Monday, December 14, 2015
It’s official: I’m having excellent sleeps here aboard Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper, which gently rocks me to sleep each and every night. Our sea conditions were not nearly as heavy last night as they were upon our departure from Barbados, which meant far less rolling and much calmer seas. From conversations with the crew, it seems that on these runs sea conditions are heaviest on the first and last evenings of the cruise, as the ship makes her way to and from Bridgetown.
Today, we have another relaxing morning of sailing the warm Caribbean Sea before our arrival in St. George’s, Grenada at Noon. And that seems like the perfect opportunity for us to take a virtual stroll around the decks of the beautiful Royal Clipper!
Have you ever wondered if you’re below the waterline of your ship? Wonder no more: Captain Nemo’s Spa and Gym aboard the Royal Clipper is most definitely below the waterline – and Star Clippers isn’t shy about letting you know. The room, which is accessible via the forward spiral staircase that spans Commodore and Clipper Decks, is located one deck below Commodore Deck and is lit via a series of portholes mounted deep beneath the hull of the ship. These look out onto – you guessed it – the sea.
So how does the sea not get in? Well, layers of tempered marine glass keep the sea out. Plus, the pressure at this depth (perhaps five to ten feet below the waterline) isn’t terribly great. But it sure is cool to look out on the aquamarine coloured waters while you work out on the treadmill.
In addition to a surprisingly full-featured gym, the Spa aboard Royal Clipper features a series of small but well-appointed treatment rooms, along with a marble-clad steam room that’s perfect for relaxing after a long day at the beach – or a long day climbing the ship’s mast, which guests can do on certain days.
The Clipper Dining Room is the main dining venue aboard Royal Clipper. Situated on Commodore Deck – the lowest full passenger deck – this two-tiered room recalls the grand dining saloons aboard the great transatlantic sailing ships of days gone by. It’s also bright and airy, thanks to a number of oversized portholes that frequently get washed by high waves and sea water, which gives the room a decidedly nautical feel.
The room would probably feel dark and cramped, but Star Clippers ingeniously placed a three-story atrium directly in the center of the room, topped by a skylight placed at the bottom of the midships swimming pool – once again solidifying the theme of light and water. The Clipper Dining Room exists as one of the most beautiful dining rooms I’ve seen on any ship.
One deck up on Clipper Deck is a small corridor situated along the centerline of the ship. Running between the atrium and the aft stair towers, this Gallery serves as Royal Clipper’s onboard logo gift shop, terminating with the Reception Desk at the aft end. All the way forward on the same deck, just past the atrium, is the Shore Excursion desk. Keeping these two areas separated spatially by the Gallery and the atrium helps to reduce potential crowding.
It is worth noting that while the ship sells a wide variety of logo-brand items, the ship does not stock any sundries or toiletries. Bring your own, or buy them in port.
Without a doubt my favorite public room onboard, the Piano Bar is situated up on Main Deck, and is bordered by a near-wraparound Promenade Deck. Overlooking the uppermost level of the atrium, the glass skylight of the swimming pool adds to the nautical ambiance of this room, which features gorgeous faux wood panelling, brass wall sconce lighting, maritime paintings, and plenty of other nautical touches.
Curiously, there is no live music in the Piano Bar, save for a computer-controlled piano that kicks in every evening around 7:00 p.m as a bit of an early-warning that dinner is approaching. Most of the live music takes place just outside, at the Tropical Bar.
Still, with a full coffee and tea station, a full bar, and light snacks served during the morning and the evening, this is my favorite place onboard Royal Clipper.
If I had to pick a second “favorite place” onboard Royal Clipper, it would be The Library. Situated in its own deck house, you can’t get to The Library without first going outside and crossing over the Tropical Bar and entering via two doors at the forward end of the Library’s bulkhead. That’s a very old-world maritime touch, where certain public rooms were separated spatially from the rest of the ship. More often than not, these rooms were the Gentlemen’s Smoking Rooms, which were typically placed at the aft end of the ship.
The Library is a cozy, book-clad enclave that offers guests a relaxing place to sit, but which is still within earshot and sight of the Tropical Bar, which exists as Royal Clipper’s de-facto social hub. Books can be borrowed free of charge for the duration of the voyage, and are typically available in Deutsche and English.
It’s your average deck-based bar, but the Tropical Bar functions as the main social gathering point for most guests here onboard Royal Clipper. As with all onboard expenses, drinks are priced in Euros (€), but are quite reasonable. A pint of Flensburger draught (0.30 ltr) goes for €3, while more exotic mixed drinks like Whisky Sours and Singapore Slings go for €5.50. Curiously, non-alcoholic drinks aren’t much of a bargain, priced just 50 Euro cents less than their boozed-up counterparts.
