The Romantic South

The Nantucket Clipper’s antebellum itinerary makes for a relaxing, gracious vacation

By: Gayle Christensen

Aboard the Nantucket Clipper on its Antebellum South itinerary, my husband and I cruised through 250 miles of natural and man-made beauty as well as 250 years of history, culture and tradition.

Following the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville, Fla., to Savannah, Ga., and on to Charleston, S.C., we visited the South’s most romantic cities with their stately homes, exquisite gardens and moss-draped oaks. Walks led by our onboard naturalist introduced us to the region’s rich flora and fauna. The unhurried pace of our one-week regional cruise harmonized with the area’s gracious ambiance.

Most cruising is at night, allowing maximum time to explore each port of call. Clipper offers an eclectic list of optional excursions for varying levels of activity. Cities may be viewed by bus, carriage or on guided walks.

We enjoyed visiting two of Georgia’s coastal islands, Jekyll Island, once the winter home for America’s rich and famous, and Cumberland Island, whose marshes and waterways are a sanctuary for bird and wildlife.

Out of Charleston, we heightened our knowledge of Southern history with excursions to Fort Sumter and Middleton Place, once a plantation and now the nation’s oldest landscaped gardens. Clipper Cruise Line is obviously committed to education. Prior to travel, we received a recommended reading list. Most passengers had read John Berendt’s best-seller, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” in preparation for visiting Savannah.

At 102 passengers, the Nantucket Clipper is the smallest of Clipper’s four ships. All cabins are outside. Our category C cabin on the Promenade Deck was well-appointed and comfortable. Housekeeping was the best we have experienced on a small ship. Cabin windows were washed daily and a burned-out light bulb was replaced before I could report it. The young, friendly, all-American crew takes pride in excellence.

We noted Clipper’s attention to detail throughout, right down to the orderly disembarkation process. It is not surprising that Clipper has several times been named among the world’s best small-ship cruise lines by readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine. There’s open seating for meals on the Nantucket Clipper. Breakfast is either continental or a full meal. The galley creates several choices of delicious, healthy, attractively served entrees for both lunch and dinner. Each meal includes light selections and offers half portions. Fresh fruit and seafood are featured. Our menus included many regional dishes, from corn chowder to flaming Bananas Foster.

Those onboard our sailing were mostly seniors, well educated and highly traveled. Many had previously cruised with Clipper. A university alumni group was aboard our cruise. No doubt this cruise would appeal to historians, architects, educators, naturalists, gardeners, and bird-watchers.

Our Antebellum South itinerary is repeated in March, April and November. Weather for our March cruise was ideal plus, the azaleas were in bloom.

A subsidiary of deluxe-tour operator Intrav, Clipper this year offered more than 50 unique itineraries, domestic and international. 800-325-0010

Gayle Christensen is a travel consultant with Alamo World Travel in Alamo, Calif.