Royal Clipper In The Caribbean – Day 7

One Last Day of Clippering in St. Lucia

Star Clipper's Royal Clipper, illuminated at sunset in Soufriere, St. Lucia. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Star Clipper’s Royal Clipper, illuminated at sunset in Soufriere, St. Lucia. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Friday, December 18, 2015

It is our last day Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper in the Caribbean, as this weeklong voyage to the Grenadines comes to a close. Fortunately, today offers no shortage of adventurous activities to distract us from the fact that the end of this cruise is near:

  • 30 – Royal Clipper anchors off Marigot Bay, St. Lucia!
  • 00 – Sign up if you would like to visit the Engine Room at 16.00! Excursion Desk.
  • 30 – 09.00 – Morning Gymnastics with our Phil. Tropical Bar.
  • 30 – Last tender back to the ship.
  • 00 – Royal Clipper sets sail for Soufriere, St. Lucia!
  • 15 – 13.00 – Last chance for Mast Climbing. Main Mast.
  • 00 – Engine Room tour with Chief Engineer Vitaliy. Start: Library
  • 30 – Last tender back from the ship.
  • 00 – 18.00 – Afternoon snacks are served while Gabor plays some tunes. Tropical Bar.
  • 30 – Please return your snorkeling gear, thank you! Marina Platform.
  • 00 – 20.30 – Gabor’s Favorite Piano Melodies. Piano Bar.
  • 30 – 20.00 – Cathleen is happy to answer your questions regarding excursions. Excursion Desk.
  • 00 – Sea Chart Raffle. Tropical Bar.
  • 00 – “Around Cape Horn”. 37 minutes, English, B&W. Sun Deck.

Today we’re two places in St. LuciaMarigot Bay and Soufriere. Plenty of cruise ships come to St. Lucia as part of their Southern Caribbean itineraries, but most of them dock further north, in the city of Castries. We’re beginning our day further south in Marigot Bay – a place that most cruise passengers calling on Castries have to take an expensive excursion or hire a private car in order to reach.

You could say the weather today was...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
You could say the weather today was…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...Inclement. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…Inclement. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

After having billed this as somewhere unique and interesting, you might be surprised to learn I stayed onboard Royal Clipper this morning. But with the skies opening up frequently with rain, and with our time here limited to just a few short hours, I elected to skip this morning’s excursion.

Which, of course, you can do! No one is forcing you to go ashore anywhere. Royal Clipper is so comfortable and soothing that it’s important to me to spend as much time aboard her as possible.

This morning was also a good chance to take care of some end-of-cruise formalities – and Star Clippers likes formalities.

We arrived at Soufriere, off the famous Pitons of St. Lucia. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
We arrived at Soufriere, off the famous Pitons of St. Lucia. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Water maintenance onboard. Heads up! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Water maintenance onboard. Heads up! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The skies reminded me not of the Caribbean, but of my trip to Antarctica earlier this year. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The skies reminded me not of the Caribbean, but of my trip to Antarctica earlier this year. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

In order to have your gratuities placed on your credit card (the recommended amount is €56 per person for the week), you must fill out a form sent to your stateroom with the amount, your stateroom number, your name and signature, and deliver it to reception by 19.00 (7:00 p.m.) today.

You must also return snorkel gear by 17.30, DVD’s by 20.30, and sign up for post-cruise tours by 10.00. If you have questions about those excursions, you have a 30-minute window from 19.30 to 20.00 in which to ask. If you have questions about your invoice, you must ask them before 19.30, as Reception closes at the unusual hour of 7:30 p.m. Luggage must be out by 04.00, and you must be off the ship by 10.00 tomorrow morning.

This may be a casual sailing cruise, but you most definitely have to be “on-the-ball” when it comes to managing your end-of-cruise commitments.

Royal Clipper at anchor this afternoon off Soufriere, under ominous skies. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Royal Clipper at anchor this afternoon off Soufriere, under ominous skies. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

As with our morning, during lunch we sailed through intermittent bursts of heavy rain as we made our way down to Soufriere, St. Lucia. It’s the first real precipitation we’ve seen since we were in Grenada earlier in the week, and kind of a welcome sight after the searing heat in Martinique yesterday.

