Postcards: a Windstar Wind Surf Cruise in the Caribbean

A gallery of photographs from a Windstar cruise on the Wind Surf Yacht: the Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary out of St. Maarten.

Photographs from my cruise on Windstar’s Wind Surf. What a lovely itinerary! We embarked in St. Maarten, then dropped anchor in Falmouth, Antigua. Afterwards, we went on to the British Virgin Islands for short hops to Soper’s Hole on Tortola, Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, and then to Virgin Gorda. Our final stop was Gustavia in St. Barths before returning to St. Maarten.

How is St. Maarten post hurricane? Both airports are operational and over 60 flights a day are landing on the island. According to a New York Times article published on February 2, 2018, “300 hotel rooms are currently available to book on the island‚Äôs French side; before Irma, that number was 1,700. At least 10 more hotels are scheduled to reopen before the end of the year.”

The article continues, “On the Dutch side of the island, around 80 percent of the restaurants are open, and 1,600 hotel rooms are available to book; before the hurricane, 4,115 rooms were available.” Full article here: St Martin Starts a Comeback.

If you look at Windstar’s itineraries, they are sailing to many ports the Caribbean, out of Barbados, San Juan, Puerto Rico, — but will return to St. Maarten in December 2018.

I thoroughly enjoyed this small ship cruise — which is SO different from being on the large cruise lines. You’ll find a full review of the Windstar Cruise here: A Wind Surf Cruise: The Yachtsman’s Caribbean.

What a beautiful part of the world this is!

 

Find a full review of the Wind Surf cruise here:


 

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Ladies – Packing for a Two Week Cruise: a Capsule Wardrobe for the Caribbean and Central America

What do you bring on a two week cruise? Photograph, Peter Hansen, Unsplash.

There are some times we must pack light. European trips involving frequent train travel — it’s the only way to go.¬†But ladies, when we talk road trips and cruises, we have a lot more latitude. You can bring the BIG suitcase!

This is a Travelpro 25″ spinner. I never travel with suitcases larger than this — because you will definitely exceed bag weight limits on the airlines. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

As I prepare to launch of for a month of travel, starting with two weeks of road-tripping through Florida, then culminating in a two week Celebrity cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale, I’ve ditched my carry-on spinner for a full-sized (25 inch) suitcase.

I’ve just replaced my full-sized suitcase with a new Travelpro. I loved my smaller carry-on size Travelpro spinner that I took to Italy in September, so I thought I’d try another bag from this luggage company.

If you’re interested in looking at the Travelpro 25″ Spinner, you’ll find it here on eBags,¬†or here on Amazon:¬†Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 25” Expandable Spinner Suiter (Olive,25-inch)

Travel wardrobes still require thought, even when you do have more space. Capsule wardrobes help you get more outfits from of fewer pieces of clothing. Regardless of whether you’re traveling, or simply improving your home wardrobe, they’re a smart way to think.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The concept originated with Susie Faux in 1973, at her shop Wardrobe in London’s West End.

The idea is to choose neutral, well-made pieces of clothing with the maximum ability to coordinate with one another, giving you as many outfits as possible. Capsule wardrobing is a great concept for anyone paring down their closet at home, but it is also perfectly suited to traveling.

Due to spending time on the beach, in the Caribbean, and in hot climates in Central and South America, I’m certainly going with lighter colors than I would if I were traveling in Europe.

A classic 4 x 4 Capsule wardrobe should have 16 pieces of clothing, not counting accessories, and can broken down as follows:

  • First Core of Four: Four pieces of clothing in a darker neutral (2 bottoms, 1 top, and 2nd top – preferably one cardigan or jacket)
  • Second Core of Four: Four pieces of clothing in a lighter neutral (2 bottoms, 1 top, 2nd top — preferably a cardigan or jacket)
  • Bridge/Expansion Four: Four tops that go with ALL of the Core pieces of clothing. Think either tops with patterns that have both of the core colors in them, or tops in colors that simply complement both of the core colors well.
  • Mileage Four: This might be 4 additional tops, or instead — perhaps 2 tops, an additional bottom, and a dress. For my trip, I added one extra piece here, so it turned out to be the Mileage Five :-).
  • Additional: Accent Accessories: scarves, jewelry, shoes, purses that work with the core pieces. I like scarves that bring pops of color to the basic neutral pieces of the wardrobe.

In addition, I am taking 2 swimsuits, one cover-up, and a pair of flip flops, which are not shown in the image below.

Capsule Travel Wardrobe showing what to pack for a two week cruise Caribbean
A Capsule Travel Wardrobe for a Two-Week Cruise in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Within the two Core sets of neutrals, I’m taking¬† one light-weight cardigan in white, and one beige jacket. The white ruffled-front cardigan can hang open or be knotted at the waist. Purses: a soft blue Fossil hobo, as well as a Cole Haan black cross-body bag and a small silver clutch for evenings — giving me some variety and the ability to carry reading glasses, a Sea Pass card, and my iPhone.

What women choose to wear on “formal” nights varies dramatically, and you’ll see everything: cocktail dresses, more elegant maxi-style dresses, cropped pants with glittery tops, and some who have inexplicably chosen dresses that look like high school prom night. Note: on smaller, boutique cruise lines, like Windstar and Star Clippers, there are no formal nights. Every night is smart-casual.

For the dressier evenings on the ship, I have chosen NOT to bring a cocktail dress. I often bring a cocktail dress, but this on this trip I’m giving that a big miss. Since I have a two week road trip before the cruise, I need more versatile pieces of clothing.

Once onboard, my “dress night” garb will my black dress, and the cropped black pants with blue camisole or black tank top with more formal pieces of jewelry. I’ve done this on many cruises, and it’s worked well for me. Ladies, this is one place that we all vary. For my readers wanting dressier options, I’d switch out a couple of pieces within the Mileage category, and simply replace them with more formal options.

