All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2015 unless otherwise noted.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Our beautiful ship was meandering in the seas off Grenada when I emerged from Cabin 119. I spent a few precious minutes in the bowsprit net (more on that later), then joined members of our press group for a look at some of the ship’s varying cabin categories.
Of course, the two Owner’s Suites on aft Clipper Deck are quite fetching, measuring 430-square-feet and with some unusual features like their own skylight (no worry, privacy-seekers, it has blinds that shield its occupants from peeping Toms peering in from the Sun Deck fantail) and even a loft-like third berth that literally is nestled in the ship’s counter stern.
Owner’s Suites boast a living room and dining space, a private bedroom, full bath and even a powder room. However, they are in the very stern of the ship, so those that are sensitive to pitching should consider the next best option, the fourteen Deluxe Suites on forward Main Deck.
Deluxe Suites measure 280-square-feet and have a small nook of seating, in addition to the bedroom area.
Their main draw is a wedge-shaped private balcony, although on a ship the size of the ROYAL CLIPPER, open deck is never more than just a few steps away.
Two Category 1 staterooms on aft Main Deck are accessed from outside and feature picture windows.
The smallest cabin we saw was Category 4 stateroom 259 on aft Clipper Deck, which measured 145-square-feet.
All of the interior and lower category staterooms were fully booked and thus not available for inspection but they are, of course, small (some at 108-square-feet) and located in parts of the ship that tend to be remote or move more in feisty seas. This is not an issue with Star Clippers’ most devoted clientele but it is something to keep in mind for those with less stout sea legs.
Around 11:00 AM, we mustered for what to me is always a highlight of sailing with Star Clippers, a chance to clamber into a tender and photograph the ship while she is fully rigged and under way. Unfortunately, a strong current scuttled the effort, so hopefully another chance would present itself later in the cruise.
At noon, as we headed to the Dining Room for lunch, ROYAL CLIPPER dropped anchor off St. Georges, Grenada. My first visit to the Spice Island was weeks before the U.S invaded in the late summer of 1983 while on a seven night cruise aboard Costa Line’s CARLA C and my last was in 1991 on a Christmas cruise aboard the SS ROTTERDAM.
I joined some friends for the short tender ride to shore, all of us sharing the same goal of finding an internet cafe with a high speed connection.
We fared rather well at a harbor front place called Sails, posting away over local specialties like sweet potato fries and guava juice as the weather alternated between pouring rain and steamy sunshine.
On our way back to the ship, a gentleman named Jimmy came to greet us and offered to escort us to the Carenage section of the harbor to see the “Christ Of the Abyss” statue given to the people of St. Georges by Costa Line for rescuing the passengers and crew of their BIANCA C, which caught fire after an engine room explosion while anchored off shore on October 22, 1961.
As flames tore through the ship, local fishermen and boat owners came alongside the crippled liner and saved 700 passengers and crew. Days later, while under tow, the BIANCA rolled over and sank a mile off shore and made herself one of the Caribbean’s most interesting wreck dive attractions.
Normally, I scatter when someone offers to give me a private tour but Jimmy was knowledgeable and kind, chatting with and escorting us back to the cruise terminal during a downpour. As we parted ways, he asked that we please do him a favor next November and vote for our former First Lady — just another reminder that our elections have so much impact, not just for us but everyone on the planet.
Back aboard the rain-soaked ROYAL CLIPPER, I gave the treadmill my best hunched-over effort, then enjoyed yet another excellent dinner with friends before heading out to the Tropical Bar where the Angel Harp’s Steel Band played for us.
After that, it was up to Sun Deck where the constellations beckoned and the ship’s officers quietly pointed out various heavenly bodies strutting out of the Milky Way.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
ROYAL CLIPPER was basking at anchor off Tobago Cays, Grenadines, when I unscrewed the dead lights to 119. Those neon teal seas that always look so Photoshopped in cruise brochures were literally encircling us and I, for one, could not wait to hurl myself into them.
Other than a cup of green tea, I deferred breakfast for lunch on the beach, courtesy of the ROYAL CLIPPER’s hard-working crew, who braved the breezes and bugs to deliver us a fine barbeque with pulled pork, chicken, fresh fish and much more. Even the salad bar and desserts had their day in the palm-fringed shade of Tobago Cays.
It was a short walk past foraging iguanas to the other side of the islet where we donned our snorkeling gear (provided on board ROYAL CLIPPER for free) and went in search of undersea life. Afterwards, we enjoyed a brief hike to a promontory with a view of the neighboring islands, then headed back to catch the next tender to the ship.
As we waited, several stingrays and a giant grouper swam by for their close-ups but I had already surrendered my cameras to a friend who headed back to the ship an hour or so prior.
Another excellent dinner and then a “fashion show” in the Tropical Bar featuring Star Clippers wear modeled by the crew and a few hand-picked guests. Unusual, yes, but as much of a staple and crowd pleaser for Star Clippers’ loyal following as Baked Alaska is for mega ship party cruisers.
Wedesday, December 16, 2015
We arrived at Kingston, St. Vincent shortly after dawn. I did manage to scarf down a quick breakfast before heading off on the first tender for The Reef Life snorkeling excursion (59 Euros).
Once at St. Vincent harbor, some ten or so fellow excursion guests clambered onto a snorkeling boat for a ride along the coast, past a new resort and some volcanic formations that were, according to our guide, featured in “Pirates Of The Caribbean”.
After sailing up close to an actual bat cave, we headed onward to a rugged cove, then donned our gear and jumped into the crystalline waters to explore a coral garden.
Our final stop was a black sand beach, where we could snorkel and swim at leisure.
ROYAL CLIPPER departed Kingstown at 12:30 and before we knew it, was anchoring off Bequia’s Admiralty Bay. For years, people have been raving to me about Bequia, so finally, I had my chance to see what all the fuss is about.
Beauty trumped “danger” as we settled in the shaded, coral sands, weary of the manchineel trees that loomed around us. How strange that such a gorgeous beach had its own Eden-like pitfalls but that made it all the more intriguing: trees that bear poisonous fruit and leaves that irritate the skin when touched. Even rain water dripping off the trees must be avoided.
I worked off my lunch with a couple miles’ run back and forth along the bay, then jumped into the soothing water, never wanting to leave.
Finally, waterlogged but sea-sated, I headed back to the ship and re-joined friends for a quick tender ride to the harbor (Star Clippers provides separate tenders to both the beach and the town) and a walk around.
Local craftspeople were selling their wares on the waterfront as the sun began to dip over the horizon and cast a golden sheen on everything in our midst.
After that heavenly swim, the sunset was a perfect visual coda to my favorite day thus far, courtesy of the ROYAL CLIPPER.
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."