Royal Clipper: Your Questions Answered

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, chriscruises.com.





Sailing on Star Clippers Royal Clipper, we happened upon an entirely different style of travel: sailing. We just thought we knew what cruise travel was all about until we came on board the ship with sails on a trip through the Caribbean’s Windward Islands. Quite frankly, our island-hopping itinerary was much more than we anticipated but followed a tried and true formula that took us away from ‘the real world’, allowing a quality travel experience like no other. Along the way we answered questions from readers with posts specific to common concerns. Today we take a look at other elements of the Star Clippers sailing style; parts not covered in other writings about our amazing adventure.



Motion In The Ocean
One of the big questions that came up along the way is best put by Roger from Tulsa, Oklahoma who asks “So, a ship at sea with sails; lots of movement? Only hearty souls need apply?”



Pretty much, Roger. When we were at sea, you knew it without looking outside to be sure. Commonly recommended to ‘avoid touching hand rails when walking up and down stairs to avoid norovirus’, there was no choice here: hang on for dear life or die trying…at times. On our itinerary the time of concern was leaving and coming back in to Barbados where the seas were the most rough and the most movement was felt. Still, it was kind of fun ‘walking like drunks’ without drinking.



I asked hotel manager Steve Adamson about that, wondering “Do you have a lot of passenger injuries?”. Surprisingly few actually because “passengers know what to expect” when booking a Star Clippers ship. Most have sailing experience or are past guests (more than 50% are) and have handled the motion in the ocean successfully before.



The Nautical Aspect
Riding on a ship with sails that actually propel the vessel is quite a different experience than sailing a big ocean ship. on the first sailaway, grand seagoing music was played while the sails were set for us to journey off into the night. After our first sailaway, Rob R from Kansas City asked “I wonder if they do that every time they set the sails. If so, it might get old fast”. It didn’t get old, it got better.



Throughout the journey, passengers learn more about ships with sails, what it takes to make them work and what a big part of the experience that movement of the ship is. By the time the last sailaway rolled around we had gained a great appreciation for what our crew did to make that happen, if not a glimpse into what those on the early sailing ships of yesteryear might have felt. That last sailaway was a bit emotional for many on board.



Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
“Ok, you were on a ship with sails, appear to have liked it. Would you do it again?” asked Sally B from Atlanta. Absolutely Sally. This is not a three times a year experience to be sure, but at least once in every cruise traveler’s lifetime they should do this. Beware: Post-cruise depression is alive and well in those who have done this and look back in the direction from which they came upon disembarking, hoping for one last glimpse of “our ship”.



I hope we can sail on a Star Clippers ship again some day. The experience is so remarkable that passengers are left wanting to share it with others who will appreciate it.



To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  510 Hits
  0 Comments

Chris Features the Finer Points

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, chriscruises.com.





Spending the day in Terre de Haute, a French island in the Caribbean never visited by big ships, I was reminded of the obvious: Star Clipper ships go where big ships can not. But more than the small size of their ships and that they are powered by wind for the most part, there are other features that we discovered on a Windward Islands sailing of Royal Clipper.






Small, But Nicely Appointed Cabins
We had stateroom 208, an Oceanview cabin with two porthole windows that was laid out quite nicely. Two twin beds that could be converted to a double like most other cruise lines are standard. Under-bed storage took our biggest pieces of luggage and a built in storage drawer was a nice addition. Cabin lighting options provided a number of different possibilities ranging from full light to sectional lighting appropriate for working at the built in desk, illuminating a curtained changing area only and more. One closet with hangars was about half what many other lines offer but with hangers mounted high, additional storage below made up for it. The star of the show in cabin appointments though is the marble-floored bathroom which is a generous size with adequate storage behind a triple pane mirror and under the sink.






At the Purser’s Desk/Sloop Shop onboard clothing and logo shop, DVDs are available to borrow at no charge. Passengers can choose from hundreds of titles but I can’t for the life of me see why someone would want to watch television on this ship. Cabins have TV’s and a DVD player but we turned on CNN once and it was such a bad fit for the ambience of Royal Clipper that we turned it off rather quickly.



