Our latest Star Clipper adventure started on Friday evening when we met the first twelve passengers in our group at the Sofitel at Gatwick airport, where we were all overnighting before our flight to Barbados. The Sofitel is the perfect choice for an overnight stay, with an attractive atrium, a choice of three restaurants, and a smart bar. However, as England were playing we decided to take taxis to a local pub where we enjoyed a lovely meal and, surprisingly, an easy England victory!
After an excellent breakfast at the Sofitel we took the short monorail transfer to South Terminal and checked in for our flight to Bridgetown, Barbados, picking up six more of our group along the way. Very pleased that our BA flight departed on time and after an enjoyable flight, with an excellent crew, we arrived in Barbados 30 minutes early.
Our two pre-arranged mini buses were waiting for us and within 45 minutes of arrival we were pulling into Barbados port and gaining our first sight of the beautiful Royal Clipper. Boarding procedures were very quick and after a greeting from the captain as we climbed the gang plank, we were soon enjoying a cocktail in the Tropical Bar and meeting the remaining nine members of our group.
For our first evening on board we had arranged for exclusive use of the private dining room, so after compulsory lifeboat drills and a further drink in the bar our group of twenty-nine made its way to dinner. The private dining room is perfect for groups and enabled Joan and I to formally welcome everybody and, over a delicious meal and several glasses of wine, new friendships were firmly made.
Despite a long day for everybody we all ventured on deck at 10 o’clock to enjoy the magical first sail away on our Royal Clipper Caribbean adventure.
After a leisurely breakfast we all gathered on deck with our fellow passengers for the mandatory lifeboat drill followed by Captain Sergey’s presentation of the officers and crew. At 12 o’clock the Royal Clipper anchored off Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. After a lovely buffet lunch onboard we took the tender ashore to explore this tiny town.
Being a Sunday the majority of shops were closed but amazingly we managed to find a pleasant little bar to enjoy our first rum punch of the trip. After a pleasant couple of hours ashore we boarded the tender to return to the Royal Clipper and joined everybody on the upper deck at 18.00 as Royal Clipper set sail for Dominica.
This evening, after dinner, we retired to the Tropical Bar for drinks and to enjoy the Star Clipper fashion show. Passengers are encouraged to take part and the reward for doing so is a 20% discount off anything you purchase in the sloop shop. The resident entertainers, Joanna and Jerry once again provided music and after only 24 hours onboard it was apparent that they were the two most talented entertainers we had ever experienced onboard a Star Clippers sailing. Two young people, brilliant singers and musicians with a huge repertoire, so good that at times you had to look to double check that it was them singing and not a record.
Today was one of the highlights of the week and after breakfast we rushed on deck to look out for the Star Flyer who we would be racing alongside as we sailed jointly to Cabrits. At 10 am we noticed the Star Flyer appearing in the distance and watched as she gradually approached to within 200 metres of the Royal Clipper and then, with sails hoisted on both ships and crew standing to attention on the bow sprits, we began to race each other. A magnificent sight as the video clip on our Facebook page clearly shows.
At 12 o’clock both ships anchored close by off Cabrits and after a quick lunch we took the tender ashore to explore. Royal Clipper operates two tender services, one to the marina and one to the beach. In truth there is nothing at the Marina apart from a tiny bar and stall selling knitted hats and it is an easy 20-minute walk from the marina around to the beach where the other tenders service goes, so take the marina transfer if you fancy a pleasant walk but if not take the beach tender. Cabrits is a pleasant but tiny little town, although a short walk from the marina we found the friendly Purple Turtle bar where we stopped for a relaxing drink, gazing out towards the two ships floating at anchor. Hard to imagine a more relaxing way to spend a couple of hours!
