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.
We originally had Cabin 231. It was too small to breathe in. I asked to upgrade. We got Cabin 301, a cabin with a veranda. Nice but small for the price, since they charged me 2400 euros for the upgrade
The ship dropped off passengers who had purchased shore excursions from the ship at the main port by tender. Then the ship repositioned to allow remaining passengers to tender either to a beach or a "National Park". The park was an steep hike to an old fort. The beach was sand and water. No chairs, no facilities, no security in a remote area.
I took this cruise especially because I wanted to visit Dominica. I was not not told that if I didn't purchase a shore excursion from the ship, I would see none of it. Once again, the ship tendered excursion passengers to Rousseau, the main port, then repositioned to a dirty, isolated and remote beach with no facilities, no chairs, no security and accompanied by two disinterested "water sports" attendees who had eyes only for each other. No chance to see Dominica. No feeling that the ship cared about any body's security or enjoyment.
Here is where it hit the fan. The ship planned a barbecue on the beach. Once again, a beach with no tables or chairs, no security, no facilities for bathrooms or changing. Behind the beach a wooded area with a path which ship's personnel told us led to a marina, the other tender drop spot. They suggested that passengers use the path. I did not like the idea of taking the path, so after standing up to eat my lousy hot dog and frozen corn, my wife and I tendered back to the ship for a nap before going to the marina. The ship was anchored until midnight, so I thought perhaps we would go ashore for dinner. One look at this remote but unsavory area convinced me that this was no place to be. We walked around for a few minutes, then tendered back.
On board was a wedding party of about 30. They had held a lovely ceremony on deck on Sunday. They were from the San Francisco area. The morning aftet the Antigua stop, rumors were flying around the ship. A passenger had been murdred ashore. It was the sister of the bride. A boite from the Antigua police was in our cabins, talking about the investigation of a homicide, describing a suspect and asking all passengers to review their photos of the baqrbecue to see if the suspect was in them.
The ship adressed none of this until about 7pm. Then a brief announcement was read by the Cruise Director: "An unfortunate disembarkation has occurred by a family who had a missing family member." Other than repeating the call for photos, that was the entire response of the ship to the murder. I cornered the Hotel Director and asked him about it. He insisted that the ship had no culpablility, that the murder had occurred far from the beach. It had occurred, and the girl was found with her throat slit, right near the path that they had suggested passengers use.
We took a shore excursion around the island. It was interesting and fun. However, again the ship dropped off excusion passengers at Basse-Terre (where a Princess ship was docked. If they could get in, we certainly could have gotten in.) The xcursion returned us to, you guessed it, another dirty little beach. This one had a shed where beer was served about a 100 yard dwon the beach from where the tender beached. No water or juice, no changing facilites. The bar probably would have ledt you use the bathroom. Since we did not learn officially of the murder until after we left this port, I think the curise line was particularly negligent in not providing even a warning to passengers.
Another couple, at dinner, told us they had taken a Jeep excursion o the iosland, and that the drivers had been drinking rum and coke. Could the cruise line have had a little more diligence in their selection of excursion suppliers.
We visited Isle des Saintes, a part of the French department of Guadeloupe. It was a lovely little village, with quite a few shops and lovely restaurants. No shore excursions available. Not accessible to a larger cruise ship, it was the gem of the cruise
A beautiful island. We actually docked in Fort-de-France. We were there less than 4 hours.