, but it sure didn't look anything like the movie....still it was interesting. It was quite a bit further than we had expected...didn't look that far on the map. If we were to rethink our decision, we wouldn't have made the trip, as it took up the entire 4 hours we were in St. Vincent. We got back to the dock just in time to catch the last tender and soon we were crossing the 9 mile channel to Bequai. We anchored in the bay off Port Elizabeth around 2 and caught the tender to shore. If you could picture what you imagined a small Caribbean seaside village to look like, this would be it. The first thing we wanted to check out was the two Model Boat shops there. Both were located just a short walk north of the dock. Of the two, Sergeants was the largest & most interesting. We were able to talk with one of the craftsman & he showed us around the shop and the models in progress. Some are as small as a foot long, while others were well over 4 feet. Very nice craftsmanship. We checked out a few souvenir shops & then decided to attempt to make our way to Princess Margaret beach. At one time, there was a boardwalk that went to the beach, but storms have destroyed a section, and it would have been a long detour to bypass that section. We decided to stop at a little Pizza shop, Mac's, that several of the other Royal Clipper passengers were at. We opted for the Conch fritters & chased them with some ice cold Caribe Beer. It was a great way to finish the day there as we watched the sun set behind the Royal Clipper. All too soon it was time to head back to the dock & catch the tender back to the ship. Thursday...Martinique Another early start and Emma got stood up again. We docked in Fort de France around 8. Our 4x4 excursion was to meet at 8, so we had a quick breakfast & met the group by the gangway. They have changed this excursion from what was printed in the excursion brochure. Originally billed as a tour through the southern part of the island, we now were off to the interior rainforest and Mt. Pelee. We had 11 on the tour and luckily, we got in the group of 5. The tour was conducted in Land Rovers that technically seat 6. HAH! We were comfortable enough, but the other group was crammed in & had to make frequent stops & seemed to generate a lot of complaining. Our group was great & Anthony, our guide was great. Saw a lot of interesting plants in the rainforest & the countryside was beautiful. We stopped at the overlook at Mt. Pelee had had a few shots of rum & rum punch. We were very relaxed after that. It was a long excursion and we got back to the docks a bit late. We left the dock just after Noon and headed south for an afternoon at the beach. It was billed as Martinique Beach, but in reality was Martinique's,Grand Anse beach. Seemed like many of the islands had a Grand Anse Beach. The beach wrapped around the entire bay and was lined with small boutique accommodations and a few shops. Most were closed this day, however. There was a notice in the Daily Port sheets that it was a Holiday, but none of the locals we talked to new which holiday it was...guess it was a shop owner's holiday! We checked out a couple of dive shops and then spent the rest of the afternoon at a little beach bar by the name of Ti Sable. Cute little place with canopy covered tables. No food, but nice cold beer. The beer of choice on Martinique is Lorraine. It was cold & went down easy. As in Bequai, we watched the sun set over the bay and caught the last tender back to the ship. This evening was the Captain's Dinner & we were invited to the Captain's table. We had a pleasant evening with Capt. Sergey talking about his life in Estonia, sailing and his maritime career. We hope we get the opportunity to sail with him again. After dinner, they held the Talent Show at the Tropical Bar. Axel the Hotel Mgr. belted out a few Elvis songs...we knew he would be good, because he was aboard the Star Flyer when we sailed her last year. The Sports Team did a hilarious routine involving a Japanese Submarine crew and Carlito, the Head bartender did his best Michael Jackson routine. There was also a funny skit performed by Mariano, the ship's Marine Biologist & Ben from the Sports team. Afterward's, the crew & passengers did the Macarena. It was an enjoyable time for all. Friday...St. Lucia Alas...Emma gets stood up again. Another 8AM arrival. Marigot Bay is a beautiful, upscale anchorage. The dock area is lined with little shops, but no shopping today. We were off to the Zip Lines on the other side of the island. We got a good sampling of the beauty of St. Lucia during the hour long ride to the Tree Top Canopy Adventure Park. Once there, we were suited up and off to fly through the jungle. There were 11 runs total and was one of the highlights of the week. Everyone had a great time, but one of the ladies in the group injured her arm when she struck some bamboo. If you're adventurous, I highly recommend this excursion. Once again, we were late getting back and as soon as we boarded we headed south to the Pitons and Soufriere. We scheduled the afternoon dive and had a great dive. The reefs in St. Lucia were the best we encountered on the trip. We didn't return to the ship until 3:30, so we had just enough time to change & catch the last tender into Soufriere. We wanted to get some kind of souvenir of St. Lucia. We found a small shop a couple of blocks from the dock where we were able to find some things along with the brew of St. Lucia...Piton. Since the last tender back was at 4:30, we quickly made our way back. Before weighing anchor, they lowered the two large tenders so everyone could get pictures of the Royal Clipper under full sail with the Pitons in the background. Once aboard the tender, we moved away and the Royal Clipper got under way with the tenders in chase mode. It was an awesome sight to see that beautiful ship under sail. That evening at dinner, you could sense everyone was sad to see the cruise coming to a close....or it could have been the thought of having to pack & get your luggage out. Saturday...Barbados We arrived back in Barbados right at sunrise. It was a perfect ending to the week and there was a large contingent on deck to view the last sunrise and port arrival. Some left early to catch flights. We had a leisurely breakfast and said goodbyes to those we met onboard. Oh, we also had to settle up with the Purser. Grudgingly, we left the ship at 10 and caught a shuttle back to the Hilton where we would spend the evening and depart early Sunday morning. They didn't have a room available yet, so we stowed our luggage and hung out at the beach. We checked into our room a little after Noon. Remember that bottle of Champagne we left, the Hilton followed through at it was ready for us. We had a Bay View room this time, and I actually liked the view overlooking the bay & Bridgetown. We could also see the Royal Clipper at the dock, so we popped the cork and saluted the ship for providing us with such an enjoyable experience. That afternoon we decided to walk along the beach to the new Boardwalk. It turned out it was quite a bit farther than expected. There were sections where we had to climb over rocks & retaining walls, but we finally reached the Boardwalk. We proceeded as we watched our last sunset in this idyllic setting. On the walk back to the hotel, we came across Club Fred's Bar & Grill where we had a snack and a couple of drinks. Fred's is a quaint little place located in a Historic zoned house. It really does have a grill sitting on the front porch. Later that evening, we walked to the Brown Sugar Restaurant and had an excellent last meal in Barbados.....highly recommend this restaurant. Sunday...Dang, it's over! We caught a cab to the airport at 5AM for our 7AM flight. Everything went smoothly until we reached Miami. We parked at what had to be the furthest gate from Customs and of course our departing gate was at the complete opposite side from that. With no shuttles at the Miami Airport, there was a lot of walking. When we reached the departing gate, we were informed that there was a gate change, and you guessed it, it was back on the other side....walk, walk & walk some more. The rest of the flights went smoothly and we were back home at 8PM Texas time. That's 18 hours of travel time and we were some tired puppies. Odds & Ends Favorite Port: Grenada Favorite Excursion: Zip Line in St. Lucia Best spot on Ship: Widow's net, Peacefull & relaxing. Just take that step over the railing and you'll be glad you did. Best Drink of the Day:Caipirinha Local Rums: We bought two brands that we took aboard. Mount Gay Extra Old & Cockspur Old Gold. Of the two, I felt the Cockspur was smoother. Best Sunset: Bequai If you are thinking about renting a car, Don't! I am comfortable driving on the left, but most of the roads on these islands make the Road to Hana seem like a freeway. The roads are also poorly marked. Mast climbing was held on Monday & Thursday Food: Overall very good. What surprised me most were the steaks, juicy & tender. Usually on ships they are dry & tough. Cooked to order omelets at breakfast were also excellent. Cabin: The suite was great. The option of having room service and room to actually walk around was nice. However, at the normal rack rate, I don't think I could justify the extra expense over a Cat. 2 cabin. Royal Clipper: She is a beautiful ship. Although the specs would lead you to believe it isn't that much larger than the Flyer & Clipper, it is. There were only about 170 aboard so it never felt crowded. Although there is nothing wrong with the Clipper, we enjoyed the Star Flyer as a ship more. Cruise Director: There isn't a lot of entertainment aboard these ships, so the main function of the Cruise Director is to organize the Shore Excursions. This was a sore point with many of the passengers. The excursions wouldn't be posted until the day before, so there was no way to tell what times or how full the excursions would be. Hence, you couldn't plan out your day properly or even know whether they were going to have the excursion or have any confirmation you were on the excursion. By the time you read this, they should have a new CD on board, so hopefully it will be corrected. The new CD was the talk of much of the crew(mostly male) because she was a 24 year old Latin American. I'm sure they had visions of Salma Hayek or Jennifer Lopez! This link will take you to our album of photos from the trip: http://gallery.me.com/csealove/100277 Well, that's about it....all there is to do now is start thinking about our next adventure. Should it be Thailand or Costa Rica.....hmmmmmmmm! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2010
Our expectations were high as we left our comfortable Barbados hotel after four nights to join the Royal Clipper. We should have stayed in Barbados. Something seemed odd that we could only board a ship which had docked at 7am after 4pm, ... Read More