Back on board we had a busy night ahead as tonight we were invited to the Captain’s repeat passenger cocktail party followed by dinner and then it was ‘White Night’. Star Clippers have one of the highest repeat booking figures of any cruise line and tonight over 80 of the passengers onboard has sailed before and were invited to the Captain’s cocktail party. Normally held in the open air at the aft of the ship, unfortunately there was rain this evening so the Captain entertained us in the Tropical Bar with one half roped off for us. Not perfect and you did feel some sympathy for the non-repeat passengers who could only look and wonder what we were doing drinking for free. Hopefully many of them will be sailing again and will therefore be invited to future parties.
After dinner, which once again was of an amazing standard although we did wonder at the wisdom of choosing tomato soup for the soup course this evening when it was ‘White Night’!, we moved onto the Main Deck where the ship was under full sails, white lights were bathing the deck and our entertainers, Joanna and Jerry had set up all their equipment. Great fun dancing as the ship rolled quite considerably and a memorable highlight was Joanna and Jerry's amazing tribute to the Bee Gees!
We woke this morning to find that Royal Clipper had already anchored off Falmouth Harbour, Antigua and so, after a light breakfast, we took the tender ashore. Today Royal Clipper was offering two tender services; one to Falmouth Harbour and one to the beach. We took the tender to the harbour and from there it is only a short walk to Nelson’s Dockyard, which is really a visit you should not miss! It costs $10 dollars to enter the restored historical dockyard but by showing your Royal Clipper key card you get a 50% reduction. Inside there is a colourful Caribbean market and a large number of fully restored buildings dating back to Nelson’s time on the Island, including a fascinating museum and several restaurants and bars. For some reason there is also an old, red British telephone box which I am certain was not there during Nelson’s time!
Leaving Nelson’s Dockyard it was only a 20-minute walk (although very steep in places) to Pigeon Beach where the crew had set up for an amazing beach BBQ. After a refreshing swim in beautifully clear waters we enjoyed a rum punch and a few beers from the pop-up bar and then a brilliant BBQ of burgers, sausages, chicken, ribs, salads, baked potatoes, desserts and cheeses!
After relaxing on the beach post lunch, it was simply a matter of stepping directly from the beach on to the tender for our transfer back to the Royal Clipper.
Again a quick shower and change onboard as tonight we had arranged a private Vacation Company cocktail party for the group to enjoy. Thankfully the weather this evening was perfect so all twenty-nine of us gathered in the open-air at the aft of the ship at 18.30 to enjoy an hour of cocktails and champagne as we shared stories about our first few days on board.
Royal Clipper was not departing until 23.30 and this evening to entertain us Royal Clipper had brought onboard a local steel band to provide some after dinner music. The 11-strong band, playing everything from Calypso to ABBA, made for a perfect end to a great day.
This morning Royal Clipper anchored at 07.30 am off Basseterre where it made a short morning stop. After a late night, and as the last tender back to ship was at 10 am, we decided, along with many of our group, to simply stay onboard this morning and enjoy a long, leisurely breakfast. Departing at 10.30 am, Royal Clipper made the short journey to South Friar’s Bay where at 11.15 am it anchored for the afternoon.
South Friar is a very busy and popular beach with a very large beach bar and restaurant complex. Going inside we did think that this was going to be an expensive round of drinks but were pleasantly surprised. A bucket of six chilled beers was only 15 US dollars and came with a full explanation from our young waiter as to who should drink each beer. The bucket contained two Carib, two Stag and two Skol beers. Apparently Carib is weak and should only be drunk by women, Stag is strong and a man’s drink and Skol is for trendy, young people. As you can imagine in our group we struggled to decide who should drink the Skol! If you love football this is a great bar to stop in, every single waiter had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Premier League and appeared to watch every single match. Unbelievably none of them were Newcastle supporters!
Back on board, several of our party joined Captain Sergey in the Piano Bar at 18.30 for ‘Story Time’. Captain Sergey is one of the few Captain’s to have sailed a tall ship around Cape Horn, so he has a few amazing tales to tell! After dinner, which tonight included an amazing rack of lamb as one of the choices, we gathered in the Tropical Bar for tonight’s entertainment which was a music quiz. After only a couple of minutes we realised some people take things far too seriously, so we simply gathered around the bar and amused ourselves watching how far some people would go to try and win!
