All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2015 unless otherwise noted.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
It was such thrill to step out of the Bridgetown cruise terminal to find Star Clipper Cruises’ Royal Clipper alongside, her five beige masts soaring high above her long, dashing hull. Although dwarfed by the other ships in port, she was by far the most commanding and regal.
I rolled my suitcase up to her narrow gangplank and ascended to a shelter deck area called the Tropical Bar. Members of the staff welcomed me with a cool beverage before I proceeded to the lounge for check-in.
My home for the next week would be 118-square-foot Category 4 Outside Stateroom 119 on starboard Commodore Deck, the lowest of the ship’s four dedicated passenger levels. By comparison, the Royal Clipper has eight categories of cabins ranging from 108-square-foot Category 6’s to a pair of Owner’s Suites that measure 430-square-feet.
In addition to two small brass portholes, generous closet space, a nightstand, a writing desk, a television with DVD player and a mini-bar, there were plenty of convenient nooks as well as under-the-bed storage. Yellow bulkheads with crown molding, mahogany-toned paneling and blue and gold soft fittings infused it with a classic maritime ambiance that would make me feel very much at home.
The bathroom was pleasingly large and outfitted with marble.
The provided amenities included everything from shampoo, shower gel, shower cap, cotton swabs and soap to moisturizer. Everything but conditioner.
After unpacking, I joined fellow passengers in the Tropical Bar for a very intense lifeboat drill held by the ship’s German cruise director. This evocative shelter deck area is the ship’s main hub with its long, inviting mahogany bar, freshly scrubbed teak decking and invigorating sea air.
Although Royal Clipper has several handsome lounges, the Tropical Bar was the go-to for afternoon snacks, Happy Hour, evening entertainment and dancing.
Accessed via a dedicated midships staircase, Captain Nemo’s Gym, Lounge and Spa is the only shipboard public area I know of that is not only below sea level but celebrates its unique placement with porthole-style windows offering underwater views.
With its low ceilings and outmoded equipment, exercising in Nemo’s was more of a challenge than I had anticipated but I did my best to pay it forward with an invigorating (if slightly hunched over) run on the treadmills before heading up to dinner.
In addition to two treatment rooms, Nemo’s has a splendid relaxation area with an undersea porthole….
…and a marble-festooned Hamam, which is available to all guests to enjoy, free of charge.
The Royal Clipper’s Dining Room is on Commodore Deck, above and slightly aft of Nemo’s.
The multi-tiered space can seat 250 but is divided into intimate alcoves that belie its capacity. Near-sea-level portholes line either side.
The center of the Dining Room is actually at the base of a three deck tall atrium where the glass floor of the ship’s midships pool serves as a skylight of sorts.
At a mere 5,000-gt, the ROYAL CLIPPER certainly boasts some extraordinary design elements.
Throughout each dinner, our wonderful head waiter Henry managed to keep his smile, despite having to juggle several full tables in our realm.
Dinner courses included Entrées (starters such as caprese salad or spicy seafood ragout), Le Potage (soups such as spinach with Parmesan cream), Le Sorbet (varied nightly), Les Plats (main courses such as tilapia, duck breast, a vegetarian option, jerk pork, etc.), Le Salade (salad), Le Fromage (cheese plate) and Les Desserts (usually three choices).
In addition, a daily pasta dish (usually excellent), consommé and sirloin steak with fries are always available. Varying diets are also catered to (for instance one member of our group was vegan and could not eat any oil, so if the menu did not have a complying option, the chef prepared her a special dish).
After dinner, we headed up to deck to watch as Royal Clipper made her way out of Bridgetown. With her masts lit up like a quintet of 190-plus-foot Xmas trees, she slowly maneuvered past the incoming THOMSON DREAM (ex HOMERIC, WESTERDAM) and into the eastern Caribbean. She met the seas with lively abandon as I found my way back to cabin 119, covered my portholes with those handy dead lights and let her lull me off to sleep.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
After two days of flights just to get to Barbados, I had no qualms about sleeping in, even though it meant I would miss the chance to spend some cherished time in the bowsprit net as ROYAL CLIPPER plunged through the teal seas of the Grenadines. Instead, I barely made it to the second compulsory lifeboat muster in the Tropical Bar at 10:00 AM where the cruise director admonished me for being a minute late. Compensation was steps away on Sun Deck where a the brilliant sun was aided by an invigorating sea breeze.
My next stop was the dining room where I was especially pleased to find the salad bar with fresh and varied options that for the next week would be my daily staple, drizzled with the usual olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mounds of Parmesan.
Just as I finished up my last bite of lunch, tendering to Union Beach had begun. Soon, I was off with friends on a short ride to the first of many beaches that week.
From the shores of Union Beach, it was so nice to see ROYAL CLIPPER in her element, freed of the mega ships and clutter of Bridgetown.
I returned to the ROYAL CLIPPER for the remainder of the afternoon, savoring her enchanting deck areas and lounges. Another excellent dinner was followed by an intense trivia quiz in the Tropical Bar as our fine ship neared the coast of Grenada.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."