Back To Line

Star Clippers: Royal Clipper

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Jan 2, 2017

Review of Royal Clipper

Heather Farmer Age: 59 Occupation:Educational support worker Number of Cruises: 3 Cruise Line: Star Clipper Ship: Royal Clipper Sailing Date: 2014-01-25 Itinerary: Grenadines Wonderful experience, so different from the large cruise ships. Just magical. The food was very good. There was plenty of it and there was afternoon tea and midnight snacks also. Fresh fruit, tea and coffee was always available to help yourself. A little on the small side,

but very comfortable and there was enough storage hidden away. The shower only has a small lip on it, so if you are at sea the water tends to slosh around. Mast climbing, knot tying, water sports were all available and you could steer the ship or help raise the sails. It was great, and very different. I can't stop thinking about my wonderful holiday aboard the Royal Clipper in the Grenadines. I have traveled a lot, but this ranks as one of the best holidays ever. The ship is beautiful with its mahogany and brass, and the cabins are comfortable, if a little small, with enough storage for everything we took. The only thing I would advise is to shower when the ship is in port, otherwise water sloshes everywhere if you are at sea. The entertainment was good...this is not like the entertainment on the big cruise ships, it is very much in-house with audience participation. A steel band came onboard one night and provided excellent entertainment. The resident singer and musician were very good, providing a range of music, and there was dancing every evening, (not always easy when the sea got a bit choppy). One night there was a quiz with a bottle of champagne as the prize. The talent show was great, with crew members showing us what they could do the highlight being the puppet show, which was hilarious, I haven't laughed so much in years. I think I could sum it up as luxury with fun. The food was very good, I have no complaints. The waiters were lovely and so helpful, in fact all the crew were great. Steve, the hotel manager, and Tanje, the Cruise Director, were particularly accommodating to all our requests, and Prabhakar, the bosun, giving us a lesson on knot tying was lovely. With only 188 passengers on board it was easy to get to know other people very quickly, and this added to the fun of the holiday. The sail away from every port was always special. Standing on the bridge watching the sails unfurl and flap in the wind to the sound of Conquest of Paradise music was just magical. This cruise is about the beautiful ship as much as everything else.

Read More
  • New

Feb 8, 2014

Grenadines

Wonderful experience, so different from the large cruise ships. Just magical. The food was very good. There was plenty of it and there was afternoon tea and midnight snacks also. Fresh fruit, tea and coffee was always available to help yourself. A little on the small side, but very comfortable and there was enough storage hidden away. The shower only has a small lip on it, so if you are at sea the water tends to slosh around.

Mast climbing, knot tying, water sports were all available and you could steer the ship or help raise the sails. It was great, and very different. I can't stop thinking about my wonderful holiday aboard the Royal Clipper in the Grenadines. I have traveled a lot, but this ranks as one of the best holidays ever. The ship is beautiful with its mahogany and brass, and the cabins are comfortable, if a little small, with enough storage for everything we took. The only thing I would advise is to shower when the ship is in port, otherwise water sloshes everywhere if you are at sea. The entertainment was good...this is not like the entertainment on the big cruise ships, it is very much in-house with audience participation. A steel band came onboard one night and provided excellent entertainment. The resident singer and musician were very good, providing a range of music, and there was dancing every evening, (not always easy when the sea got a bit choppy). One night there was a quiz with a bottle of champagne as the prize. The talent show was great, with crew members showing us what they could do the highlight being the puppet show, which was hilarious, I haven't laughed so much in years. I think I could sum it up as luxury with fun. The food was very good, I have no complaints. The waiters were lovely and so helpful, in fact all the crew were great. Steve, the hotel manager, and Tanje, the Cruise Director, were particularly accommodating to all our requests, and Prabhakar, the bosun, giving us a lesson on knot tying was lovely. With only 188 passengers on board it was easy to get to know other people very quickly, and this added to the fun of the holiday. The sail away from every port was always special. Standing on the bridge watching the sails unfurl and flap in the wind to the sound of Conquest of Paradise music was just magical. This cruise is about the beautiful ship as much as everything else.

Read More
  • New

Jan 5, 2013

Windward Islands

A proper Tall Ship, sail away was an experience every time. Cabins small but well appointed and super service all the way through. Royal Clipper can anchor where the big monsters cannot so definitely a plus. We do not have a family and do not think that kids would feel good on board, they would just be bored to tears. There were none and I would definitely not advise families to chose this ship. Food was way below expectations that was the only downside

really. Otherwise you just have to be aware that this ship - while the biggest sailing ship in the world - still is comparatively small. It MOVES all the time and if there are waves you will notice even though she really was remarkably stable. but sailing at night if you are not used to it caused some sleeplessness for me. Never mind it was worth the experience! Not much sorry. This was definitely not the three star influenced cuisine that was promised and the BBQ on the beach - while a great idea was substandard with cold meat, inedible sausages etc. Fine. Not big but we knew that it works and there are lots of drawers so nothing is lying around. Decor works with this type of ship I do not care much for pirate evenings and fashion shows or talent nights but they made an effort and others enjoyed it. If you want razzmatazz and slot machines you are definitely on the wrong ship. It is all more family style which is good. All excursions were really good but as usual very rushed. Never mind - visit the Botanical Gardens on Martinique, go hiking on Grenada and enjoy the volcano on St. Lucia - it all was worth it. First time ever on such a small sailing vessel - loved it but will definitely bring seasickness plasters next time. Not that we were seasick - just to help with the motion and to stop worrying about getting seasick....And be aware that at Christmas time in the Caribbean there is something called the Christmas Winds... But all the snorkeling and experience of small secluded islands which you do not get to with any of these floating hotels is worth the experience!!!

Read More
  • New

Jan 5, 2013

Windward Islands

A proper Tall Ship, sail away was an experience every time. Cabins small but well appointed and super service all the way through. Royal Clipper can anchor where the big monsters cannot so definitely a plus. We do not have a family and do not think that kids would feel good on board, they would just be bored to tears. There were none and I would definitely not advise families to chose this ship. Food was way below expectations that was the only downside

really. Otherwise you just have to be aware that this ship - while the biggest sailing ship in the world - still is comparatively small. It MOVES all the time and if there are waves you will notice even though she really was remarkably stable. but sailing at night if you are not used to it caused some sleeplessness for me. Never mind it was worth the experience! Not much sorry. This was definitely not the three star influenced cuisine that was promised and the BBQ on the beach - while a great idea was substandard with cold meat, inedible sausages etc. Fine. Not big but we knew that it works and there are lots of drawers so nothing is lying around. Decor works with this type of ship I do not care much for pirate evenings and fashion shows or talent nights but they made an effort and others enjoyed it. If you want razzmatazz and slot machines you are definitely on the wrong ship. It is all more family style which is good. All excursions were really good but as usual very rushed. Never mind - visit the Botanical Gardens on Martinique, go hiking on Grenada and enjoy the volcano on St. Lucia - it all was worth it. First time ever on such a small sailing vessel - loved it but will definitely bring seasickness plasters next time. Not that we were seasick - just to help with the motion and to stop worrying about getting seasick....And be aware that at Christmas time in the Caribbean there is something called the Christmas Winds... But all the snorkeling and experience of small secluded islands which you do not get to with any of these floating hotels is worth the experience!!!

