Star Clippers where the age of sail meets state of the art modern day luxury cruising
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by. The words of John Masefields Sea Fever poem rang in my ears as I took in the splendid sight of the 134 metre long five masted sailing yacht Royal Clipper, her smart white and blue-liveried sides gleaming in the warmth of the Barcelona sunshine. She was moored up in the citys harbour, making ready for her onward voyage across the Mediterranean, her decks a bustle of crew hands dapperly dressed in traditional white uniforms with blue and white striped tops.
Quite breathtaking to behold, the 227-guest ship dwarfed nearby vessels in both size and beauty; I was welcomed aboard, and immediately breathed in a mix of aromas that can only come from that particular combination of teak decking, heavy ropes and metres and metres of crisp white canvas that you would find on such a ship. I was for a moment transported back to the romance of an earlier age some 150 years ago, when legendary clipper craft ruled the waves and the oceans.
Together with her sisters, the slightly smaller Star Clipper and Star Flyer, the fleet of three provides a luxurious alternative to the motorised world of cruising, covering a fascinating range of itineraries across the world and providing the ultimate in authentic sailing adventures.
Shown graciously to my cabin by a friendly crew hand, I was surprised at how spacious it was – and how unexpectedly plush. Im not saying that I was expecting the kind of shiver me timbers scrubbed-deck basics that existed in the tall ships world of Columbus or Captain Jack Sparrow, but the standard of comfort achieved in my Royal Clipper stateroom would have done justice to a five star hotel. Light and airy and well lit, the cabins beautifully fitted wardrobes offered more room than expected for my far too many clothes. The carpet was soft underfoot, and the quality bedspread in nautical blue hues provided a mini ocean for the fluffy white origami towelling swans that graced the comfortable double bed. Home from home, the blurb had said I only wish my home was half this comfortable. It was impressed upon me that there were no rigid rules for the lifestyle on board music to my ears, as I live my life by deadlines so it was wonderful to get away from them here. Informality is the order of the day, although a casual smart dress code is de rigueur on board.
Back up on deck, I lined up alongside my travelling companions to witness the sailaway, as a line of faces mirrored ours on shore. We and they had cameras resting on our chests, poised for the moment that this magnificent ship set sail they had the best view, but we were in the best place, I thought smugly. We started slowly, edging out of the harbour under engine power, as the crew busied about the vessel preparing the sails. We cleared the lee of the harbour walls, and then the magic happened. With a series of snaps and cracks, the multitude of fresh white sails pulled taught, as the evening breezes filled every canvas fold. The thrill when the wind caught us can only be expressed as an emotion, the moment producing an unexpected exhilaration in this landlubber that I cannot exactly describe, except to say that my elation was as bubbling as the foaming white waves beside us, and there was even a tear in my eye.
It was hard to tear myself away from the view for dinner, but the realisation that my deck companions had dwindled made me realise how hungry the sea air had made me. After freshening up in my sleek marble-lined bathroom, I made my way to the dining room, a welcoming area, tasteful and nautical by way of decor, and already graced with a number of diners. Casual elegance is what was advised for the evening dress code, and it fitted perfectly with the high standard of cuisine on offer.
An exploratory wander around the ship after dinner had me surprised once again at the level of comfort afforded by this glorious vessel. A grandiose three deck atrium knits the under-deck spaces together, and fills the spaces below with natural sunlight from the glazed panels above. The state of the art gym and fitness centre with its full spa menu and under-water portholes is wittily called the Captain Nemo Lounge, while deck-side, there are plenty of sunbeds and secret places to relax and observe the oceans when not taking a plunge in one of the three swimming pools on board the 1760 square metres of deck. One such hideaway is the bowsprit netting up front, where, for the rest of the evening, I lay in hammock stance and gazed at the sea passing beneath me as this majestic ship sliced easily through the Mediterranean waves.
Sadly I was only on board for one leg of Royal Clippers trip (Id joined her for the hop across to Palma), so it was with a heavy and envious heart that I alighted from this sea-going steed the next morning, but my time on board was well spent in convincing me that I wanted to come back for more. Luxury on the high seas? I couldnt think of a better place to find it!
Leah Shepherd is Head of Product at WeCruise.