For my full four week trip, I’ll certainly be doing laundry — on the Florida road trip, the condo in Miami has a washing machine and dryer, so I’ll board the Celebrity Reflection with everything clean. Once onboard, I plan to send laundry out once. One thing to keep in mind: the industrial laundry on ships isn’t gentle. Hand washing knits or other delicate items in your room may be the smart way to go.

Here are images to give you an idea of just a few of the many combinations you can get from the Travel Capsule Wardrobe shown above.

Set of possible day time wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible combinations, Set 1.
Set 2 of possible wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible Combinations, Set 2.
Set of possible wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible combinations, Set 3.
Set of possible evening wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible evening combinations, Set 4.

 

 Packing List
    • 5 bottoms, either pants, sorts, skirts, or capris
    • 9 tops
    • 1 dress
    • 2 cardigans
    • 3-5 silk scarves
    • 2 pairs of flat sandals
    • 1 pair strappy evening sandals
    • 7 pairs underwear — you’ll either being sink washing, or sending wash out while onboard
    • 2 bras
    • 2 bathing suits and 1 cover-up *not included in the Capsule wardrobe. I consider these to be a separate category
    • flip-flops
    • tennis shoes
    • water shoes for coral or rocky beaches
    • Hat(s)
    • Sleepwear
    • workout clothes
    • toiletries & makeup
      • Be sure to bring sunscreen & possibly mosquito repellent.
    • medicine
    • 1 tall kitchen garbage bag + 2 large ziploc bags (good for dirty clothes, wet bathing suits, etc.)
    • Beach tote: one that zips up and folds down into nothing!

Packing Folder and Cube System

Packing efficiently: I am a BIG believer in packing folders and packing cubes. Honestly, I’m not sure how I packed before getting the folders and cubes. In the nineties, I had a folding “suiter” case that had a central section for hanging close, then multiple zipping sections and pockets — and back then, that was as good is you could get.

In 2003, when that case wore out, I bought a new 25″ Samsonite case — you know, a standard suitcase with one central black hole of a big space. I bought my first packing folder and a couple of cubes, and I was sold. SO much better than the older suiter case that I’d had. If you haven’t used the folders and cubes, the Pack It video from Eagle Creek demonstrates how the system works.

For this packing list, I used two medium Eagle Creek Pack-It folders: one for bottoms + dress, and the other for tops, cardigan, and jacket. Then I put the undies, bras, sleepwear, and scarves in one cube, and swimsuits and cover-up in a second cube. Toiletries and makeup have separate bags. Everything fit in my 25″ Travelpro Spinner, no problem.

I love the folders, because while no packing method is wrinkle free, they decrease wrinkling better than any other method I’ve tried. I also love that I can pull the folders and cubes out of my suitcase, pop them into drawers, and I’m unpacked in a couple of minutes.

Eagle Creek Medium Pack-It Folder on eBags 
 Eagle Creek Pack It Medium Pack-It Folder on Amazon
 

Things People often FORGET to Pack for a Cruise

¬†Things you’ll probably need Things that might come in handy
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito Repellent – whether you’re in Costa Rica or Alaska, mosquitos get around!
  • Calamine or other bug bite itch cream
  • Spare pair of glasses (sun and/or reading)
  • Dramamine, Bonine, or other medication for being sea sick. Even if you don’t need them on the big ship, you may for an excursion in a smaller boat.
  • Good walking shoes. Many tours require close-toed shoes.
  • OTC meds — yes, you can buy ibuprofen, Tums, etc. on the ship, but they are expensive!
  • Razor
  • Stain wipes
  • Travel magnifying mirror. If you use one at home, you’ll need one here as well.
  • Dry pak case for phone or camera — or at least a Ziploc bag as protection from the unexpected afternoon thunderstorm.
  • Highlighter for daily news letter
  • Power strip for our power hungry life styles
  • Water shoes
  • Beach bag/shopping bag
  • Lanyard – for your Sea Pass card. Or you can pay 3 times more for one on the ship ūüôā
  • Sticky notes — for leaving notes for your steward or group members
  • Towel clips – keeps your towel from blowing off pool loungers
  • Suction cup hooks — great for things like hats
  • Shoe bag for bathroom: can hang on the door hook to hold things you don’t want to give shelf space to
  • Traveling with a group? Consider a magnetic door sign — message board. State room doors all look the same – and can be handy for leaving messages.

Bon Voyage!

Wake behind cruise ship.
Happy packing and have a wonderful cruise! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Notes: clothing shown comes from Chico’s and Eddie Bauer — but you can obviously build wardrobes like this with any brand of clothing. Scarves: Gucci and Missoni from Nordstrom, Tiffany scarf from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Packing lighter for a European trip where you’re hopping on trains?

Postcards from Royal Clipper: Tall Ship Cruise, Windward and Grenadine Islands

Photographs from back-to-back cruises on the tall ship Royal Clipper to the Windward Islands and then to the Grenadines. What beautiful islands! I love this part of the Caribbean.

Photographs from back-to-back cruises on the tall ship Royal Clipper to the Windward Islands and then to the Grenadines. What beautiful islands! I love this part of the Caribbean.

If you like sailing, and are interested in reading more, you’ll find the full article here: Onboard the Royal Clipper.

Note: As always, I retain full rights to my photographs. Never use my images without my written permission.

 

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Norovirus: Stomach Flu Joins the Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas

When the Independence of the Seas returned to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, Royal Caribbean confirmed a large outbreak of norovirus on the ship. Instead of having fun in the sun, only two days into the trip many passengers began falling ill, struck by severe gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas was struck by highly contagious Norovirus December 2017
Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas, docked in Labadee, Haiti. Photograph from Shutterstock.