Whilst having breakfast, the Royal Clipper anchored off Iles des Saintes and after waiting for those passengers who had booked excursions to depart, we then took the tender ashore. Iles des Saintes is an interesting town, a French protectorate, the official currency is the Euro, the town has a good selection of restaurants, bars and shops although beware – some restaurants are reluctant to allow you to take seats with the best views if you only want a drink. Having said that, after a pleasant wander around the town, we found a traditional little restaurant with a table large enough to accommodate ten of us. Initially only intending to have drinks, after a couple of extremely pleasant beers and cocktails we all became peckish and ended up sharing an eclectic snack of chips, fish balls and chicken curry!
Dinner tonight was the Captain’s Gala with a main course choice of either Lobster or Entrecote Steak, both of which were amazing! The meal concludes with a speech from the Captain and a champagne toast. Back on deck, tonight was the passenger and crew talent night, always a highlight on any Star Clipper cruise as you never know what to expect! Tonight’s show was excellent with some very talented passengers and crew entertaining us for over an hour.
Waking today we found that Royal Clipper was already anchored off Martinique. Deciding on a light breakfast this morning in the Piano Bar, we then took the tender ashore for this Martinique beach stop. Enjoying an ice cream at a pretty little beach bar, we then took a pleasant stroll to the other end of the beach and enjoyed a relaxing drink before taking the tender back to the Royal Clipper for lunch.
Today was the last night onboard for most passengers, including fifteen members of our group, and so, although fourteen of us were staying on for a second week, the atmosphere was a little subdued as we knew tomorrow morning we would be saying goodbye to many friends.
A last night on a Star Clipper sailing is always moving with the final night’s dinner concluding with the crew parading through the dining room waving their countries flag whilst they sing ‘We Are The World’ and all passengers wave their napkins along with them. Everybody then goes on deck for the final sail away.
One tradition is that on the final night Star Clippers show two short films of tall-ship memories, one of which shows a tall ship sailing around Cape Horn almost 100 years ago. A lovely experience and a great way to end the cruise, particularly if the weather is good and the film can be shown on the aft deck.
A strange but pleasant feeling today at breakfast as for the first time we were not getting off the ship at the end of a cruise but instead staying on for a second week. Very sad to say goodbye to the members of our group who were not staying on but we had made firm friendships and I am certain that we will be sailing together again at some point in the future. Staying on board meant we did not need to vacate our cabins and did in fact receive an invitation to have lunch on board with the officers. However having a full day in Barbados we had decided to explore the Island, so Joan and I had organised a full-day jeep safari for the fourteen of us.
Walking ashore after breakfast, our two open jeeps were waiting for us and when the first thing our driver said to us was, “who would like a Rum Punch?” we knew we were in for a fun day! Leaving the port with a Rum Punch in our hands, we headed to Gun Hill Station – one of the highest points on the Island, for a chance to see Mongoose and Monkeys. From here we headed to St. John’s Parish Church, with great views of the Atlantic Coastline and, for those brave enough, the chance to hand feed wild birds! Moving on through Edgecliff we then stopped at Bathsheba to view the stunning rock formations. After another Rum Punch we headed north to the tip of the Island before stopping at the beautiful, 4-star Sugar Cane Club for a lovely lunch with wine and beer included. Our next stop was at the famous Animal Flower Cave, where enjoying another Rum we watched the Atlantic Ocean break over the rocky coastline. Heading south now, we passed by some of the most famous hotels on the Island including Sandy Lane, before our final stop of the day at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery. A fascinating tour of the visitors’ centre with a Rum Punch in hand, was followed by a tasting session featuring various neat rums and finally a rum cocktail in the visitors’ bar before we climbed, crawled, were helped, onto our private minibus for the very short transfer back to the Royal Clipper and, guess what, a welcome cocktail as we got back onboard before a quick change for dinner and another mandatory lifeboat drill.
