Whenever my friends Pete and Ken invite me to join them on their 38-foot sailboat for a cruise along the Chicago lakefront, I am always quick to say yes. There’s something so stimulating about slicing the surface of Lake Michigan, sails taut against the wind. And I’m always sad when sailing season ends here in the Midwest and I must wait months for another chance to get on the water.
But this year, I won’t have to. I’m heading to the Caribbean for a week-long cruise on the largest, full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Star Clippers operates three of the largest and tallest sailing vessels on the planet and I’ll board its biggest, the Royal Clipper. With five masts and 42 sails, this 439-foot vessel dwarfs my friends’ sailboat but still promises to satisfy my longing for seafaring.
Plenty of ocean liners crisscross the Caribbean, but few offer the experience of cruising under the billowing sails of a tall ship. I hope to join passengers in playing pirate of the Caribbean by climbing rigging to the crow’s nest for a 360-degree ocean view, take a lesson in the art of tying sailor’s knots, help the crew raise the sails, practice sailing maneuvers and learn about celestial navigation.
No pirate ever had access to the luxuries of this vessel, though. With a capacity of 227 passengers and staff of 106, the Royal Clipper promises the pampering atmosphere of a private sailing yacht. Along with three swimming pools, a three-deck atrium, fine dining, a spa and health club it has a water-sports deck with plenty of equipment: Zodiac rafts, water skis, paddleboards, wake boards. I’ll have free use of snorkel equipment, too. Who knows, I might spot Nemo down below.
My cruise will begin and end in Barbados. En route the Royal Clipper will call at Grenada where I might visit a nutmeg cooperative and cocoa plantation; Tobago Cays for swimming and snorkeling at Marine National Park; St. Vincent where Johnny Depp played Capt. Jack Sparrow during the filming of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series; Bequia, largest island in the Grenadines; the French island of Martinique; and St. Lucia where I hope to visit the world’s only drive-in volcano, La Soufriere.
Won’t you sail away with me?