When the Independence of the Seas returned to Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, Royal Caribbean confirmed a large outbreak of norovirus on the ship.

The Royal Caribbean cruise began its five-day cruise on Monday, December 11, 2017. Independence of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, with the capacity to carry 4,370 passengers, along with a crew of 1,360. Instead of having fun in the sun, only two days into the trip many passengers began falling ill, struck by severe gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. On Thursday, Royal Caribbean officially announced the outbreak and began its virus-mitigating protocol.

While the Royal Caribbean company stated that only 220 passengers came down with the virus, passengers interviewed by Local 10 News in Miami reported far more passengers were affected, but that the small medical crew onboard Independence of the Seas were so overwhelmed that many people simply stayed in their cabins as they tried to recover. Passenger Victoria Nolan, who became ill with the virus, told Local 10 News that passengers were throwing up in the elevators as they headed toward the ship’s medical facility. Many waited for hours to see anyone.

This is the second outbreak of norovirus on Royal Caribbean ships in December 2017. The Associated Press reported that more than 200 people became ill on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas on a two week cruise from Singapore to Sydney. Five were hospitalized upon disembarkation in Australia.

What is Norovirus?

It is a highly contagious virus that is spread by contaminated food, infected people, or surfaces that have been contaminated by feces, vomit, or contaminated food. According to the CDC, norovirus is responsible for more than 20 million illnesses a year in the United States alone, and more than two-thirds of all cases of gastroenteritis. Norovirus causes as many as 800 deaths a year in this country. It is highly infectious, and it is difficult to kill.

“Norovirus is named for Norwalk, Ohio, where the first confirmed outbreak was recorded, in 1968. People sometimes refer to a norovirus infection as “stomach flu,” even though the virus is not related to influenza.” — Live Science

An up-close view of norovirus - also called cruise ship virus or stomach flu.
An up-close view of norovirus, also known as cruise ship virus or stomach flu. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Symptoms include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, loose watery stools, low grade fever, and general malaise.

How contagious is norovirus?  According to infectious disease expert Robert Frenck, MD, people can shed up to 1 billion viral particles in each gram of stool. How much does it take to infect someone? As little as 1,000 viral particles. This is why it spreads so quickly in closed environments like cruise ships.

Tips for Avoiding Norovirus

Rather obviously, the best way not to become ill is to avoid contact with norovirus. Past that, regular, religious practice of these habits will help avoid becoming ill:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water for MORE THAN 20 SECONDS. Regularly! And if you are on a cruise ship — do it more often than you do normally.
  2. DO NOT count on hand sanitizer! It doesn’t kill norovirus (see below).
  3. Avoid people displaying symptoms of norovirus.
  4. If a ship is having a norovirus outbreak, avoid eating at the buffet restaurant. This is where you touch more things that MANY people have touched.
  5. Use bleach to sanitize. Consider bringing rubber gloves and Clorox wipes with bleach on your cruise — obviously be careful with bleach arounds clothes. That way if a family member becomes ill, you can try to prevent the spread on bathroom surfaces, door, cabinet, and drawer handles.
Hand sanitizer doesn't kill norovirus
Hand sanitizer is great for killing many kinds of germs and viruses, but it won’t kill norovirus! Photograph, iStock Photos.

Alcohol hand sanitizers will help kill many types of viruses and germs, such as the common cold or influenza, which is great — BUT IT DOESN’T KILL NOROVIRUS! A 2011 study by the CDC showed that long-term care facilities that relied on alcohol hand sanitizer as the primary way to clean hands, showed a six-time higher outbreaks of norovirus than facilities that used hand washing with soap and water.

Common mistakes when washing hands: not washing long enough, not thoroughly cleaning under fingernails, not drying thoroughly, and only washing after using the bathroom. Germs and viruses hide in nooks and crevices of your hands — pay attention and be thorough. Dry your hands completely — paper towels are better than electric dryers which blow water around and people often don’t use until their hands are REALLY dry. Wash your hands FREQUENTLY during the day, not just after using the bathroom.

Should you avoid going on cruises because of norovirus? No. Remember that this is a common virus all over the United States and throughout the world. You can catch it anywhere. Cruise ships are tremendously more pro-active about sanitization and prevention than most hotels and public buildings. Jeff Fornay, chief of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, which oversees health and sanitation aboard ships that visit U.S. ports, stated in an interview with Cruise Critic, “it is perfectly safe to go on cruise ships. The standard by which they (cruise lines) are held for sanitation is the highest in the world.”

According to the CDC: “From 2008 to 2014, 74 million passengers sailed on cruise ships in the Vessel Sanitation Program‚Äôs jurisdiction. Only 129,678 passengers met the program‚Äôs case definition for acute gastrointestinal illness and only a small proportion of those cases (1 in 10) were part of a norovirus outbreak.” This would mean that less than .002% of cruise ship passengers in this time frame were diagnosed with any type of gastrointestinal illness.

So, go enjoy your cruise, but be your own best friend when keeping yourself and your family healthy!

 

Updated December 27, 2017: Royal Caribbean now states that 332 of the 5,447 passengers and crew on the December 11, 2017, Independence of the Seas cruise became ill with norovirus.

 

A Wind Surf Cruise: Yachtsman’s Caribbean

Private yachts flock to the smaller British Virgin Islands and St. Barth’s. There’s a reason for this: they are home to some of the most beautiful beaches and water in the Caribbean. Floating in crystalline water and watching the clouds pass overhead is deeply relaxing. I’ve just returned from St. Martin and a week-long cruise on Windstar’s Wind Surf on their Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary. It was perfect.