After breakfast all passengers gathered in the Tropical Bar for lifeboat drill and Captain Sergey’s presentation of the officers and crew. The first stop on our second weeks Grenadine Island sailing was the Captain’s Choice and at 12 o’clock Royal Clipper dropped anchor off Union Island for an afternoon stop. Whilst many of our party took the tender ashore to swim and, in some cases, paddle board, we decided on a leisurely afternoon onboard before making our way to the Tropical Bar at 16.30 for a cocktail making demonstration with the bar team. Great fun and the chance to sample a Mai Thai, a Clipper Delight and a Sex on the Beach.
Tonight was, again, the ‘Captain’s Repeat Passenger Cocktail Party’ and, with much better weather than last week, it was held in the open-air on the Aft Deck and, again, attended by over 80 guests.
After a great dinner, which included a brilliant Lamb curry, most of us made our way to the Main Deck for ‘Star Gazing with Matthew’, the Third Officer. A lovely way to end the day.
After a relaxing start to the day with continental breakfast in the Piano Bar, we sat on the Main Deck to watch several passengers try their hand at mast climbing whilst the Royal Clipper sailed towards St. George’s, the capital of Grenada, where we anchored at 11.30 am.
St. George’s is a bustling town with a lively open-air market, although several guests did feel intimidated by the locals. First impression is of a poor and run-down town but if you turn right and walk through a busy tunnel, carefully dodging the cars, you come to a restored, historical dock area where there are a couple of lovely bars and restaurants. We settled on a drink at Sails Restaurant and spent a very pleasant couple of hours sampling some Grenadian craft ales.
Tonight was our only late-night sail away and a large party of us had initially intended to dine ashore however after many peoples experience in town this afternoon, and not fancying braving the traffic tunnel at night, we decided to stay on board ship. A great decision as tonight we were entertained by another steel band who were even better than last weeks! Starting with a brilliant rendition of ‘Hey Jude’, they just got better and better and very soon they had the dance-floor packed!
Taking a drink on to the Main Deck at 23.45, we enjoyed a breath-taking sail away with the ship under full sail and all lights on as we pulled away from Grenada in the darkness to the haunting sounds of Vangelis ‘Conquest of Paradise’.
During breakfast Royal Clipper anchored off Tobago Cays where the crew had organised an amazing beach BBQ! After a couple of hours swimming in amazing clear waters, we strolled into the shade to find virtually a full restaurant and bar prepared just for us. Siting in the sand, eating a superb lunch with a chilled beer and a Rum Punch, whilst the ships entertainers played an excellent acoustic set is how memories are made.
Back on board we enjoyed sail away at 17.00 before a quick change as we had a busy night ahead of us. Firstly, at 18.30 our smaller group this week, met at the aft deck for our second Vacation Company Cocktail Party. Rougher seas this week meant that the ship was moving considerably but this just added to the sense of adventure as we stood with drinks in our hands watching the ship, under full sail, surge through the water.
Moving into the restaurant for dinner we marveled at how amazing the chefs are, producing meals of such a high standard when the ship was rolling so much and waves were regularly covering the portholes in the restaurant - ‘the washing machine effect’!
Tonight was ‘White Night’ but as the sea was rough it was held in the Tropical Bar instead of on the Main Deck. Still great fun with the dance floor packed with people trying to dance and keep their balance at the same time!
Royal Clipper anchored early off Kingstown, St. Vincent for a short, morning stop but after a late night we decided to simply relax on board. At 12.30 Royal Clipper set sail for Admiralty Bay, Bequia which Joan and I had been especially looking forward to as it was our favourite port on our very first Star Clipper cruise in 2000! In truth it had changed beyond all recognition but still retained all of the charm we remembered and we had a great couple of hours wandering round, enjoying a couple of drinks and remembering fondly our very first Star Clipper experience.
Back on board a small number of us were enjoying a drink watching an amazing sunset when I noticed a dolphin, shouting at everybody we ran to the ships rail in time to see a whole pod of dolphins passing the ship, a truly magical sight!