Our expectations were high as we left our comfortable Barbados hotel after four nights to join the Royal Clipper. We should have stayed in Barbados. Something seemed odd that we could only board a ship which had docked at 7am after 4pm, but of course that relieved the cruise line of serving lunch. We then had to fill out a health form and have our temperature taken, a perfectly reasonable request. What was not reasonable was another paper from we had to sign, limiting the liability of the cruise line and making passengers agree that if they were going to sue Star Clippers, the suit would be filed only in Monaco. Now that was kind of strange. I signed. They would not have let me board if I didn't. But there is a family, I am sure, who wishes they had not. My wife is partially disabled. She can walk slowly but long distances are difficult for her. We asked for a wheelchair for boarding. None was available. When we boarded, we found that there was no elevator. This was never mentioned. We were in for a week of enforced climbing of 4 flights of stairs, many of which led to narrow and difficult doors. This ship is completely unsuitable for disabled people. We could barely manage. Those more disabled than we would have had to have been left on the shore. With no refund, I am sure, although there is certainly nothing in any large print in their literature which indicates this. But I guess you were supposed to scrutinize the deck plan to find this out. Let's say this at the beginning: The ship is beautiful, the interior spaces are lovely, and the service crew (waiters, cabin stewards and deckhands) are friendly, efficient and personable. The Cruise Director was not to my liking and the Hotel Director turned out to be a baloney artist. The Captain seemed nice, but his Ukrainian accent prevented all but the most basic communication. The sailing bit is almost a gimmick. The sails are raised with great pomp and piped in music from "The Hunt for Red October. Then, as soon as everyone is at dinner or in bed, the sails are furled and the ship proceeds under power. It is too bad, the experience of proceeding on a large ship under sail is truly delightful. You get it about 25% of the time. The food is no better and no worse than many cruise ships Mostly frozen ingredients dressed up in fancily named sauces. You would think that sailing in some of the most fertile fishing waters and tropical fruit growing areas that they would make some effort to add fresh food. You would think that with Royal Caribbean and Holland America as well. The ship offers water sports equipment to the passengers. The equipment is old, dirty and disgusting it belongs at the Salvation Army. So do the books in the beautiful library. They didn't bother to got to the Salvation Army for these. They are just the left behinds from past passengers. The real problem was the port policy. It was designed to save the cruise line many dollars. It cost a life. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2010
We are senior citizens who also were sailors for about 40 years! We have sailed twice on the ROYAL CLIPPER - January 2005 & January 2010. We adore her! Best cruises we have ever had - no casinos, no kids on board just plain ... Read More
We are senior citizens who also were sailors for about 40 years! We have sailed twice on the ROYAL CLIPPER - January 2005 & January 2010. We adore her! Best cruises we have ever had - no casinos, no kids on board just plain "relaxation". Shore excursions during the day and sailed at night! Wonderful lectures on board, water activities ashore, sightseeing on the islands, on board entertainment by the crew & occasional steel band aboard for a few hours before our night sails! We used Star Clipper Lines to book our plane reservations so that we wouldn't have any issues with delayed flights. Actually, we flew to Miami from Providence, RI the night before we were to fly to Barbados to meet the ship just to be sure that we would bot be delayed by weather! Would sail on her again if we can! Mediterranean by way of the seasonal transatlantic repositioning crossing would be next on our list. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2010
We flew to Barbados a day early so as not to miss the departure, had a reservation with the Pirates Cove Inn. That was a glorious experience. Everyone was so friendly and helpful.We were not able to board the ship until 4PM even tho' ... Read More
We flew to Barbados a day early so as not to miss the departure, had a reservation with the Pirates Cove Inn. That was a glorious experience. Everyone was so friendly and helpful.We were not able to board the ship until 4PM even tho' it docked at 7AM, so we had a lot of time to kill with our bags. It is an expensive cab ride from the hotel to Bridgetown and the pier. Pre-boarding we had to sign a health waiver and submit to a temperature test. We were also required to sign a form agreeing the line could only be sued from Monaco. OK we submit and sign because we are after all here to take the cruise. At 10PM we are underway with much pomp and ceremony for the raising of the sails. The music is very theatrical 1492 Conquest of the Caribbean. We actually made 8 ports in the 7 days. Only 2 were docked all the others were tendered. The sea was rough and getting off the ship and into the tender boats was difficult for able bodied folks. We had a number of older guests, some with limited dexterity so they were always presented with the dilemma of staying on board and missing the port or daring the transfer. Shopping was an absolute "nothing"...our day in Grenada was a national holiday...our day in Martinique was the beginning of Carnival. All the other stops were for snorkelling or scuba. Wrong cruise if you are not into water sports and raw beaches. The food is buffet style breakfast and lunch, full service dinner. The service good, not excellent but OK...same with the food. Our cabin steward kept us tidy, but had the flu. So if the guests have to submit to a health check, what about the crew. The Islands are beautiful, and are regardless of how you get there. My favorite stop was in Barbados where we had a great driver take us to the northernmost point of the Island to Flower Cave, and a great waterside restaurant for lunch before the trip to the airport. The staff on the ship especially the deck hands were eager to explain the tasks they were assigned to. As for the climbing of the mast...available for 2 hours one morning and one hour another...not quite like described in the brochures. Many who wanted to climb to the crows nest were not able to because they could not be accomodated. Entertainment was of the amateur variety, but since smoking is allowed in the Tropic Bar where the entertainment took place , those who choose not to inhale other peoples smoke could not participate. The currency on board is the Euro...makes drinks bloody expensive..... The captain on this vessel was very friendly and available to anyone who wished to speak with him...one could not say the same for the Hotel Manager who never got back to any guest about anything as near as I could tell. When all was said and done, spending the week in Barbados would have been more enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
There is no doubt that the ship is beautiful with gleaming wood everywhere. our category 3 cabin was very attractive. The main flaw in the bathroom design is that the shower curtain is too short, so that the floor of the bathroom is ... Read More
There is no doubt that the ship is beautiful with gleaming wood everywhere. our category 3 cabin was very attractive. The main flaw in the bathroom design is that the shower curtain is too short, so that the floor of the bathroom is flooded whenever the shower is used unless extreme care is taken to keep the water from the shower nozzle from pushing the curtain outside the metal lip that encloses the shower. The air conditioning in our cabin did not appear to be working when we arrived (not much air from the vents and the air flow itself was not very cool). We inquired about this and a crew person appeared quickly, equipped with a laptop computer, who made a series of adjustments that produced plenty of cool air. We picked this cruise for the itinerary. We enjoyed all the ports except Capri and the evening cruising of Stromboli(featured in the literature) was very poorly handled. The stop in Capri is in the evening, so there is no time to visit the Blue Grotto or to take a tour. There is time to take a bus or taxi from Capri to Anacapri, but both are excessively touristy with expensive shops. The evening cruising by Stromboli conflicted with the Captain's dinner. Few passengers saw any lava, because to see the best lava you had to leave before the dinner was over and stay past the long past the end to the posted time. I had thought that we sailed around Stromboli, but we merely motored (as opposed to sailed) past. If we had hung around for a while, we could have seen more lava. I skipped desert and saw some lava before the viewing window and stayed long past the 30 minute viewing window and saw 4 more small eruptions as Stromboli faded into the distance. The evening of the Captain's Dinner was also when we encountered the most amazingly bad service. Recognizing that the time for viewing Stromboli would be tight, we showed up at dinner just as the dining room opened. We told the Maitre D' that we had come early because we wanted to finish in time to see Stromboli and explained that was why I brought my binoculars and polar fleece to the dinner. We asked to be seated with other English speaking passengers. Forty minutes later we were still sitting alone at a table for 6 at the entrance to the dining room. The waiters serving other tables that had been filled, three times swiped wine glasses from the unused places at our table. The third time, I got up and complained to the nurse, who served as the assistant Maitre D', telling her that I had never had such humiliating service. The wine glasses on our table were replaced and a solo German (but with good English) woman was seated at our table. The wine glasses from our table were soon being swiped by the waiters again even though I had stopped one and explained to him, why that was disturbing to us. Finally, they seated the Italian marine biology lecturer, Mariano with us (We had met him at the start of the cruise, and he turned out to be the most interesting and entertaining member of the crew/expedition staff) . When the main course still had not arrived after 75 minutes, I went back to the assistant Maitre D' (since the Maitre D' had vanished after my prior complaint and never apologized) to request if my food did not arrive in the next 15 minutes that it be sent to my cabin (since there was no alternative source of food). We were finally served about 5 minutes later. I quickly ate, so that I could go out and watch Stromboli and indeed I saw the first and best of the small eruptions prior to the end of the Captain's Dinner. The