Fun In The Sun With Star Clippers
Sunday, December 13, 2015
I had what might be the best sleep ever in my stateroom on Deck 1 of Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper. It’s the lowest passenger accommodations deck aboard the ship, and the portholes of my Category 3 Stateroom are just feet away from the water. With the lights out, I watched as we plowed through the Caribbean Sea after leaving Barbados, the water routinely turning my windows into a washing machine filled with frothy green seawater.
The thing that you’ll learn about Royal Clipper is that she has no stabilizers, meaning she rolls from port to starboard. It’s a potentially uncomfortable sensation for those used to larger ships, but I’m here to tell you why it’s really a great thing.
First, stabilisers induce drag – which adds to the strain on the ship’s overall speed, particularly when under sail power. So, in the interest of actually sailing instead of relying on the ship’s engines and propeller, no stabilisers were included in the design.
But Royal Clipper only has a typical maximum heel of about six degrees, thanks to the fact that the officers “trim” the ship with sails and ballast tanks. So while you’re not going to get tossed out of bed, those prone to seasickness might want to take some precautions before coming onboard.
For me, the gentle movement of the ship from port to starboard and back again absolutely rocked me to sleep. The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off. Time to start our first full day onboard!
A look at what’s happening today around the ship:
- 00 – 08.30: Keep Fit: Gentle Morning Gymnastics with Phil from our sports team. Tropical Bar.
- 00 – Booking Deadline for excursions in Grenada Excursion’s Decsk.
- 00 – Compulsory Lifeboat Drill for all passengers. Muster Stations.
- 00 – 12.00 – Handout of the snorkeling gear with the Sports Team (free of charge). Tropical Bar.
- 00 – Royal Clipper anchors off Union Island, The Grenadines.
- 00 – 16.00 – Water sport activities with our Sports Team (weather Permitting). Beach.
- 00 – Water Gymnastics with our Sports Team. Beach.
- 30 – Last Tender; All Aboard!
- 00 – Royal Clipper sets sail for Greanada! Join Captain Mariusz and his crew for the sailaway and bring along your camera! Open Decks.
- 00 – 18.00 – Afternoon Melodies with our Gabor. Tropical Bar.
- 30 – 19.30 – Kathleen is happy to help you choose your excursion. Excursion Desk.
- 30 – Grab a drink and come to the Library to meet your fellow single travellers! Library.
- 30 – After dinner dancing with Gabor. Tropical Bar.
- 00 – Quiz Night! Join in and test Jour (sic) Knowledge. We need teams of 4 to 8 people! Tropical Bar. Followed by…Disco with Gabor.
You might also be interested to know about the dining onboard, which I feel is far more elaborate than I was expecting. Not only is the food plentiful, but it’s incredibly well prepared and very flavorful. Don’t expect fancy haute cuisine, but do expect the food to be excellent and tasty.
Our dining lineup for today:
- 30 – 10.30 – Early Bird Breakfast – Piano Bar
- 00 – 10.00 – Breakfast Buffet – Clipper Dining Room
- 00 – 14.00 – Italian Luncheon – Clipper Dining Room
- 00 – 18.00 – Afternoon Snacks – Tropical Bar
- 30 – 22.00 – Dinner is Served – Clipper Dining Room
- 45 – 01.00 – Midnight Snack – Piano Bar
Drink of the Day: Cosmopolitan
Royal Clipper is without a doubt one of the most classically beautiful ships I’ve ever sailed on. She has a gorgeous, old-world ambiance with all the modern conveniences you might expect of ships twice her size. Star Clippers also manages to differentiate their product from their most direct competitor, Windstar Cruises, which is not an easy thing to do. Rather than copying Windstar, Star Clippers have placed a lot of emphasis on making Royal Clipper unique, which they have definitely done.
This morning, all guests were required to attend a second full lifeboat drill. Attendance was mandatory, and roll was taken. Once again, our Cruise Director seemed to take an unusual delight in talking down to the guests, repeatedly admonishing them not to speak. “Be quiet,” she said. “Mommy is talking.” This went on for one full hour, while all the information we’d covered yesterday was rehashed entirely, from the placement of the lifeboats to the vacuum toilet system to the location of the ship’s bars and lounges.