White sand beach at Savannah Bay in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. iStock Photos.

Private yachts flock to the smaller British Virgin Islands and St. Barth’s. There’s a reason for this: they are home to some of the most beautiful beaches and water in the Caribbean. Floating in crystalline water and watching the clouds pass overhead is deeply relaxing.

Windstar's Wind Surf yacht at sunset. Photograph courtesy of Windstar.
Windstar’s Wind Surf yacht at sunset. Photograph courtesy of Windstar.

I’ve just returned from St. Martin and a week-long cruise on Windstar’s Wind Surf on their Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary. It was perfect.

We spent seven days in small harbors the big ships cannot get to — how nice to be so spoiled!

On the larger islands of Antigua and Tortola, the ship dropped anchor in Falmouth and Soper’s Hole — far from the madding crowd at the cruise terminals.

At Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and St. Barth’s there were only yachts and sailboats.

I loved  this itinerary Рvery destination focused! We had one day at sea, then every day afterwards, it was a short hop to the next island.

On Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda we moored the night before the main day on those islands — making¬†it possible to go ashore for supper.¬†When I’ve been on sailing trips, this is just what we’ve done — it allows people stay onboard¬†or go ashore to experience the evening. After all, it’s vacation! It should be about the freedom to make personal choices instead of being regimented.

I had a wonderful trip, and came away very impressed with Windstar as a company. The ship is beautiful, and the crew is outstanding. Windstar is¬†in a sweet spot in the cruise industry — small ship cruising, up-market from the big lines, but significantly less expensive than the ultra-luxury lines.

Windstar carted home the awards this last year! After my cruise onboard Wind Surf, it’s easy to understand why.

I had such a great time on Wind Surf, and I’m excited about Windstar. I think the quality of the itineraries, the food, the ships, and the service, at their price point is outstanding.

It was lovely to return to the yacht each day, clean up and head out to the Compass Rose Bar on the stern of Wind Surf to have a cocktail and watch the sun go down. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Sunset in Falmouth, Antigua onboard Windstar's Wind Surf ship. Photo taken from Windsurf ship
A glass of champagne and an outside table at the Compass Rose bar on Wind Surf: the end of a perfect day. Photograph, Ann Fisher.


Expedia.com

Wind Surf’s Yachtsman’s Caribbean Itinerary and Excursions

If you’re looking for a cruise review of the Wind Surf cruise ship (or sometimes people are searching for Windstar Windsurf because they think the ship’s name is one word), I’ve given a detailed account of my trip in the Caribbean below.

The Yachtsman's Caribbean itinerary on Wind Surf.
The Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary on Wind Surf.

I chose this itinerary because I’ve always wanted to visit Jost Van Dyke and the coral atoll of Anegada — and while Wind Surf did not moor there, I could visit it on an excursion.

Whenever I go on a cruise, I mix excursion and non-excursion days.

I did things on my own in English Harbour Antigua, White Bay Jost Van Dyke, lunch in St. Barth’s, then I took three Windstar excursions in Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and back in St. Martin.

The Copper and Lumber Store at Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua.
The Copper and Lumber Store at Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua. Photograph, Ann Fisher



Falmouth, Antigua

A Bananaquit clinging to a yellow poker plant at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua.
A Bananaquit clinging to a yellow poker plant at Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

This was my fourth visit to Antigua, and my two snorkeling excursions on previous cruises were underwhelming. I’ve always found Lord Nelson interesting, and since Wind Surf anchored at Falmouth, the Nelson Dockyards were a short, ten minute walk away.

The British began using English Harbour in the 17th century because it offered protection to British warships from hurricanes.

The dockyard was developed in the 18th century to spare the navy the expense of sailing to the American colonies for refitting ships.

The buildings date from 1725 Р1745, and the dockyard most significant period of activity and importance was 1775 to 1810. With the end of the Napoleonic wars, it diminished in importance. English Harbour was too narrow to accommodate steamships, and in 1889, the navy left and the yard was closed.

In 1784, Captain Horatio Nelson was stationed at English Harbour for several years. He was¬†very unpopular with the Antiguans for enforcing the Navigation Act that prevented trade between British islands and America. The feeling was mutual, and regularly expressed in his letters back to Britain,¬†‚ÄúEnglish Harbour I hate the sight of.”

The Nelson Dockyard has been beautifully restored, and I had a great time exploring it.

¬†Soper’s Hole, Tortola:¬†Snorkeling at Norman Island

Initially, I was concerned with the size of the Windstar group for this trip – over twenty people. It ended up being fine, because they put us on a boat that could have carried twice that number — so it was spacious for the group and not overcrowded. Yes, I would have preferred a smaller boat with fewer people.

The snorkeling at Norman Island was outstanding. I saw more different species of fish at our two snorkeling spots than I’ve ever seen together at one time in the Caribbean. A long time ago, I had a 110 gallon marine aquarium, so I’m able to identify many kinds of fish — and I was in fish heaven that morning. A big deal at Norman Island is to swim into one of the caves, but I had no interest. I just hung with the fishes. I loved watching the tiny fairy basslets and the blennies. And I swam along with an entire school of blue tangs. I would have stayed with the fish all day . . .

It may be time for me to learn to dive.

Fish I saw that morning: sergeant majors, a variety of parrot fish, blue tangs, royal grammas, blennies, jewel damsel fish, small angel fish, blue stripe, yellow stripe jack fish, pipe cleaner fish, fan coral, yellow tail snapper, surgeon fish, cleaning goby, four eye butterfly fish, French grunts, a variety of wrasses, squirrel fish, feather duster worms, black spiny sea urchins. *** Please! Be mindful that you use reef-safe sunscreen especially when you snorkel, dive, or go anywhere near the the ocean. We need to quit using products with oxybenzone, a major culprit in bleaching coral.

