Cruise Your Way Through the Caribbean on the Royal Clipper

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We were recently offered an incredible media opportunity to explore the Caribbean on the tallest sailing ship on the world — yes, really! Star Clippers Cruises offer unique experiences with three different ships to choose from depending on your interests.

Our cruise, which kicked off in Barbados, was on the Royal Clipper which takes 227 passengers, whereas their other two ships, Star Clipper and Star Flyer, both take only 166 passengers. Our route? We left Barbados and then headed to Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia, followed by Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Guadeloupe (Iles Des Saintes) and then finally to Martinique (Anse d’Arlet) before finishing off in Bridgetown where we started.

What option should you choose? While we never set sail on one of their smaller ships, we did race against one of them while we were in the Caribbean (see below — it was a fun experience). The tradeoffs are obvious. On a smaller ship, your cabin has less square footage and you won’t have as many perks and frills. That said, a smaller ship is more intimate and provides a more adventurous experience for those on board.

One of the Star Clippers smaller cruise ships

What to Expect 

The Royal Clipper is the largest five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship since her predecessor, the Preussen. Their Captain Nemo Lounge houses the spa and health club with unique underwater glass portholes. Rooms include double or twin beds that can be converted to queen-size beds, as well as marble-lined bathrooms, a television with in-house video, a direct dial telephone, a hair dryer and comfy furnishings. A three-deck atrium welcomes you when you enter the ship, with sunlight funneled into an elegantly furnished three-level dining room (btw, the three levels are not offered on the smaller ships).

About to leave Barbados

Below is a view of the Royal Clipper with its sails down, taken from the day boat that transports you to shore for day excursions and other activities. On one end of the ship, there’s a marina platform that lowers to sea level, so you can get immediate access to watersports activities. Some of the offerings include visits to remote reefs, underwater wrecks and blue lagoons where marine species are in abundance. 

Taken on one of the smaller shuttle boats that tendered us to shore one afternoon

The deck is spacious with plenty of room to walk around. Of the 227 capacity, our cruise had roughly 160 or so passengers. We never felt crowded and I imagine another sixty passengers wouldn’t have made much difference, largely because there are hidden balconies you can escape to on either side of the bow.

The shot below was taken one afternoon after we were four days into the cruise. Note that I hung out on the outside decks often; there’s such a sense of freedom when you are one with the sea. Each time I spent time on one of the deck ends, only a few other passengers were roaming around. The pool was located in the center of the main upper deck. While it was winter season and we had more rain than other times of the year, the weather was warm enough to lounge outside by the pool or at the outside bar.

We were given an opportunity to steer the ship as well, guided of course. Note below some of the lounge chairs on the deck (an uncovered option).

On board the Royal Clipper during our Caribbean cruise: Navigating the Wheel

Below, one of the crew members breathing in the majestic, wild, and inviting sea, something I made sure to do every day. Truly, it’s absolutely breathtaking and being one with her alluring vastness is not to be missed.

In addition to the opportunity to steer the ship, we were also able to climb the mast. What a thrilling adventure it was — once on top, there was an area to sit and take in the views and wide open sky on all sides. You can also join the Captain on the always-open bridge and learn how to splice a line, reef a sail or tie a square knot.

The Ship at Sunset

After a day filled with island activities or drinking cocktails at one of the local bars, we’d return to the ship for sunset.

The sky transitioned from blue skies and puffy white clouds to an orange and yellow glow, merging as they danced throughout the sky. Pink hues later accompanied the layers, adding to its beauty. From sun, wind and vibrancy, we moved to serenity, with gentle and enveloping backdrops.

As the stages of dusk continued, so did the mood of the passengers, the crew and the sea itself. We all were able to wind down. The ship wound down. We settled into the energy of what dusk encompasses in all her shapes and forms.

People began to order cocktails. A few lied down on the lounge chairs facing the breathtaking views.

Others spent time on the deck just taking it all in.

A couple with kids brought plates of pre-dinner snacks (served on the deck every evening) to their kids who couldn’t wait for supper time.

A couple in their eighties were already dressed for dinner as they sipped their martinis on one of the barstools at an outdoor bar. A couple next to them were still in casual athletic attire from their day hiking on one of our island stops.

