Historic Ship offers Unique Adventure on Carribean
By Lin Low
"Ahoy me maties! Pirates on the starboard bow! Fire the cannons! Raise the main sails and shove off to sea, ye scurvy bilge rats!"
The anchor is rising, and the crew is scurrying as the captain barks out commands. This is what I imagine as the Royal Clipper pulls out to sea.
OPULENCE AT SEA
On my recent excursion on this historic clipper ship replica, I flew from San Francisco to Miami to Barbados to the Carribean via American Airlines on a seven-day, high seas adventure. I could feel the wind blowing through my hair as I stood on top of the bow with my arms extended doing a scene from "Titanic," while the sails flapped wildly behind me.
"Yes, thank you," I said to the waiter. As I lay comfortably sipping the bubbly beverage on a lounge chair atop the huge, 19,000-square-foot open deck, the entire experience felt surreal. This was heaven, and for the next several days I would be sailing through the Windward Islands of the Caribbean.
How did I get here? Well, I’d always wanted to take a sailing cruise. I’ve been on many typical cruise ships with parties and casinos, but those do not interest me. I love adventure!
HOW IT BEGAN
A few weeks prior at a business meeting I met Dan Pedelaborde, the Director of Northwest National Sales, from the Star Clipper Cruise Company. He didn’t have to say much to convince me that this was the ship experience that I’d always dreamt of.
I did not hesitate to book my trip, and I was determined to go without any of my typical second thoughts of being seasick. And, now, I was out to sea with my patch on and all….no, not my pirate’s patch on my eye, but my seasickness patch below my ear!
THE ROYAL CLIPPER
Contrary to my active imagination, the Royal Clipper is by no means a pirate ship, though it frequently sails the once-common pirate infested waters of the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and Mediterranean Seas. According to Captain Segiy Pashchenko, the Royal Clipper is actually the world’s largest fully rigged sailing ship. It measures 439 feet long, 54 feet wide (beam) and has masts that are nearly 200 feet high. But, what really gives it its pirate ship feel are its fleet of sails billowing from its 5 huge steel masts! For you confirmed pirate types, there are 26 square sales, 12 staysails, 3 jibs, and a spinnaker.
The Royal Clipper does not navigate by stars nor sextant. Instead, it relies upon a state-of the art navigation system to guide it through sparkling clear Caribbean waters. And oh, how silently we sailed, easily sneaking up on loud cruise ships powered only by the wind in our sails. Did I say fast? Yes, with the wind in our 42 sails, we raced along at speeds of up to 20 knots! But no need to worry. In the event of doldrums, the Royal Clipper is able to be motor driven—but with its 56,000 square feet of sail area, this is rarely needed!
Although the sails and historic design of the boat made me feel like Sinbad, this old-world scenario melted away once I stepped inside my cabin. It was beautifully decorated in classically-styled décor, with hard wood (mahogany/teak) and brass fixtures. It even had black and white marble in the bathroom.
The Royal Clipper, which can accommodate up to 228 passengers, features two Owner’s Veranda suites (320 sq. ft), 14 Deluxe Veranda suites (255 sq. ft), two Deluxe suites with whirlpool tub, shower and mini-bar (175 sq. ft), and 88 Standard cabins with shower and two porthole windows (148 sq. ft).
Visiting the Windward Islands of the Caribbean was a treat. We stopped at St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts, Isle Des Saintes, Martinique, and Barbados. I could choose a few excursions per port, but since I have visited so many of these ports of call on past trips I selected Royal Clipper-sponsored beach activities, which meant I could hire a taxi and look for loot and treasures in the downtown shopping areas.
My pirate escapade was filled with many opportunities for adventure. Unlike classic pirate ships of yore, the Royal Clipper has a huge platform that can be lowered from the back of the ship when the ship is at anchor. From this platform you can enjoy many water sports including diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, water skiing and even banana boat rides.
What is a banana boat you ask? It is an inflated banana-shaped boat towed behind a ski boat. I was warned that I should not take this ride as the banana boat might capsize and I might fall off, but that didn’t stop me! And yes, I did fall off my banana boat, but before the captain could set sail and leave me to the sharks, I was able to scramble back on my banana boat with the help of my roommate Pina, and some new found friends.