next day, several of the waiters apologized to us, but the Maitre D' never spoke to us again. Our favorite stop was Lipari, where we took the optional excursion to Vulcano. The cruise around Lipari on the way to Vulcano was very beautiful, as well as the cruise around Vulcano itself. On Vulcano, a visit to the mud baths was included. It is a natural mud bath, so you need to watch out for occasional spurts of scalding water. You wash off in the adjacent area of the ocean, which is warmed by the volcanic activity to a comfortable, but not hot temperature. You can see bubbles rising through the ocean water. Our second favorite stop was Taormina, Sicily, where we took the optional tour to Mt. Etna, which did not leave time to visit Taormina. It was a beautiful drive up the mountain with a long cable car ride to close to the summit. (The cable car was replaced after an eruption destroyed the previous one two years ago.) We walked around a steaming crater and saw the roof of a two story building that was buried in the last eruption just barely above the surface. Two Italian fighter aircraft did a high speed flyby just over the summit while we were on top. There appears to be a culture of not being honest with the passengers. In Amalfi we took a wonderful, optional excursion to Ravello and decided to return to the Royal Clipper for the offered local rides (in the printed program sheet for that day)on the ship's Zodiacs. When we got back to the the Royal Clipper, we were told that we needed to check after lunch to see when the rides would be given. When we followed up, as instructed, after lunch, we were told that the boat rides could not be done because of water traffic. We later heard from fellow passengers that the motors of both Zodiacs had broken. In Lipari, after the excursion we were explicitly told by the Cruise Director that the tenders would run on demand. When we showed up to go back to Lipari after cleaning up from the mud bath, we were told that the tender was running on a schedule and we had to wait 25 minutes. The switch cost us a third of the time we had on our own in Lipari. The Cruise Director later denied that she had said the tenders would run on demand, but there was no mistaking what we had been told earlier. There appeared to be a conflict on this issue between the Cruise Director and the Second Officer, the officer in charge of the tenders that day. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2010
REVIEW - MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE ABOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER ROME TO VENICE A Little Information about Star Clippers Let me say right from the start that I am a big fan of the Star Clippers sailing experience. This cruise is our 5th on ... Read More
REVIEW - MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE ABOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER ROME TO VENICE A Little Information about Star Clippers Let me say right from the start that I am a big fan of the Star Clippers sailing experience. This cruise is our 5th on Star Clippers and the second time we have sailed on the Royal Clipper. We have also sailed on the sister ships Star Flyer and Star Clipper and have cruised with them in Thailand, Tahiti, Greece & Turkey and the Caribbean out of Barbados. My husband and I own our own sailboat in Florida and have chartered sailboats around the world for bareboat experiences. I wanted to write a review of our latest sailing experience aboard the Royal Clipper, and share some of my observations and comparisons with the other ships of the line and with other types of cruises. When deciding to go on a cruise, one of the major decisions a person has to make, other than the destination, is if you want a traditional cruise ship or a sailing vessel. There are pros and cons of both options which I will not go into here, but if you are not absolutely certain that being on a real sailboat is of the upmost importance, you may want to think twice about sailing with Star Clippers. On any of the ships in the Star Clipper line, you will find the cabins are not as big or luxurious as a traditional cruise ship, the food is not as good or as plentiful and are no formal dress up functions. There is also no bingo, casino or glitzy entertainment. If you have any mobility problems, there are stairs everywhere and there is no elevator. With this said, it is interesting to note that the Star Clippers has a very loyal and dedicated clientele, with over 60% of passengers on any given cruise being repeat customers. My husband and I would not consider going on any other commercial cruise line than Star Clippers. I am pointing this out at the beginning of my review to alert readers that this may not be the cruise for you, depending on your priorities and expectations. On this last cruise, I met several passengers who were very unhappy and complained about the food, entertainment, nightlife, accommodations, foreigners, layout of the ship and anything else they could think about. They thought they were going on another Carnival Cruise and never came to appreciate the unique and wonderful experience that being on a tall ship can bring. If, however, you are active and healthy, adventurous and friendly, if food is not your priority on a cruise and you can live without a balcony cabin, than you should consider taking a cruise on one of the Star Clipper ships. Rome - Civitavecchia port - Day 1 On our 11-day cruise, the Royal Clipper departed from Civitavecchia - the port of Rome. Civitavecchia is about an hour outside the city of Rome. The best and most inexpensive way to reach Civitavecchia is to take the train. From the Rome airport, take the Leonardo express train into Rome (14 Euros). The train drops you off at the Termini station (Track 29) and is right next to the Piza train (on Track 27) that takes you to Civitavecchia (4 Euros). Buy both tickets at once at the airport and just get off one train and hop on the other...it could not be easier. If you want to spend some time in Rome, I believe there is a place to store your bags at the train station. Be aware that both Track 29 and 27 are at the absolute furthest parts of the Termini train station, so be prepared for a long walk to get to the main terminal and leave plenty of time. There is also the option of transfers with the cruise line. Those passengers that decide to do that option (it is about $85 per person) walk from the airport to the adjacent Hilton Airport Hotel (10 minute walk with covered walkways). They store your luggage and provide a meeting room with chairs to hang out in. You have the option to take the train into the city on your own or use the hotel's free shuttle bus into Rome (which is an hour away). At 5:00 these passengers must be back at the hotel to take a bus out to the port. If you take the train from Rome out to Civitavecchia, you will arrive at the train station, which is not right on the water. From the station, you can take a short taxi ride to the ship for around 7 Euros. I believe there also may be a shuttle bus but I am not sure about its schedule. Boarding the ship is from 4:00pm - 10:00pm, and the ship departs at 11:00pm or as soon as everyone is onboard. At the port of Civitavecchia, the ship will be docked alongside pier no 11, 12, 13 or 14. It is very obvious there it is, as you can spot it from miles away, so it is not hard to find. At the port terminal, we went through a security scanner and got on the ship after a quick check-in where they took our photo and issued us a ship ID card. This card, which we call our MULTIPASS (like in the movie 5th Element), is also your room key, ID for boarding and credit card for all ships purchases. At this point, you also surrender your passport, which you will not get back again until the end of the cruise. To get on the ship, one must climb the steep boarding stairway - a wobbly but secure contraption attached to the outside of the ship. This is one reason why this ship is not recommended for anyone with mobility problems. Once on the ship, we were welcomed with a tropical drink and shown to our cabin. Unfortunately for us, our luggage was lost by Delta Airlines, and did not make it to the Rome airport with us (I guess our luggage had always wanted to visit Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris). We reported this to the ships purser, who then contacted the ships port agent. The port agent was hopeful that we might be reunited with our lost luggage in 3 days in Sicily, where he would send it when found. Our stops before then were too small to have an airport, so I guess we would be wearing our current attire a lot in the next few days. At this point I must say that the staff on the ship went out of their way to help and accommodate us with clothing and supplies. The ships store opened and gave us toiletries. They also offered us any clothing in the store for a 50% discount and gave us free laundry service. Our room steward took our cloths when we went to bed at night and returned them to us in the morning clean and fresh. The purser kept in contact with the port agent and kept us posted on the status of our luggage. I guess this kind of thing happens frequently - so it you are going on a cruise take an emergency bag with you on the plane with underwear, shorts, sandals and toiletries! The ship left port at around 9:30 when all of the passengers were onboard. One of the most magical experiences on any Star Clipper sailing is leaving port. Everyone gathers up on deck while the crew hoists some of the sails (most are automatically unfurled), while the beautiful and haunting musical theme from the film 1492 plays. I must confess that I never tire of this experience no matter how many times I sail out of port on one of their ships. Ponza - Day 2 We had a leisurely sail and anchored off the small island of Ponza at around noon. As it was a Sunday, and we were very jet lagged and had no sport cloths to wear, so we decided to take it easy on the ship. The people who did go ashore said it was a beautiful little town and some of the shops were open. No shore excursions were available at Ponza, which was a very small and isolated island. There were lots of huge yachts anchored in the bay. Around sunset we set sail for Capri. The evening entertainment was a fashion show put on by the ship's store. The Star Clipper Fleet The Royal Clipper is the largest of the Star Clipper fleet, with 5 masts and about 225 passengers at full capacity. The cabins on the Royal are a little bit larger and nicer than those on the smaller ships. The dining room is multi level, with a small inner ring that is used for the breakfast and lunch buffets. The two identical sister ships, the Star Flyer and the Star Clipper have 4 masts and a maximum of 170 passengers. Even though there is only a difference of about 50 passengers, the Royal feels much larger than the other two ships. Unique to the Royal is a cool spa that is located at the