Soufriere is the oldest town on the island of St. Lucia, and arguably one of the most physically attractive. St. Lucia’s two defining features – The Pitons – are visible from Soufriere, and cost a pretty penny to visit for cruise passengers calling soely on Castries. Made up of Le Gros Piton and Le Petit Piton (the Big Piton and the Small Piton), the Pitons collectively have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Interestingly, Le Petit Piton is actually taller than the Gros Piton – go figure.

I rode the tender ashore long enough to have a look at Soufriere...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
I rode the tender ashore long enough to have a look at Soufriere…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...then I sailed back to the ship. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…then I sailed back to the ship. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

You can also visit the sulphur-infused, “drive-in” volcano known as La Soufriere. A collection of over two dozen pools of liquid ooze seeping from deep within, it’s billed nonetheless as a fascinating attraction.

While Star Clippers offers a number of excursions here, I chose to stay onboard and enjoy the soothing ambiance of a deserted Royal Clipper this afternoon. Tomorrow is a day filled with airports and airplanes and check-in queues and other stressful things. Enjoying this beautiful sailing ship – the only five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship to be built in over a century – seemed like a no-brainer to me.

Another cool reason to stay onboard: Star Clippers offered a tour of the Royal Clipper's engine room! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Another cool reason to stay onboard: Star Clippers offered a tour of the Royal Clipper’s engine room! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The only exception to this was made this afternoon, when I rode the tender back and forth in the rain to catch some shots of the exterior of this sleekly modern sailing ship. With the skies moody and the rain coming down in sheets, I wrote the pictures off. It looked like Royal Clipper was on her way to Port Lockroy, Antarctica and not the West Indies.

Suddenly, just at the hour of our departure at 17.30, the clouds parted and the sun shone brightly. Cruise Director Kathleen came over the Public Address suddenly and stated that Royal Clipper would lower her two tender boats for those who wanted to get some shots of the ship with full sails up, underway.

Not only was our evening sunny...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Not only was our evening sunny…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...but Star Clippers loaded up two boats of guests eager to see Royal Clipper sail out of Soufriere harbor with her sails up! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…but Star Clippers loaded up two boats of guests eager to see Royal Clipper sail out of Soufriere harbor with her sails up! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I nearly spilled my tea. I got up as fast as I could, grabbed my camera, and raced out my stateroom door. I took the steps up to the open deck two at time and jumped into the first tender, which was already loading. It was filled, and we pushed away from the tender platform just as the Royal Clipper’s first sails were going up.

We were treated to one of the most exciting scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Royal Clipper’s sails slowly unfurled as we got a safe distance away. Her port side anchor suddenly came up, slipping into its housing and rotating clockwise as it did so.

Royal Clipper's sails begin to go up. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Royal Clipper’s sails begin to go up. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
What followed was a stunning race out onto the ocean as we trailed Royal Clipper under full sail. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
What followed was a stunning race out onto the ocean as we trailed Royal Clipper under full sail. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

And then, Royal Clipper began to move. Without the use of her engines, she raced past our floating tender, which our driver kept positioned in a variety of locations around the ship. This guy should have driven a chase car in a movie production; he know all the best angles to catch the ship. I was in heaven; I shot nearly 200 pictures in a very short time span.

Clipper and Tender. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Clipper and Tender. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Our crew jumping out of the way of a swell that swamped the tender platform. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Our crew jumping out of the way of a swell that swamped the tender platform. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Royal Clipper picked up speed, and soon our tender driver was throttling the small tender’s engine in order to keep up with our larger mothership, which glided gracefully alongside us. In fact, several of Royal Clipper’s massive sails had to be taken down just to allow us to come alongside; in the span of an hour, we’d left the harbour in Soufriere and were very much out in the open ocean when we rejoined our floating palace.

How good was it? I’d recommend Star Clippers and Royal Clipper on this one event alone. I’ve never seen anything like it in all the cruises I’ve taken. It was special, magical, and unique. On my way home, and forever, I’ll remember racing alongside Royal Clipper as the sun went down over the Caribbean Sea.

It’s the kind of thing every cruise line promises, that few deliver on. Star Clippers delivers the magic of sail – and then some.

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper has sadly come to a close, but a full Photo Tour of the Royal Clipper and a Voyage Recap will follow shortly.

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