A few people were dancing to the music playing during what I guess you could call Happy Hour. He played keyboard and his wife sung. It’s the same musician who would later accompany us inside at dinner, but rather than his more peppy and casual keyboard that sits on deck, he was behind a white grand piano instead.

Anthony and I oscillated between our cocktails and chatting with others who we’d gotten to know since we boarded at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal, mostly Americans although a few Germans, Brits and Aussies made their way into our conversations over several days.

Occasionally, you’d find someone in the pool at this time since it’s truly beautiful to swim below a dramatic sky as night begins to fall, bringing us all to stillness for a few hours before we liven things up with dancing and more drinks after dinner.

Dramatic and beautifully imposing, there’s nothing like those skies as the day winds down on a cruise ship, especially one as small and remarkable as the Royal Clipper. Such a beauty, isn’t she?

The Cabins

At first, I was a bit concerned that the cabins would be so small that they wouldn’t even fit our large roller suitcases. After all, most of my cruise experiences had been on much larger ships. Not the case on board the Royal Clipper. Of the cabin levels, ours cabin fell in the middle of the options, which equated to more square footage and light from the portholes.

Room choices have some wiggle room, ranging from a double or twin beds that can be converted to queen-size beds. I was surprised by the modern-styled marble-lined bathrooms and the television with in-house video for such a small ship. There’s also a direct dial telephone, a hair dryer and a soft chair to sit in at the end of the bed.

Our bathroom, which was cleaned daily with fresh towel, soap and shampoo replacements.

There was also a desk area in our cabin and plenty of mirrors. Our closet fit all of our clothes (hung and on shelves) although we also utilized the drawers (one under the bed), a small bureau at the end of our bed and smaller drawers next to the bed for personal items. There was also a safe for your valuable items such as jewelry. Both of our large roller bags fit comfortably under the bed as well as the small suitcase we brought as a carry-on.

I was able to view one of their suites as well. The room is obviously much larger and has windows facing the ocean. And naturally, the bathroom is larger. Below, you’ll get an idea of the upgraded option which comes with its own tub.

A bathroom suite on the Royal Clipper

On the Royal Clipper, their 14 deluxe suites offer not just a whirlpool tub, but a private verandah and 24-hour room service. All but six of her 98 cabins are outside. For the ultimate indulgence, two 355-square-foot owner’s suites may be combined to accommodate up to eight guests.

What to Expect: Inside the Ship

Throughout the ship, you’ll find burnished brass fittings and mahogany wooden accents, all with a nautical twist. A little decadence meets traditional decor, reminding you at times of yesteryear while also feeling the warmth and comfort of modern furnishings.

From the top level, as you look down into the middle of the ship, you’ll see different nooks and crannies of the dining room, where tables are scattered on both sides. You can join others at a more central round table or sit along the wall where you can take in water views through the portholes.

We sat at the below 8-top one evening; however, most nights we were able to sit at the Captain’s Table when he was dining in his cabin or working. A white grand piano was not only part of the decor but was used daily as the pianist played a combination of old crooner tunes, fun musical numbers and more traditional songs from the 1970’s and 1980’s. (be sure to watch the video at the end of this article to get a better idea of the vibe)

A different view of the couches, comfy chairs and inside lounging area

Contrasting the darker traditional colors, you’ll find brighter colorful prints of famous ships and sailing yachts along the walls.

They offered various theme nights, one of which was Pirate Night (below) . . .

Then there was White Night . . . always a fun one. It happened to be the same night I decided to play that beautiful grand piano myself. Oh what a joy it was. What did I choose? Tony Bennett favorites that my grandmother taught me so many years ago. It seemed ever so fitting for the evening.

The Library

The library deserves a special call-out because it’s an amazing room and it was Anthony’s favorite place to hang out during the cruise. He retreated to the air-conditioned, old-fashioned library every day to read. Occasionally, I’d also go there to read but also just to sit and BE. I never thought I could meditate amongst dark wooden library decor but quite frankly, it was just perfect.


Because it’s a small ship, there’s no space for large-scale Broadway-style productions or dance performances. For us, that’s a plus! It doesn’t mean that entertainment isn’t part of the agenda. Every night during Happy Hour, a husband/wife duo sang and played keyboard on the outside deck close to the bar. The white grand piano was alive every night over dinner, which was such a wonderful treat. Below I am at the piano; however, on the video at the end of this article, you’ll hear and see some of his piano playing.

