That’s the Spirit! ~Sea Cloud Cruises’ Sea Cloud Spirit Brightens the Gloomiest Skies

It seems that so many of the things I love originated in Europe: my favorite music, cuisine, literature, art and, now, thanks to Sea Cloud Spirit, one of my favorite ships.

On my recent seven-day cruise, even a significant number of rainy, windy and downright cold days couldn’t dampen guests’ Sea Cloud spirit as we sailed from Portsmouth, England, to Dublin, Ireland.


A Small Ship…With Everything You Need:

Sea Cloud Spirit’s public spaces are the epitome of casual elegance. Despite her diminutive size–4,228 gross tons–she incorporates

many of the bells and whistles of larger ships while adding experiences that are uniquely her own.


Launched in 2021, the all-inclusive, 136-passenger, three-mast Sea Cloud Spirit is the latest in the trio of windjammers from Sea Cloud Cruises, a Hamburg, Germany-based company that is beginning to make a splash in the U.S.A. Best known for the original Sea Cloud, built in 1931 as the private yacht of millionaire heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and still sailing today, Sea Cloud Cruises hopes that, by year’s end, 40% of its guests will hail from America.

Beginning January 2025, in fact, Sea Cloud Spirit comes to America’s backyard, home porting for the first time in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she will launch an ambitious culinary program that showcases some of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated chefs.

And while this is, indeed, a tempting lure for travelers, American and otherwise, I suspect that the greatest enticement is Sea Cloud Spirit, herself, and that vision of 28 billowing sails soaring 200 feet above a lavishly appointed yacht that combines old-world elegance with today’s most contemporary technology. Sea Cloud Spirit is not the only windjammer sailing the seven seas, but she and the ships of Sea Cloud are the only ones to set sails by hand as they were centuries ago. Who needs production shows, a swimming pool or casino when you can stand on the open decks and marvel as 18 deckhands scurry up the masts to unfurl the dazzling 44,100 square feet of white canvas sails?

And now, Sea Cloud Spirit guests can get a taste of what it is like to climb those masts just as the deckhands do. Recently introduced aboard Sea Cloud Spirit is “Hit the Rig!” a program that allows sailor wannabes to climb aloft once they have passed a physical assessment by the ship’s doctor and first mate. One of those who “Hit the Rig” on my cruise was 86 years old!

For those with a fear of heights but a love of photography, Sea Cloud Spirit offers the Photo Safari, an opportunity for guests to board a zodiac and circle the ship while its sails are majestically unfurled. Talk about a photo op! (This story’s lead photo is not a professional shot, but one I captured on my four-year-old iPhone during my cruise’s Photo Safari.)


SEA CLOUD SPIRIT
The SEA CLOUD SPIRIT combines traditional windjammer experience with 21st century comfort with up to 136 passengers.

Portsmouth…An Ideal Beginning:

With its fascinating maritime history, a D-Day Museum, Charles Dickens’ home and a riot of shopping, restaurants and the spectacular Spinnaker Tower offering 23-mile views from its top (and, for the more adventurous, an opportunity to actually abseil down the landmark), Portsmouth just might be my favorite cruise embarkation point of all.

The Portsmouth Passenger Terminal Dock is just minutes away from my Gunwharf Quays hotel and I arrive there to find Sea Cloud’s designated entrance devoid of the crowds and queues so common to cruising these days. Ours is the only ship sailing today so, after accepting a flute of champagne, I simply board Sea Cloud Spirit and proceed to my stateroom.

Joining me on this “Britain in Bloom” voyage are 98 other guests, 73 from Germany, and the balance primarily from the United States, many associated with Stanford Travel/Study, an education-based travel organization which has sailed Sea Cloud ships since the line was formed in 1979.

Fit For An Heiress

Sea Cloud Spirit Accommodations…Fit for an Heiress:

You might say Sea Cloud Spirit’s staterooms and suites are the gold standard. Literally. This ship is inspired by the original Sea Cloud and, as such, its signature brass fittings sparkle with opulence–even the bowl-style bathroom sink in each of the ship’s lavish suites is a brilliant golden vision. The 69 staterooms aboard Sea Cloud Spirit range from a cozy 140 square-foot superior single to a 301 square-foot verandah suite though all Deck 3 accommodations include verandahs. And while the atmosphere harkens back to another glorious time, there is no question that this is modern luxury thanks to a sophisticated TV with entertainment system, a stocked in-room refrigerator, a free gigabyte of Wi-Fi and a shower with water pressure so powerful, I nearly got whiplash. Bathrobes, hair dryer, coffee makers and a bottle of Pommery champagne, its bottle etched with an illustration of Sea Cloud Spirit, are standard in all staterooms and suites.