Tonight was ‘Pirates Night’, and knowing this was likely to happen at some stage during our two weeks onboard, ten of our group had brought costumes to wear. Meeting for a pre-dinner drink we found that, apart from us and the crew, only one other passenger had dressed up. Nevertheless we had a brilliant, fun night with many passengers complementing us and saying they wished they had brought a costume too!
Today we were back in the Euro zone as at 08.00 Royal Clipper tied up in the port of Fort de France, Martinique. After a quick breakfast we wandered ashore to explore this bustling town that we had visited once before. The largest port that we stopped at (excluding Bridgetown, Barbados), Martinique has a wide range of shops and bars and even a McDonald’s! There was only time for a quick coffee before we needed to board our ship for a 12 o’clock departure to Anse d’Arlet. After a short, 1-hour sailing, Royal Clipper dropped anchor for an afternoon beach stop.
Taking the tender ashore, a group of us decided to simply wander through this small town, visiting its one boutique before settling into a lovely little beach bar to enjoy beer, wine and rum punch’s as we gazed across the bay to the Royal Clipper.
Tonight was Captain’s Gala Dinner and three of our group had received invitations to join the Captain on his table. We had managed to obtain the two tables directly in front of the Captain’s table for the rest of our group so we had a perfect view of the Captain making his speech and toast. Having chosen the steak last week, I went for the lobster which was sublime and finished the evening with port and stilton.
Into the Tropical Bar after dinner for the ‘Guest and Crew Talent Show’ which is always a highlight of the week though often for many different reasons! Tonight was no exception, with some great acts but sadly no guests brave enough to perform this week. The highlight was the debut performance of Cliff, the head barman, impossible to describe but very funny and if, on a future sailing, you get a chance to see it, you are in for a rare treat!
Our last full day onboard after an amazing two weeks and we awoke to find the Royal Clipper at anchor off Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. As it was only a short stop this morning we decided to stay onboard and finish our books before returning them to the ship’s library. Sail away was delayed until 13.00, however by 14.00 Royal Clipper was dropping anchor off Soufriere, St. Lucia for our final port of call.
Several of the more adventurous members of our party had signed up for the Pitons zip line excursion whilst the rest of us took the tender to the marina to explore this small town. Settling into an attractive, little bar with great views of the Royal Clipper through its windows, we spent an enjoyable two hours reminiscing about our experiences on this amazing trip and promising to arrange another for 2020! As a memento of our last afternoon several of the group purchased bottles of the local banana chutney to bring back.
Pre-dinner drinks was a subdued affair as we all knew this was our final night and the adventure was nearly over. The last night’s dinner was excellent and emotional as the meal was, as always, finished with the crew waving their national flags and singing ‘We Are the World’ as the passengers wave their napkins and join in.
Waking alongside the dock in Barbados, it was time to bid farewell to the crew and the new friends we had made and leave the ship. Most of us had booked the Royal Clipper Copacabana excursion. Leaving the ship at 08.45, we were transferred, with our luggage, to the Copacabana Beach Club where we would spend a pleasant few hours before our transfer to the airport for our onward flight home. At the Beach Club our luggage was taken and held in a secure room whilst we were allocated sunbed’s on the beach. The cost of the excursion was 75 Euros but includes transfer to the Beach Club and then on to the airport, a sun lounger and shade, and 25 US dollars’ worth of credit to spend in the bar and restaurant, enough to buy a very good burger and chips and a couple of drinks. The price also includes a beach towel and a shower towel with facilities to refresh and change before catching the transfer to the airport.
Our return flight was fine with most people taking the opportunity to catch up on some sleep! Landing at Gatwick thirty minutes early we made our sad goodbyes to the remainder of our group with promises to catch up and do it again at some stage in the future.
We are already planning our next Star Clipper escorted group and will have details in the near future, if you have enjoyed reading about our latest adventure and would like to join us on our next then simply email us and we will send you full details as soon as they are available.