They also had a talent show on the last night with various skits from the crew, which was not only amusing but meaningful since many of us had developed friendships with some of the crew members throughout our trip. Below, the woman on the left was my massage therapist as an example.

One evening, we had a memorable treat on the deck. As the thundering dramatic 1492: Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis played in the background, they held a light show. We moved from reds to blues to greens and back again as the lights danced against the sails and the edges of the deck of the ship while the music blared in all directions. Beautiful.

They also pride themselves on bringing in local talent from the locations we are visiting. In this case, we had a pan drum performance one night, which you can hear on the video at the end of the article.

Mostly, we loved hanging out with people we met along the way, dancing, drinking and connecting . . . including the amazing crew.

Below, Anthony with English Arthur who had us in stitches with his stories and at other times, nearly in tears as he talked about his war years. I had the sense that he found a new set of ears every night as he had such fascinating tales to share.

Anthony and Arthur

One special night after a speech from the Captain, the crew sang as many of them paraded around the dining room with different flags from around the world.

Drinks & Food

When people talk about their cruise experience, you’ll notice one consistent thread across all of the conversations — the food. Dining is a big (and integral) part of any cruise, whether it’s a large ship, a river cruise or a tall sailing ship like the Royal Clipper.

Each morning, you’re greeted by an extensive buffet, filled with fruit, yoghurt, an assortment of cheese and meats, oatmeal and cereals. There’s also a hot food section where you can opt for a more traditional (and filling) choice, such as ham, sausage, bacon and eggs, french toast, pancakes and scrambled eggs.

They tend to cater to the predominant groups on board and then they supplement the menu with other items. On our cruise, Brits dominated followed by Germans and then Americans. There were also Italians, Mexicans, South Americans, Canadians, and Aussies. For us, it was amazing to meet interesting people from around the world. What this eclectic blend meant for the buffet was plenty of jams, pates, cheese, seeds, nuts, loaves of bread, croissants and muffins. I should also note the omelet station since I went there almost daily.

Lunch was equally scrumptious with a buffet loaded with both hot and cold items. I tended to go for the healthier and lighter salads, occasionally throwing one of their fresh fish options on top. There was always a soup as well and plenty of veggies, meats, and starches.

To the left, scrumptious main course options for lunch. Above, various meats and to the right, breakfast cheeses, croissants and muffins.

One thing they boast is their “no tie” or formal clothing requirement, which makes it easy for the adventure traveler. Like many cruise ships, the Royal Clipper offered a sit-down meal in the main dining room (no assigned seating) every night. There were several options to choose from on the menu, including vegetarian dishes.

From incredible salads and appetizers to mains and desserts, their chefs did an outstanding job delivering night after night. To give you a taste of some of their appetizers, here are a few we loved: Antipasti Ligurian Riveria, Goat Cheese marinated in honey and almonds, Octopus Carpaccio with Apple Saffron dressing (yum), Courgette Rolls with Feta Cheese, Chicken Tempura, Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Grapefruit, Sweet Pepper and Capers (it was a heavenly combination), and Melon Tomato with Parma Ham.

There were also some amazing soups as well, such as Cream of Lobster, Tomato Soup with Pesto, an Apple Soup with Horseradish, Cream of Mushroom, and traditional French Onion, which Anthony ordered (it’s his favorite). A few appetizers below.

There were many fresh seafood dishes offered throughout our cruise, each one memorable.

The fish was off the charts. A few examples included Grilled Tilapia with Asparagus and Green Peas, Pan-Fried Fillet of Salmon with Dried Tomatoes and Olive Oil, Grilled Pike Fillet with Herb Risotto, Steamed Sea Bass with Veggies, and Red Snapper with Courgettes and Wild Garlic Pesto. So delish!

Pan-Fried Fillet of Salmon with Dried Tomatoes and Olive Oil

Grilled Tilapia with Asparagus and Green Peas

We didn’t live on seafood during our entire Caribbean stay and there were plenty of interesting other options as well. For example, their Chicken Breast with Tandoori Yoghurt Sauce was a scrumptious dish, as was their Roast Beef with Asparagus (below). As for our favorites? The Pulled Pork with Grilled Apples, the Corn and Pepper Fritters (vegetarian), the Tortolan Style Duck Breast, and their Braised Knuckle of Lamb, which I had without their suggested garlic creamed potatoes. Not sure who I was kidding by skipping the carbs since I had a large dessert an hour later.