Four-eye butterfly fish, blue tangs, royal gramma
To give you some idea of the fish I saw on this snorkel at Norman Island, I bought some stock photos. Enjoy! I love looking at fish :-). Left to right: Four-eye butterfly fish, blue tangs, and a fairy basslet — a Royal Gramma. Photographs, Shutterstock.
Invasion of the noodle people.

Since Wind Surf moored¬†at Soper’s Hole, we were closer to Norman Island than the excursions coming from the big ships docked at the cruise terminal in Road Town. Our early morning snorkeling trip got us to Norman Island before it was busy.

Just as¬†the noodle people arrived, we headed¬†back to Soper’s Hole to hit Pusser’s for conch fritters and a Pain Killer.

Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke

Wind Surf yacht in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. Windstar Windsurf sailing ship.
Wind Surf yacht moored in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. This is why you travel with Wind Star. The ability to visit the perfect, jewel-like islands of the Caribbean without 3,000 – 5,000 shipmates. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Ahh, what a fine day it was. Two new friends from the Wind Surf came with me, and we headed to the beach at White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.

White Bay Beach is where the famous Soggy Dollar bar is — and the taxi dropped us off there without even asking. The three of us took a look around and decided to ditch Soggy Dollar.

WAY too crowded. Not what we were looking for . . .  After a nice wander down the beach away from everyone, we found One Love. No one there.

Now this is what I’m talking about . . .

White Bay on Jost Van Dyke.
White Bay on Jost Van Dyke, hanging out at One Love. It’s the kind of beach you just never want to leave. Interesting to stitch this panoramic picture together – caught as a cloud was starting to pass over. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I spent the day lounging and swimming and lounging and swimming and drinking Carib beer and swimming and dozing. The lobster quesadillas were perfect finger food. And One Love makes a fine, I mean a super fine Pain Killer.

As the day wore on, we were joined by a catamaran, a sailboat, and at least one motor yacht; the occupants would jump off and swim over for some lunch at One Love. It was pretty perfect.

I didn’t want to leave.

I think in my mind I may still be sitting on a lounge chair up under one of the sea grape trees . . .

One Love Bar on Jost Van Dyke.
I loved sitting in the shade of the sea grape trees at One Love Bar on Jost Van Dyke. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

 Virgin Gorda: Escape to Anegada Excursion

Panoramic image of the beach at Anegada.
Panoramic image of the beach at Anegada. This is the epitome of isolated and perfect. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I heart Anegada.

This excursion was marked as strenuous, and it lived up to its description. For the Escape to Anegada excursion, two pontoon speedboats picked up the fourteen passengers directly from Wind Surf, and we were off!!

Traveling at speeds ranging from 19 knots to 30 knots, we flew over the water on our thirty minute trip out to the low-slung island of Anegada. I LOVED it! It was an exhilarating, kick-ass ride!

Queen conch in sea grass
Queen Conchs are herbivores, and there were many living in the grass beds at Anegada. Photograph, Shutterstock.

One of the passengers was unhappy with the excursion because she hadn’t read the description, so I’ll say it again here: it’s a rough, fast ride. You sit astride the seats — it it feels like riding a fast horse. And yes, you are going to get wet. Probably soaked at one point or another. If this doesn’t sound like fun, pick another experience! Don’t complain to the cruise director that this wasn’t your cup of tea.

Transportation met us at the dock at Anegada and transferred us to the Anegada Beach Club.

Anegada: pristine beach. No people. NO PEOPLE!! Amazing water and the sound of distant breakers hitting the reef. Patches of sea grass and Queen Conchs munching their way along the bottom. Little palapa-like sun shades with loungers.

My only complaint– we had only one hour on the beach. This needs to be longer — it should be a two hour beach break. I could have skipped the trip out to see the flamingos and the pile of dead conchs. When you get to a spot this perfect, why in the world rush to leave it?

But — I’ll be back. I was intrigued with the posh tent accommodations at the Anegada Beach Club, and staying here is¬†now on my bucket list. Thank you, Windstar, for getting me out to this beautiful, remote place!

Beach at Anegada
This is one of the emptiest, most beautiful stretches of beach I’ve ever seen. Staying at the Anegada Beach Club is now on my bucket list. Photograph, iStock Photos.

Our high-speed ride took us directly to the Beach Barbecue that Windstar had set up in Virgin Gorda. After a good lunch and another swim, I spent some time relaxing under a seagrape tree.

And then it was time to head back to Wind Surf.

Windstar Wind Surf cruise ship anchored on Virgin Gorda. Windstar Windsurf in the Caribbean.
Guests enjoyed a great barbecue on the beach, then swam and played with the equipment brought ashore by the sports team. It was pleasant to look up and see Wind Surf floating on the horizon. Photograph, Ann Fisher.


Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy

St. Barth’s lived up to its reputation of being lovely and pricey: the yacht-styles of the rich and famous. Being a little over-sunned, and frankly still tired from Anegada and the swimming¬†at Virgin Gorda the day before, I was looking for something low key. I wandered the town and had a lovely lunch with one of my ship mates. It was the end of a wonderful week with Windstar cruises Windsurf.

Another day, another sunset from the stern of Wind Surf, this time moored off St. Barth's.
Another day, another sunset from the stern of Wind Surf, this time moored off St. Barth’s. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

St. Martin and the America’s Cup Racing Yachts

Canada II yacht in an America's Cup regatta in St. Martin
What fun!! I participated in the America’s Cup Regatta with a crew of Windstar passengers. Our Canada II yacht placed second in a field of three.