PIRATE FANTASIES FULFILLED
In one day I really got to live not just one, but two of my pirate dreams! I climbed to the crow’s nest of one of the masts, 50 feet above the ship’s deck! Despite my safety harness, my heart was pounding a hundred miles per hour, but, oh, what a view! What an experience! What an accomplishment for an acrophobic like me!
My second pirate dream was to climb out in front of the bow of the ship while the ship was under sail. And I did! Myself and some other adventurous wanna-be pirate passengers climbed out onto the bow nets that are slung from the bowsprit. There we lay high above the water bounding over the waves and enjoying the sound of the waves crashing over the bow of the ship.
In the day, the most enthralling moment transpired during the raising of the sails while the speakers aired bold symphonic music. I imagined a classic movie scene where the soldiers would go out to sea to do battle to protect the motherland.
The ambiance of the Royal Clipper was anything but pirate-like. Just as the suites were elegantly decorated, so was the entire ship. The dining area was the most glamorous room. It sported a royal blue and rich, burgandy theme, with brass and mahogany wood fixtures, all magnificently accenting the elegant staircase linking the 3-level atrium-like dining room. And, to my shock and surprise, the roof of this area was actually the bottom of the glass bottom swimming pool up on deck! How unique, and what a lovely atmosphere to enjoy the open seating meals.
Breakfast was served buffet style with an omelet chef always attentive to cook my eggs just the way I liked them! Also, lunch was served as an international food buffet ranging from stir-fried vegetables & noodles to sushi to curry chicken and roast beef. Dinner was served a la carte with most selections beautifully presented. I usually got my fill of steak every night.
The evenings on board the ship were fun and filled with comradry, even though the passengers came from all over the world. Yet, language was not a problem as between the staff and passengers. About 25 different languages were spoken, and about 50% of the passengers were repeat Royal Clipper passengers making for a joyous and festive occasion. So, it was no surprise that during the talent show, the staff and the passengers had fun showing their talents at the Tropical Bar on the main deck. One night we enjoyed crab races, another night beautiful ice sculptures, and on yet another night a local steel band from Antigua performed for us. On our trip we were especially lucky as Jim Graham, a member in our little entourage was a professional pianist. What a privilege it was for us to be entertained by his talent. It was like having our own mini-piano concert at the piano bar.
LOUNGE LIFE, POOLS
No pirate would ever have imagined Nemo’s Lounge. It is a unique combination of beauty salon, spa and gym all in an underwater setting. Well, it really wasn’t underwater, but it had portholes below water level so you could imagine you were there.
Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t lucky enough to see fish swim by! Also, unique to the Royal Clipper were the three swimming pools. My next door neighbor’s daughter, a synchronized swimmer, would have been disappointed with the pools. Two of the pools are only knee deep filled with chilly water, and the third pool was only 4 feet deep. But, this third pool was fun in its own way. It has a glass bottom and it sits directly over the dining room! No doubt she would have liked peering down at the unsuspecting diners!
If you go, here’s a heads up on what is and is not included. Just like a typical pirate ship, there are no elevators onboard the Royal Clipper, but there are lots of stairs! They do have a nurse, who doubles as a waitress, but no doctor. Also, there are no programs for children. No self-serve laundry room exists,but the ship does have laundry and dry cleaning services available.
Further, when you board the Royal Clipper you can leave behind to pay your American dollars. The onboard currency is the Euro! So, pack up your gear, grab your patch and come be a pirate on the world’s largest, five-mast, fully rigged sailing ship, the Royal Clipper!
Royal Clipper’s Remaining 2006 Departure Dates to Caribbean
Windward Islands: Grenadine Islands
November 12, 26 November 19
December 10, 23 December 3, 17, 30
Royal Clipper 2006 Departure Dates to the Western Mediterranean
Italy, Sicily & Croatia (11 nights) Italy, Sicily & Croatia (10 nights)
June 10 June 21
July 1, 22 July 12
August 12 August 2, 23
September 2 September 13
Brochure price starts at $1495.00 cruise only for The Royal Clipper
The Star Clipper sails to Caribbean (The Leeward Islands and Treasure Islands) and The Western Mediterranean
The Star Flyer sails to the Far East and the Eastern Mediterranean
Address: 7200 NW 19th Street, Suite 206
Miami, Florida 33126
Lin Low is a travel consultant based in Campbell. She writes frequently for BAFT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . She will next board the Star Flyer in November on an excursion to Thailand.
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