bottom of the ship, with porthole windows looking out underwater. The Royal also has 3 saltwater pools and a water sport platform that opens up at the stern. The Flyer and Clipper have 2 saltwater pools. All ships have dive masters, snorkeling equipment (provided free), kayaks and sailboards. There is also a Learn To Dive program on the ships available to passengers who want to try it out before committing to a longer program on shore or on the ship. The largest gathering area on the ship is the Tropical Bar, which is at the center of the ship and open to the elements, although they put up a shade canvas. Even though I love the elegance of the Royal, I think I prefer the smaller and more intimate ambience of the Flyer and the Clipper. I think the biggest advantage of the Royal is the stern water sport platform, which is much easier for diving and snorkeling. Capri - Day 3 We arrive in Capri around 11:00 and after a quick lunch on the ship embark on an Island Tour (53 Euros) at 1:00. This was the only tour offered. On Capri, there is no ship tender service, only local boats because the port is too small and crowded. We are picked up at the ship in a boat by the tour operator, who takes us to the Coral Grotto and White Virgin Grotto (which we back into). We see the famous Faraglioni rock formations surrounding the island and take the boat through a rock arch. The boat drops us off at Marina Grande, where we take a small tour bus up to Anacapri. From here we have the option of looking around the town and shopping, visiting Villa San Michele which is built on the ruins of Tiberius's palaces or taking the chair lift up to Monte Solaro. We decide on the chair lift, which is like an individual ski lift that takes you up to the top of the mountain and incredible views of Capri and the Bay of Naples. We meet back at the drop off area and take another bus down to Capri. Here we have time to shop and look around, and are given tickets to take the Funicolare back down to the port. There is a long line for the Funicolare and it drops you off a short distance from the dock, where we take a shuttle boat back to the ship. We spoke with other passengers that did most of this stuff by themselves (except the boat tour) for a much cheaper price than we paid on the tour, and while we could have done it ourselves I think the tour was a good value. We were discouraged from trying to go to the Blue Grotto (which Capri is most famous for), but we could have done it from a tourist office at the harbor. Those that did try to see the Blue Grotto paid to be taken there only to not be allowed in because the seas were too rough (and no refund...you take your chances). We set sail at around 7:00 to a beautiful sunset and rough seas. Entertainment tonight was a Music Trivia contest. Food on the Royal Clipper The most common question people ask about a cruise is, "How was the food?" As food is often a very subjective area, it is sometimes a difficult question to answer. Unfortunately, on this particular cruise the answer is simple...the food was not very good. As I have stated at the beginning of this review, this was not my first Star Clipper cruise and not my first experience aboard the Royal Clipper. We had sailed on the Star Flyer 8 months previously in Tahiti, so we had fairly recent exposure to the culinary offerings on that ship - where the food was outstanding. Unless the parent company had instigated a drastic reduction in food quality, which I seriously doubt, I would blame it on the chef. Our chef on the Star Flyer in Tahiti was from the Philippines and his food was well prepared, interesting and had delicious seasonings. The chef on the Royal Clipper was from Jamaica, and his menu was uninspired, the food poorly prepared, bland and downright boring. It is the only cruise in memory where I lost weight and tried to eat off the ship whenever possible. The main topic of conversation among the passengers was how bad the food was. One German passenger commented to me that he liked to get the cheese course for dessert, but they gave him the exact same cheeses every night. He observed that at lunch they have different cheeses every day, and so he asked the waiter to give him those different cheeses at dinner. They complied with his request...but why didn't they offer that to everyone? I think it shows a lack of leadership in the kitchen, people doing as little as possible instead of trying for excellence. Every day is the same breakfast buffet on the Royal. There are made to order omelets and a selection of fruits, breads and cereals. Also offered was underdone bacon, sausages that looked like cut up hot dogs and some other hot items such as crepes or pancakes. On the 7th day (of an 11 day cruise), the fresh mushrooms ran out - so my husband stopped eating the omelets (what's the point without mushrooms?). Someone should have planned that better. Lunch was also a buffet, the layout of the dining room on the Royal making for a traffic jam. (The buffet layout is better on the Flyer and Clipper because the dining room is all one level and more open.) The lunch was often the best meal of the day, with different themes such as Asian or Italian. The crew decorated the room with festive flags and banners and there was often a carving station with a ham or turkey. Also offered was a dessert buffet and many cheese and salad options. Dinner was served at table, the maitre d' seating people together and doing a great job of remembering who liked to sit together. I found most people preferred to sit with others that spoke the same language, so there were the German tables, the French tables and the English tables. Star Clipper cruises are always an international mix of people, and our cruise had passengers from 38 different countries. Meeting and talking with passengers from all over the world is one of the most enjoyable things about traveling on a Star Clipper cruise. The food is served in courses and the ship has a good selection of wine offerings. If you don't finish a bottle, they will label it and save it for you for the next night. It is a shame that the food was so disappointing on this cruise and I hope that they take steps to improve it on the Royal Clipper soon. If they read their comment cards from passengers, they should be aware of the problem. Giardini Naxos, Sicily - Day 4 Sometime during the very early pre-dawn morning, the ship sailed by the active volcanic island of Stromboli - a smoking cone rising straight out of the ocean. I failed to wake up in time to see it, but a fellow passenger who did said she saw a fiery lava plume amid the smoke. I saw it at a distance, and even then it was a magnificent sight. We arrived at the Straits of Messina at around 9:30 and were entertained by a talk by Captain Sergey about piracy and how it is affecting passenger ships. I had previously sailed on the Star Flyer in Thailand, but they have discontinued that route because of increased safety concerns in the area. Captain Sergey, originally from Russia, is one of a select few tall ship captains in the world, and is very good at what he does. He also lectured us later in the week about the different designs and configurations of sailing ships and told us about the new ship that the Star Clipper line plans to add in 2014. We arrived at the port of Naxos at around 2:00 and we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our luggage. I had been very fortunate to meet an absolutely wonderful fellow passenger from Ohio named Marcy. After hearing that I had no cloths, and observing that she was about the same size as me, she sent me an whole bag of cloths to wear until my own arrived. She even had new underwear, still in the Wal-Mart bag. She said she had taken along extra cloths, not knowing why. I believe she was a guardian angel sent to rescue me. She was traveling with her husband and two other couples (the Ohio gang), who became our friends and made our trip delightful. In Sicily, the ship offered several excursion options; a transfer to Taormina and tour of Greek theater (39 Euros), a brunch and wine tasting tour (89 Euros), or a tour of Mt Etna (94 Euros). There is not much to do at the port of Naxos, but the beautiful town of Taormina is just down the coast, perched on a cliff. When a passenger asked our cruise director Angela why the ship went to Naxos instead of Taormina, she answered that they had not yet figured out how to sail up a mountain. We decided not to take a tour but to share a taxi with our friends (the Ohio gang). We negotiated a fare of 40 Euros for 6 (I think we could have done better if we would have haggled more), and our driver took us up to the town of Taormina, arranging to pick us up again in 3 hours. We walked a couple of blocks up to the ancient (3rd century BC) Greek theater. The theater is still in use and has beautiful views of the coast and Mt. Etna, looming in the background. We walked back down through the streets of Taormina, stopping for wonderful gelato at Gelatomania. There were lots of touristy shops in town, also lots of tourists. I purchased a beautiful red pottery platter, glazed with the "Fire of Etna" pattern. After having a drink in a cafe, we return to the ship. Our luggage had arrived...thank you purser Yula! Some of our friends did the Mt. Etna tour and had a great time and brought back a whole backpack of rocks. In Hawaii, Pele doesn't like you to take home any lava, but I guess things are different in Sicily, where it is considered good luck. Our ship departs at almost midnight, but before we leave some local entertainers come on board for a Sicilian folklore performance. Also, a local fashion designer shows some of her over-the-top fashions with young local models. At Sea - Day 5 There were very rough seas during the night and throughout the next day making any people seasick. I personally like it when it is rough...it rocks me to sleep and makes me feel like we are on the ocean. This sentiment was not shared by most of the other passengers. The mast climbing was cancelled and swimming pool drained. Marcy and I spent the day in the ships library where we painted some watercolor scenes of the ship. A great day at sea. Electrical and Internet Connections The electrical system on the Royal Clipper is the European plug system - 2 round holes. On the Star Clipper and the Star Flyer the electrical system is the American plug system. There is a hair dryer in the cabin, but if you need to charge your phone, camera or computer, you need to bring an adapter. Most computer and camera chargers these days operate on a dual voltage system...you can use anything between 120volt-240volt. Check your device to see if it is dual voltage. If it is not a dual voltage device, you need to bring a converter adapter (more expensive and larger). All of the Star Clipper ships have computer and wireless service available. You purchase a wireless card (good for 1 hour) for about 11 Euros. You can either use their computers (very