It's primarily up to passengers to concoct their own fun on this low-key ship. But then again, the vessel attracts the sort who probably don't need art shows, towel-folding demos or other standard cruise-issued activities for diversion.
Don't expect polished production numbers on this ship. A solo musician plays guitar and keyboards during cocktail hour in the Tropical Bar (the venue for most evening and group activities, since there is no theater). After-dinner diversions might include a staff-and-passenger fashion show, a talent show or a team trivia contest. On Southern Caribbean cruises, a steel-drum band from Grenada entertains onboard while the ship is in port. And one night features guided stargazing. The disco tunes start spinning around 10 p.m. for dancing in the Tropical Bar.
Scheduled daytime activities revolve around water sports at beach stops. There also are opportunities to climb the mast, and guided bridge and engine room tours are offered once each per cruise. Even if you miss the guided tour, the Bridge has an open-door policy for passengers who want to learn more about the basics of how a sailing ship works. You won't find activities like crafts or games.
Royal Clipper does not have a lot of watering holes, but the two main bar/lounge venues suffice. With the exception of the after-dinner rush in the Tropical Bar (which doubles as an entertainment venue), passengers usually have no problem finding a seat.
The Tropical Bar (Main Deck, aft): This outside (but covered) bar doubles as a venue for evening events, safety drills and orientation, and cocktail-hour snacks. The bar itself is a large, wraparound affair in the classic dark-wood paneling used throughout the ship. Its expansive wooden deck is the scene for pre-dinner drinks and after-dinner dancing. Hours are 8 a.m. until late.
Piano Bar (Main Deck, midship): Abutting the Tropical Bar, the Piano Bar wraps around the top level of the ship's three-story atrium, looking into the dining room below. It's a large, handsome room with a wood-paneled bar at one end. At the opposite side are two sets of comfy sofas facing each other. Spacious mustard-colored banquettes line both sides of the room.
Its central feature: the glass bottom of the swimming pool on the deck above. Take a seat at one of the stools overlooking the atrium and you might catch a glimpse of someone swimming above you. Portholes surrounding the sides of the pool bring in blue, watery light.
The Piano Bar is a comfortable, spacious area that, during the day, is a favorite spot for passengers hovered over their laptops. Self-serve coffee and tea are available all day and night, and there's always a container of whole, fresh fruit. A white baby grand player piano pumps out standards sans a pianist, but on occasion, a talented (you hope) passenger takes a seat at the keyboard. Hours are 8 a.m. until late.
Pool Bar (Sun Deck, midship): This small 12-stool poolside bar on the top deck primarily serves sunbathers and sunset watchers. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Royal Clipper's three pools are on the Sun Deck, but don't plan on swimming laps. The largest of the three requires about three strokes end-to-end. One side (with built-in seating) is ankle deep. Its far end allows you to submerge, but take note that you're visible in the Piano Bar below, thanks to the pool's glass bottom.
Two additional small pools (fore and aft) aren't much larger than a typical hot tub, and are primarily used as a means to cool off.
On most cruises, there are multiple opportunities to climb the mast (with a harness). A marine deck at the stern is lowered at some ports for swimming and other water sports, including kayaking and paddleboarding. Passengers can borrow snorkeling gear at the start of the cruise to keep with them for the duration. On beach days in the Caribbean, the staff hauls the aquatic toys to use from the shore.
For a one-of-a-kind experience, climb out onto the netting at one side of the bowsprit. When the ship is at full sail, you'll feel like you're flying over the ocean. If you're lucky, you might see pods of dolphins swimming alongside the ship.
The main sunbathing area is on the forward Sun Deck, where there are plenty of lounge chairs. On the aft Sun Deck, more lounges are shade protected under a tarp. Some built-in benches are at the front of the ship near the Bridge for those who want a full-on view.
The library, tucked behind the Tropical Bar on the Main Deck, provides a cozy spot for reading and relaxing. (There's even a gas fireplace.) It's roomy enough to accommodate four cushy red leather sofas, 15 velvet-upholstered armchairs and numerous small side tables. Wood paneling and red carpeting give it a clubby ambiance. There's a good selection of English-language books (among other languages), presumably left by previous passengers, which can be borrowed. Open 24 hours.
Internet access costs 6 euros an hour (20 euros for 4 hours), but connections are slow and the staff recommends waiting until you get to port to go online. You'll need to bring your own device, as there are no computers for passenger use. The staff will assist in printing or email needs, though there may be a charge.
The ship has no official guest services desk, though the cruise director does set up an excursion desk.
There's no doctor onboard (except on transatlantic sailings), but there is a nurse (who does double duty as a waiter).
A small retail shop sells Star Clipper logoed clothing and accessories. If you need sunscreen, toothpaste or other necessities, you'll have to wait to get them in port.
Laundry and dry cleaning services are available; washers and dryers for passenger use are not.
The spa and fitness room (Commodore Deck) share the Captain Nemo's Lounge, though that's a bit of a misnomer, since the lounge part consists of a single sofa, a couple of chairs and a coffee table in a corner of the exercise room.
What it does have are portholes in each of its two treatment rooms (and in the gym) that allow soothing underwater visuals. Treatments include various massage varieties and facials. One-hour massages cost 75 and 80 euros. A 30-minute scalp, neck and back, or foot massage costs 40 euros. Or go for a full two-hour, 15-minute "ritual" incorporating a scrub, wrap and massage (available in four themes -- Philippines, Hawaiian, Mersouga and Madagascar), which costs 150 or 160 euros. If you plan on having multiple treatments over the course of a cruise, consider booking a package of services for slightly lower rates.
A coed area features one private changing room and two showers with solid doors. The space connects to an attractive marble Turkish-style hammam with a mosaic-tiled cold bath to dip your feet in, cold shower, warm room and separate steam room, whose porthole offers underwater views. Use of the thermal area is complimentary.
Due to the spa's proximity to the workout area, your relaxing treatment might be accompanied by the clang of barbells or the whir of a treadmill. Schedule a time when the gym is less likely to be in use (late morning to late afternoon). The two massage therapists (who also mind the gym) who were onboard during our sailing both drew rave reviews.
Considering its relatively small space, there's a lot of equipment crammed into the gym, including two treadmills, three stationary bikes, four weight machines, free weights and assorted accessories. Gym rats will be unimpressed by the aging, outmoded equipment. One of two treadmills wasn't functioning properly on our cruise. The other one was elevated to a degree that put taller users in danger of hitting their heads on the ceiling. We rarely saw more than a few (if any) people using the facility, which made its shortcomings more palatable.
A morning group exercise session is offered on deck, though on our cruise there weren't a lot of takers.
There are no children's or teen programs on the ship. Self-directed teens and tweens might enjoy the sailing experience, but the lack of facilities for children make it an unadvisable choice for the very young.