Read More
  • New

Apr 29, 2012

Leeward Islands

Wow what a great vacation! The Star Clipper Line's flagship the Royal Clipper is a real gem. As a sailor I had wanted to sail on this 5 masted full rigged ship for many year. We took the Royal Clipper the first week of April in 2012. We started in Barbados and hit all the Leeward Islands during the week. The staff was great., our cabin was super, the food was first class and the experience was to remember for a lifetime. I can't wait to

go back on another cruise on the Star Clipper Line. I would highly recommend any vacation on the Star Clipper's line. As a sailor I really had a blast with all the 55,000 sq. ft. of sails. This boat really sails. On most of the trip we sailed and didn't motor. Even though the boat has twin 16 cylinder motors it was fun to see the crew actually sail the boat whenever possible. We found out that the boat actually sails faster than it motors when the wind is off the quarter. Climbing the mast, great excursions, small harbors and bays, all contribute to the unique experience on the Royal Clipper. We loved the casual dining experience. No set tables, we made loads of friends and enjoyed a varied and well thought out menu each day. Our class three stateroom was fine and what we expected on a sailing ship. Not huge but large enough for the two of us. The Class two staterooms are just slightly larger. All are well decorated, with wood paneling and marble bathrooms. Our A/C was very good and kept us cool every night. Very low key. This is not a boat for kids and we didn't miss our grown ones either. The most exciting part of each day was departing a harbor, un-furling the sails and sailing off to our next destination. We got to climb the mast, go out on the bowsprit, take the helm and we also enjoyed the pools to cool off. Since there are only 200+ guests we got to know a bunch of really nice people from around the world. Several of the excursions were fun, especially the Bar-B-Q set up on the beach. We also enjoyed taking part in a yacht race where the US slammed the German team! The van tour around St. Kitts was very interesting.

Read More
  • New

Jan 27, 2012

windward islands

The overall cruise was wonderful, just what my wife and I were looking for. We hated the idea of a mega ship with a gazillion people on board. The Royal Clipper was intimate and quiet. There was actually more deck space than on a large liner, with a lot fewer people to share it with. The food was excellent and widely varied. Everything tasted so good that I wanted to try everything and soon learned to eat small amounts. The omelet

bar for breakfast was especially good, although the chef would also make a mean sauteed vegetable and fried egg platter. The stateroom was tight but comfortable. Plenty of storage for just about everything. The bed was a bit on the hard side, a mattress over a solid platform. Be sure to bring a 220V plug and adapter. The bathroom and shower was fun, don't worry about water on the floor as there are drains both in and outside of the shower. The toilette is equipped with a seat belt (just kidding). Onboard activities were on the spartan side and usually involved both passengers and crew. Mostly people just kicked back and relaxed. We did have a talent night and pirate night. Repeat passengers in the know were ready with pirate costumes. Would have liked some advance warning to really get into the swing, but did get to practice my ARRRGGG! The sugar train in St. Kitts was an absolute hoot. Swimming with the stingrays was fun with the rays gathering around you like puppies looking for handouts. The island tour on Antigua was great, so many wonderful beaches, but wished that there was time to just stay and enjoy one. Snorkling was OK, but really nothing to rave about, just too near 'civilization.' If you are really into diving I think that your vacation should be wrapped around that rather than cruising, even in the out-of-the-way places where the Star Clippers go. The island excursion on Martinique turned out to be a disaster, four hours without a restroom stop was hard on the older people and the driver must have thought he was on the grand prix. Possibly just too much ground to cover in too little time. Sailing on the Royal Clipper was like stepping back in time a hundred years (but with air conditioning and ice). The ship abounds with polished wood and brass and is kept spotless. There is a library, observation lounges, and endless nooks and cubbies to kick back in and either talk to people are just be by yourself. Be aware though, this IS a sailing ship and it MOVES. However, most people got used to it and after a week on board it actually felt a bit strange to get back on solid land. Incidentally, in your cabin you will find a chart that names all of the many sails that the Royal clipper carries. There will be a test. That being said I think that the people who would be interested in this type of cruise preselects them for being experienced and interesting people. Our fellow passengers were widely traveled and we learned of many interesting places to go and things to do around the world. The Royal Clipper accommodates 225 passengers and we had 194, representing some 15 nationalities. The passengers were mostly seniors but we also had children and a large group of university students as well. Everyone got along well and by the week's end it seemed to be like a big, extended family. Service on the Royal Clipper is beyond belief. Everything is spotless and neat. Your cabins are cleaned at least twice a day, while you are at breakfast, and again while at dinner. The crew is cheerful, friendly, and just cannot help you enough. Meals were outstanding with cuisine that catered to many nationalities. It was fun to try new dishes and the soups in particular were great. Dinners, although casual, tended to run at least an hour and a half and were serenaded by the pianist on the baby grand. While the stewart will generally sit you at a table with others who speak the same language but anything is possible. Regardless, conversation throughout the dinner is great and the next thing you know you're finishing the dessert course and it is time to leave. If the wind is good the Clipper will run on sails alone. The feel of a large ship under sail is something that must be experienced. The motion can be rhythmic and quiet. My favorite time was to get up early, grab a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up. The Clipper ships do not pull in to where the big liners go, and only on Martinique did we even tie up to a pier. All other places we used the ship's small boats to go ashore. This was both good and bad as these places were just not geared up for tourists so were more native and less crowded but had fewer shopping opportunities. The shore excursions themselves were a bit hit-and-miss, some good and some not so good. Tours that were available were maybe not quite so polished as the big ports. Would you believe that some people come on the Star Clipper cruises and never go ashore at all? All-in-all would I go on another Star Clipper cruise? Oh, yes.

Read More
  • New

Feb 10, 2011

Windward Islands

We simply could not have imagined a better honeymoon. Take this trip!!! Every day there was something new and delicious to eat.My was is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, and she was thrilled at the menu and preparation. The best part is not what you're eating, but where you're eating it (the movement of the ship reminds you every moment that you are on a true sailing vessel) and who you're eating it with (our dinner compains each night were fantastic-

they had lived such adventurous lives and were as turned off by the big lumbering cruise ships as we were). One day we had a full grilled lunch on the beach Antigua, another day we ate on the deck. Always amazing food. Very nice - almost exactly as big as the one on the Sea Princess. Our porthole was about 2 to 4 feet from the water, depending on the list of the ship, and often went underwater while under sail. Very fun. What the ship lacks in water slides and mega-pool, it makes up for in crows nests and sailing accoutrement. We kind of wished we'd have spent each day on ship or going ashore on the tender boat. The excursions we paid for were lackluster - with the possible exception of swimming with stingrays in Antigua. 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 More
  • New

Sep 19, 2010

Eastern Mediterranean

We had a wonderful cruise experience on the Royal Clipper. The food could have been better. Our stateroom was well located, clean and comfortable. #230 Minimal onboard activities See my trip report. 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 utmost 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 café, 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. Sailing on the Royal Clipper As I said before, the best thing about a Star Clipper cruise is the sailing. The ship attempts to sail as much as possible. On our cruise, from Rome to Venice, we found the ship had difficulty sailing on the Corfu to Venice portion of the journey. This is because the prevailing winds at this time of year are from the north, and it is hard to sail directly into the wind. Because of this, the Venice to Rome cruise may be a better choice for those that want to do a lot of sailing. Even when the ship is motoring, there are still some sails up. They have an itinerary to keep, so they sail as much as they can without jeopardizing the schedule. 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 café 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 café 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 More
  • New

Jul 19, 2010

Meditterenean

The is the best cruise that I have been on so far. Don't understand some of the negative reviews I just read but as always no one is ever happy. The ship is beautiful and clean. The entire crew was very friendly and personable. Many came to me and introduced themselves and during the cruise when the spoke to me they always approached me by name. I traveled alone this time and did not feel left out ever. The entire experience was amazing. Everything

was well organized. Yeah there is not much entertainment but the little that they provided was enough especially on talent show night. After cruising on big cruise lines this is way better less people and more intimate. I will never go back to big cruise ships ever. My second time on this cruise line. Did the Thailand cruise in November of 2009 and that was amazing also. I do prefer the Royal Clipper because it is bigger. I just arrived this weekend and I am already planning my next cruise which will be in a couple of months on Royal Clipper again. The food was very good. For breakfast there was a lunch buffet and you can order eggs any way you like. Plenty of fruits, cereal, cheese, breads, bacon, ham, potatoes, etc. Lunch was my favorite. Plenty of choices always had fish, salads, chicken, beef, soups, rice and more. The deserts for lunch was the best. A huge table with 5 or more options. Dinner was excellent a la carte. Everything from lamb chops, pork, fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes. The waiters and bartenders are very friendly and accommodating. For desert you have the option of cheese and fruit or cakes and ice cream. There is a snack that is served during the afternoon by the tropical bar. Plenty of live music that is called piano melodies with Tanya. My room was clean and comfortable. The bathroom was marble. The first day I arrived my cabin steward introduced him self to me.Sometimes during the cruise I would forget to take the do not disturb sign off my door and when i would see my cabin steward in the hallway he would ask me If he could clean my room today and If I say not its fine he would offer me clean towels. If you are looking for on board activities then don't bother. I myself when I travel on a cruise my main priority is getting to my port daily to explore, having good food and relaxing in between that. Everyday there is a schedule that included many things to do during the day anything from engine room visits, Captains sory time, mast climbing, marine biology corner, after dinner music. Every night they have different shows planned such as Saturday night fever, Mr and Mrs Royal Clipper, Talent show (my favorite). The day we were in Greece they brought on board Locals that did music and dance and that was fun. They also had frog races and afterward dancing under the stars where live music was played. I did one excursion my first day and honestly I don't think it was worth what I payed. So after I never booked any excursions anymore. I enjoyed daily stopping in different islands and walking around and sigh seeing and shopping. I loved it and I will return. It seems like it a cruise for older crowds but I am 38 and I enjoyed it myself. I made the best of it and I will return.

