An elegant grandmother, Sea Cloud is a four masted beauty from 1931. She has all the richness and character of a family possession designed by Marjorie Merriweather Post, and to this day it feels like her family ship and as a guest on board like you are a guest of the family. The service is warm and personable to a degree unmatched by any of the larger ships I have ever been on.
The Sea Cloud II is the delightful granddaughter of the Sea Cloud. Built in 2001 she has three masts instead of 4 and all the modern conveniences while still preserving the traditional sailing rigging. Like the Sea Cloud, she has real sails that are raised and lowered by hand and a five star service that is polished yet familial.
So how do I compare the two ships? Both are extraordinary in terms of size, service, food, wine, etc....However, Sea Cloud has 10 beautiful original cabins all finished with original antiques and all a nice size. The other cabins are nice but not special as the original ones. If you have the money, splurge. On Sea Cloud II all of the cabins are really beautiful, from the very smallest with bunk beds to the owner's cabin, they are all tasteful with light and cheery colors, beautiful marble bathrooms, and excellent craftsmanship in all the little details. Sea Cloud II hold a few more people than Sea Cloud but the key is to know who is on the ship that week.
I have spoken (though not personally experienced) Americans that have been on board when the ship was operated by Sea Cloud Cruises and the other passengers were almost entirely German. The people I spoke with were not thrilled with the experience. There are however other choices:
I traveled on a golf trip with Kalos Golf (who only uses the Sea Cloud II) and it was excellent. The itinerary was well designed and everything was included. They even had golf carts trucked around to meet us as the local courses did not have them. On days when I did not want to play golf there were other options, though they were not great. If you like to play golf and want to travel with Americans this is 100% the way to go.
Lindblad charters the original Sea Cloud (and not the Sea Cloud II) and again there are mostly Americans on board. Their trips have a natural history focus and they (as well as Kalos) like to fill every bed on the ship. Again there trips are high cost but high quality. I ever mind paying a premium price for high quality. The oceanographer on our cruise very knowledgeable even about things like deep sea plankton!
The third option is Academic Arrangements Abroad which charters both ships and does different itineraries all over that have a cultural focus. The advantage is that they work with the country's top non-profits so you get lecturers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard, Yale, and various garden clubs and other private clubs, among others. The best thing about their cruises is that they are open to the public but never advertised and they limit the number of passengers so the service levels are even higher and all the touring is free and excellent.
So to answer my original question which of the two ships is better? You would have to say that they are both incredibly beautiful ships with great service, why not try both? Depending on your language skills and you interests, you might be better off picking a specific charterer than going directly to the cruise line.
On the cabin deck of Sea Cloud II but in the middle of the ship, this cabin had three portholes and while no bigger than the less expensive cabins located nearby had more light (the third porthole) and abetter configuration. Also the center of the ship always has the leas motion and as an added bonus you are right near the stairs. The washroom was solid marble, how do I get my husband to build on like that for me at home?