ABOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER-“Which way to the ship, the Royal Clipper?”
The worker in the cruise terminal in Barbados looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “It’s right there, madam, in front of you,” he said, pointing.
And there it was. I expected the Royal Clipper to be big. It is, after all, the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world, but the size of it still surprised me. Standing alongside the dock, I could see only a portion of its 439-foot length.
Boarding was a breeze. We filled out the necessary paperwork—health forms and waivers—in the terminal, then joined a short line of passengers waiting to climb the gangway up to the ship where we were greeted by Captain Mariusz, a deckhand offering moist towels, and a server with a tray of refreshing fruit punch. Then onto a lounge to turn over our passports and cruise documents, run a credit-card tab and pick up our room key/ship ID cards. Quick and easy.
Our cabin is smaller than we are used to, but that was expected, too. This is a sailing vessel, not a behemoth ocean liner. Still we found plenty of drawers and niches to store all the clothes and gear we’d brought for two people for a week’s voyage. A TV and DVD player promised entertainment when we could pull ourselves away from on-deck activities. Nice wood paneling and furnishings gave the small space warmth. Two portholes provided a view right at the waterline. Cabins on the higher decks are larger, with windows and verandas, and I’m told these are among the first to sell out.
After the compulsory muster drill, given in both English and German, we changed for dinner. Dress on board is casual. The only real rule: no flip-flops or shorts at dinner. I promised myself I would not overdo the food as I have on other cruises. We’ll see. But I’m off to a good start, limiting myself to just three courses. OK, four: I had to have the cheese plate as well dessert. To drink a grand vin Bordeaux without at least a few bites of cheese would be a tragedy, right?
The best part of the day came just after 10 o’clock when the Royal Clipper prepared to disembark. On deck we watched, spellbound, as the crew scurried about, playing out ropes and adjusting rigging, unfurling most of the ship’s 42 sails on five masts. The Champagne Bar was open and many passengers sat with flutes in hand gazing up at the taut ivory sails, bright stars filling the dark sky between them. As we pulled away from port we passed an ocean liner whose passengers lined the railings watching us. We must have been quite a sight, and I’m betting more than one aboard envied us.
Out into the open ocean, the ship gently swayed, not enough to make us uncomfortable. On the contrary, we fell asleep under fluffy duvets, rocked like babies in a cradle.
Post and photos by Katherine Rodeghier