Read More
  • New

Feb 14, 2010

Winward Islands

Beautiful ship, accommodating staff, extremely small cabins, horrendous food, all activities a la carte. Horrible Very small There are no on-board activities except a crab race and karaoke in the Tropical Bar. Excursions all cost extra and were worthless. You are better off hiring your own taxi/guide to see each island. A huge disappointment! The Royal Clipper is a beautiful ship - that is all. There is nothing special about this cruise

experience. If you enjoy cruising, save your money and book yourself on one of the larger cruise lines.

Read More
  • New

Jan 30, 2010

Windward Islasnds

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 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. After looking at the cabin we had initially booked, which was too small for two people to exhale simultaneously, I asked to upgrade. The balcony cabin they showed me was very nice, if a bit small for a premium cabin. The wanted an extra $3000 for it and would not negotiate. But after thinking about a week in the first cabin, I sucked it up and paid. This brought the price of the cruise to over $5000. Not worth it for this ship. The ship practically demands, and reminds you at least 4 times, a gratuity of 112 euros per cabin. They insist that this be added to the bill or given in cash to the purser, not directly to the cabin steward or waiters. Why? All charges, by the way, are in euros, yet they are about the same as the dollar charges on other ships. A cute way of adding a 40% premium to everything. There were no on-board activities. Unless you count a crab race. The ship offers snorkeling 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 go 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. St Lucia: 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. Dominica: 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" attended who had eyes only for each other. No chance to see Dominica. No feeling that the ship cared about anybody's security or enjoyment. Antigua: 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 after the Antigua stop, rumors were flying around the ship. A passenger had been murdered ashore. It was the sister of the bride. A note 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 barbecue to see if the suspect was in them. The ship addressed 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 culpability, 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. St Kitts: We took a shore excursion around the island. It was interesting and fun. However, again the ship dropped off excursion passengers at Basses-Terre (where a Princess ship was docked. If they could get in, we certainly could have gotten in.) The excursion returned us to, you guessed it, another dirty little beach. This one had a shed where beer was served about a 100 yard down the beach from where the tender beached. No water or juice, no changing facilities. The bar probably would have let you use the bathroom. Since we did not learn officially of the murder until after we left this port, I think the cruise line was particularly negligent in not providing even a warning to passengers. Another couple, at dinner, told us they had taken a Jeep excursion on the island, 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. Isle des Saintes: We visited Isle des Saintes, a part of the French department of Guadeloupe. It was a lovely little village with nice shops and re4staurants. No other cruise ship stops there. It was the gem of the voyage. Martinique One of the most beautiful and interesting islands in the Caribbean. The ship actually docked there and we had time for a brief cab ride. We were there less than 4 hours./ Aside from the fact that a passenger was murdered, at least partially due to the negligence of the cruise line, how did we like the cruise.? We didn't. We hope this cruise line goes out of business quickly. Be warned and be aware that this ship is only for those who know and like what they are getting into, no elevator, no activities,no security, high prices, and no actual visits to the islands it stops at. If that's what you want, go for it. Otherwise, stay away.

Read More
  • New

Mar 21, 2009

Windward Islands

Our March 2009 Caribbean 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. Our previous cruising experience is limited. We spent a week aboard the NORWAY (formerly the SS FRANCE) in the eastern Caribbean in 2002. The food on the ROYAL CLIPPER 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. Our cabin on the ROYAL CLIPPER was large, comfortable, and beautifully appointed. We booked one of the better cabins on the ship, but 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 least expensive ones. They are all quite elegant. We were in Cabin 316, an aft cabin on the main deck, somewhat removed from most of the 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. Being a smaller ship, there are not a great deal of on-board activities on the ROYAL CLIPPER--no ice skating, bowling, or rock climbing--which is 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 movie 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 harbor without resorting to any assistance from the engine or bow thrusters. Every day the ROYAL CLIPPER visits 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 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 some cruisers accustomed to very large and very stable ships. My wife and I are both experienced sailers and have spent a lot of time underway on moderately sized 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. 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 25-knot wind on our starboard bow. Once we cleared the lee of Barbados and were in open seas, 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 stay sails 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-paint the huge anchors several times during the trip so that they look 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. Only a few other passengers seemed, like us, to be on their first Star Clipper cruise.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Summary: Big sailing ship - not a hotel. With all the trimmings of a cruise without the annoyances. Biggest sailing cruise ship in the world - certainly bigger than any plying the Caribbean waters or the Med. A visual feast with five very tall masts, more sails than you can ever name - and almost always under sail. High quality appointments, cabin fixtures, and materials throughout. Very pleasant crew, enough food - well prepared

