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Although I’ve returned home, I’ll never forget the swoosh of breaking waves, the glitter of bright stars in the night sky and the heart-lifting moment when I first saw Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper raise its sails.
As wind filled the ship’s 42 sails, I noticed that passengers had begun to swarm over the huge, open deck. Some climbed the mast with supervision and safety vests, looking out over the sea from the converted crow’s nest. Others sunned themselves on poolside chairs or in the rigging at the bow. Active cruisers were at the watersports platform, participating in complimentary banana boating, waterskiing, windsurfing and sunfish sailing.
It’s no wonder that Star Clippers’ 227-passenger vessel — the largest five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship in the world — gains more than half its business from repeat passengers. The constant connection with the wind and water is addictive, evoking the romantic feel of a private yacht experience onboard a larger ship.
However, Royal Clipper isn’t for everyone. There is no elevator, casino, formal ensemble show or alternative dining room. There are no children’s programs, either, although many young passengers would certainly enjoy the trip.
Still, many passengers from North America, the U.K., Germany, Scandinavia and France have become passionate fans. Singles also particularly enjoy the culture, which is friendly and open.
Passengers mix freely both on land and at sea, and single supplements are waived on select sailings.
The ship’s culinary cruises attract foodies with a roster of impressive international chefs, and the cuisine available in the onboard three-level dining room sets a high standard with imaginative and varied twists on classics. Flavors and textures are paired creatively, as shown with dishes such as goat cheese with watermelon, a tasty combination that had guests requesting seconds and thirds. And those with dietary restrictions need not worry; the staff caters to them with creative options, too.
All meals are open seating, with a no-tie dress code, and the two top categories have room service and minibars.
Accommodations include two 320-square-foot Owner’s Suites, each equipped with a marble bath and whirlpool tub in addition to a separate oversize double-sleeping loft, an adjacent bathroom and 24-hour cabin service. Fourteen 255-square-foot Deluxe Deck Suites with balconies are also available, as well as two 175-square-foot corner Deck Cabins that each feature a marble bath and whirlpool tub.
Other accommodations include 90 double outside cabins that each measure 148 square feet. Twenty-seven of these can convert to triples, and there are six interior double cabins. All accommodations also have televisions, DVD players and telephones.
Public space onboard is cleverly designed; for example, the reception desk also functions as the gift shop cashier, and the covered, outdoor Tropical Bar is set up for morning exercise, evening entertainment, afternoon refreshments and as a spot to simply pass the time. The large Piano Bar also functions as a main lounge where passengers can grab fruit and a cup of coffee or tea, which are available all day.
The main pool features a glass bottom on top of the atrium, which causes a constant rippling kaleidoscope of watery light. And the lower-level spa and fitness center, within Captain Nemo Lounge, features underwater portholes.
Evening entertainment includes watching an onboard fashion show, stargazing on deck, dancing to a steel band, playing trivia games or participating in a crew and passenger talent show. However, far and away the greatest entertainment is the 42 square sails; passengers check their watches to make sure they’re on the sundeck when the crew takes the ropes.
Star Clippers’ fleet of three tall ships travels to ports on the Dalmatian Coast and in Greece, Turkey, Spain and the French and Italian Riviera, as well as to the Caribbean and Costa Rica in winter.