With 42 sails unfurled, Royal Clipper cruises for tiny towns and empty beaches

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS-The first time that you climb the ladder from dock to gangway to board the 227-passenger Royal Clipper, you will know instinctively that your week on the world’s largest sailing vessel will be unlike any other cruise. That ladder moment is too late to decide whether you favor the ride and rigging of a glorious sailing ship or prefer something that is steadier, roomier, and more luxurious on a much bigger vessel. On the Royal Clipper, …

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Aboard Royal Clipper: Winding up and winding down in St. Lucia

ABOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER – As the ship sailed into Marigot Bay on St. Lucia it began to rain and my heart sank. It was the last day of the cruise and I hadn’t booked a morning excursion because I wanted time to explore parts of the ship I hadn’t yet seen and take part in activities I hadn’t found time for. Highest on my list was the opportunity to climb to the ship’s crow’s nest, but …

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Aboard Royal Clipper: Garden strolls

ABOARD ROYAL CLIPPER-Dinner aboard the Royal Clipper is a white tablecloth affair with fresh, tropical flower centerpieces. At buffet breakfasts and lunches, towers of fresh fruit share the stage with salads and hot dishes of fish, meat and veggies. For one passenger on a very restricted diet, the kitchen crew created colorful fruit plates with a touch of whimsy. For a look at where these foods and flowers come from, I took a pair of shore excursions …

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Aboard Royal Clipper: Seafaring in Bequia

A good guide can make all the difference in how you experience a port of call. I lucked out in Bequia with Donnaka O’Fionnalaigh. “Call me D,” he said in greeting Bill and me at the marina on this island in the Grenadines. The Royal Clipper had not planned organized shore excursions for the few hours we were on the island, choosing instead to send separate tenders to the beach and marina for passengers to explore on …

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Aboard Royal Clipper: Under and on the sea

ABOARD THE ROYAL CLIPPER-Access. It can make the difference in so many things in life. And on a cruise it’s the difference between going with the pack or charting your own course. The Royal Clipper, at 439 feet, can poke its prow into places the big cruise ships can’t manage to go. Places like Tobago Cays. This sprinkling of islands in the Southern Grenadines doesn’t get a lot of cruise traffic aside from the sailboats and yachts …

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Aboard Royal Clipper: Working out the kinks in Grenada

ABOARD ROYAL CLIPPER-I jumped ship in Grenada. The Royal Clipper offered some very appealing shore excursions, but I had already seen the nutmeg and cocoa production operations there on a previous visit. And the eco-trek to Bamboo Falls seemed too challenging for my gimpy knee. So Bill and I did our own thing. We took a taxi from Grenada’s cruise terminal to LaLuna, a 16-cottage resort overlooking Morne Rouge Bay, the next beach over from Grand Anse …

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Aboard the Royal Clipper: Getting to know you in the Grenadines

ABOARD ROYAL CLIPPER-One of the advantages of cruising on a small ship is the opportunity to get to know people: passengers, crew and locals. The Royal Clipper has a capacity of 227 passengers, but on our sailing, during the lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are about 130 on board, so faces are quickly becoming familiar. We started off the morning with a more formal welcome by Captain Mariusz Szalek who turned the floor over to Cathleen …

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All aboard the Royal Clipper

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 …

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Chillin’ in Barbados

I love to cruise. But flying to the cruise port of embarkation is another matter. For my cruise on Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper I was assigned a 5 a.m. departure to Miami with a tight connection to Barbados. From Chicago’s O’Hare. In December. Uh, no. Seriously, 5 o’clock in the morning? Might as well not go to bed at all. And I’ve been burned too many times by late flights, missed and near missed connections, especially in …

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Playing pirate of the Caribbean on the Royal Clipper

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. …

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