- to keep us alive and happy. Rides the waves like a sailing ship - not bumpy, not flat, not boring. You're here to sail but not to fear for your life. Ship Data: You can get the exact details from a travel agent, the company, website Compare it to other sailing ships or steel cruise ships: 429 feet long, masts almost 200 feet high, 54 foot beam (width), 56,000 square feet of sail (a typical cabin on a cruise ship has 140 square feet floor area.) Includes 26 square sails, 12 staysails, three jibs, a spanker (?) and wires/ropes/stuff that look like a movie set. 5061 tons (GR- which I think means displacement, not weight) 20 knots top speed at sail (that's very fast over 4-6 foot swells - feels great!) Uses two motor launches (lifeboats) @ 150 pax each. This ship has stairs (lots of them), no working elevator, three wetting pools (hardly for swimming), more open deck space than 5 cruise ships, lounge chairs enough for two Shriners' conventions, and a nice quiet "public" rooms and areas to hide with a dirty novel. The cabins - even the basic ones - are very well appointed, attractive, and roomy. The whole place feels pretty upscale but you don't find yourself wishing you brought your tux or tiara. Who's Who: Pax capacity is 228 . We carried less to make space for engineers from the shipyard finishing some little shake-down items. The ship is fairly new (July, 2000) and mechanical tweaking of A/C and electrical was ongoing. The passenger mix was US, UK, Germany, Canada, and others - in proportions probably 50/20/20/10 (%). All adults - save one perfect 8-year old. Southern Caribbean (r/t ex Barbados) We are spoiled from many trips to the "perfect weather and the beauty" of the nations of the Caribbean. But we liked most of the ports chosen. Fortunately, sailing was often during the day not just at night. The distances covered were a moderate haul - we could have gone further easily except on those days sailing against the wind where distance vs time is pretty low. At most ports, we parked offshore and used the tenders to land. It works very well and seems no concern if you've got both legs and reasonable function. The marketing lingo of Star Clipper leads one to expect unique landing or beach parking sites. This ship is too large to sneak into some swimming holes. But it certainly comes near shores easily. Although Windstar and other "sailing lines "ply these waters, it was clear in most ports that the size and unique qualities of the Royal Clipper earned admiring gazes of many folks on shore. That certainly added to our enthusiasm as we came ashore - until we realized we left our VISA card and Lomotil on board. (None of these islands made a scene about immigration/customs, etc., except Antigua, which sent aboard about nine goons to "clear the ship". For those of you who haven't read about Antigua, it is the domain of a family who has "governed" without interruption or serious opposition since Columbus came thru. The island is hospitable and predictable - but you can understand that certain folks are employed in jobs that may not have measurable impact on the community, if you get my drift.) The Crew: A wonderful mixture of nationalities of very pleasant men and woman who are relaxed, polite, and obviously satisfied to work on this vessel. Many eastern European men are in the deck crew. Officers were not easy to place by source - except Captain Ulrich Pruesse, who was born in Hamburg and "lives" in Newport, R.I. He's sailed since 1954, joining Star Clippers in 1991. He is animated, outspoken, smart as a whip, boisterous, charming, and a joy to watch. He likewise loved an audience and loved his ship. For most, his positive energy was contagious. To some, he was overbearing. But he spent most his time on the bridge (which is always open to visitors.) If you like to watch and listen to a pro drive this monster, you could linger and enjoy. If not, you have 50 acres inside and out to do otherwise. The Cabins: They're great! They are not Seabourn - and they're not Carnival. They're clean, well decorated, comfy, and have adequate space. Lots of wood (ersatz) and classical-looking materials. Marble (real) in the bathroom. Storage adequate, not great. Doors solid, quiet. Rooms sound proof - except in some when the anchors come and go, or the power grinders help with the sail lines. (Well, it is a sailing ship, not a Hyatt.) Carpeting galore. Nice nautical colors and patterns. No neon. No "art". TV ran text news - sometimes. Movies played in English, French, German - at odd times. (Brad Pitt as a British Royal speaking French is enough to make you get back up top to watch the sails.) Public rooms: Nice variety - exterior very free form, interiors like large living rooms. A comfy library with a faux fireplace (very odd.) A forward room called the Observation Lounge that few people use - requires great strength to open the two horrendous wooden doors. Contains a few computers (apparently broken) for Internet use (big deal.) Also holds pre-port talks for those who want to know which straw hat vendor to use. This room seems to transfer the maximum effect of the ship's pitching and rolling - I loved it but one would not do brain surgery in this room. We attended one talk - my wife inelegantly tipped as she landed on her chosen chair, knocking over the person adjacent, who did the same to his neighbor, who tipped the next, etc. Like the dominos chain. It may explain its empty aspect all week. Downstairs, somewhat up front, you can descend to Nemo's Lounge. But it's not a lounge as was planned. Now it's the "gym" and a beauty salon. Imagine, a sailing ship with those silly face treatments and expensive goo to save your youth. There's a steam room, I'm told. And wall hanging pictures of half-naked models with perfect skin that suggests the results of your $400 seaweed and mud pack face wrap with toe massage. I can't believe this goes on a ship like this - but now you know. We also found exercise machines, including some treadmills and a few stainless steel devices from the Inquisition. I was able to contain my exuberance. There were, as advertised, three or four underwater portholes ! A great idea. Except in day you can't see much. At night you'd need outside lights, which are installed - but nobody knows how to turn 'em on. Oh well, nice thought.. We can not always believe those marketing brochures. Upstairs (above the water line) is a very nice and quiet inside room which is really just a large space with couches, chairs, coffee machines, a bar (never opened) and a piano (seldom played.) It surrounds the "atrium" - another touch from the "big iron ships" that has debatable aesthetic value. The dining room is the lower level of the "atrium" - the piano bar above being the top. The dining room (which is not named after anyone or anything) is wonderful and skillfully plotted to handle everyone at any time. The galley (and dishes, serving stations) seem to be miles away - so it's quiet, odorless, and sometimes a little wait for the groceries. The tables, chairs, portholes, and decorations are very nice. A bar and covered deck area (where we embark and disembark) were nautical and nice. Passengers loved the antics of two green parrots who joined the trip and wandered on foot out of their cage, hoping to find somebody to bite. They were beautiful, funny, bright, and completely unmanageable. The story is the line owner acquired them to train and later found out they were five years old and meaner than Ross Perot. The top deck is the best - huge, all areas open. Features big things which help the ship sail - like masts, lines, machines, gadgets, chains, and a sewing machine (usually stowed) that could stitch up the Grand Canyon. All teak-like decking, abundant benches and things to sit on or lean against or lie on. Visibility from the deck is 360 degrees with no air conditioning boxes or cranes blocking your view or your movement. The pools are wet - one has a glass bottom. To say more would be hyperbole. I never saw anyone go in any pool - except me. I like to float in water that's floating on a ship that's floating in sea. It's comfy - if you like salt water. There's lots of room to stand or sit by the bridge area - there's great high platform to stand like an Admiral and study the horizon. Looking back over the deck, even the slightest roll of the ship is magnified by the 200 foot masts - this thing is an engineering marvel that must be seen to appreciated. We heard it cost $65 million to float it - that may be low. Forward (in front of) the bridge area is more deck space - open for business. And beyond that (even more forward) is some tight netting that hangs out over the water under the bowsprit. (That's the stick thing that points ahead of the ship.) You can get out on this net - there's room for a brigade - and ride (dry) above the waves just ahead of the ship as it cuts thru the surf. It's very safe but may require acclamation by the sissies among you. Food: There's a lot of it. The variety at breakfast and lunch buffet each day is amazing. You won't starve - and only Martha Stewart would grumble that the snails were not perfect. (There were no snails but you could have anchovies as big as a pencil on your salad - exciting, yes?) Breakfasts had all the normal crunchy stuff plus oatmeal (never saw it eaten.) A nice chef with stove top cooked eggs any way/any time/any amount you like. There were a million others thing but my God, it's breakfast - relax a little. Lunches had lots of greens, lots of cheeses, lots of noodle things, lots of fruits, lots of desserts. And many hot dishes, meats, and leftovers. Just like home. The buffets at lunch and breakfast were a visual success per my wife who looks at food while I prefer to eat it. Dinners were very nice - usually the a la carte menu items were good quality or better. Not always. The menu was not four pages like on Cunard. If you want quail's nest soup, bring it from home. Desserts and other things you don't do at home were very abundant and satisfying. I adored the tapioca - apparently without consensus from anyone else. Noticeably and thankfully absent are idiot ship photographers, the useless maitre-'d, and the sommelier pushing outrageously priced Gallo slush. There is a wine "specialist" - but no pressure. This ship doesn't do saturation bombing with 50 pound lobsters and caviar. But the fish, fowl (a huge duck was seen) and meat (lamb was offered, thank God) items were usually fresh and of good quality, well prepared. The veggies were terrific and all the other things you need were good. Fresh pineapple and fruits that come from every island with sunshine - nobody could guess mangoes from plantains. The service was sometimes a little slow - many passengers agreed the staff was light in number and showed inexperience. Nobody starved or withered away - but we expected a little crisper level of table service. Sometimes getting coffee, tea, cream and sugar, or more water became a chore. I think this ship is a little fancier then other Clippers and also full of new staff. The line is still working out the operational bugs. (For example, our cabin's mechanical troubles took 3 days to be fixed - I had to aggressively stay on the management to get the help.) Sports The ship has a platform off the back (the stern) that lowers into the water. The ship comes apart - and a float platform, with room for 40, becomes a dock in the water (when the ship is parked, thank you.) You can swim off that - I did. They launch some scuba and snorkel adventures off that. You can grab a little sailboat and embarrass yourself in front of other passengers. Or you can kayak - which looks less comfy than sitting in dentist's chair. In most ports, there are easy ways to get to "the beach" - sometimes right off the platform. You can borrow (for free) all the snorkel and scuba gear you need. It's well organized. Shops The a desk where the purser lives has get toothpaste, lighters, and any combination of hats and shirts with the ship's logo. No emeralds, no booze, no art, no nonsense, no discounts. Little Switzerland is not represented - how sad. Tours Couldn't comment. We didn't take them. Seemed moderate and well-planned. Tour director was professional and thoughtful - not a shill for the line's treasury. Major pros: Ship is stunning and sea-worthy - and truly sails (by hand, not computer.) Plenty of space, beautiful fixtures and decorating. Well planned. Passenger count and socialization, if desired, is very satisfying. "Intimate" is not the perfect word, but the idea works. Major cons: None. But you must know difference between sailing this ship and floating on a cruise ship. This ship sails. Some may wish they were back in the Waldorf. Compares To no ship at sea - it surpasses other "sailing" cruise ships that are upscale because those ships are silly engineering games with metallic sails or sails that are moved by computers. The Royal's sails, while lowered and raised with power aids, are set and "trimmed" by the Captain and his crew for maximum efficiency. And in size and material, this is closest to what were true sailing ships of the 19th century - the way people and goods moved between the hemispheres. From the pricing and outfitting, you will expect to see folks who might otherwise ride Princess or HAL ships. This is not the Carnival crowd - no, we ain't got fun, fun, fun. This is a cerebral crowd, usually sober, bored with slot machines, and thankfully past the stage of wearing baseball caps (backwards), tank top shirts, or nose rings. References: Ocean Navigator, Nov/Dec.2000, Issue # 110, Navigator Publ, Portland, ME

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Mediterranean

Let me congratulate Star Clippers for this new sailing ship. Its beauty is absolutely beyond any comparison. Everywhere we went on our seven days cruise there were people looking at the ship with envious eyes. I booked this particular cruise first of all because of the itinerary, secondly because on our route there were several places that seemed to be beautiful and remote and finally because of being in a true sailing ship.