slow ones) or use your own wireless device. I used my iPad and it worked great. Their signal comes from a satellite, so very slow to use. I usually typed my emails before signing on to system account, then copied and pasted them into my email. It is amazing how fast you can use up 1 hour of connection time on a slow satellite connection. Corfu, Greece - Day 6 We arrived at the Greek Island of Corfu at around 8:00 and docked at the pier. This was the only port between Rome and Venice that we were at a dock; the other ports involved anchoring and a tender. The ship offered 3 shore excursions in Corfu; a bus ride to the Achilleion (a neoclassical palace outside of town built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria) and a walking tour of the Old Town near the port (38 Euros), a cycling tour through olive groves that included some uphill riding (84 Euros) and a boat tour of the island including a beach swim (75 Euros). We decided to explore the island on our own and rent a car. After docking, a free shuttle bus picked us up at the pier and took us to the terminal. Just outside the terminal were a string of taxis and a Royal Car Rental lot. We negotiated down from 70 Euros to 60 Euros (cash no credit cards) for a small manual transmission car - which was very comfortable even though we are tall people. It was easy to drive around the island as the roads are well marked in both Greek and English. We drove to Paleokastritsa, a beach town on the other side of the island, after a stop in Lakones. Lakones is perched high on top of a mountain and has a fabulous view. We stopped at a great restaurant in Lakones and had fresh squeezed juice and cappuccino while eating the delicious homemade baklava. The streets in town are very narrow, so cars stop at the light on one edge of town and wait for the cars coming in the opposite direction to pass. The driving in Corfu was beautiful, going from beautiful turquoise beaches to ancient olive groves and mountains. Where the other islands were dry, Corfu was green and lush in many places. Driving down to Paleokastritsa, a nice beachfront community with 3 bays and lots of tourists. We went up to a monastery and walked around then left town and drove to Glifada, another beach community, where we ate grilled fish on the beach. Next we drove up to the mountaintop village of Pelekas (which had some better looking eating places) and on to the Achillion Palace. The tragic beauty Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the Princess Diana of her day, built the Achillion Palace. The palace and gardens were beautiful, with a giant statue of Achilles looking out over the ocean from the cliffside gardens. Inside, the house is filled with assorted items with little or no connection to Elisabeth. We drove back to the ship and departed from Corfu at around 4:00. Our friends that took the bike tour had a great time and highly recommended the tour, although an older gentleman broke his leg on the tour and spent the rest of the trip in a cast. During the evening, we began playing bridge in the library with a German couple we met on the ship. He was now retired, but as a career he had been the German ambassador to Cuba and several South American countries. It was fun getting to know him and his wife, both good bridge players. Kotor, Montenegro - Day 7 Around 10:00am the Royal entered the beautiful Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. The bay is a large, windy fjord, with Cyprus covered mountains towering over the ship. After several twists and turns we finally arrived at the end of the fjord and the walled city of Kotor. The ship offered 2 excursions in Kotor; a walking tour of Kotor (20 Euros) or a bus and boat tour to the island near Perast (59 Euros). We signed up for the Perast excursion and after taking the tender into Kotor boarded a bus to drive us to the small town of Perast about 6 miles away. At Perast, we boarded a small boat to take us to the Lady of the Rocks, a small church built on a man-made island in the bay. The shrine has wonderful paintings on the walls and ceilings and displays silver medallions given by grateful sea captains for safe voyages. There is also a small museum. Back in Perast, nothing much to see except gypsy women selling linen tablecloths along the waterfront. These tablecloths were obviously made in China, not locally. We headed back to Kotor and the guide took us to the city gates, handed us a free map from the local tourist office and left us. We felt this tour was a complete rip-off. We could have taken a taxi to Perast for 10 Euros and a boat trip to the island for 5 Euros. We walked around the walled city of Kotor on our own. Kotor is a beautiful city, with a huge ziz-zag wall built behind it up the mountains. Several people hiked up the wall, and said it was a spectacular, but hard, climb (without safety rails). We found Kotor delightful, uncrowded (I don't think big cruise ships can get in there), and authentic, with local people still living in the walled city. It was like a town that was poised on the precipice between living city and tourist destination. None of the shops were touristy - it was like they had no idea of what to sell, what tourists would want to buy. Most of the shops were grocery stores and shoe stores selling usable items to the locals. After being in so many towns that had been transformed from real city to Disney tourist fantasy town, it was refreshing to walk the noncommercial streets of Kotor. I predict it will not stay this way for long because Kotor has everything it takes to become a major tourist destination. As it was my birthday, we met with up with our Ohio friends from the ship and took a couple of taxis to a local restaurant I had heard about - Star Mlili. It was about a 15-minute taxi ride (7 Euro) away, on the water in an old olive mill. The gardens were beautifully landscaped, with a stream and waterfall set next to the diners and lanterns hung from the trees. We dined on the local specialty of black mussels, squid and "Mama's Eggplant" - delicious. The local wine was superb as was the almond cake. Getting back to the ship, we could hear the music from the waterfront bars echo across the water while we gazed up at the illuminated city wall, which lit up the entire hillside. Dubrovnik, Croatia - Day 8 We sailed into Dubrovnik, Croatia at around noon and were soon joined at anchor by a huge cruise ship with over 3,000 passengers. Dubrovnik is an ancient walled city (UNESCO World Heritage list), and the best thing to do there is to walk the top of the city wall - which is almost 3 miles long. There were 2 tours offered by the ship; a bus tour of surrounding villages ending at the Old Town (40 Euros - which was cancelled because of lack of interest) or a walking tour of Dubrovnik (33 Euros). We decided to explore by ourselves and took the tender ashore, which dropped us off right at the city gates. Because of the other huge ship in port, the city was crowded with tourists. We waited until the crowds thinned and then climbed up to the city wall walk. The wall completely circled the city and involved lots of steps. There were occasional towers and rest areas with small cafes offering cold drinks. The view was amazing - the sea on 3 sides and the mountains climbing up on the other. Dubrovnik was recently involved in a war, and the most obvious evidence of that were the new roof tiles covering the city. While we were up on the wall, we watched the huge cruise ship pull up anchor and sail away through a narrow pass - dwarfing the city as it passed. Back down in the Old Town, we had gelato and explored the narrow streets and grand promenade of the Stradun. Dubrovnik is known for its fine gold and silver filigree jewelry, unique and handmade. I purchased some in a small shop, where the owner makes the items during the long winters and sells to tourists in the busy summers. Several times a day, costumed guards run through the streets for tourists to take blurry photos of. We also saw some weddings at many of the churches. Even though Dubrovnik is a tourist city, it still has local character. At sunset, we sat at a bar that was literally perched on the cliffs outside the city wall - spectacular! Some of our friends took the cable car up to the top of the mountain from just outside the city gates. They said there was an interesting war museum and a great view up there. Other friends who took the ships walking tour were disappointed in it, so we were glad we did our own thing. The ship left port at almost midnight; so many passengers went into town for dinner. Korcula, Croatia - Day 9 We arrived at the quaint town and island of Korcula at about 10:30. We took the tender to shore and had a quick look around the town, which was easy to do because is very small and compact. We climbed the tower for a great view and had gelato at a cafe on the water. The ship offered several excursions; a walking tour of the city (20 Euros), a Buggy Adventure (98 Euros) or an island bus tour that included lunch (65 Euros). We had signed up for the Buggy tour immediately when we got on the ship in Rome. It sounded like a great tour and had only spots for 7 couples. This turned out to be one of our best tours on the cruise and was totally fun. We were picked up at the tender dock by a small boat, which took us to the other side of the island. We got off and were assigned our "buggies". The buggies were like a go-cart and sat 2 people side by side. We were given a helmet to wear that had goggles, which came in very handy on our dusty off-road travels. It was fun driving through the hills, olive groves and vineyards, climbing higher up the mountain on rough trails. We stopped at a winery and sampled the local wine - good stuff. We then drove down to a nice sand beach were we went for a swim with the local kids that were enjoying their last day of summer vacation before school started. The tour captain brought out fresh fruit and local cheese on the short trip back to the ship on his small boat. A great adventure! Friends that took the walking tour were not happy and thought it was boring. Others spent the day in kayaks and small sailboats off the sport platform at the rear of the ship. Many had trouble getting back to the ship because of the strong currents and had to be rescued by the sports team. That afternoon, just before sunset, the ship had its Photo Excursion. Passengers departed the ship in 2 tenders and circled the ship as it raised its sails. I got some beautiful photos with the spectacular sunset in the background. That night was Pirate Night in the dining room, with passengers encouraged to dress up as a pirate with whatever they had on had. There were some very creative and enthusiastic costumes. The entertainment that night was a crab race, where you can bet $5 on which crab will cross the deck racetrack first. It is pretty funny, as the crabs are very unpredictable. Crew on the Royal Clipper There are about 100 