Best For People Who Want
The exhilaration of being propelled by the elements; to call at lots of relatively untouristed ports.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Great food; a casino; glitzy entertainment; formal dining; large cabins; to bring their children
The largest square-rigged sailing ship in the world, Royal Clipper offers a blend of older lines Windjammers' ultra-casual and Windstar's more upscale onboard atmosphere, and is popular with international passengers who find it exhilarating beyond their ability to describe the sight of 42 sails unfurling consecutively to symphonic accompaniment.
Royal Clipper has no elevator and no cabins designed for the handicapped. Except during trans-ocean crossings, there's no doctor aboard, but only a nurse, who also waits tables.
The ship's ever-lively epicentre is the Tropical Bar on Main Deck, presided over by a surly green parrot called Murphy. Evening entertainment is presented here, right on the teak deck. Next door, the Piano Bar, complete with a white baby grand, opens to the three-deck-high atrium, a rarity for a sailing ship. Aft of the Tropical Bar is the comfortable, air-conditioned library. There's also a seldom-used Observation Lounge forward of the Deluxe balcony suites.
In the cool, quiet, under-used Captain Nemo Lounge, which shares space with the gym and spa, you can observe marine life through thick portholes while relaxing on a comfortable sofa. Despite the gym equipment, the brass, wood, and leather give the lounge a nautical flavor. There is no bar service.
Fill up at breakfast, a lavish, usually delicious buffet. At dinner, you may well find the food either a bit heavy, or inexpertly prepared, or both. There are frequent on-deck barbecues at lunchtime.
The Clipper Dining Room is the ship's most beautiful room. The central ceiling, three decks overhead, is actually the glass bottom of one of the dipping pools. Tables of assorted shapes and sizes seat two, four, six or eight.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, with an omelet station in the morning and a fresh pasta or stir-fry for lunch. Dinners are a la carte, with open seating; as there are commonly multiple nationalities aboard, be certain to ask to be seated with English-speakers - assuming, of course, that you're neither reclusive nor misanthropic. The dishes on the menu are displayed each evening in the Piano Bar, allowing you to see what you're getting yourself into. Room service is offered only to guests in the two Owners and 14 Deluxe Suites.
Service is best described as friendly, as crewmembers often do double duty as waiters, nurse, and whatever else may be required. Meals are the times when you get to talk to them the most as they wait on your table and visit at the same time. Very much a "family" kind of atmosphere.
The ship speaks not of dollars, but of euros. A tip of 8 Euros per passenger per day is suggested -- 5 for the wait staff pool, 3 for your cabin steward. Tips may be placed in a box at the purser's office or added to your onboard account. A 12.5 percent tip is automatically added to bar bills.
Want traditional cruise line production numbers? Sail with someone else. Here you'll make do with crab races, passenger talent shows, and local guest performers in the Tropical or Piano Bar. Most passengers agree that the best show onboard is sailaway.
The 114 cabins in eight categories attractively juxtapose wood paneling, off-white walls, marine blue carpeting, bedspreads with nautical flags, and brass fixtures, all of which combine to say: nautical. A hair dryer, safe and standard toiletries are supplied in all categories. Cabins are equipped with 220-volt outlets, plus a 110-volt shaver outlet. Bring a converter for use with U.S. appliances.
Each of the two 320-square foot Owner's Suites has it own separate sitting area and free minibar. The 14 Deluxe verandah suites, the first on a sailing craft, measure 255 square feet. Two 175-square foot cabins behind the library have no designated balcony space, but the cabin doors do open onto the deck, and there's a whirlpool tub/shower in the bathroom, as well as a minibar and bathrobes.
The spa, beauty salon and gym share the Captain Nemo Lounge's underwater setting. The gym offers four treadmills, five exercycles (three types) and six weight machines. Spa treatments include a 60-minute relaxation or Thai massage, for 62 Euros. Use of the sauna is by appointment, and costs 3 Euros per day. The facilities are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Some passengers apparently believe that walking up and down stairs (there's no passenger elevator) a couple of times a day is all the exercise they need.
Of the three fresh water pools on the teak Sun Deck, two are only knee-deep, and the water's unheated. The third pool -- the glass-bottom one above the dining room -- is about four feet deep and just about big enough for a cooling dip.
On port days, a marina platform is sometimes lowered from the stern, and passengers frolic on and with a sunfish, a banana boat, water skis, windsurfs and kayaks. Snorkeling gear must be used at the beach, as swimming off the platform is forbidden.
The ship's most unusual and exhilarating exercise is supervised mast-climbing, which takes place several times a cruise unless the weather's dreadful. Those who don't like heights can climb out in the bow netting while the ship is under sail.
There are no children's programs, counsellors, or kid's menus, and few youngsters sail aboard Royal Clipper. Neither cribs nor formula is available. Pregnant women in their third trimester are not allowed aboard.
Shorts and T-shirts are banned from the dining room at night, when men are encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts for dinner, but most wear polo shirts, while their better halves favor slacks or casual dresses. At all other times, anyone seen in anything other than shorts and a T-shirt is frowned at censoriously.