However let me tell you that sails are more for cosmetic purposes rather than for sailing. Sails would be lowered whenever we were leaving our ports of call, so that we could do it majestically and in grand style. Just as soon as land was out of sight we would proceed with engine power. On the third day of our cruise we really sailed through an entire afternoon but our speed was so modest – slightly above 5 Knots – it would have been impossible to get to the next leg of our journey in time. I have to admit the weather during our cruise was always excellent and that captain Lickfett always got us to the different ports of call within the timetable that had been previously established. On the second day of our cruise, well before the 24 hours required, all passengers attended the life boat drill, after what the captain gave his welcome speech. He invited the few children on board to seat around him on the floor and began to speak in a calm voice inspiring know-how and extreme confidence often ornamenting his speech with jokes. All of a sudden and with no interruption in the flow of his words, his voice had begun to sound strange and unintelligible. A disturbing and continuous stream of blurting sounds was by then coming out of his mouth. Astonishment and perplexity assaulted my mind. I began to feel restless for the man we had in command. The sudden laughs of a group of German passengers by my side made me realize captain Lickfett had switched languages. He was speaking his own to ‘the large number of passengers from Bavaria’ as he would say frequently. He preceded with his short speech switching constantly and imperceptibly from English to German and back to English, saying that there were 15 different nationalities of passengers on our particular cruise and that the bridge was opened to anyone wanting to know more about sailing. Understandably during docking and undocking he would invite people to clear the bridge with subtlety. I still here him with his paused voice: ‘Ah! I see there a lady who thinks she is a pilot’.  Finally he made the presentation of the other officers calling their names, saying their place of origin and praising each one. He would do it the same way a vain father presents his sons. In fact I left this cruise with the feeling that all the crew made a good job. I must tell you that the Royal Clipper is not intended for ordinary cruisers. I admit I have myself an odd personality. As a consequence the perspective of things I consider interesting and significant may not have any meaning to other people. THE SHIP The Royal Clipper was operating with its full capacity that’s to say around 228 passengers. It is not intended for shoppers, as there is only one shop selling items suited to make an offer to someone back home, neither for casino addicts as there is no casino. As far as I’m concerned it suits me as I do not loose my precious money and even more precious time with such childish frivolities. I do not need much for a good vacation. A nice uncrowded place on the open air, a good book and a screwdriver by a side table are plenty enough. There is very good entertainment however. The sea around you provides it all. The inside of the ship is very elegant, comfortable and roomy. Never had we the feeling of being cramped. One of the most interesting features is the platform on the back of the ship that could be lowered to the level of the sea. It allowed us to get in and out of the warm baths of the Mediterranean waters. It was also very useful for the different sport activities offered on board. Who minds if the three pools on the sun deck are undersized if we had all the sea to swim. The library was one of my preferred places. It was furnished in Edwardian style and with a nice fireplace while useless in August. I would like to have a library like that back at home. Unfortunately the shelves of this superb library were empty except for a half of dozen of low qualities novels. Such a place deserves at least one or two good encyclopaedias and a good assortment of charts. I can however understand that people on a cruise are not always very cultural oriented. The dinning room and piano bar are very elegantly decorated, with natural lighting coming from the glass bottom of one of the swimming pools. The observation lounge was bland. The sun deck is an excellent place to spend time even if near the bar it was sometimes smelly whenever the cooker was preparing meals three decks below. I had a class 2 outside cabin. It had a nice classical decor and two portholes. It was fitted with TV to view films, an in-room safe, temperature control and satellite telephone. The bathroom was also elegant with marble all around and on the floor. The shower however was too confining and only suited for children up to 14 years. The cabin was quiet but I must tell you I was far from the main nuisances of a ship such as the kitchen, the engine and even further away from the exhaust system of the engine, by the way very ingeniously placed on the top of two of the ship five masts. I never heard my neighbours whether they were very silent or the cabin had good soundproofing. The ship seemed to be very stable but I really don’t know what would have happened in rougher seas. THE SERVICE I booked myself this cruise for me as for other members of my family, including my two nieces, 10 and 13 years old. The girls shared a cabin. We were six. The other cabins of my family were on a lower deck (class 3). Apparently they had the same size and amenities. I was led to the conclusion that there is no point in choosing a higher class if you have enough mobility – no lifts on board - and the few extra steps are no problem. My stewardess did a very good job. She would clean up very efficiently the cabin every morning. I’m very rigorous with hygiene mainly in bathrooms still I noticed it was always thoroughly cleaned. From the forth day on, if one cared to examine more in detail, some more remote areas of the cabin – the frame of the painting on the wall, the light bulbs or other more out of sight spots – it was possible to find an extremely thin layer of dust. Once more I admit that I’m myself to blame for taking notice of such insignificant details. While we were dinning she would return to prepare the beds for the night, sometimes she would leave a chocolate on the pillow and lightening on the bathroom and on the bedside reading lamps would be turned on. If necessary wet towels would be changed. During the all week I found her very often on the corridors, always busy but smiling and saluting, consequently should I have needed her assistance she would have been readily available. The other members of my family who had other stewards were also satisfied. My favourite meals were breakfast and the nice snack served in the afternoon. They were close to excellence in what concerns taste, variety and presentation. Fresh fruit, salads and other crudities that I consider should be consumed on a daily basis were in good supply. For lunch we had always an assorted buffet even though some of the cold plates kept coming back for several days. Dinner was served a la carte and consisted of an appetizer, soup, the main tray, salad, an assortment of cheese and dessert. The appetizer the main tray and dessert had at least two options. Presentation was excellent but the taste quite a few times was a little bit on the pepper side, even soup and salads were often peppered  – not to the taste of everyone and certainly not mine. In general terms lunch and dinner pleased the eye but not the palate and even if I’m neither a gourmet nor a gourmand I had higher expectations. The wine list was appropriate and with a wide range of price. An early sleeper like me never attended midnight buffets. Dining room service at breakfast and lunch was good and the waiters kept coming to take care of our refills of water or ice tea, they were also attentive with the girls frequently taking care of their particular needs. Dinner however was quite a different matter. Star Clippers operates open seating policy and dinner was served from 7:30 PM till 10:00 PM. Still service was so slow that it was common to be seated for two hours just for dinner. We were kept waiting between one tray and the other for an excessive length of time. Twenty to twenty five minutes between the soup and the main tray was common. Waiting for dessert was also exasperating. Fifty minutes was our record and on that particular dinner by the time we got our sirloin we were already in the late stages of our digestion. One of my nieces was already sleeping head against her mother’s shoulder. Another day we decided to have dinner later and arrived at the dinning room at 9:15 PM. Unfortunately there were no tables left enough big to accommodate the six of us. It would only be possible to accommodate groups of two in different tables. As a consequence the adults couldn’t have shared a bottle of wine.  We got finally a table enough big ten minutes later. As the kitchen closes at 10:00 PM we had quite the opposite feeling of the previous nights, and were positively rushed through the entire meal. This did not prove to be the right solution mainly because we had to stroll around the deserted ship for quite a long time before getting seated even though we were starving. We did not dare to call the attention of the waiters as they were constantly running back and forth to the kitchen, balancing huge loads of dishes between the narrow alleys. The number of seats in the dinning room is equivalent to the capacity of the ship in passengers. I was led to the conclusion there were too few waiters or the kitchen was not able to provide dinner for every passenger at the same time. To worsen things on two different occasions I noticed there were tables reserved. The program of our first day clearly stated that no table reservations could be made. Service during dinner was obviously the major drawback of this cruise. I believe that on the cruise market, competition is tough. I red reviews of Star Clipper’s main competitor, Windstar Cruises and on this point of view Windstar’s reviews were flattering.   The night prior to disembarkation we were docked in Monaco and as a few passengers decided to have dinner out, the waiters were less stressed and had enough time to talk with us. We were told that their team was to be reinforced. This means the problem had already been detected and they were trying to fix it. Therefore I can anticipate that by the time you read this lines the problem will no longer exist. The silverware on dinning tables did not include forks or knifes for fish. Every low class restaurant in Europe provides them. Chatting with one of the officers on the tropical bar, we were told that such silverware was largely unknown in the United States a country where a large number of passengers usually come from and they did not want to embarrass them. Should any other European passenger had access to this explanation, he would have found it inconsiderate from Star Clippers for taking in consideration only a part of their clientele. Since we were always in European territory it would have been advisable to include such features on the tables. As for American passengers or any other passengers, landscapes, culture and behaviour of other societies are all part of the fun of travelling. Due to the reduced number of passengers, embarkation was swift and disembarkation even more. I had a slight problem upon disembarkation with the transfer I had pre-arranged myself before the cruise. Fortunately the representative of Star Clippers in Cannes was extremely helpful. In such a cruise, tender service is particularly important as the Royal Clipper was almost always anchored off the places we were visiting. There were no long waits and no tickets to be collected for the tenders like in big cruisers - an advantage of small ships like ours. The tenders were designed in a way that it was also possible to get in and out of them on places with no port facilities like