Monday, December 15, 2015
I think I’m running out of beach superlatives.
Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper dropped anchor off Tobago Cays this morning at 0930. Within minutes, guests were lining the outer decks, waiting to be among the first to tender ashore in this sun-drenched paradise.
Tobago Cays are actually five separate, entirely uninhabited islands that are part of St. Vincent & The Grenadines, which I always think sounds like a really cool 1980’s rock band. They’re rarely visited by most cruise ships; only small vessels can call here. Despite that, Tobago Cays will still see approximately 50,000 visitors per year – though only about 10,000 will come by cruise ships and private yachts.
Today is all about the beach. Royal Clipper will stay anchored here until 1700, when she will once again raise her anchor and unfurl her sails as we chart a course for Kingstown, St. Vincent, where we will arrive at 0800 tomorrow morning.
Since we’ve got plenty of time to visit the beach, and a ship that’s not entirely sold-out, let’s take a look at some of the top-of-the-line accommodations aboard Royal Clipper:
Located on the port side of the Royal Clipper at the extreme aft-end of Clipper Deck 2 is Owner’s Suite 002, one of two such Owner’s Suites onboard. Designed for the nautical sailing enthusiast who desires both space and maritime ambiance, these are some of the most unique suites aboard any ship, and certainly the most luxe accommodations aboard Royal Clipper.
The door from the main passenger corridor opens to a steep staircase that leads up into the fantail of the ship. The main bulk of the room is located here, with a separate bedroom located off to the left, a living area directly in front, and a secondary raised berth-style sleeping area off to the left of that for the true nautical aficionado.
Closet space is beyond plentiful, with hidden shelves, cupboards and drawers placed throughout the room. A marble-clad bathroom complete with porthole window and whirlpool tub is situated off of the master bedroom, while a secondary bathroom located adjacent to the main living area also features a very nautical shower-toilet combination.
These suites include some luxurious amenities, like complimentary room service (room service is not available in most stateroom categories) and a complimentary mini-bar, restocked with your preferences as needed.
I love the nautical look of these rooms greatly, but you should also love the nautical feel of the room, too: you’ll notice the “motion of the ocean” more here than in most other areas of the ship, thanks to its high and extreme-end location. Those who are prone to seasickness should book a lower, smaller stateroom category.
One deck up and all the way forward is Deluxe Suite 303. One of 14 Deluxe Suites onboard, these are the only accommodations onboard Royal Clipper that include private balconies.
Spaciously appointed, these suites also include a rather large whirlpool bath-shower combination, along with a marble-clad vanity that is substantially larger than bathrooms in lower-level stateroom accommodations.
The living area is equally generous, with a large Queen-sized bed and a small but dedicated sitting area. Deluxe Suites also include a mini-bar, but it is pay-per-use. Having said that, Deluxe Suites are also treated to complimentary room service.
Personally, I feel that the need for a private balcony aboard Royal Clipper is superfluous. There’s so much open deck space on this ship that it’s never impossible to find your very own quiet slice of deck from which to admire the passing ocean, and while these suites are beautiful, they lose some of the gorgeous, nautical ambiance found in the lower stateroom categories. Still, if you absolutely must have a private balcony when you cruise, these are the suites for you.
Royal Clipper has a number of unique staterooms. While we weren’t able to view any others (all of the categories mentioned below were full), we figure it’s at least worth mentioning these.
Category 1 staterooms are located aft of the library, and are accessible only from the ship’s outer deck. There are two Category 1 staterooms onboard, numbered 315 and 316. These include two fixed beds, a whirlpool bathtub-shower combination, a mini-bar (not complimentary), and easy deck access thanks to the lack of an interior passenger corridor here. It’s a slightly odd arrangement, but both of these staterooms sold out, so they must have a loyal following amongst repeat Star Clippers customers.
Category 6 staterooms are the most economical accommodations aboard Royal Clipper. Located on Clipper Deck 2, these six small rooms (numbered 212, 216, 220, 224, 228, and 232) are the only interior staterooms onboard the ship. They may be small – roughly 100 square feet – but they are also some of the most popular thanks to their accessible price point. Like the top-of-the-line suites, these accommodations sell out fast.
With that covered, I took the Noon tender ashore at Tobago Cays, St. Vincent & the Grenadines. I’m not a huge beach person, so I approached today warily. Truth be told, I was just going to the beach to enjoy the included barbecue and sample the Rum Punch that Star Clippers had on offer for a small €5.50 fee.
What I found when I stepped ashore was the most idyllic beach experience I’ve ever had in the Caribbean. This is the Caribbean the mainstream cruise lines promise to deliver, yet always fail to: a peaceful, serene, untouched beach sporting palm trees by the mile and surrounded by azure blue seas.
Tobago Cays is a small collection of islands located to the southeast of both Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent; and the idyllic island paradise of Bequia (beck-way). And it’s the quintessential Caribbean you’ve always been led to believe exists – and it does.
Forget the other cruise line’s private islands; Star Clippers has the “beach day” all sewn up. Food at the barbecue was plentiful; guests could choose from a variety of salads, “hand-food” like hot dogs, hamburgers and the like; and of course, desserts – both solid and of the liquid persuasion.
So I grabbed a hot dog (okay, two hot dogs) and stood in the shade and let the cool Caribbean breeze envelop me. I stayed on the beach longer than I thought I would have – three full hours. I almost didn’t want to go back to the ship. Being a cruise writer is a tough business; you’re always on the go, you’re always travelling from somewhere or to somewhere or worrying about getting the shot. Yet here in Tobago Cays, I felt totally relaxed. In fact, I should have brought a book ashore. I could have sat on the beach for hours.
This evening, Royal Clipper raised her anchor and put up her sails. By the time all were raised, we were making an easy nine knots as we sailed into the sunset. It’s so rare to have an experience like this – listening to the wind whistling through the rigging, watching the sails billow into the sunset, hearing the Captain giving commands to raise and maneuver the last of the sails to inch Royal Clipper up to top sailing speed.
It’s a beautiful thing – and you can experience it here, with Star Clippers.
|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|