These are sailing ships with sailors that man the decks as the captain calls out commands. They make quite a show of it too, playing grand orchestral compositions of seagoing music as the ship’s sails are set, every single time. Initially, I thought that would get old pretty fast. On the contrary, as the voyage proceeded and we learned more about sailing ships from the crew and well-traveled passengers we came to appreciate it more each time. As I write this we have two more sailaways left on our itinerary and I’d imagine that the last one will be quite difficult to bear.






A Captain’s Captain
Never has the term “master of the vessel” had more meaning than on this ship. Frankly, I respected that position on other sailings and appreciated the tremendous weight of responsibility that rested on the Captain’s shoulders. Still, on Royal Clipper we see navigation happening in many ways as it has for hundreds of years at sea. Sails are made of longer lasting material now and not canvass. Voyages take weeks rather than months. Modern technology supplements age-old sailing ways. But the Captain is an active, working part of the crew and is constantly present.



One day we met up with another Star Clipper ship and a traditional salute had crew members on the Bow Sprit (pointy thing on the front) of both ships, displaying the flags of their home nations. Another day passengers boarded tender boats to see Royal Clipper with all sails deployed. The masterful seamen on board were able to do that and not outrun the tenders but place the ship in nearly a station-keeping position (to borrow a Star Trek term), one sail set for forward motion while another compensated with equal force in the opposite direction.



After that event, when passengers were back on the ship, they were invited to take a photo of the crew, assembled as a group on deck. Captain Tunikov was quick to give credit to his crew, inviting passengers to get a photo of “the best sailing crew in the world,” a hearty approbation of which no passenger had any doubt.






The Cuisine
Sure, food is a big part of any cruise experience and it has evolved over time. Big ships have gone from “let me fill my gaping maw” buffets to healthy-choice options and a variety of onboard venues from which to choose. On Star Clippers, the attention to detail on culinary offerings is nearly beyond description. I say “nearly” because this is the topic of an upcoming post covering dining from A to Z and we will get into great detail there.



But researching this cruise line and ship prior to boarding, we found very little information about dining. Few details, reviews, menus…nothing. We’ll correct that omission from the body of knowledge available about Royal Clipper shortly. For now, describing the culinary offerings on Royal Clipper one word stands out as quite appropriate: Fabulous. No, really fabulous and not in a gaudy, showy way. Stay tuned for more on that topic shortly.



Let’s put it this way: I can’t remember the last time I had food so good on a cruise ship that I wanted and nearly did eat everything on the menu.






There are other unique features of the Star Clippers experience and we’ll get into those when we reader answer questions, gathered along the way.



To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  290 Hits
  0 Comments

A Day In Terre de Haut Via Royal Clipper

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, chriscruises.com.





Nearing the end of our Windward Islands itinerary with Star Clippers we have been to a different port each day. Sailing round-trip Barbados to St Lucia, Dominica, Antigua and St Kitts, we stopped at the French island of Terre de Haut on the way to Martinique.



Royal Clipper anchored just off shore as she had for all our ports of call, running continuous tenders to the seaside town’s marina and to a nearby beach. On a self-guided walking tour, we enjoyed a fresh baked baguette, just out of the oven while snapping a few photos along the way.



Quite a colorful place, the French-speaking town was full of activity from tourists visiting by land as well as luxury yachts docked next to our ship with sails. This is one of those places that would be nice to come back to one day and spend more time.


















To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  220 Hits
  0 Comments

Antigua Welcomes Star Clippers, Royally

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, www.chriscruises.com.





As if island-hopping in the Caribbean on a ship with sails is not adventure enough, passengers on Star Clippers Royal Clipper had a select list of shore excursions from which to choose. An Antigua Rhino Adventure, Kayak Echo Tour and an Island Jeep Safari kept many passengers off the ship all day. Add in a beach barbecue, with a relaxing massage or water gymnastics with the ship’s sports team and it was a full day ashore. Or not. Other passengers chose to stay on board and read a book, lounge on deck or do nothing at all.



Comparing the Star Clippers experience to other niche cruise options is no easy task. There simply is no other cruise choice that comes close. Wind Star cruises has ships with sails that appear from a distance to be sailing ships. But the able bodied seamen on Royal Clipper are quick to dismiss their mock sails as ‘just for show’ in a very matter of fact way.



