Doug Eads, Contributing Editor
Occupation:Travel Journalist and Editor
Number of Cruises: 35
Cruise Line: Star Clipper
Ship: Star Clipper
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
"The captain of a ship is
lord paramount. He may stand no watch at all, come and goes when he
pleases, is accountable to no one, and must be obeyed in all things,
without question, even from chief officers. He has the power to break
officers to seamen. He has no companion on board but his dignity, and few
pleasures beyond the consciousness of possessing supreme power, and
occasionally exercising it"
TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST
chronicles by Richard Henry Dana, seaman cir. 1820
Ulrich Pruesse came forward slowly. As he
walked, he eyed all the riggings about him, and his demeanor radiated life
and confidence. As he neared the navigation area of Star Clipper, he
affixed a remote microphone and speaker system. We, the passengers,
gathered like sea gulls at the scent of bread crumbs... It was time for
the first of nightly sunset talks by Star Clipper's Captain ...'Captain
It was destiny that Uli someday be the Captain of a fine sailing ship. His father Wilhelm made many tall ship voyages as a seaman in the 1920's, and he later became President of the Hamburg Maritime Academy.
Who would have imagined Uli Pruesse, this stern, robust, German born seafaring man could emit so much complexity of character? From the gentle man telling a childhood story over coffee with me at 5 a.m. one morning, to a resourceful and assured man of the sea, and then to the role of a passionate and skilled orator. To his credit, you could not see fear in the crew and officer's faces, but admiration, and total respect...shh! here he is.
"Welcome...you are here on a great adventure!" he says with gusto and pride. "As we are unfurling these beautiful white sails I want you to take a deep breath, and watch all that is about you. Let out every care. Leave that stressful life behind, and every worry behind! Set yourself at peace ... you are at sea! You are on the greatest true sailing ship ever built!" his voice raises with passion, and his speech is accompanied by vibrant articulation with his hands - as though he was conducting Beethoven! Passion, yet tenderness, and even a childlike twinkle came pouring forth from the 56 year old Sea Captain, and you quickly sensed -- this is a man who is in a job he loves, and he is exactly where wants to be at this age in his life.
Glorious music begins to stream from the deck speaker system on cue. It is the triumphant sea musical sound track from the movie 1492, music by Vangellis. "Watch now as the main sails unfurl, and fill with wind, and Star Clipper heels starboard, with the wind pulling us out to sea.... ladies and gentlemen... You are sailing now! This is it! ... This is it! he crescendos, and his infectious excitement is a most vigorous strain.
"No matter how many times you have cruised... this time you are really at sea... you are sailing... this is it! This week I want you to notice every cloud, every ripple in the sea, every whale, dolphin and flying fish... love it! This is your world, your planet ... love it --- THIS IS IT!" He closes with enthusiasm and emotion.
We all watch for the sunset ahead which sometimes announces its departure from the day with a small sparking glint of green... a magical phenomena, and climax to our first full day at sea ... It only took this long for my total and absolute agreement with Captain Uli, and my confidence in him... he was 100% on target when he let forth his inner feelings ... This was it! It was not complex at all. This ship was it, the moment was now, and this man was going to ensure we had a life-changing, awe-inspiring week at sea!
The John Masefield poem Sea Fever seems to be cast in history for this special German born Captain and sailor...
"I must go down to the sea
to the lonely sea and sky,
and all I ask is a tall ship,
and a star to steer her by"
When I was a child visiting my best friend,
Ira Simmons, who later became, for a time, a Feature writer at a major
paper, we would incessantly draw Spanish galleons and clipper ships. These
were our imaginary dreams on paper. Perhaps it was kismet that one day I
would sail an even more splendid ship than I could ever have imagined on
The Ship and Company: Mikael Krafft and his wife Anne are the owners of the Star Clipper line. Mikael had a vision that the public would, and could enjoy what he loved so much... being on fine sailing vessels, stopping at intimate ports, and enjoying this serenity in elegant, yet casual comfort.
By 1992 the twins, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, were in service. Last summer the largest true sailing ship ever built-The Royal Clipper-sets sail. The three clipper-ship-company is more than a niche market, it is where cruising is growing most quickly... smaller, elegant, personal and memorable days at sea. The Krafft's personal niche is their passion for recreating the clipper ship days of yesteryear.