crewmembers on the Royal Clipper (about 70 crew on the other ships). The main divisions seem to be the Bridge staff (the Captain and those that sail the ship, including the seamen), the Purser and Hotel staff (including all those wonderful room stewards), the Engineering and Maintenance staff (they are always painting and varnishing the ship - nonstop), and the Food staff (including the chef and all the bar and restaurant staff). There is also the Cruise Director, who organizes all of the tours at port and orchestrates the activities on board and the Gift Shop manager who stocks the ships store. Our sailing also included a Marine Biologist, who gave lectures and had dolphin-watching sessions in the mornings. For this cruise (and our last cruise in Tahiti), our cruise director was Angela. Angela does a remarkable job keeping everyone informed with what is going on aboard ship (she does a daily newsletter delivered to the cabin), scheduling and organizing the tours. She also is the ships translator, which is a crucial job when you consider the international clientele aboard ship. All information is recited in English, German and French, and I would imagine they would also do Spanish if it were called for. Angela was completely fluent in all of those languages and did a remarkable job. She also plans and hosts the evening entertainments such as the talent show. Unfortunately for the passengers, Angela is leaving the ship in the spring to get married - we wish her luck in her new life in Turkey. One of the gems of the Star Clipper cruise line is the cruise director Peter. We had the good fortune of getting to know him aboard the Star Flyer in Thailand (I believe he is currently on the Star Clipper). Peter, besides being fluent in a multitude of languages, is a nautical historian. He gives informal lectures and sailing with him is like taking a graduate class in naval history. Tipping is done at the end of the cruise and can be paid by cash or added to your bill. I think that we tipped about 160 Euros for the entire 11-day cruise. All ships accounting is done in Euros and the charges will show up on your credit card as coming from Monaco. There is usually not a medical doctor on the Star Clipper sailings, although we did have a doctor on our cruise. Hvar, Croatia - Day 10 We sailed into Hvar (silent H) at around 10:00. Hvar is a beautiful town with lots of islands and sailboats. There were several excursions offered in Hvar; a bus island tour (58 Euros), a jeep safari (80 Euros), a new sailing adventure (57 Euros) and a new Hiking tour. We decided to go on the new sailing adventure tour. We went over to town in the tender and met up with the sailboat tour, which was a small 38' racing sailboat with one guy on it. There were only 6 people from the ship signed up for the tour, which was lucky because the boat did not have a lot of comfortable seating. We jumped on the boat and immediately went out into the busy harbor. As there was only one guy operating the boat, he looked at the passengers, zeroed in on my husband as the most likely candidate, and asked him if he wanted to take the helm while he handled the sails. This ended up to be a good call because my husband jumped at the chance and ended up sailing the boat for the entire cruise. Bora winds from the mountains enabled up to get up to speed of 10 knots. The area was dotted with small islands and filled with all types of sailboats. We had a great time sailing around the many islands - a great excursion and my husband's favorite! We stopped by a swimming beach, but as it was a bit cool and breezy no one wanted to swim. After a couple of hours of some of the best sailing in our life, we were dropped off at the dock, which was adjacent to the large town square. We had a great lunch at a cafe in the square and then walked around the town, filled with jewelry shops selling chunky necklaces made from semi-precious stones from elsewhere. The pier was lined with stalls selling lavender, which the island is known for. We even had lavender flavored gelato before returning to the ship. Some of our friends took the hiking tour, which they loved and felt was the best of the trip. They took a small van to a scenic area and then hiked through olive groves and lavender fields. They stopped at a ghost town, which had a small private restaurant that was open only for them. They feasted on grilled chicken and potatoes, washed down with great local wine. Other friends walked around town, and down the long promenade to the left of the harbor. They purchased a beautiful watercolor painting from a local artist and sat at a fancy hotel on the water and drank very expensive lemonade while watching swimmers on the beach. The ship departed at around 5:00 and that evening was the Captains dinner of lobster, steak and Baked Alaska. There was a crew and passenger talent show in the tropical bar, which was the best entertainment of the week, with some very talented performers and lots of enthusiasm. Rovinj, Croatia - Day 11 It was raining when we arrived at Rovinj at around noon. There were 2 tours offered; a cycling tour that went to a nearby park for a swim (40 Euros) or an island tour by bus (49 Euros). We were signed up for the cycling tour, but it was cancelled because of rain. The town of Rovinj is built on a hilly peninsula with the pinnacle of the town being St. Euphemia's church and tower. It was part of the Venetian empire and the architecture shows that influence. Legend has it that it was the birthplace of Marco Polo, who left town as a baby for Venice and then on to Asia as a teenager. One difference between Rovinj and other walled towns in Croatia is that Rovinj had always been relatively poor and consequentially had no big mansions or elegant squares. The town had small twisted streets winding up to the church, the centerpiece of the community. The crypt of St. Euphemia is on display in the church (she is a martyr famous for not being eaten by lions) and they open it once a year at their festival. There is also a large tower adjacent to the church with a wooden stairway right out of the Hitchcock movie Vertigo. It is a "climb at your own risk" kind of place, with big gaps and holes between the slats. The German couple we played bridge with were very unhappy about the stop at Rovinj and thought there was nothing there worth seeing. As Americans, we were kind of intrigued by the small claustrophobic kind of setting and enjoyed walking through the maze, although I admit it was not the best stop. Our cruise director Angela had told us at the beginning of the cruise that we should, "Get Kuna (currency of Croatia) in Korcula and spend it all in Rovinj at the art galleries." I was expecting to do just that, but it turned out that the town was full of bad and awful art galleries filled with kitschy tourist stuff. As far as I could tell, the only thing worth buying in Rovinj was a gelato. We were not sad to sail away at sunset, which looked very pretty setting over the town. It is always sad to end a cruise, and you know the fun is over when you have to have your bags outside your cabin before you go to bed on your last night. A copy of the bill had been left under the door, and if everything was correct you could sign it and pick up your passport from the pursers desk. Venice, Italy - departure We arrived at the San Marco Straits at around 6:30 and sailed by an empty St. Marks square. After breakfast we waited in the lounge for the rain to subside a little before leaving the ship at around 9:30. A small shuttle took us the short way to the port terminal, although we would have walked it if it had not been raining so hard. After claiming our luggage, we took the nearby vaporetto (6 Euros), which took us right into the town center. We got off at the Rialto stop and hired a waiting porter (20 Euros) to take our bags to our hotel - the Hotel Aqua Palace. The Hotel Aqua Palace turned out to be a great place to stay in Venice, midway between the Rialto Bridge and St. Marks Square on a small canal. I plan on writing a separate review of the hotel - but that is another story. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2010
Air--Normally we do our own, however cruise air with Star Clippers (SC) was MUCH better even with the $100 pp custom air (3 days before and after cruise). Saved over a $1000 from what I was seeing. Official taxi voucher from Lisbon ... Read More
Air--Normally we do our own, however cruise air with Star Clippers (SC) was MUCH better even with the $100 pp custom air (3 days before and after cruise). Saved over a $1000 from what I was seeing. Official taxi voucher from Lisbon airport to old town was more than expected--total 21E-but included tip and luggage, and didn't have to hassle with driver. Not bad after a long overnight airline trip. Stayed at ZuzaBed B&B--only 4 rooms. Great! Luis was an awesome host. Check reviews on Trip Advisor. He gave us excellent local information for our Lisbon adventure. Recommended. Lisbon is very walkable if you are in good shape. Lots to do and see in compact area. Did take the tram to Belem--recommended. The trams going up to the Castle were very crowded-I can see how people get pick-pocketed. We walked--no problem. Ate a lot in Bairro Alto--lots of small local restaurants. We liked the Alfaia Wine Bar. The Napoleao Wine market had a great selection of wines. Took the ferry across the bay for lunch at Porto Final--a neat OLD place on the water. Royal Clipper was docked about 5 minutes from Zuzabed. Boarding started at 4 PM. Went smoothly, greeted by Captain and some crew, drinks and appetizers in Tropical Bar. We have been on the Royal before, so no surprises. Ship was in great condition and they constantly worked on it. The crew was always attentive and friendly. After dinner when we returned to our cabin that first night, the leeboards were up and the portholes closed. We did some rolling the next couple of days due to the remnants of Atlantic hurricanes—on the way to Morocco and then on to Tenerife. Not bad, some people fell over in their chairs during meals, and some glasses/plates fell off tables. A couple of people did get some bruises, but I think that is all. We felt fine. In port, we talked to some people on the BIG ships and they had the same issues with the rollers. The rest of the time at sea was pretty calm. Casablanca was the first port. Two tours offered, one of Casablanca and the big mosque, and one to Rabat. Or, you could do it on your own. We chose Rabat (the political capital) at 35E pp, based on my research and our likes. Drove through the countryside, went to the Royal Palace, Mohammed V Mausoleum, Hassan Tour, drove by the Chellah, and walked the Kasbah des Oudayas. Very nice a/c bus, tour guides, and info. Clean city. Less than 4 hours. Recommended! That night we sailed for Safi. The main point of going there was to get people on the tour buses for Marrakesh-- about a 3 hour drive each way. We elected not to go on the