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Erich Gall

Age: 64


Number of Cruises: 10

Cruise Line: Star Clipper

Ship: Royal Clipper

Sailing Date: 2012-01-27

Itinerary: windward islands

The overall cruise was wonderful, just what my wife and I were looking for. We hated the idea of a mega ship with a gazillion people on board. The Royal Clipper was intimate and quiet. There was actually more deck space than on a large liner, with a lot fewer people to share it with.

The food was excellent and widely varied. Everything tasted so good that I wanted to try everything and soon learned to eat small amounts. The omelet bar for breakfast was especially good, although the chef would also make a mean sauteed vegetable and fried egg platter.

The stateroom was tight but comfortable. Plenty of storage for just about everything. The bed was a bit on the hard side, a mattress over a solid platform. Be sure to bring a 220V plug and adapter. The bathroom and shower was fun, don't worry about water on the floor as there are drains both in and outside of the shower. The toilette is equipped with a seat belt (just kidding).

Onboard activities were on the spartan side and usually involved both passengers and crew. Mostly people just kicked back and relaxed. We did have a talent night and pirate night. Repeat passengers in the know were ready with pirate costumes. Would have liked some advance warning to really get into the swing, but did get to practice my ARRRGGG!

The sugar train in St. Kitts was an absolute hoot. Swimming with the stingrays was fun with the rays gathering around you like puppies looking for handouts. The island tour on Antigua was great, so many wonderful beaches, but wished that there was time to just stay and enjoy one.

Snorkling was OK, but really nothing to rave about, just too near 'civilization.' If you are really into diving I think that your vacation should be wrapped around that rather than cruising, even in the out-of-the-way places where the Star Clippers go.

The island excursion on Martinique turned out to be a disaster, four hours without a restroom stop was hard on the older people and the driver must have thought he was on the grand prix. Possibly just too much ground to cover in too little time.

Sailing on the Royal Clipper was like stepping back in time a hundred years (but with air conditioning and ice). The ship abounds with polished wood and brass and is kept spotless. There is a library, observation lounges, and endless nooks and cubbies to kick back in and either talk to people are just be by yourself.

Be aware though, this IS a sailing ship and it MOVES. However, most people got used to it and after a week on board it actually felt a bit strange to get back on solid land. Incidentally, in your cabin you will find a chart that names all of the many sails that the Royal clipper carries. There will be a test.

That being said I think that the people who would be interested in this type of cruise preselects them for being experienced and interesting people. Our fellow passengers were widely traveled and we learned of many interesting places to go and things to do around the world. The Royal Clipper accommodates 225 passengers and we had 194, representing some 15 nationalities. The passengers were mostly seniors but we also had children and a large group of university students as well. Everyone got along well and by the week's end it seemed to be like a big, extended family.

Service on the Royal Clipper is beyond belief. Everything is spotless and neat. Your cabins are cleaned at least twice a day, while you are at breakfast, and again while at dinner. The crew is cheerful, friendly, and just cannot help you enough.

Meals were outstanding with cuisine that catered to many nationalities. It was fun to try new dishes and the soups in particular were great. Dinners, although casual, tended to run at least an hour and a half and were serenaded by the pianist on the baby grand. While the stewart will generally sit you at a table with others who speak the same language but anything is possible. Regardless, conversation throughout the dinner is great and the next thing you know you're finishing the dessert course and it is time to leave.

If the wind is good the Clipper will run on sails alone. The feel of a large ship under sail is something that must be experienced. The motion can be rhythmic and quiet. My favorite time was to get up early, grab a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up.

The Clipper ships do not pull in to where the big liners go, and only on Martinique did we even tie up to a pier. All other places we used the ship's small boats to go ashore. This was both good and bad as these places were just not geared up for tourists so were more native and less crowded but had fewer shopping opportunities. The shore excursions themselves were a bit hit-and-miss, some good and some not so good. Tours that were available were maybe not quite so polished as the big ports. Would you believe that some people come on the Star Clipper cruises and never go ashore at all?

All-in-all would I go on another Star Clipper cruise? Oh, yes.

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