When we disembarked back in St. Martin, I took one final excursion — the America’s Cup Regatta. Very exciting! I would love to do this again — and will, when I’m in St. Martin the next time. This is another active, strenuous excursion, and was so much fun!

This is a regatta with¬†three twelve meter yachts that all competed in the America’s Cup races in the 1980’s.

Our group of fourteen people crewed the Canada II in a race against the Stars and Stripes and True North. I started out in a primary grinder position which I managed for the first two legs of the race before pooping out — the young guys grinding with me were too fast, so I move forward for the final leg.

Wind Surf, Windstar's flagship yacht. Windstar Windsurf ship
Wind Surf, Windstar’s flagship yacht. Photograph courtesy of Windstar.



The Wind Surf Yacht

A suite on Wind Surf. Windstar Windsurf ship suite
A suite on Wind Surf.

Wind Surf was built in 1990 at the French shipyard Societe Nouvelle des Ateliers et Chantiers du Havre, and most recently refurbished in 2012.  She originally sailed for Club Med Cruises (as Club Med I), and was then purchased by Windstar in 1997.

When Wind Surf was refurbished, they created thirty suites on Deck 3 by combining two regular staterooms. Because of this, all the suites have two bathrooms, in addition to a bedroom area and sitting area. There are no verandahs on Wind Surf, and all cabins have porthole windows, in keeping with the style of the yacht.

I really like the upscale, clean look of the interior design choices that were made for Wind Surf when she was updated.

Wind Surf Specs:
CAPACITY: 310 Guests

STATEROOMS: 122 deluxe ocean view staterooms

SUITES: 31 deluxe ocean view suites

BRIDGE DECK SUITES: 2 deluxe ocean view bridge suites

DECKS: 6 decks

CREW: 201 international staff

SHIP’S REGISTRY: Bahamas

LENGTH: 535 feet (162 meters) at waterline; 617 feet (187meters) including bowsprit

DRAFT: 16.5 feet (5 meters)

TONNAGE: 14,745 gross registered tons (grt)

BEAM: 66 feet (20 meters)

SAILS: 7 triangular, self-furling, computer-operated sails with 26,881 square feet (or 2,600 square meters) of Dacron surface area

MASTS: 5 at 221 feet (67.5 meters)

ENGINES: 4 diesel electric generating sets, 2 electrical propulsion motor

SPEED: 10 to 12 knots with engines only; up to 15 knots wind and engine assisted

Care to go for a swim? In addition to the pool and hot tubs on the stern, when the Wind Surf is moored, the Watersport Platform lowers down and you can take a dip in the ocean, go paddle boarding, or try your hand at wind surfing off the back of the yacht.

Windstar cruises windsurf with its marina platform open
Cool off with a dip in the ocean right off the back of Wind Surf from the Watersport platform.


Expedia.com

But are you sailing?

On this cruise, there was not much of a¬†sailing sensation on Wind Surf. Part of it was the itinerary. We made short hops, island to island, so the ship wasn’t going far on most days. This is one reason I chose this cruise.

Also, I didn’t expect to feel like I was sailing; when you look at the size of Wind Surf versus the square feet of sail — in my opinion, this just isn’t what this ship is about — on Wind Surf¬†it’s about the overall cruise experience versus sailing.

This is a positive thing¬†for someone who likes to see the sails, but perhaps doesn’t have the sea legs or stomach to handle a windjammer or clipper ship.

If you are wanting more of a sailing experience, I’d try Windstar’s two smaller yachts — Wind Star or Wind Spirit. These two ships have a gross tonnage of 5,300 – 5,700, and 21,500 square feet of sail — smaller, lighter and more likely to give you a feeling of flying before the wind.

Windstar Windsurf Deck Plan
Wind Surf Deck Plan, courtesy of Windstar.

Cabin

My Wind Surf cabin was lovely. I had stateroom #205 which was 188 square feet (18 square meters). The design was very clean and modern; storage was ample and well thought out. There were two long closets, one of which held the safe,plenty of drawers and cubbies, a fully stocked minibar, and a narrow drawer with hard liquor selection.

The bathroom was as roomy as standard ship bathrooms get, and well appointed: granite counter top, plenty of storage, and nothing looked worn or dirty. I was particularly pleased with Windstar’s L’Occitane en Provence amenity line — I loved the soap and lotion.

I’ve included the Wind Surf deck plan (click above image to enlarge) which has the sizes and configurations of all the cabin types.

My cabin had a DVD player and stereo that could several connection options so that you could play music from an iPod or phone. There were outlets for both 110 volt and 220 volt plugs. Room service was available continuously. I only used it once for coffee early in the morning, but the waiter was right there – johnny-on-the-spot.

My steward was considerate and quick to smile; he gave exemplary service. My ice bucket and glass bottles of filtered water were always full, the minibar restocked. Oh, and of course a zoo of towel animals appeared over the course of the week.

Thank you, Fauzi!

Cabin 205 on Wind Surf
My cabin was perfect. The decor suited me, the bed, linens and pillows were lovely. A tranquil place to relax after a long day of swimming and exploring. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Windstar WindSurf sailing shipThe Wind Surf Experience

My fellow passengers on this cruise were almost all either American or Canadian. I did see one couple from France.

Windstar really shines in the service arena. I found all of their crew attentive, happy, and quick to help. Many knew my name within the first twenty-four hours. With 201 crew to a passenger capacity of 310, the ratio is nearly 2 crew for every 3 passengers. This is so important. It allows Windstar to provide a high standard of service without wearing out their staff.

Wind Surf has everything you might need onboard. The Wind Spa offers full spa services, as well as hair and nail salon services.