a beach. The bottom of the tenders are for that reason rather flat and as a consequence, the trail of waves left by other passing boats would make us waltz. On those occasions the girls were extremely amused, other senior passengers however were much less thrilled. In one occasion when the RC was anchored off Bonifacio and the sea was a bit rougher than the usual a senior passenger in panic made a dangerous jump from the tender to the platform at the bottom of the gangway. The tender had not yet been properly docked to the platform and the crew was in the third attempt to do it. The tenders seemed to be difficult to deal with but one could see the crew assigned to them was extremely talented. Occasionally we would arrive at our destination slightly wet. It is advisable to choose the back of the tender to seat. It would be also prudent to provide the tenders with the appropriate features to prevent passengers in panic to make dangerous moves. Finally let me tell you that the ship was very clean. Wherever I went during the day, there was always someone cleaning or polishing whatever there was to be polished. Maintenance on the sun deck however was very difficult specially because there was still some work being done by the crew. The ship was new and I noticed there were some features on the final stages of completion - some parts of the ship had not yet been varnished. THE PEOPLE It’s useful to know what breed of people we are likely to find in a cruise and eventually identify ourselves with that group. In a small ship, faces become easily familiar. The atmosphere on board was informal. I spotted on this cruise a young couple and they seemed to be honeymooners. However their behavior did not fit into the patterns of honeymooners. The bright color of their skin, eyes and hair made me recognize them as northern Europeans. One day, they sat in a nearby place in the tender that took us from the ship to the marina of Porto Cervo. They exchanged few and brief words. Still I could not identify their language. They were from northern Europe though probably not Scandinavia. During the cruise, never have I witnessed a kiss, a caress, a smile even a slight touch of hands. Eye contact only occurred during the brief dialogues. Should anyone ask me if the Royal Clipper is a good place for honeymooners, after what I saw I would be inclined to answer no. The seriousness of their faces never gave way to any symptom of happiness. On second thoughts however, the close presence of the sea, not so easily perceptible in huge cruisers with exaggerated number of entertainment, the wonderful sunsets, the easily observed full moons during that particular week and its delicate lightning, the particular concept of sailing of this ship, all seem to be prone to romanticism. I’m now led to the conclusion that the cold nature of peoples of northern Europe would never allow that young couple to express in public even the slightest sign of love. Yes, I’m convinced this is the right place for honeymooners. It’s very unpleasant to deal with wild children, travelling on a cruise. One must not forget that such children are the result of unfitted parents. There were no children falling into that category on our cruise and even if there were unfitted parents they were enough clever not to bring them along. On our particular cruise I remember a large family from Sweden the core of which was a senior gentleman who was travelling with sons and grandsons. I could read on the eyes of that particular gentleman how pleased he was when seated on the sun deck playing a game of cards with the youngest of his grandsons. He would say to the other passengers nearby in a laughing and proud voice: ‘when I play with him I’m always loosing’. The young boy was also extremely excited to have all the adult’s attention focused on him. Thus, providing you give children the attention they need and not abandon them to their will, the Royal Clipper is perfectly suited for a family to spend a few relaxing days. Even if there were no special programs for kids I never noticed any signs of boredom on the faces of the few children on board. Adolescents however would prefer the company of other people of their age. Children even gave their contribution to the entertainment shows. Speaking of which, we were offered one every night. A group of singers was brought one night from Corsica. It was my favourite performance. On another night the crew gave their contribution with unexpected skills. There were other shows I did not particularly enjoy, but they seemed to be well accepted by the other passengers. Although not disposing of the means generally offered by huge cruise liners, our cruise director proved to be resourceful and accessible. I have to say that I witnessed manners that I consider unexpected in such a place. The dinning room of any restaurant or cruise is the ideal place to study people and assess their upbringing. I wouldn’t like to flatter myself, but I can do it just looking at the way people eat. Do they make exaggerating noise when eating soup, do they take food into their mouths with knifes instead of forks, do they gesticulate with the silverware in their hands. This and other less perceptible signs are symptoms of careless upbringing.  Well, the dinning room and the long waits we endured provided me with one of my favourite diversions – study of people behaviour. I noticed one night a middle aged ‘gentleman’ sitting for dinner his shirt with loosen buttons and exhibiting the curled hair of his chest. My sister-in-law called my attention to a ‘lady’ in the same table with fancy dress, jewels on her neck and expensive wristwatch who decided to clean her teeth with the tips of her nails. I heard them speaking, and they had British accent, citizens of Her Majesty. Who would say! Would they have sons? What values were they able to pass to younger generations? I spare you other unexpected details of human behaviour I witnessed during that week while sited in the sun deck my eyes concealed behind my dark sunglasses and a book with a title no one could read in front of my face. It’s very important yet that you understand that I’m not trying to insult those people but rather to demonstrate what you are likely to find on board. When I first turned over the pages of the prospectus of Star Clippers, I saw pictures of happy and sophisticated people. I was intimidated and began to wonder if once on board I would identify myself with that fauna. It turns out now that I’m more sophisticated than a considerable number of people I met on board. I had made an error of judgement. When I looked at those pictures my eyes saw the appearance and missed the essence. A lot of that people have the means but not the manners. The manners can’t be the object of commercial transaction. Whether one is provided with them during childhood or one missed them for good. The purpose of the last paragraphs is an advice to people considering booking a cruise. If you examine the prospectus do never get intimidated by what you see. Reality is often different from what we would expect. Rely on the advice of other people who went through those experiences. ITINERARY In what concerns the itinerary I was personally less pleased with some aspects. I got to see Corsica quite well and it’s definitively a place to return to. I had higher expectations for Sardinia but we made only one stop at Porto Cervo a place whose infrastructure was developed by the Aga Khan foundation. I’m personally convinced this name was the main key to include the place in our itinerary. At least Sardinia deserved another stop like we did in Figari beach in Corsica. Back home, whenever people ask me how did I find Sardinia I have to tell them that I have not seen enough. Elba island, an historical site where Napoleon was forced to live in exile after is first abdication was worth while as was Portofino. Finally, Monaco is intended for those who like casinos and gambling. I have myself been in some casinos but not Monaco’s, and have lost money. It was nevertheless an inspiring experience. I won something much more precious. Wisdom. Plenty enough not to gamble ever again. If you are in need for it, go to a casino in Monte Carlo. Once back home you could praise yourself in front of family and friends that you won such preciousness in such a glamorous place – a unique experience. Be aware the ritual requires that in such places attire is important. Shorts and polo shirts are out of the question in opposition to the informal ambiance of the Royal Clipper. Otherwise Monte Carlo is packed with tourists, there are traffic jams, breathing on some less windy roads becomes difficult because of exhausts from cars and the place has too many skyscrapers – a true forest of concrete. It might have been interesting some decades ago. A visit to the region around it, ‘Les Alpes Maritimes’ as the French call it would have been much more adequate as this region has breathtaking landscapes. Star Clippers provided excursions around Monte Carlo and one of them included a flight in helicopter - expensive but maybe worthwhile. However I do not think that Star Clippers should include this stop in the itinerary. It can be reached before or after the cruise by anyone staying in Cannes – less than an hour away by car – and be visited in a more thorough way. If Star Clippers is determined to include it on this route for commercial reasons, quite a lot of passengers are, as to say hypnotized by the name Monte Carlo, it would be more advisable to make the start of the journey from here and skip Cannes. I don’t see the point of having in the itinerary a place so close to starting/finishing place of the cruise. I can’t quote on the shore excursions. Should I make the same journey again I would most definitively had tried one in Elba and in Monaco. LAST WORDS As an advice let me tell you that not a year goes by without a new cruiser being launched and that they are every time getting bigger and bigger. Bare in mind however that this happens for commercial purposes. In such places passenger expectations are processed as a big computer processes huge amounts of data – swiftly and impersonally. It’s hard to find the feeling of being close to the sea, the element where we all came from. I remember the morning we arrived to Monte Carlo there was a big cruiser anchored off the port, the Grand Princess. If I’m not wrong it’s for the moment the second biggest, I can imagine how graceful and stylish our clipper would look from the bridge of that monster. I don’t think after this experience that it is advisable to book a cruise on the first season of a particular ship. New cruisers have sometimes to undergo unexpected repairs. An example of that is the Millenium from Celebrity Cruises. Allow one year before you make any booking. It still will be a new ship and you will provide the crew enough time to make the necessary adjustments to the new demanding procedures. I can imagine that running a ship is tough. Quite frankly what’s the thrill of telling friends – I was among the first to go on that ship. It’s now slightly more than a month that I left the south of France and the Royal Clipper. I’m back home to my daily routines. When I have the time to relax, I lie back, close my eyes and listen to music, another one of my favorite hobbies. I often listen to the ‘Conquest to Paradise’ from Vangelis. It was often played aboard the Royal Clipper when the sails were lowered. Flashes of those excellent few days return to my mind with nostalgia. Those days seem now like brief and precious few minutes. French have an interesting saying reading plainly this state of mind: ‘Les parfums les plus précieux se gardent dans de petits flacons’ meaning the most precious perfumes come in tiny little bottles. Should anyone ask me whether I would like to fill the scent of that ship again, the answer would be a sincere and prompt yes. If this review did not cover every significant aspect, feel free to ask additional details. José Sá