In order for the shipping of the early 1900's to compete with growing demands, the multi- sailed sleek clipper ships were created. They clipped along swiftly across the oceans, and cut days from shipping goods.
Star Clipper and Star Flyer are 2298 tons, 360 feet long, and at capacity carry 170 passengers. Imagine the intimate personal nature of this experience compared with the mega-ships over 100,000 tons, and 3000 passengers hauling about ball gowns and tuxedos! No long lines for dinner or shore trips, and no formal wear brings a smile to its clients!
The new Royal Clipper will weigh in at a mere 5000 tons and carry a 228 passenger capacity. Star Clipper has 36,000 sq. ft. of sails, and Royal Clipper will have 56,000 sq. ft. of sails. I can't wait to have an opportunity to sail with her!
Myths and Realities: You won't have to swab the deck on Star Clipper. This is an elegant clipper ship. But, you could do so if you like, and you could learn navigation and take a turn at the helm. This is a popular activity. You can also climb masts and visit the open bridge.
You won't get seasick just because it is a sailing ship. The deep drafting design lets Star Clipper cut through choppy seas, where some mega-ships are rounded and tend to bounce on choppy seas regardless of mass. You must realize seasickness is both a real event for some, and a pre-conceived destiny for others.
Star Clipper's cabins are divided into six categories. Owner's suites, and deluxe suites are spacious and cost more. Most clients prefer saving the money and getting standard cabins. We prefer the lower deck near the water, and that saves even more. The cabins are compact, but our three person cabin was workable. TV and ample closet space are provided, and throughout the ship is a fine woodwork look. There are no Broadway shows, no casino, and no formal dress. This ambiance and casual elegance is preferred by clients.
The crew has nightly activities, from talent shows to pirate night. Dancing, a piano bar, and socializing seem to make time fly. Spend a day lying in the bow sprit netting hanging high above the seas, or relax and be pampered in abundant deck and lounge chairs... as Captain Uli says --- "This is it!"
Owner Visit: Anne Krafft, owner, joined our sailing. She told me "This is a passion for my husband Mikael, but I love the business end of it, decor, staffing.... we work 16 hour days regularly, especially now that Royal Clipper is about to join our other two ships." What do you see as the reason Star Clipper is so hot a commodity with cruise passengers? I asked her... "We wanted to build ships that allow today's public a chance to see the glamour and style of the gilded age at the turn of the century. This was a life and style reserved only for the very wealthy, and now everyone can come aboard ... we feel good about this," she said with a smile and satisfaction. She added, "I can see you like our Captain Pruesse and he is great, but our other Captains see our mission also, and do a wonderful job. I try to sail almost every month because I want to see how passengers like what we are doing, and I can see it in their faces if this is true ... I care about quality and our service ... we take every comment to heart" she concluded. I felt she was quite sincere in her comments, and her pride radiated.
Our itinerary: The itinerary you select depends on the time of year and which of the three ships you select. They vary from the Far East, Mediterranean, to Caribbean. Many people love simple ocean crossings.
We began our cruise in Antigua, a resort island of the Caribbean. We flew in a couple days early, which insured that airline debacles cannot spoil your departure time, and it also gives you a chance to relax and get to know the embarkation port. Antigua was not hard to like. We selected the Hawksbill Resort from a group of listings on the Internet. It proved to be a lucky break.
The Hawksbill provides ocean front cottage bungalows with 180 degree screened and open-air rooms, and the Caribbean is only 50 feet away. At night the frogs and night life, in harmony with the surf, makes this a wonderland. All sports equipment is provided and rates are often on special pricing. This simplistic resort in a secluded location marked high on my preference list, while not elegant or presumptuous ... this enhanced its appeal!
Antigua has scenic beauty, and her people are welcoming. Abby Gail Smith, a lovely and animated tourism guide at Nelson's dockyard made this historic site fun and informative. Antigua is a special emerging nation that I would select to return to for a land vacation.
Next on our trip was St. Kitts. It was fun watching other cruising ships stare at Star Clipper in envy as we came into, and departed each of our ports. St. Kitts was a day for beach fun and water sports. Star Clipper offers banana boating, skiing, sail-boarding, and sunfish-sailing at no additional fees. This is a nice money saving perk! Scuba lessons are nominal in cost.