Other veggie choices included Stuffed Bell Peppers and Eggplant, Vegetable Stew with Garlic Croutons, Mushroom and Potato Beans Tart and a Stew with Fried Plantains and Dumplings.

There was a lovely wine selection on the menu as well. Depending on the dish or mood, we oscillated often between the S. Veran, Terres Secretes 2020 French Burgundy and the 2022 South African Petit Chenin Blanc from Ken Forrester for whites. We gravitated to their 2020 Chateau Cartier, St. Emilion G. Cru French Bordeaux (it’s a wine I’m personally familiar with), and their 2020 French Chateaneuf du Pape, Cos St. Michel from Rhone Valley. For obvious reasons, they had more European wine selections and not only were they great accompaniments to the food, but reasonably priced too (29 to 40 euros per bottle).

While we tend to avoid desserts 99% of the time in our everyday lives, when we travel to places with amazing food, we splurge. Not always, but almost always. Truth be told, I didn’t always eat the dessert after dinner but I always had dessert at lunch on the Royal Clipper. There were so many delicious options to choose from every day, neither one of us could stop ourselves from enjoying the present moment. Chocolate, hazelnut, crème brûlée, mousse, puddings, and homemade tarts were all part of that “YES PLEASE” experience.

For some of our real-time food postings, be sure to check out our Luxury Foodies Instagram feed, where we posted several great dishes and desserts.

Of course there were Fruit Melbas and Sorbets, but the best desserts had chocolate in them. Okay, so I’m biased. Okay, so I love chocolate. Okay, it’s hard for me to find anything wrong with any chocolate dessert. So, when Chocolate Mousse came by, I couldn’t refuse, nor could I say no to the Pistachio Ice Cream, one of my favorites and so rarely offered in restaurants. Coffee anything has me at hello (same for Anthony), so we were thrilled with their Coffee Panna Cotta, Amaretto Cream Profiteroles and Dark Chocolate Gateau “Marquise.”

I had a cappuccino every night because why not? A few other amazing dessert call-outs include their Cherries Jubilee, Floating Island Dessert with Dates, Cheesecake, Raspberry Yogurt Mousse, and their classic French Apple Tart – perfect with any of their ice cream flavors and there were several.

And how’s this for a unique one? Chardonnay Sorbet. This wasn’t necessarily meant to be served as a dessert (it was listed between courses) but ultimately you could end your meal with it. I imagine it would go well with one of their cheese platters and a dessert wine.

There was no shortage of cheese options so if dessert isn’t your thing, you could order Fontina with Nuts, Goat Cheese with Honey, French Brie Garnished with Dry Fruit, Gouda, and more.

Hats off to their Executive Chef Frederick Escueta and the head waiter Rio Adhitio. Bravissimo!

In our cabin before heading to dinner one evening

Yoga on Board

From full-blown decadence on a several-course meal, fine wine, and desserts to committing to your health the very next day, you can do it all. One of the things that particularly drew us to this tall ship cruise was the availability of a yoga teacher every day. We hit it off with Shannon, a yoga instructor from Ohio who approached holistic and integrative spiritual practice in a similar way to our own path. Rain or shine, wind or calm, she was on the deck leading classes.

The great thing about showing up for a yoga class on the main deck is your access to the views and the beauty of the sea around you. It has a way of connecting you to nature in a way you simply can’t get in a traditional studio.

80% of the week, we had calm late afternoons and mornings. That said, there were a couple of particularly windy days that challenged all of us. At first, it was one of those awkward moments, each of us discreetly glancing at each other, our eyes all saying the same thing: “How on earth are we going to pull off that pose with this wind?”

At one point, the wind made it so impossible to hold a pose, that several of us fell onto our mats, burst out laughing and went into child pose as a way to accept if not embrace the wind stirring around us. As Shannon so rightfully pointed out in that precious moment, “Our yoga practice isn’t always about perfect moments. It’s in the moments where we are most challenged, that our yoga practice becomes even more useful.” This statement couldn’t be more relevant that day.