The Tropical Bar also offers a cocktail of the day, priced at €4.50. Pours are generous, and Star Clippers isn’t skimping on the alcohol.
My only disappointment: no local Caribbean beers, and very few local rums. If you’re looking for the flavors of the islands, you’ll have to go for an “adult beverage” ashore.
On every ship, there seems to be one public area that time – and guests – forgot. That area aboard Royal Clipper is the Observation Lounge, which is located all the way forward on Main Deck in a separate deck house that is accessible via the forward stateroom corridor.
Unfortunately, it’s a depressing affair with cheap banquet-style seating. The lights are always off, the drapes are always shut, and usually it seems to be used by crew members calling home on their cell phones. Hey, Star Clippers – why not spruce up the décor and open up the blinds? This would be an amazing forward-facing bar, or a great place to put the disco late at night. Or, dare I say, divvy it up and carve out two luxury staterooms for guests who like their views “before the mast.”
Right now, there’s not much reason to go there. And that’s a shame. It could be one of the great public spaces onboard.
At Noon, as promised, we arrived in the beautiful port of St. George’s, Grenada.
At just 33 kilometres in length, Grenada isn’t a terribly big island, but it’s one of my favorite locales in the Caribbean; one that I rarely get to come to. In fact, I was last here – and first here – five years ago almost to the day, on December 12, 2010. This is the land of spice; you can practically smell the nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves when you come ashore.
The harbour in St. George’s is widely regarded as one of the prettiest in the Caribbean, and I’d have to agree; it looks more like a sun-drenched port in the Mediterranean than a Caribbean port of call. This is the quintessential Caribbean; the kind of Caribbean everyone pictures before they sail into the manufactured jungles of Nassau and St. Thomas.
In town, there’s plenty of shopping opportunities, as well as the chance to sample the local food and beverages. Streets still have an attractive, Colonial-era flair to them, and St. George’s generally doesn’t suffer from the same touristy excesses that plague ports like St. Thomas. There’s more of an original island feel here, and locals have worked hard to preserve that.
If you’re a beach lover, you’ll want to take a taxi to Grand Anse Beach, which is reportedly one of the most beautiful in the entire Caribbean. I’m not a big beach guy so I didn’t partake, but every guidebook I’ve ever read mentions Grand Anse. Fodor’s tells me it’s about a $15 taxi ride away, or $8 by water taxi.
While I loaded up on spices and road-tested the local beer, I noticed the rather gorgeous statue in the middle of The Carenage, which is confusingly pronounced as “car-a-naz”. Known as The Christ of the Deep, this statue was donated by Costa Cruises after their Bianca C burned and sank in St. George’s Harbour in 1961.
In fact, you might never make it to The Carenage if you don’t know about it – and that’s a shame, because I wouldn’t have known about it had our cruise director not told us about a cool restaurant called Sails that has good food, great local drinks and – most importantly for writers – free Wi-Fi.
To get to The Carenage, leave the cruise terminal and turn sharply to your right. You’ll see a nice, long tunnel – the 340-foot long Sendall Tunnel that was constructed in 1895 and named for a Mr. Walter Sendall, one of the island’s early governors. Stay on the right side and walk through the tunnel, being mindful of the oncoming traffic. The tunnel is shared by both cars and pedestrians, though there is no clearly marked pedestrian walkway. You’re not in Kansas anymore.
Once you’re through the tunnel, a selection of quaint, colonial buildings greet you. Walk through them to the harbour. This is The Carenage. To get to the statue, hang a left and loop around the harbour. The statue is located almost directly across from a Pizza Hut location.
This evening, we returned to the beautiful Royal Clipper, looking resplendent at her anchorage in the harbour. This gave way to cocktails, dinner, and more cocktails – including a local steel drum band that was brought onboard to entertain guests.
Even though our departure from St. George’s was at 23:45, the sails were still hoisted to the Vangelis theme from 1492: Conquest of Paradise. The party was still in full swing on deck, and the sounds of laughter and billowing sails echoed through the night air as we slowly sailed away from Grenada and into the darkness of the Caribbean Sea.
|Day 1||Embarkation in Bridgetown, Barbados|
|Day 2||Captain’s Choice: Union Island, Grenadines|
|Day 3||St. George’s, Grenada|
|Day 4||Tobago Cays, Grenada|
|Day 5||Bequia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines|
|Day 6||Fort-de-France, Martinique|
|Day 7||Soufriere, St. Lucia|