tour. We walked around Safi with another couple—not impressive, and fairly dirty. The flies were awful in port, and those flies stayed with the ship for DAYS!! Safi is known for its pottery, but I was not impressed. For some reason, we did not go to the port of Essaouira that afternoon (which was scheduled). Apparently, that had been known by the crew at the start of the sailing, but they never let us know that. Last year's TA also skipped that port. That was my one major disappointment of the trip. I had done a lot of research on the town and some of my friends who have been there said it was really great. Just wish they had let us know in advance. Oh well, I got over it. The Marrakesh buses arrived about dinner time after a 12 hour trip. Most of the people I talked to were not too excited about the trip and said it was too long and the market was too much of a zoo. Tenerife was the last port before all the days at sea. We elected to stay in town, no tour. Had plenty to do. We really liked it. Very clean. Walked all over, visited an internet cafe (our last fix for 11 days), the old town was very nice, had lunch at Mojos y Mojitos which had an outdoor area on the street. About 6-7 cafes lined up here on a walking street. The promenade along the waterfront is a nice stroll, and there is a vertical garden. The ship is docked right there at the bottom of town by the promenade. Easy. Nice day! Recommended. At sea was relaxing, a lot of reading to catch up on. We saw plenty of Kindles, etc, and the library had quite a few books. We did not get bored. The crew had plenty of activities—Spanish lessons, a marine biologist, other lectures, ship tours, Captain talks, films, contests, talent shows, exercise classes, mast climbing, and some other wild and crazy stuff. Food was fine, no water sports (of course!) except the pool. We used the treadmills in the gym quite a bit. Germans, Brits, Americans, Canadians, French, and Spanish were the major passengers (in that order, I believe) with other countries represented. I did not have a problem with smokers and I am sensitive to that. As this was our 5th SC cruise, it reconfirmed the guests are very interesting, intelligent, and well travelled. We met a bunch of cool people!! We sailed, but mostly motor sailed due to the light winds—remember, the Captain has to keep to a fairly tight schedule. Most people understood this. Light layering of clothes with jeans worked well in Lisbon, Morocco, and Tenerife. Bring a light windbreaker, also. After Tenerife it was shorts and swim suits! One rainy day at sea, it was in the middle of the trip and we needed it for a change. The only currency we used during the whole trip was USD and Euros, but also charged a few things. Arrival in Barbados was fun as they tucked us between other huge ships in port. Make sure you are on deck for this (actually for all arrivals and departures)! We have been to Barbados before, but we still stayed for three days. Had to rest from the cruise! Taxi was 30 BD ($15) to our hotel the Peach and Quiet. Car rental was $70 inclusive per day from Courtesy Car Rental (we just did one day). Eat flying fish while you are there--great—no bones and not too fishy tasting!! It was a wonderful trip. RECOMMENDED! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Royal Clipper was the perfect choice for our age (58/60) we could enjoy life on-deck, sunbathing, reading or just looking at the sea and surrounding islands. When the ship laid anchor off the island on the cruise itinerary we could manage ... Read More
Royal Clipper was the perfect choice for our age (58/60) we could enjoy life on-deck, sunbathing, reading or just looking at the sea and surrounding islands. When the ship laid anchor off the island on the cruise itinerary we could manage the steps down to the small craft ferrying us to and from the beach. On-shore as with most places in the world today, it was up to you to use common sense whilst wandering around the villages on your own (crime in the Caribbean is the same as at most ports of call in Europe). We were told to be careful by caring members of the crew, who also passed on their knowledge of what to buy, where to buy and where to get refreshments. The restaurant was very well managed, with friendly, helpful staff. Our waiter always remembered what drink we preferred and how we liked it. Whilst busy in the evening, our meals were served promptly, drinks topped up as necessary. The themed lunches too were delightful, the Hotel Manager and all his staff deserved the high praise given by most passengers on the last evening. What made our holiday so enjoyable was that in the evenings we could sit at the bar, listen to music quietly playing in the background and actual talk and be able to listen to the conversation of fellow passengers. There was entertainment laid on most evenings, steel-bands, talent competition etc, but it never got to the point where you could not hear your fellow passenger, a lot of people where merry but certainly not a nuisance, oh to have a local pub with the same atmosphere! Not a party ship, but for us a very HAPPY SHIP The only suggestion I would like to make to on-board activities, is that all the crew on-deck, those handling the sails, mending sails, climbing the masts, steering the ship into dock could be thanked during one of the evenings. They carry out their day to day activities, with passengers walking around taking photographs, asking question, in such a good natured way, I would have liked to see them being publicly thanked like the staff in the dining room etc. On a ship such as Royal Clipper and her sister ships in their clean, tidy uniforms they add to the beauty of sailing on such a cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Having spent the previous four months planning our honeymoon and dreaming about it every minute of every day, I was sure that the SPV Royal Clipper could not live up to my very high expectations. Three days later I still have a high (as ... Read More
Having spent the previous four months planning our honeymoon and dreaming about it every minute of every day, I was sure that the SPV Royal Clipper could not live up to my very high expectations. Three days later I still have a high (as well as sea legs!) We spent our final night in the Executive Suite at the Barbados Hilton, and all we did was wish we were still on the ship. (P.S.The Hilton is very nice, though. I do recommend them as well.) Before I left, I had some concerns, so I'll address them as I imagine many of you reading this are in a similar age group or circumstance: Average age: Since my wife and I are 25 and 31 years old, we feared getting on a ship where the average age is (at least) 65. Truth be told, it was the best thing we could have done. There were several young couples on the ship and we formed close bonds, but we also found that we very much enjoyed hanging out with the older couples. They had much more in the way of interesting life stories, and all of them had very healthy marriages and very positive outlooks on marriage. You don't notice how down most people are on marriage until you're around people who treasure their own. It was very encouraging. These people are also not your standard cruisers. Each were adventure travelers and had no interest in being trough-fed on a huge floating Las Vegas. Eating with others: See above. We LOVED sitting with our new friends that were our age, but hearing about the adventures of our older counterparts and getting good solid advice from people who have made marriages work left us dreaming about what stories we'd have to tell when we reached retirement.Not to mention - older people like to buy younger people drinks. Sea sickness: On a scale from 1 to 10, I'd say most people at some point reached at least a 3, a few people got to a 5 or 6, and some people were full-blown 10s. HOWEVER, I would bet a lot of money that even the people who got the most sick would not even mention it in the conversation when asked about the cruise. It just wasn't a big deal at all. Make sure to bring some over the counter seasickness pills (NOT the prescription kind, which are gel bandages you put on your neck. They fall of when swimming.) Drinking/Nightlife: About 30% of the people on board are Brits, and we made quick friends as we defended our countries' honor by trying to hang with them. (We did.) You won't have any 3:00 AM parties, but I'd say there are at least 15 people out in the Tropical Bar until after midnight. Shopping: There weren't as many opportunities to shop as my wife would have liked. Most of the time we anchored off of a remote shore - most of the good shopping in located near major ports. Adventure/activities: Adventure is built into the ship. You can't help but feel like Jack Sparrow when the sails are up. Beach activities were great. Most people just laid there sunbathing, but many others went exploring (very remote beaches) or snorkeling either by themselves or with the resident Marine Biologist, Mariano. That was great because even an ordinary day of snorkeling was fascinating when he explained the details of seemingly trivial ocean creatures. Snorkeling on most days was fantastic, though! There were many other wonderful features of the honeymoon on-board the Royal Clipper in the Windward Islands, but I can't write about them all. Please contact me if you have any questions. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2011
We organized 5 couples for the trip of a lifetime aboard the Royal Clipper, the largest of the Star Clipper Cruise Line. When we first stepped onto this boat, we knew we were in for a treat. Everything about it was perfect - the entire ... Read More