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

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 Café, 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.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Mediterranean

We reserved the owner’s cabin 001, approximately 18 months earlier After the ship departed Istanbul we returned to our cabin and discovered a fowl smell. The odor was similar to a sewer smell. That night the crew tried to air out the room by keeping the doors open and using electric fans. After a few hours the crew realized the odor was still very much present so they offered us a place to sleep the first night, two separate small

cabins. We had already unpacked and since three of us were celebrating a special occasion, we were not satisfied with this condition. We were also planning a champagne cocktail celebration in our cabin the first night, which was canceled. The next morning the odor was slightly less but by early evening the odor returned. Interestingly the only rooms that smelled fresh were the two bathrooms so the odor was seeping from underneath the flooring or the ventilation system. One evening we attempted to have a cocktail hour in our cabin, the guests could not believe we were living a week in a “stink hole and this is suppose to be the Best cabin on the Ship” We tried to stay out of the room as much as possible and during the last two days it was totally unbearable. Apparently a pipe broke underneath the flooring, which carried waste products. The crew closed off our bathroom and brought a water vacuum to try and dry our carpet, our stairs and the hallway. Again our doors were left open for everyone to gawk. For two days we had to walk through wet waste in our cabin entrance and stairs plus the hallway. It was disgusting. The final night, I slept with a sheet over my head in order not to inhale the fumes. Every RSVP and Royal Clipper staff member was aware of the problem but they had no solutions. Obviously our cruise was ruined and after contacting RSVP and Royal Clipper both companies refused to offer any type of compensation.

Read More
  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Royal Clipper Barbados, St. Lucia, Terre de Haut (Iles des Saintes), Dominica, Antigua. St. Kitts, Martinique, Barbados After numerous cruises to the Western Caribbean on a variety of conventional cruise ships, I was looking for something different for our annual wedding anniversary cruise in December. I found the Star Clipper Line on the internet and was fascinated by the ship and the itinerary….the Windward Islands, places