Previous visits to Antigua took us to Pineapple Beach resort, a beautiful place with a wedding chapel perched high on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We thought that location was about as good as it could get on this island if not in the entire Caribbean. But approaching Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour via a ship with sails turns the focus in an entirely different direction.






It’s a common scene when Royal Clipper enters any populated area. Rather than local residents lining shores to wave good bye to the cruise ship, a common scene when big ships leave port, the focus is reversed. Local residents, boat and yacht owners and those on the few other ships we see in port line up to see the ship with sails arrive. I can see why too; Royal Clipper casts a striking image against just about any backdrop.



Upon arrival in Antigua, small sailing craft raced to get an up close view of the Guinness-record holding largest masted ship in the world. At the private beach barbecue, our Executive Chef prepared lunch on an open fire while the Maitre ‘d made sure everyone was well taken care of, all within sight of our ship. Some guests relaxed on the beach, others engaged in complementary water sports or went on to their shore excursion while a few returned to the ship or explored the island on their own.












We did a little of both; walking through town, drinking in the local flavor then returning to the ship for a leisurely afternoon. As we continue our voyage on Royal Clipper, one element of the experience seems universal: you can do whatever you want to do but don’t miss sailaway for any reason.



After this experience, the term “set sail” has an entirely different meaning than it has on any other ship we have ever sailed on. The correct term, we learned early in the voyage was to “set the sails” and that indeed is a major event every single day. Setting the sails are sailors who work in unison, right in front of the passengers as the Captain calls out commands that are instantly repeated by the seaman responsible for executing the order. Every single time. It’s a military-precision operation that results in a breathtaking event that is totally over the top for those who appreciate such things. There is a huge undeniable difference between a big ship where someone we don’t see uses a joystick and thrusters to move the vessel into a launch position and sailors setting the sails.



Antigua is a beautiful port with captivating aquamarine water that is just as pretty as a picture. Ply those waters on a ship with sails and the experience is simply something you have to do to appreciate.
  255 Hits
  0 Comments

A Tour Of Cabrits, Dominica, Brings A Different Outlook

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises recently took a Royal Clipper sailing. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, www.chriscruises.com.





Stopping at the volcanic island of Cabrits in Dominica, we spent some time touring on our own. Arriving via Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper, the ship would be anchored a short distance from the island, running continual tender operations throughout the day. A quick lunch ashore, a visit to the crater of a once-active volcano and a new friend later, we were back on board, sailing off into the sunset again.



Getting ashore from Royal Clipper almost always requires a tender operation, done a bit differently. The ship carries actual tender boats for what they call a “triangular” operation. Tenders depart from the ship, stopping first at the port’s marina then on to the beach before returning to start all over again…or something like that. This is one of the areas where Star Clippers don’t get very specific, much like the time in port when viewing itineraries in advance of sailing. This is a good thing.



Rather than commit months in advance to being somewhere at an exact time, ships with sails need to leave scheduling a bit loose. Weather, ocean currents and winds have a lot to do with where we end up on a given day. On board, daily programs do lock in on a time, based on recent weather conditions and experience. Still, not being on a rigid schedule is very much a big part of the Star Clipper experience and we like that just fine.









It’s sort of like how the ship has a satellite Internet system but yet it doesn’t.



Guests are encouraged to ‘just forget about the Internet and enjoy your vacation’. That truly is the best bet. Satellite Internet at sea is always a complicated process with any ship in motion, constantly having to reacquire line-of-sight connectivity. Add that ships with sails are not only in forward motion but bobbing up and down, and side to side making staying connected a lot like trying to thread a needle while running with your eyes closed. I am pretty sure that Christopher Columbus had a better connection on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria than we have here. And that’s ok.



That reality puts our regularly scheduled programming plan of a live report, all the time, in Davy Jones’ locker but that’s ok too. We will catch you up when we can along the way and post gazillions of photos and reports back on dry land.









That’s why our first stop in Cabrits was Prince Rupert’s Tavern, Restaurant And Bar with free Wi-Fi. After a quick email check it was off with Thomas, our guide for the day and a lifelong resident of Dominica, eager to share highlights of his home.