Yoga wasn’t the only thing that allowed us to stay healthy and balanced on the Royal Clipper. While most cruise lines have a gym and spa on board, I loved the intimacy of the ship, the smaller number of passengers and the commitment by so many to Shannon’s yoga classes.

If you love cruising, but lead a spiritual and holistic life and wonder whether it’ll be a fit, finding one with a yoga teacher, gym and spa on board is a must. Commit to showing up every day, booking a few spa appointments, drinking low-sugar juices, plenty of vegetables and salads. You can also take advantage of fresh coconut milk and papayas on every island stop. It was a major plus that the Royal Clipper had yoga available. Bravo!

The Gym & Spa

We both made it to the gym. The machines (treadmill, bikes, and sculpting) were surrounded by mirrors and there were free weights as well as a bench, which made Anthony a happy camper. This was especially true given our commitment to desserts for a couple of weeks, a rare splurge on our part. The fact that there was yoga, a gym and a spa on board made it much easier to justify eating more and quite frankly, enjoying all of it without the guilt.

Based on my experience with far too many hotels and resorts, I’m always a bit cautious about the quality of spa services. I was pleasantly surprised that my first massage was top-notch, so much so that I went back for a second one. She wasn’t available but the other masseuse was just as incredible.

To give you an idea of some of the treatments, they included a handful you’d expect, such as an Express Facial, Scalp, Back and Neck Massages, Signature Massages and Reflexology. The Star Clippers Signature is a Hot Lava Shell Massage, meant to eliminate muscular tension, calm the nervous system and stimulate blood and lymph circulation.

Other types of massages included Oriental, Swedish, Lomi Lomi (inspired by Hawaiian beauty rituals), and African Massage. I also loved their Exfoliating Body Scrubs and something they call the Hawaiian Archipelago. The latter, which is a two-hour treatment, combines polishing with a guava puree, followed by a Blue Hawaiian Jelly wrap, and a Lomi Lomi massage using both Monoi Oil and Body Milk with Coco. There are also showers on-site and a steam room with marble tiles. Two thumbs up!

Island Excursions

Every cruise (well, nearly every cruise) offers some kind of excursion when you land at a destination. In our case, it was the Windward Islands in the Caribbean: Barbados, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts, Iles Des Saintes and Martinique. In St. Lucia, they offered an Aerial Tram. In Dominica, you had the option of either an Indian River Boat Cruise or the Syndicate Nature Trail. Antigua had quite a few options: a Canopy Tour, a Jet Ski Adventure, Learning how to make Rum, a Kayak Eco Tour or Swimming with the Rays.

St. Kitts offered the Essential St. Kitts Tour, which we took, or the island by train via the Scenic Railway. On the Isles Des Saintes, you could head out on a speedboat to go snorkeling or experience the Blue Escape on a clear-bottom kayak (always fun in the Caribbean). In Martinique, they offered a tour that explored the southern part of the island. As is standard with this type of cruise, we tendered each day to a new island.

This shot was taken in Saint Lucia, stopping along the road at one of their breathtaking viewpoints.

In St. Kitts, we were able to see a Batik artist in action: she made unique designs on wraps, tablecloths, t-shirts and bags,

Above, a Batik Factory in St. Kitts

Iles Des Saintes was one of our favorite stops, largely because of its French influence, great shops and cocktails and wonderful walks through the village surrounding the port.

Below, cocktails galore in Barbados. Another pina colada please!

Since we love culture (and photography), we went into more detail on the island visits, so be sure to read our article: How to Experience the Carribbean Islands which goes into more depth about what we did on each island. They include a boat-load of photos and a video.

Here is a short video of our time on the Royal Clipper which brings some of the descriptions in this post to life.

Also, be sure to read our articles: How to Experience Barbados, Barbados for Foodies and Barbados Stays for Luxury & Fun.

For more information on Star Clippers Cruises, visit their main website. For more information on the Royal Clipper, be sure to visit this site which gives you all the details, including how to book a cruise with them.

Curious where they go? There are plenty of exciting choices, including Africa, Canary Islands, the entire Caribbean, Europe, the Greek Islands, the Mediterranean, Mexico, Central America, the Panama Canal and South America. They also offer a Transalantic cruise as well. Woot woot!



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