we had never been before. When we arrived in Barbados, and the cruise line rep waiting at the airport called us by name, I knew we were in for something special. Our bags were in the cabin in minutes. The ship is fairly new (July, 2000). This is a big sailing ship - not a hotel. Biggest sailing cruise ship in the world - certainly bigger than any plying the Caribbean waters or the Med. A visual feast with five very tall masts, and almost always under sail. Compare it to other sailing ships or steel cruise ships: 429 feet long, masts almost 200 feet high, 54 foot beam (width), 56,000 square feet of sail (a typical cabin on a cruise ship has 140 square feet floor area.) Includes 26 square sails, 12 staysails, three jibs, a spanker. Every time the sailed and hoisted sail, they played inspiring music over the topside speakers! High quality appointments, cabin fixtures, and materials throughout. Very pleasant crew, enough food - well prepared - to keep us alive and happy. Rides the waves like a sailing ship - not bumpy, not flat, not boring. You're here to sail but not to fear for your life. 20 knots top speed at sail (that's very fast over 4-6 foot swells - feels great!) This ship has stairs (lots of them), no elevator, three wetting pools, more open deck space than 5 cruise ships, ample lounge chairs, and a nice quiet "public" room and library. The cabins - even the basic ones - are very well appointed, attractive, and roomy. The whole place feels pretty upscale but you don't find yourself wishing you brought your tux or tiara. Pax capacity is 228. The mix was 15% US, 20% UK, 50% Germany, 15% Canada and others. All adults. At most ports, we anchored offshore and used the tenders to land. The marketing brochures of Star Clipper leads one to expect unique landing or small beach anchorages. This ship is too large to sneak into some swimming holes. But it certainly comes near shores easily. Although Windstar and other sailing lines (like Windjammer)" sail these waters, it was clear in most ports that the size and unique qualities of the Royal Clipper earned admiring gazes of many folks on shore, and even other conventional cruise ships. One went out of their way to pass close for their pax to take photographs of us under sail, leaving St. Kitts. The Crew: A mixture of nationalities of very pleasant men and woman who are relaxed, polite, and obviously satisfied to work on this vessel. Many eastern European men are in the deck crew. Many said they had worked for several of the larger cruise lines but chose Star Clipper Lines. They treat the employees well, even letting some return home during peak periods like the holidays. Officers were Norwegian, Polish, English, etc. Captain Marek is animated, boisterous, loves to dance with guests, eats in the dining room every night, and loves rainbows!! For most, his positive energy was contagious. The bridge is always open to visitors. The Cabins: They're clean, well decorated, comfy, and have adequate space, with storage for bags under bed. We had a true double bed, not two twins faking it. Lots of wood (ersatz) and classical-looking materials. Marble (real) in the bathroom. Toiletries provided and towels changed twice a day. Storage adequate, not great. Rooms sound proof - except in some when the anchors come and go, or the power grinders help with the sail lines. Carpeting galore. Nice nautical colors and patterns. No neon. No "art".  TV ran text news - sometimes. Movies played in English, French, German, and a variety of music on several channels. In room safes were available. Public rooms: Nice variety - exterior very free form, interiors like large living rooms. A comfy library with a faux fireplace. A forward room called the Observation Lounge that few people use. Contains two computers for Internet use if you purchase an internet card, and board games. A library, as equipped as other ships. Below decks, you can descend to Nemo's Lounge. It's not a lounge as was planned, but the "gym" and a beauty salon.  It has exercise machines, including some treadmills and stationery bicycles, and a few other devices. There were, as advertised, three or four underwater portholes ! A great idea. Except in day you can't see much. Amidships, (above the water line) is a very nice and quiet inside room, called the Piano Bar which is really just a large space with couches, chairs, coffee machines, a bar and a piano. It surrounds the "atrium" - another touch from the "big iron ships." The dining room is the lower level of the "atrium." The dining room is wonderful and skillfully plotted to handle everyone at any time. The galley (and dishes, serving stations) seem to be miles away - so it's quiet, odorless. Buffet dinner the first night before sailing, and all breakfasts and lunches. Dinner is open seating ala carte menu. Come in anytime between 7:30 and 10pm. A bar and covered deck area (where we embark and disembark) were nautical and nice. This is were after dinner dancing, entertainment by crew and passengers, and fun and games takes place at night. One night they brought aboard a fabulous steel band until we sailed about 11pm. The top (Sun) deck is the best - huge, all areas open. Features big things which help the ship sail - like masts, lines, machines, gadgets, chains. All teak decking, abundant benches and things to sit on or lean against or lie on. Visibility from the deck is 360 degrees with no air conditioning boxes or cranes blocking your view or your movement. The pools are wet - one has a glass bottom which is viewed from the piano bar atrium. Two are very small. I like to float in water that's floating on a ship that's floating in sea. It's comfy - if you like salt water. There's lots of room to stand or sit by the bridge area - there's a great high platform to stand like an Admiral and study the horizon. Looking back over the deck, even the slightest roll of the ship is magnified by the 200 foot masts - this thing is an engineering marvel that must be seen to appreciated. We heard it cost $65 million to float it - that may be low. Forward (in front of) the bridge area is more deck space. And beyond that (even more forward) is some tight netting that hangs out over the water under the bowsprit. (That's the stick thing that points ahead of the ship.) You can get out on this net - there's room for a brigade - and ride (dry) above the waves just ahead of the ship as it cuts thru the surf. Food: There's a lot of it. The variety at breakfast and lunch buffet each day is amazing. Breakfasts had all the normal crunchy stuff plus oatmeal. A nice chef with stove top cooked eggs any way/any time/any amount you like. Lunches had lots of greens, lots of cheeses, lots of noodle things, lots of fruits, lots of desserts. And many hot dishes, meats.  Dinners were very nice. Every night there were three entry choices, and two choices of appetizer, a soup, a salad, a pasta, three desserts, and a cheese plate. Selections included lobster tail, rack of lamb, baked salmon, flounder, grouper, beef tenderloin, duck, shrimp tempura etc. The wine list is good, and more moderately priced than any cruise line we have been on. $125 for bottle of good French merlot, the house red wine, $22 for a French pinot noir, etc. They don't "push" alcohol. There were finger sandwiches, fruit and hot snacks from 5-6pm on deck, and a snack in the piano bar from 1130pm-0030am. There is no room service except in suites. Didn't need it anyway. Noticeably absent are ship photographers. There was one captain's night, when men ore shirts with ties, few coats. Other nights, long trousers and tropical or polo shirts for men and nice casual for women. During the day shorts, etc were acceptable. Sports The ship has a platform off the back (the stern) that lowers into the water. The ship comes apart - and a float platform, with room for 40, becomes a dock in the water (when the ship is anchored). You can swim off that - I did. They launch some scuba and snorkel adventures off that. They also offer banana boat and zodiac boat rides, and a Laser sailboat…..all for free. You can borrow for a week (for free) all the snorkel and scuba gear you need. It's well organized. In some ports the equipment is moved to the beach. Shops: The desk where the purser lives has toothpaste, lighters, and any combination of hats and shirts with the ship's logo. No emeralds, no booze, no art, no nonsense, no discounts. Diamonds International and Columbian Emeralds are not represented. Tours: Couldn't comment. We didn't take them. Seemed moderate and well-planned. Tour director was professional and thoughtful - not a shill for the line's treasury. Ports: St. Lucia: most shops closed on Sunday. Visited Reduit Beach/anchored in Rodney Bay. Terre de Haut (Iles des Saintes): Anchored. Picturesque French fishing village with shops. Used private beach at resort hotel….topless permitted. Antigua: Anchored off Falmouth Harbor….longest in port day 11am-11pm. Tendered to beach for BBQ then tendered to yacht club and walked to English Harbor and Nelson Dockyard. Looks like Annapolis harbor with some HUGE yachts and lots of sailing yachts. Some people took taxis to St. John's to shop. St. Kitts: Anchored off Basseterre/then moved to anchorage at South Friars Beach in Frigate Bay. Spectacular unspoiled scenery. Artificial reef with good snorkeling and some topless sunbathing. No hotels in sight….just beach, sea, and green mountains. Dominica: Pier-side at Cabrits, Portsmouth. Rain forest. Snorkeling excursion by tender to underwater park. Rain!! Martinique: Pierside in Forte de France. Walked to downtown shopping. Very French. My wife called it a woman's port: lots of boutique dress shops, jewelry, etc. Went to duty free shops. Some took ferry to resort strip which they swore was like the southern coast of France. Left too soon. We purchased our air through the cruise line and bought insurance….due to the recent troubles. The ship arrived in Barbados the last day 13 hours late due to rough weather. They advised everyone early and they said they would handle new travel arrangements for everyone by satellite to their European and Florida offices, whether we had purchased through the cruise line or not. The held a briefing and then held "open bar" for the rest of the day….including wine with lunch and dinner. We finally arrived after dinner, and they promptly transported us to a Barbados resort hotel on the beach and provided the room and meals at not cost, and transfer to the airport the next day. A class act. And I only heard one complaint. Imagine that on Carnival! Misc: No problem with purchasing liquor ashore and bringing it aboard to use in the cabin. 220V electricity except shavers. No doctor aboard, only a nurse who also works in the dining room. Tips directly to the crew are discouraged. Guideline is $8 per day per person, put in cash or charge to a pool shared equally by the crew. No smoking in cabins or any enclosed public areas, except a few smoking tables and a small area in the piano bar. Major pros: Ship is stunning and sea-worthy - and truly sails (by hand, not computer.) Plenty of space, beautiful fixtures and decorating. Well planned. Passenger count and socialization, if desired, is very satisfying. "Intimate" is not the perfect word, but the idea works. Major cons: None. But you must know difference between sailing this ship and floating on a cruise ship. This ship sails. There is the "motion of the ocean." Some may wish they were back in the Waldorf. Most pax who were concerned used patches or Dramamine tablets. Compares: To no ship at sea - it surpasses other "sailing" cruise ships that are upscale with metallic sails or sails that are moved by computers. The Royal's sails, while lowered and raised with power aids, are set and "trimmed" by the Captain and his crew for maximum efficiency. And in size and material, this is closest to what were true sailing ships of the 19th century - the way people and goods moved between the hemispheres. Note: We have cruised twice on Princess, 5 times on Carnival, once on HAL and once on RCL, and my wife has cruised on QE2 and Norwegian once each. We'll do those again, but this was special. From the pricing and outfitting, you will expect to see folks who might otherwise ride Princess or HAL ships. This is not the Carnival crowd. This is a cerebral crowd, usually sober, bored with slot machines, and past the stage of wearing baseball caps (backwards), tank top shirts, or nose rings. I'll likely try another Star Clippers Line cruise next year, perhaps on Star Clipper through the Treasure Islands! I wrote this review from my own notes and editing those of John Bradford who took the same cruise in Feb 3-10, 2001. Didn't want to reinvent, but add to the review, and compare how it was over the past 10 months for this new ship. It is even better today than last February.

Read More

Cruise Forums

Have a cruising question? Ask our Fodorite community.

Cruise News

Read our latest news about cruises.

Store

Shop our travel guides on European, Caribbean, and Alaskan cruises.

Back To Top