The Royal Clipper. Christmas in the Caribbean.
The Largest Full-rigged Sailing Ship in the World
I must go down to the sea again
To the lonely sea and the sky
And all I ask is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by … extract from John Masefield 1902. Salt Water Ballads
Since my sailing days in RAF Changi , Singapore, back in the late 1960’s my dream has been the romance of travelling on a large sailing ship somewhere warm and exotic. For our Christmas treat we decided to book a 7 day cruise on the Royal Clipper, one of three Star Clipper ships group. The Royal being the largest of the fleet and sailing out of Barbados to the Caribbean islands for Christmas.
On 21st December we flew to Barbados to join the ship at Bridgetown. There she was waiting for us to board resplendent with her 5 masts (square sails on all masts when in full sailing mode), 134 meters long and carrying 5,050 square meters of sail. She was built in 2000 and still looked as good as new.
With mounting excitement we met our fellow guests and were introduced to the Captain and crew. We were due to sail that evening to St Lucia and then onwards to Dominica, Antigua, St Kitts, Iles des Saintes and Martinique. We were to drop anchor off the islands and be ferried to the beaches for barbeques and small ports for exploring and shopping trips by tender.
I had heard that the sailaways from port were amazing to watch and be a part of and so at 10.00pm we resisted the lure of the king size bed and went up on deck to join in. The most wonderful Vangelis 1492 piece of music came over the speakers as we cast off and the sails started to go up one by one helped by the crew dressed in sailors uniforms, a computer and miles and miles of polyester fibre ropes. What an experience, it was worth the long journey from Bournemouth. Videos and photos were being taken and tired but happy faces gazed up to the stars to see the breeze take us out of port towards St. Lucia. Some of us were worried that the sea may feel a bit rougher in a Clipper but we were resigned to this possibility and quite prepared for the adventure of it all. It was a different feeling to normal larger cruise ships but not unpleasant and the gentle rocking on the first night helped us to get some well earned sleep after our journeys, a lovely meal and some cocktails of the day.
The Chefs on board produced some wonderful meals for the size of the ship. They cooked us some barbeques on the beaches along with lunches on the open top decks. The Christmas dinner of traditional turkey was the best and most tender turkey we have had.
On route to one of the islands we met up with a sister ship The Star Clipper and she came alongside for a race. The photo opportunities were great with the guests waving to each other and the crew climbed onto the front of both ships waving. My favourite island was the Iles des Saintes, one of the Guadaloupe islands and a neighbour to the island where the TV series Death in Paradise is filmed. The are French owned islands and are so picturesque, very clean with quaint houses and restaurants dotting the mountainside.
What a great social scene we had. Everyone got into the sailing spirit, wearing the sailors striped T shirts and shorts, deck shoes and peaked caps. Some of us climbed up to the crows nest about one third up the mast and others were able to help hoist the sails when we sailed away. During meal times we met many new friends and found out about each others lives, There was a mixture of English, French, American and group of German singles. Some were already sailors with their own boats and others just tourists out for something different and a bit of an adventure.
The photos we took were on the day that we were taken out to sea on the tenders with our ipads and cameras and they hoisted the sails just before sunset. Such an amazing experience and we feel blessed to have had such a great Christmas on the Royal Clipper.