Probably one of the best $40 we have spent ashore, Thomas took us high up into the rainforest where we hiked down to the crater bed of a once-active volcano. Along the way we captured images of some pretty amazing scenery and lush vegetation then came away with a friend on the island that we hope to visit again some day.






Later in the afternoon, Royal Clipper would reposition to the other side of the island, stopping briefly to pick up passengers who ended a river tubing trip there. That was one of a select offering of shore excursions available and the subject of our next post…whenever that might be.



To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  289 Hits
  0 Comments

Small Ship Advantages

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, www.chriscruises.com.





Sailing Star Clippers, it did not take long to notice that smaller ocean-going ships offer some distinct advantages not possible with larger vessels. Our first port of call on Royal Clipper took us to the lovely island of St Lucia, a tender port as most are on our itinerary. Normally not a big fan of tender ports, there is a huge difference between moving a couple hundred people on our ship with sails and thousands off a larger ship. The process is rather easy. But moving a comparatively miniscule number of passengers is far from the only difference.



Smaller Ships At Smaller Ports
That Star Clipper ships stop at ports rarely visited by large ships is unique. Cruise travelers who have become a bit bored with big ship-capable ports will like the change in scenery. A bonus is that the ports are not overwhelmed by a massive surge in visitors as multiple ships deposit legions of passengers ashore for the day.



In St Lucia’s Rodney Bay, we found a more relaxed scene with less crowded beaches, shops and restaurants. At the end of the pier were tour operators waiting for those on excursions but also local guides willing and able to take us on a leisurely, custom tour. Charles from Charles In Charge tours was happy to talk to me for about a half hour about the island, what it had to offer and what he would charge, even after I told him I was not interested. The difference was that Charles was conveying his love of his island and was happy to talk about it with no sales pitch pressure.






Nemo would love this
Dining is a big part of any cruise travel experience it seems and doing so with Star Clippers is no exception. An early riser continental buffet starts the day, followed by a breakfast and lunch buffet. At breakfast an omelet station prepares made to order creations and lunch brings a pasta station with a variety of choices also.



Royal Clipper has one dining room with porthole views of the ocean that are very much like what the crew members might see on a big ship. Gazing out of the window at lunch on the way to St Lucia we were right at water level. Passing through a wave brought an underwater view that, in the crystal clear Caribbean, is something we just don’t see on other ships.






Able Bodied Seniors With A Passion For Life
Sailing in moderately heavy seas the first night, Royal Clipper was rocking and rolling but cabin stewards are prepared, raising sideboards on bed to keep passengers off the floor. To those who enjoy that motion, it was very much like being rocked to sleep, perhaps as a baby in a cradle. Interestingly, the largely senior passenger mix navigated hallways, stairs and open decks with ease on well-traveled sea legs. Veteran hotel manager Steven Adamson told me that is usually the case as passengers who book Star Clipper ships are comfortable with the elements of ocean travel on a ship with sails.



Indeed, it seems every one of them has a story. Ronald from Maryland built model sailing ships as a boy and later worked for the Smithsonian doing the same. Freda from the UK was looking forward to climbing the mast to get an idea of what her father might have seen as a wiry young man who did the same in the Royal Navy.






The People Element Presents Itself Early In The Voyage
Regular readers here know this is not our first mention of how meeting others along the way can make for a rich travel experience. We have found that on the biggest of big ships too. Many of our friends were met on a big cruise ship. Still, it seems that the smaller the ship is, the more apt we are to meet and engage other passengers. We found that on Azamara Club Cruises smaller Azamara Journey. On Viking River Cruise longships we enjoyed meeting many of the 190 people on board. From the biggest to the tiniest ships, each offers a unique cruise vacation experience.



One of the distinct advantages of sailing Royal Clipper is that those on board share a love of the sea unlike we have experienced before.



How interested in ships with sails are the passengers on board? Nearly half of the passenger group were invited to the past guest party after our departure from St Lucia. Held on deck, Captain Tunikov told stories from the sea to the appreciative audience, most of whom had sailed with him before.






