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Built in 1931 for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her financier husband, E.F. Hutton, the Sea Cloud has enjoyed a fascinating history. With its graceful clipper bow and quartet of masts that soar the height of a 15-story building, it is also one of the most beautiful ships afloat. Refitted decades ago with accommodations for 64 guests attended to by a 60-member crew, the vessel — now the flagship of the Sea Cloud Cruises brand — offers an intimate experience that feels like a private yacht. And traveling on such a small ship is certainly more appealing in light of the ongoing pandemic.
On the third morning of our nine-day cruise from Palma, Spain, to Casablanca, Morocco, we were just finishing up breakfast when Sea Cloud began to reduce speed. It was a fine, sunny day, with the shores of Valencia, Spain, beckoning from a few miles in the distance. Within moments, the captain announced that we would be stopping for a swim in the Mediterranean. We raced to our cabin, slipped into bathing suits and clambered down the gangway. Crew members stood sentry, keeping track as each of us jumped into the slightly chilly, but thoroughly refreshing, sea.
Such an impromptu opportunity was typical of life onboard a ship where, aside from enrichment lectures, port talks (in both English and German) and live piano music in the evenings, there is no formal entertainment. Instead, guests can assist the crew with the rigging, gaze up at the sails from the Blue Lagoon (a cushioned terrace on the stern), settle into a quiet nook for a good read or visit the open bridge. Once per cruise, weather conditions permitting, there is even a chance to buzz around the fully rigged ship in a Zodiac to take photos (which, admittedly, I did twice).
The classic dining room and adjacent lounge, with its carved woodwork, art deco sconces, brass windows and original oil paintings, is an ideal setting for elegant meals. For breakfast, there’s a buffet with freshly baked pastries and breads, an omelet station, cold cuts, fresh fruit, yogurt and a selection of cereals. Dinner is a full-service affair with a daily menu of courses that are accompanied by a choice of wine and beer.
Lunch is served in the Lido, a sheltered space atop the stern where a salad bar with market-fresh ingredients begins a lineup of beautifully prepared courses. Typical entrees range from a spectacular, freshly caught sea bream cooked in sea salt and olive oil to a roast suckling pig and spicy vegetarian curries. What’s missing — and yet not actually missed — by Sea Cloud’s guests are specialty restaurants, room service and a midnight buffet, although there is a lovely afternoon tea served either on the promenade or in the lounge.
Fellow passengers are a mix of mostly well-to-do, elderly and well-traveled Germans and Americans, along with a sprinkling of Canadians, Australians and other Europeans. The oft-asked question is not “Have you sailed on Sea Cloud before?” but “How many times?”
There are 18 compact, but functional, exterior staterooms with a picture window, plenty of storage space and modern bathrooms that feature gold-plated taps and hardware. For the slightly more adventurous, there are also four former officers’ staterooms with upper/lower berths that are accessed from the promenade. But it is the 10 original suite accommodations on the Main Deck — with their brass portholes and marble bathrooms featuring a full tub — that are the most coveted and expensive. Suites 1 and 2, once the private domain of Post and Hutton (not to mention politicians and a few movie stars), are the most lavish, and are often booked years in advance.
As of press time, Sea Cloud has suspended operations. Depending on the status of European ports, Sea Cloud is expected to return to Mediterranean cruise service in the late summer or fall of 2021. And still expected to launch sometime this fall is the line’s third sailing craft — Sea Cloud Spirit. The regal three-masted vessel will carry up to 136 guests.
According to a release from the company: “In view of the current concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the shipping company has further strengthened its already strict preventive measures for health protection onboard both ships. The well-being of passengers and crew, which includes their health and safety, is the highest priority for Sea Cloud.”
The DetailsSea Cloud Cruiseswww.seacloud.com