A Small Ship…With Everything You Need:

Sea Cloud Spirit’s public spaces are the epitome of casual elegance. Despite her diminutive size–4,228 gross tons–she incorporates many of the bells and whistles of larger ships while adding experiences that are uniquely her own.

A surprisingly well-equipped spa is tucked away on Cabin Deck, offering steam, Finnish sauna, foot bath and treatment rooms, while a boutique offering branded merchandise is situated right next door. Also on Lido Deck is the ship’s sports platform, your entry into the sea when weather permits, either for a swim or to lounge atop one of the floating deck chairs offered. Need a work out? Visit the Sun Deck to find Sea Cloud Spirit’s ocean-view fitness area with bikes, weights and treadmills. A charming library, stocked with books in both English and German, is located forward on Lido deck.

On our sailing, lectures were conducted daily, both in English and German, in the lovely Lounge (a woefully underused space if you ask me) with topics largely related to our U.K. itinerary, from Stonehenge, the Romans and King Arthur to an exploration of Cornwall and its impact on mystery writers like Agatha Christie. The Lounge is also where soccer fans assembled in the evening to view European Cup matches streamed to the room’s wide screen TV.

On mild evenings—we only had one of those—the Lido comes alive with dancing, all requests honored by the accommodating disc jockey while those with two left feet are more than happy to huddle at the Lido Bar, sipping a libation, chatting with shipmates and the charming bar staff and absorbing the spectacular ocean views.

A Taste of Sea Cloud Spirit:

We glimpse the ocean through oval leaded windows, gold-trimmed sconces and chandeliers casting an amber glow over the golden-framed nautical paintings and the room’s formally set tables. This is Sea Cloud Spirit’s Restaurant, a tasteful and stylish space where a full breakfast buffet is offered each morning and where the Captain’s Gala Welcome and Farewell dinners are staged. During inclement weather, dinner and lunch buffets are also served here, live cooking stations supplementing the buffet offerings.

But it is the nautical vibe of Lido Deck dining that most guests prefer. At this covered al fresco restaurant you will find tables set with china, glass and silver and, at its entrance, a full bar perfect for socializing. Here there is no question: We are on a sailing ship, the vast ocean surrounding us and those magnificent sails an upward glance away.

With Sea Cloud Spirit’s German roots, it is not surprising that culinary offerings lean toward European tastes (and, in a nod to the ship’s home country, delicious freshly baked pretzels appear in every bread and pastry display). Instead of sandwiches, pizza or frequent ethnic selections like Mexican, Asian or Indian (although a delectable selection of sushi was offered one evening), there’s an emphasis on rich soups, roasted meats like barbecued chicken and full roasted pig, hearty cuts of beef and the freshest seafood, usually fileted and grilled right in front of you. Vegetarians have their own option at each meal and several popular dishes like chicken breast, pasta arrabiata and Caesar salad are always available.

Charting a New Course:

From sunny Portsmouth, storms pelt Sea Cloud Spirit’s route. Calls at Guernsey and Tresco are cancelled in favor of the better-protected Cowes and Falmouth….which end up being my favorite ports of call!

In Cowes, Sea Cloud Spirit scurries to locate a dual-language tour guide and succeeds, resulting in an enlightening walking tour that includes a visit to the Sir Max Aitken Museum, a magnificent 18th Century building stuffed with Sir Max’s personal collection of historical and nautical artifacts.

And we really hit the jackpot in Falmouth, arriving under glorious sunshine to discover the town’s annual Sea Shanty Festival in full swing. Free concerts are everywhere from cozy pubs to street corners and squares and it seems I am the only one not dressed as a pirate!

Sea Cloud Spirit’s “Britain in Bloom” sailing may have been dealt some unfortunate weather but, thanks to this stunning, truly unique ship, her superb service, fine dining and an intelligent course adjustment to avoid possibly worse weather, guests barely seemed to notice.

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cover photo: Sea Cloud Spirit, credit Judi Cuervo

all other photos, see captions and credit Judi Cuervo

See Sea Cloud cruises here:

Sea Cloud Cruises
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Sea Cloud II
Sea Cloud Spirit

 

 

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