I have massive respect for safety onboard ships, and I don’t think any muster drill is a laughing matter. But this second drill seemed apropos to Star Clipper’s casual, relaxed mandate. The drill was followed by the “mandatory” crew introductions. Forced fun is never fun. I have no idea if this was standard procedure or not, but I won’t lie that I was spectacularly unimpressed with the entire event.
During our Safety Drill Power Hour, we arrived Union Island, The Grenadines – our private Caribbean playground for this afternoon. By the time the safety drill was finished and jokes made about possibly having to attend a third one tomorrow – Royal Clipper’s guests were waiting to be among the first to go ashore.
Tenders were run continuously to and from shore every 30 minutes, with departures from the ship on the top and the bottom of the hour, and tenders from the beach back the ship at :15 and :45. Tenders are completely open-air, which makes going ashore a pleasant experience. Anyone who’s been stuck in one of the enclosed tenders more commonly found on larger cruise ships on a hot day can attest to how uncomfortable they can get.
Union Island in the Grenadines is small and largely uninhabited. Tucked away into a cove, its terrain is steeper than you might imagine, and the beach isn’t quite as powdery as so many other Caribbean locales. Still, you have to applaud Star Clippers for providing guests with a day at the beach so early on during the voyage.
With plenty of sun and sand, most guests just opted to go lie on the beach for the afternoon. With one small bar at either end of the beach offering ice-cold Heineken for $3 a bottle, it made for the perfect day of relaxation. If you’re not a fan of heavily-commercialised ports like St. Thomas and St. Maarten, Union Island is the place for you.
Some photos of our beach afternoon ashore:
Just before sunset, Royal Clipper began preparing to get underway. Her sails were hoisted, both manually and mechanically. They snapped as the wind pulled them taut against their fittings. There was a stillness about the air, until the wind caught the rigging in a certain way, making it whistle as the sails were prepared. There’s something beautifully soothing about a sailing ship, and for all her modern touches, Royal Clipper embodies that old-world elegance.
Tonight, it was off to dinner in the Clipper Dining Room again; an inviting, multi-tiered space located on Clipper Deck 1. Dinner typically starts at 19.30, or 7:30 p.m., striking a nice balance between North American and European preferences.
Dining room service, on the whole, is excellent and I want to point out how beautifully the galley team handles dietary requests. I’m allergic to nuts, and never had to worry about having a single dish with nuts in it. Another member of our group had very specific dietary requirements, and the galley team worked hard to prepare special meals just for her. To see that kind of service here is heartwarming. The entire dining room team are superstars.
After dinner, a number of us went out on deck to participate in the longest outdoor trivia game I’ve ever played. Matter of fact, make that the longest trivia game I’ve played, period, on a ship! Starting at 10:00 p.m. sharp, rapid-fire trivia went on until well past 11:00 p.m. Nearly the entire guest complement came out to participate – and participate they did. Things got heated when Team Austria was quick on the buzzer, but the team nearest to the bar were like walking encyclopedias of knowledge: they were untouchable.
We held our own. My sole contribution was naming the Captain of the Titanic (Edward J. Smith), and answering what the prefix S.P.V. stands for (Sailing Passenger Vessel). Technically, the Royal Clipper is called the S.P.V Royal Clipper. I suppose I should get both of those questions right or find another career.
By the time trivia was over, it was well past 11:00 p.m. The part was still going out on deck at the Tropical Bar, which stayed open well past midnight. Bar service is quick and speedy, and the drinks – though priced in Euros – are very reasonable, and pours aren’t stingy in the least.
I retreated into the quiet of the Piano Bar. I was the only person there, and I picked a subtly-lit booth in the corner to do my daily writing. But it feels like I have transported to a different time. I look around the room at all the brass fittings and the wood panelling that lines the wall. Sure, it’s faux-wood; a fireproof substitute designed to satisfy Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) requirements.
But if you sit back and let your imagination spin, you can picture a time when people traelled soely by sailing ship – and it wasn’t that long ago.
It’s nice to see Star Clippers is keeping that magic alive for people to enjoy, here onboard Royal Clipper.