We organized 5 couples for the trip of a lifetime aboard the Royal Clipper, the largest of the Star Clipper Cruise Line. When we first stepped onto this boat, we knew we were in for a treat. Everything about it was perfect - the entire staff made us feel welcome from the first bellini to the final goodbye. Food could not have been better, and was more than plentiful, and the cabins (we were in Category 2 staterooms on the clipper deck) were more spacious than one on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise. Storage galore, as well - we had cabinets we did not even use. There were plenty of hangers in the closet for all of our clothes, and the best part is that there are no dress-up evenings! We sailed from Civitavecchia (port of Rome) to the Amalfi Coast, and most port stops were spectacular. Weather was rough on day one at Ponza, so we could not take the tender, but enjoyed beautiful views from the boat. Please see the individual port descriptions below, other than Ponza, Amalfi, and Lipari (not included in Cruise Critic's master list). Amalfi was our fourth stop - a charming place, where we chose a side trip to Positano, clearly Italy's most beautiful town. We took the hair-raising bus ride around twists and turns to Positano, then a boat back to Amalfi. This was worth the price of the entire cruise, as the views from the water looking back up the steep cliffs is magnificent. The Amalfi coast is truly beautiful, and June is a perfect time, as everything is in full bloom. We wandered some side streets in Positano, then found a little cafe for a drink before heading back to Amalfi. Many pretty linens and cottons here as well, and more of the pretty stoneware we saw in Sorrento. Amalfi was fun to wander as well - be sure to explore the bustling piazza around Sant' Andrea, the duomo mid town. We highly recommend this shore excursion, as it provides the best of both worlds with the bus trip and boat return, as well as visits to two top destinations. The last port of call was my favorite. Lipari is a little known island just north of Sicily. It is quaint and very "old Italy", not yet tarnished by the many tourists of places like Capri. Cute shops, good food, and some interesting ruins at the top of the hill, highlighted by another fabulous view. There is a beautiful church at the top, interesting to trace its many phases of construction through the ages. It closes at noon, but worth the visit if you time it right. The boat itself is a treat - at every port, the sails are raised with great ceremony, with Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis playing on loudspeakers. Something we will not forget. After the last port stop, we were able to board the tenders with cameras, as the sails were raised for some great photo ops. Everything about this cruise provides their "guests" top notch service and hospitality. The only thing I would do differently in the future is that I would book my own transfer from Rome to the boat. We look their arranged bus from the Airport Hilton, and were told to be there by 3pm. Bus did not leave until 5, and we just sat in a very hot room for 2 hours. Food and drinks were provided, but it was not a comfortable place to wait. It's an hour to the port, and when we got on board (boarding process very easy), they were just finishing up a free happy hour with appetizers and bellinis. We totally missed that! Perhaps this was a good option for folks flying in that day, but could have had almost a full day in Rome day rather than getting to and from the airport hotel and waiting. Other than that, all was perfect and I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to anyone. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2011
My husband and I are in our mid 30s and decided on Royal Clipper for our Honeymoon cruise. The ship was under capacity with only about 130 on board mostly Germans and Brits. Only about 20 Americans(which we are). Announcements were done in ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid 30s and decided on Royal Clipper for our Honeymoon cruise. The ship was under capacity with only about 130 on board mostly Germans and Brits. Only about 20 Americans(which we are). Announcements were done in French, German and English. Other travelers were well traveled and business 'white collar' types. We enjoyed their company greatly. The average age range was 40-60 year olds. We opted to stay at the Clipper's hotel in Venice two days before boarding. The hotel was in a good part of the city away from too much touristy stuff, but still close enough to get around. Also they served free breakfast which was a nice surprise. Getting to the port was simple and check in was fine. There was quite a line, but by the time we had all forms filled out we easily did the passport check and photo. On board we were treated to music, drinks and light snacks and our bags were in the room waiting for us. Royal Clipper is BEAUTIFUL. We were shocked at the care being given to the ship. It looked and smelled brand new. Every day we would see the friendly crew scrubbing, polishing, or painting something. The decor is tastefully done and all rooms compliment each other. On board each evening there was a different type of entertainment. From the first night introductions and fashion show, to crab races, to Greek dancers and finally the crew talent show. We went to and enjoyed each event especially the Mr. and Mrs. Royal Clipper game which we won. These all took place in the bar which was the usual evening hang out spot. We also watched the sail raising when departing each port, listened to all the port information as we arrived(got some great information and tips on what to do and see), climbed the mast( a MUST do), lied in the front netting, swam off the back dock, listened to music in the piano bar, read in the library, and relaxed in the 3 pools. We also checked out a few dvds from their rental. Not a huge selection, but enough. For such a small ship, we never ran out of things to do. We also enjoyed pirate night though wish we had known about it ahead of time so we could have brought costumes. The service was wonderful. We were so spoiled and felt we had our own personal butlers for the 11 days. Crew members always had smiles on their faces and knew our names, who we hung out with and which wine we drank. We also loved the laundry service, reasonably priced and we got the joy of seeing our undies and swimsuits ironed! We did an excursion at each port and though they are slightly overpriced(as is expected on all cruise lines) none were a disappointment. All the guides were well traveled and bilingual, plus we were usually served food and drink. Our budget would only allow us the cheapest room. It was small, but nice. All we do in the room is sleep and shower anyway, so it wasn't a big deal. Compared to the room size, the bathroom was quite large which was a plus. We had been told that small ships feel the movement of the ocean a lot, but did not find this to be the case. It was a smooth ride the entire time. The dining room had a great menu that changed each day. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style with a theme each day. Every breakfast had a different smoothie which I looked forward to trying. There was also an omelette bar which was my husband's favorite. Lunch included a dessert bar which was wonderful. Dinner was the only meal that required dressing up. I wore a skirt while my husband went in khakis and a Polo shirt. Most people dressed slightly more for the captains dinner. However ties, gowns and all that nonsense are not expected(thank goodness). There was no assigned seating or times which is exactly what we enjoy. The meals were wonderfully made and presented well. About an hour before dinner began there would be a menu and sample dissed placed outside the dining entrance so you knew exactly what you were ordering ahead of time. If nothing on the menu met your needs steak and fries were always an option. One of our favorite things about this ship: no kids! We love kids, but the purpose of our holiday was our honeymoon. We wanted an adult only vacation. There was a 5 year old with his nanny that we saw about 3 times. An out of control 11 year old who someone complained to the crew about and 3 teenagers that easily blended in with the adults. My husband and I have a child now, but would not bring him on this cruise until he is at least 10 if not 15. They have a small fitness room and spa which we used a bit. I got a massage and facial at the spa which was great. On the daily schedule there were several specials for treatments. Each day they'd feature a drink special as well which was always cheaper and usually quite good. You are not supposed to bring alcohol on board, but they do not make a big deal out of this. The ship does not have a party/drunk type atmosphere so anyone getting wasted in their own room would look rather foolish. Leaving was also simple, the procedures were explained to us in a meeting the day before and we were able to quickly get our things and leave to our next destination(Rome). We were very sad to say good bye to Royal Clipper and are planning a return in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
The experience was great. Passengers all Americans as it was a charter by Vantage Travel. Good mix of generally experienced travellers. Loved the open sun deck, including being able to stand around during port entries and departures, ... Read More
The experience was great. Passengers all Americans as it was a charter by Vantage Travel. Good mix of generally experienced travellers. Loved the open sun deck, including being able to stand around during port entries and departures, watching captain, first mate and pilot (when there was one). The atmosphere is laid back but the decor is not glitzy and has a touch of glamor. The ports were wonderful--Capri, Corfu, Taormina, Ravello, Kotor (spectacular), Dubrovnik, Hvar, Rovinj and Venice. One day at sea. There was one spell of weather that had the ship rocking quite a bit but it didn't stop most folks from activities. Embarkation was slower than I'd expect on that size vessel. The staff were overall helpful, particularly the purser who couldn't do enough for pax. Bought their wifi option and it was worth it at 20 Euro for 3 hours. The raising of sails is a real treat--though the weather wasn't condusive to having a lot of sail up a lot of the time. The 'entertainment' was not particularly to my taste--I could have done without the goofy 'pirate night'. But you don't go on this ship for entertainment. The atrium extends through two decks, topped by the bottom of the sun deck swimming pool--disconcerting to see bodies bobbing about above you. Restaurant well laid out with very good dinners and an excellent lunch buffet. If you are looking for something other than the standard 'big ship' experience, this may be for you. Cabins small--I did fine but was travelling solo. I can see that two people would have had to be organized. The climbing the mast experience was great fun--what a view from up there! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2011
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 ... Read More
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. Pre-cruise 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 (€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. Food 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. Drinks 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. Staff 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. Excursions We only did ziplining as the baths were cancelled. Others mentioned the swimming with rays as a highlight. Highlights The Sailaways Looking at the stars as we sailed Fun dinners Nice beach stops Interesting people Great staff 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. Read Less
Royal Clipper Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.2
Entertainment 3.0 3.1
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 2.0 3.4
Family 1.0 3.4
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.9
Enrichment 2.0 3.5
Service 4.0 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 3.6

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