Frankly, it would be easy to be embarrassed about our entire cruise history in this environment. I can’t help but think of our friend Peter Knego, a maritime history authority who would be right at home on this ship and could probably swap stories with the best of them.



That said, just a couple days into our Windward Islands sailing, we have learned more about ships, made more new friends who have a passion for travel and gained more of a perspective on the cruise industry than on any dozen other sailings. As this experience unfolds, we are clearly in an entirely different world, that of ships with sails and one we hope to share with you, every step of the way.



To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  224 Hits
  0 Comments

Sister Ships Meet in the Caribbean

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, www.chriscruises.com.

On the way to Cabrits in Dominica, we happened upon another ship with sails, smaller 172-passenger Star Clipper, little sister to our ship, Royal Clipper. As custom would have it, crewmembers gather on deck with the flags of their nations to salute one another. Under the watchful eye of Captain Tunikov, the two ships come close together for a while, with crew and passengers alike waving as songs from the variety of nationalities on board play.



It’s a huge photo opportunity for passengers, able to see a version of their ship up close while at sea. After nearly an hour together, the two ships parted ways as Star Clipper made her way to dock in Dominica and Royal Clipper would anchor not far away. While in port, crew members from either ship will come aboard, see old friends and have some special time during a rendezvous that happens every few weeks during the Caribbean season.






























To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  291 Hits
  0 Comments

Memories Come Full-Circle for Orlando Chris

Chis Owen of the popular blog Chris Cruises boarded Royal Clipper in Barbados. Chris is a travel-writer who focuses primarily on the cruise industry and he began live-tweeting, instagramming and blogging his experience aboard the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Follow along with Chris' journey here, or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, or his own blog, www.chriscruises.com.





We first saw Royal Clipper docked in Barbados a decade ago, then visiting the port off an 8-day Southern Caribbean sailing of Carnival Legend. Walking by the ship with sails that day, I casually admired the vessel but did not really think much about it; only that it would have been of great interest to my father, at one time fascinated by sailing. But then he had a passing fancy with a number of interests and often brought us along for the ride. Funny how things come full circle sometimes.



First it was golf and we joined a country club. Everyone in the family got a set of clubs, took golf lessons and we learned to love a sport. Then it was flying so dad bought an airplane, we all took flying lessons and learned how to soar. Along came sailing and a sailboat owners we became, learning the basics of seamanship and how to survive the elements. As the sails unfurled aboard Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper, on our first night heading out of Barbados, I thought of my dad and how much he would have enjoyed the experience



And an experience it was.












We talk a lot in this space about the current focus of cruise lines on the experiential element of what they do, regardless of the line. Big ocean ships, once the exclusive domain of the masses doing mass things are honing in on allowing us to step out of our comfort zone and into a new experience, no easy undertaking with thousands of souls aboard. Smaller ocean ships come by it naturally, going to places big ships can’t get close to. On the river, it’s an up close and personal experience with iconic destinations we may have only read about or seen in films or on television.



Just one day into our Windward Islands sailing of Royal Clipper and we see yet another totally unique experience ahead of us.



The largest fully rigged ship that the planet has ever seen, Royal Clipper’s numbers speak for themselves. In this world, it’s not how many tons the ship displaces but how many square feet of sail that counts. And count it does.










As Captain Sergey Tunikov ordered Royal Clipper to sea, music that otherwise might have been coined the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean played to a deck full of well-traveled guests. Random conversation was overheard while we waited for that event to happen, but was silenced as the Royal Clipper’s canvas was unfurled one by one, small sails feeding life into larger ones.



Sailing aficionados on board threw around sailing jargon, most of which had a familiar ring to it. As Royal Clipper moved farther and farther away from shore, sailing off into the night, I couldn’t help but think of my father and how much he would have enjoyed this. I was glad I had that sailing experience as a boy, happy that I could share it with Whitney, along with me on this sailing and humbled by what looks to be quite a unique travel experience, right from the start. Dad would have especially liked that thought.



Stay tuned as we go through the ship and onboard experience as well as the various ports of call seen along the way. This is going to be one amazing ride.



To visit Chris' blog click here: www.chriscruises.com
  291 Hits
  0 Comments