I took a trip on a sailing ship....

Rich and Sue

SBH Insider
A not so brief trip report :

We took a week-long cruise on the Royal Clipper from Barbados to the Grenadines, Greneda, St. Vincent, Martinique and St. Lucia. This was our first time cruising. I never liked the idea of those floating hotels, but when a friend who learned to sail with me suggested this, I was all for it.

Since we spent more time on the ship than in any port, it’s worth describing. The Royal Clipper is, I believe, the largest commercial sailing vessel in the world, 440 feet long, 42 sails (54,000 square feet), holds 227 passengers and 106 crew. It was designed to mimic 19th century clipper ships in style, but is totally modern in amenities. About 90% of travel is actually under sail. The only long haul under engine power was the return from St. Lucia to Barbados mostly against the wind. You really feel the motion of the ocean in that case, but most of the rest of the time we just experienced a gentle rocking ( although reportedly high winds the week before made for a lot of seasick people on that trip). The decks are all teak and the bright work is beautifully maintained in “Bristol fashion”. Cabin design is reminiscent of the Orient Express, but larger. It’s a romantic adventure. Leaving each mooring at sunset, the sail raising ceremony is awesome. Attire is casual ( well, preferably no flip flops or shorts at dinner). Meal seating is sit where you want. It leads to a lot of casual conversation with other passengers as most tables seat six. The crew and passengers are international. Most passengers are from North America or Europe. Announcements are generally given in three languages. Fun on board includes climbing to the crows nest, raising a sail by hand ( takes about ten people) and a lucky few get to actually steer the ship out of port before they turn on the autopilot. There are the usual shipboard entertainments as well, fashion show, talent show, etc. on the deck bar. It’s worth noting that alcoholic beverages are not included and you cannot bring your own bottle on board. This keeps the number of drunken sailors and rescues at sea to a minimum ( not that there isn’t plenty of partying).

As to the ports:

Barbados: We spent two days there before sailing. The Blue Orchid Beach Hotel in Christchurch was clean, but a little tired. It has a nice beach and was ok for a couple nights. I rented a car from Advantage Car rental, which didn’t show up on time. The clerk at the hotel got us set up with a pretty beat up Jimny from a different rental company and the four of us crammed in and headed to Bridgetown and points North. We visited the National Heroes museum to get a history lesson on the rise of the Bajan people from slavery to independence and self government. The city was hectic and not our idea of vacation so we headed out of town for somewhere to have a seaside lunch. Driving north along the west coast I got a lesson in driving on the wrong side and by the time we reached Speightstown and were able to find a parking spot we were tired and hungry. Fortunately we stumbled on Juma’s, great food laid back beach bar. Dinner in the evening at Mojo (casual bar and grill near our hotel) was less tasty but boat drinks were good. Breakfast croissants the next morning at a coffee shop hidden in an office park that was recommended by the hotel clerk was good, but croissants not up to St. Bart’s standards. Next day we went West to Crane beach, small beach not worth the hassle, but the Crane resort community has several lunch venues. We chose the sand bar, which was out of fish and rum punch (yeah, cheeseburger in paradise). We should have stayed in the main dining room which had a beautiful view of the sea.

Sunday, Union Island Grenadines: Beach stop, swam and snorkeled, large schools of small fish, but not many very interesting. One advantage of a smaller cruise ship (draws 19 feet) is that you can get to some more remote bays like this.

Monday, St. George’s Grenada: We took a bus tour here to see the operation of a nutmeg processing cooperative and learn about the spices that the island is famous for, a long drive for a short tour with a lot of history provided along the way. Watching local women hand-sorting and separating parts of nutmeg in dusty conditions for six hours a day for two dollars an hour gives you a little more appreciation for that nutmeg on your eggnog. This was topped off with a stop at a high waterfall where local boys cliff jumped for tips.

Tuesday, Tobago Cays, Grenadines: This was an all day beach stop. I was too beat to snorkel but took a short swim and passed over a small manta ray near where some boats were moored. Also current and winds made for difficult swim upwind. The ship provided a beach barbecue for all and we spent a lot of the time just eating and visiting.

Wednesday AM, Kingstown, St. Vincent: took a 3.5 hour tour, mostly riding in a van, to a gorgeous private garden. The tour guide was of a certain age and like some of us in that state, had lost her filter. She wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, government corruption, 60% unemployment, big banana companies cutting out the local growers, the new airport paid for by local taxes and built with Cuban labor. But she stopped the van to pick up and pass out some local bananas so we knew what really good bananas tasted like and we all got a taste of some wicked rum punch from the drivers cooler.

Wednesday afternoon, Admiralty Bay, Bequia: another beach stop. This was probably the most prosperous looking area in the Grenadines that we saw. A completely different world from Kingstown. Nice villas, beautiful sailing yachts. Going left from the dock it’s more local, grocers, bars, locals selling stuff under canopies, but in the other direction a boardwalk takes you past upscale restaurants and artists’ studios catering to the yachting and cruise set.

Thursday AM, Fort de France, Martinique: Think of St. Martin on a larger scale, 85,000 actually, but less urban than Bridgetown. Many shops all price ranges. Chaussures en solde pour madame. From what I’d read, I expected some knowledge of French would be required, but sales clerks and tourist bureau staff were quite facile in English. We visited a church, library and park, the last was to see the beheaded statue of local girl, Marie Antoinette.

Thursday PM, Anse d’Arlet, Martinique, beach stop: drop off at a marina dock with nearby beach bars and vendors under canopies. A half mile or so away is a very nice beach and what appears to be a really nice restaurant called Ti Sable. I had a very nice swim back in calm waters, but saw little under water except for a few starfish. Of all the places we visited, I think I’d be most apt to return to Martinique, but I’m biased toward the French West Indies.

Friday AM, Marigot Bay St. Lucia: Some tours took off from this little marina, but since we opted out, there wasn’t much to do. There were a couple nice local artists stands were Sue bought some locally made jewelry.

Friday PM, Soufriere, St. Lucia: There was so little here that we got off the tender, walked around a half hour and caught the next one back. The more adventurous would take a horseback ride, zip line tour or go to another botanical garden. We were too pooped to participate by now. Leaving Soufrière behind, it seemed like many ports looked a lot better from the deck of the ship than up close, especially at sunset with the sails filling and rigging creaking to catch the wind.

Saturday back in Bridgetown: and after a very expensive cab ride, the airport and home. Tired, but we all agreed we’d all like to take another trip on a sailing ship sometime.


Senior Insider
It sounds like you had a great trip. However I would prefer going from Gouverneur to Shell to Saline to St. Jean and Fourchue... and l’Sprit, Mayas, Francois Plantation, La Guerite, le Select... for our “sailing trip.”