Between Monday and Wednesday we moved around the British Virgin Islands. These are preferred localities. They are safe, gloriously lovely, and quite up-scale clients frequent them. We visited Tortola, Sandy Cay, and the Treasure Island locality Norman Island for snorkeling. The highlight was Virgin Gorda and the Baths: Huge granite boulders surround a remote beach, and scientists are baffled as to why the granite mammoths are even in the lava and limestone Caribbean ... especially in such oddly tossed arrays.
"On our fourth day the undulating mirror of a sea stirred with dancing ripples, and I felt the strange coolness of a breeze in my face. The stretch of canvas above me came to life, and elatedly the Captain swung the helm over so the sails would catch the moving air. The ship heeled...bubbles gurgled along her bottom, and she flung spray aside."
Lone Voyager, by Joseph Garland
Two countries-one island. That is the marketing strategy now of one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean...St. Maarten/St. Martin. "We have weathered 5 hurricanes in the last 6 years, but we are making headway and plan to be in full recovery by October 2000.", says William Bell of marketing for St. Maarten's tourism department. This lovely island is known for bargain shopping, and the French side for planned communities of red roofed homes and upscale rentals. St. Maarten/St. Martin is worthy of a personal vacation, and this is why Star Clipper along with many ships find this to be a cruising favorite. You see Dutch and French sides easily.
St. Barts, also French is quiet, and is one of the more expensive places to visit for personal vacations, but it is certainly a lovely stop for the beach and island tour. From St. Kitts and Antigua we could see the plagued island of Monserat still steaming sulfur from its volcanic eruptions in the 1990's. Sometimes we could see the interesting island of Saba ... almost cone-shaped. A man-made landing port had to be constructed, but still visitors, which are few, have to climb hundreds of stairs to reach the area above where people reside. These moments learned and seen made our sailing all the more interesting.
Overview: This was without doubt, or reservation, a 5 star experience. The dining was excellent for breakfast and luncheon buffets. Dinner offered a two entree choice European slant cuisine.
Our cruise had 12 countries represented, with 45% of passengers being American.
The ship's interior was well decorated, and the dining room was newly re-decorated. There are two small pools, a lavish wood library, which needs a few more English novels. "Some of our sailing's have up to 60% repeat cruisers!" said Anne Krafft with pride. It is not hard to see why ... I still think of Star Clipper almost daily! My daughter cried at leaving the ship, her friends, and Murphy the eclectic green parrot mascot. I will remember my thrill of being put out in a zodiac for photos while Star Clipper sailed one evening... it was exhilarating... and it was eerie re-joining her while moving.
One presence rang true for this sailing week. The passengers arrive with a common unspoken bond to love it before it sets sail. They are seeking a smaller cruising climate, the true sailing, and they are not the nit-picking delicate sort of people that some upper cruise lines attract. From first sight of Star Clipper at port... it is infatuation, if not love! Most of the people on board are middle class and higher, and had tried the mega-ships and they were unanimous in their refrain ... "nevermore!"
As the sun sets this evening Star Clipper and Star Flyer's guests are somewhere listening to classic music with sunset talks and goose bumps form from the joy of a rediscovery of nature and essential values. As their sails fill, and a salty breeze caresses their brows... It is as though the sea and Star Clipper beckon me to return... I hope this is true!
"We were sailing all the way
under pure sky, intensely blue at the zenith and passing through
imperceptible gradations to a soft lapis lazuli above the horizon... It
was as beautiful a run, or rather a living glide as could be imagined!"
The Hundred Days at Sea by Patrick O'Brian
TIPS FOR TRIPS
Star Clipper web page
Visit Our Clippers
Toll Free for information and brochures 1-800-442-0553
For bookings see your travel agent.
Hawksbill Beach Resort,
P.O.Box 108, St. John's, Antigua.
phone: (268) 462-0301 Fax (268) 462-1515
Antigua Hotel and Tourist Association
Dept of Tourism e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
web page: www.interknowledge.com/antigua-barbuda
or try: www.antigua-barbuda.org
St. Maarten Tourism
phone: (800) 786-2278