The cruise director gave the most thorough port talks I’ve ever heard — with PowerPoints: an overview of the local history, followed by points of interest, favorite cuisine and drinks, and possible things to do. It wasn’t a shopping advertisement for stores the cruise line is paid to promote! How refreshing!

The two bands provided our onboard entertainment were both talented, and for those wanting some dancing and nightlife after dinner, the main lounge is the place to be.

Breakfast is served in the open-air Veranda restaurant on the upper deck, weather permitting. Passenger have a choice of the buffet, an omelette/egg station, or ordering from the menu.



The regular dining room onboard Wind Surf is AmphorA, and then there are two specialty restaurants: Candles and Stella Bistro. At AmphorA, the chef’s menu changes each evening, although there are standard favorites (like steak) that are always available.

In the evening, the Veranda restaurant transforms into Candles, with a steakhouse themed menu. Having dinner under the stars on this beautiful yacht was very special. Stella Bistro, Wind Surf’s French restaurant is also located on the top deck, just behind Veranda area. There is no additional charge for dining in the specialty restaurants, always a nice thing.

Each week, Windstar is famous for putting on their Deck Barbecue. It’s all chefs, cooks, and waitstaff on deck to pull this off, and it was impressive!

Deck barbecue on Windstar cruises Windsurf
The weekly Deck Barbecue onboard the Windstar ships is an event for which the cruise line is justifiably famous. The paella was outstanding and the grilled lobster perfectly done!

What did I think about the food on Wind Surf? It was very, very good. And — very exciting — Windstar and the James Beard Foundation have announced a partnership! Windstar is now the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation; I expect really fine things to come in the culinary area on this cruise line.

It was hard to leave Wind Surf! As with all great vacations, the time went by too quickly, and I found myself back in St. Martin for a couple of nights at the end of the cruise.

This was such a wonderful week!¬† I am looking forward to traveling with Windstar again — I think sailing with them to Alaska on Star Legend would be outstanding, or perhaps to Tahiti and the Society Islands on Wind Spirit . . .

Tahiti next? Star Spirit sails near Moorea . . .

Looking for a review of the cruise ship Windsurf or Windstar Windsurf? Well, you’ve found it! People often think the ship’s name is one word, but it’s actually two :-).¬†


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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Crossing the Atlantic on a Tall Ship

And so it begins . . . I am on Star Flyer as she heads out into the Atlantic making for Barbados and winter in the Caribbean. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a tall ship is the stuff of dreams. Rope and cable thrumming in the breeze, the crack of a sail filling with wind: these are sounds old in human time — these sounds lie deep within our collective consciousness.

Star Clipper raises sail Black and white image
Raising Sail. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

And so it begins . . .  I am on Star Flyer as she heads out into the Atlantic making for Barbados and winter in the Caribbean.

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a tall ship is the stuff of¬†dreams. Rope and cable thrumming in the breeze, the crack of a sail filling with wind: these are sounds old in¬†human time — these sounds lie deep within our collective consciousness.

Star Flyer is a barquantine with four masts, and the first of the Star Clipper’s tall ships.

Star Clippers Tall Ship
Star Flyer is a classic barquantine tall ship. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

A group of 129 like-minded people boarded Star Flyer, either in Malaga, Spain, or Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, for the Trans-Atlantic sailing. This voyage attracts a different sort of passenger, and a surprising number return for the Atlantic crossing many times over.

Why?

A true tall ship. A BIG ocean. Sunrises and sunsets. Stars. The Milky Way. Endless water.

It is a voyage into our past, a voyage into ourselves. The thirteen days at sea give the time and the quiet to internalize the sounds of the ship, to think. At night, standing on the bridge of the ship looking forward, all is dark. I am surrounded by stars and the sound of wind, canvas, and water. That bright swath of sky — The Milky Way — is resplendent with no other light to distract.

The Milky Way over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Milky Way over the Atlantic Ocean. Photograph: Shaunl, iStock Photo.

What color is the sea? How many shades of blue exist?

At dawn today,  the sky turns a powdery bare-blue. Grey clouds edged with pink light add a subtle contrast. 

Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean. Photograph: Bill Palmer.
Sunrise. Photograph: Bill Palmer.

Later, a silvery light breaks a deep blue swell — the shimmering of a dolphin’s skin during¬†a short, curving leap.

In a circle we move, dragging the horizon with us, re-describing it as the day passes on.

Sometimes the ocean is a blue-black velvet. At other times, a sapphire.

Then the sun turns the ocean a golden yellow and white of reflected thunderheads ‚ÄĒ and only the horizon line remains blue — a thin ribbon of cobalt.

Sunrise, Atlantic Ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Sunrise, Atlantic Ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

A Little Weather

The first night out of La Gomera, I wake at 3:00 a.m. to large swells rolling me back and forth in my bed and the sound of unsecured items being tossed to the floor. Folks with cabins near the dining room hear crashing china.

Northeast of¬†us near the Strait of Gibraltar, a large low pressure system has formed suddenly. It causes 12 meter seas near Madeira, and 5 – 6¬†meter (16.5 to 19.5 foot)¬†seas for us. ¬†At sunrise, the crew strings lines along both sides the upper deck of the Flyer, as well as in the open Tropical Bar — we need them to keep our balance as the ship moves with¬†the waves.

I find the whole thing exhilarating.¬†I’m spending a lot of time in the open Tropical bar, and some up on the top deck. The¬†5 – 6 meter seas don’t frighten me ¬†— ¬†but they require me to watch my step. As a big wave rolls under the ship, one side of the deck tips deeply downward, then slants back to the other side in equal measure. When this happens, you’d better hang on to something, or you’ll go sliding across the ship.

Throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover. ¬†— Mark Twain

In a glint of sunlight, the sea produces a momentary rainbow on a wave‚Äôs edge.¬†The ocean sucks and swells, a lacy froth – a crest – and she roils on, building here, falling there. She lifts the ship high on a swell, then pulls us down — holding us close and dear, before sending us up again.

For these two days,¬†I am in the society of people who feel the same way about the waves. However, when the sea flattens out after nearly 60 hours, we are all thankful. Thankful and tired. The constant rolling means balancing each step and being sure to hold on always. Showers are difficult to impossible¬†— too much movement¬†to risk it. Every meal is spent holding onto the table, the plate, and the glass with only two hands.

There is the sun, there is the sea, there is me.

On the fourth day, the Atlantic relaxes into a flat mirror, and the population of the ship increases. I realize that nearly a third of the passengers never left their cabins during the rough period.

Sunset Atlantic Ocean from the Star Fyer
The Atlantic became so calm, that it was difficult to believe it was the same ocean. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Too much of a good thing?

Yes, it is calm, but there is little wind. The sails hang slack, and then there is a great, cracking THWOMP as they fill, catching the wind and holding before losing it again. Then another crack a minute later. The sea is a flat shield set with silver stones. Inscrutable. Endless.

Sailmaker on the Star Flyer
One of the sailmakers on the Star Flyer, working on the main staysail. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

While we are not becalmed, I start to understand the doldrums. The water glints diamond hard, and we are making less than two knots with the sails. Captain Sergey turns the engines back on.

The sounds of the ship are the sounds of a workshop. A saw, then a hammer striking wood. The smell of sawdust and varnish. The whir of the industrial sewing machine. A chisel chinging on a bit of swimming pool rust. The rustling of a fisherman’s sail, bustled together by six seamen before it’s¬†hoisted into position.

The storm damaged the main staysail badly that first evening, ripping it all along the bottom seam. The sail repair advances slowly, a work in progress for at least ten days. Now and again the Captain and first officer stand looking at the ruined sail with the sailmaker ‚ÄĒ along with the huge new sections of Dacron that have been cut to size. The sailmaker kneels and¬†measures with the sail tacked into the deck for cutting.

Sunrise, Sunset

The two most magical events of the day, every day. I’m sharing “Seattle Bill” Palmer’s series of of sunrise/sunset images:




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Practical Questions

For those of you considering an Atlantic crossing with Star Clippers, here is a review of the more practical aspects of my westbound Trans-Atlantic cruise on the Star Flyer in the fall of 2016.

I was onboard Star Flyer for three weeks. The first week was a cruise from Malaga, Spain to Las Palmas. The second two weeks were the Trans-Atlantic portion of the trip, going from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, to Bridgetown, Barbados. This way, passengers may choose either a longer or shorter Trans-Atlantic experience.

So, is thirteen days at sea boring?

I had never been this many days at sea with no ports of call, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would feel. I figured I would know halfway into the trip. The answer for me, was no — I wasn’t bored at all. I found it deeply relaxing. I brought things to read, movies on my iPad, photos to edit in Lightroom. The ship has a library and a substantial DVD collection as well.

Closing ceremony for the Star Flyer Olympic Games, Fall 2016.
Closing ceremony for the Star Flyer Olympic Games, Fall 2016.

The cruise director and her sports team staff prepared a schedule of activities each day, so truthfully, passengers could be as “busy” or relaxed as they wanted to be. Star Flyer also had a special yoga instructor on for the crossing. Typically, there were two yoga classes each day, as well as two or three other fitness offerings. Four or five days out of La Gomera, it was warm enough to take a dip in the pool and lounge on the deck.

And — mast climbing anyone?

Some of the activities I participated in were the Olympic Games, the daily trivia quiz, and Captain’s story time, a navigation class on the bridge, and a star class after dinner. Oh, and the first-time Atlantic crossing baptism.

Lounging on deck, looking up at the sails and the sky. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Lounging on deck, looking up at the sails and the sky. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Olympic Games: four teams, five days, three events per afternoon. It was great, silly fun!

One thing to note: generally, the ship would have had wifi internet access; however, the storm near the Canary Islands knocked out the ship’s wifi, and we were without internet access for the crossing. Important communication could still be handled through the purser’s office. Honestly, I enjoyed being unplugged.

Worried about Being Seasick?

If you are thinking of taking a cruise on the Star Flyer clipper ship, being seasick is a real concern for many people.¬†I was not sick — but then I did take Dramamine proactively, particularly on the couple days during the bad weather. After being on Royal Clipper for two cruises this year, I felt confidant that I could handle the Atlantic Crossing.

My advice is this. If you get seasick really easily, this is probably not for you.

However, if you simply haven’t done much (or any) sailing, but you are really captivated by the idea of taking a voyage¬†on one of these beautiful ships, try a week long cruise in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean to see how you feel.

Star Clippers has even¬†scheduled several three night cruises out of Venice specifically for people who would like to try sailing on one of their tall ships but aren’t ready to commit to seven or more days.

Another thing to be aware of: due to the size of the ship, there are no elevators. You need to be capable of climbing stairs in both calm and rough weather.

Sunrise on the Stern of Star Flyer
“Atlanta Bill” watches the sun rise. He is part of my favorite family onboard — we formed Team Portugal for the Star Flyer Olympic Games.

Fellow Passengers

On most Star Clipper cruises, 50% to 60% of passengers are repeat customers. On this trip, of the 129 people aboard, 92 had sailed with Star Clippers before — so over 71%. Most of the ship attended the Captain’s champagne reception for repeat passengers.

On this voyage, the passengers were predominantly American, British or German. There were several French couples as well.

More than half of the passengers had also crossed the Atlantic before, but there were many of us were first timers. Jane, originally Canadian, now from Colombia, came out of a deep love of the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brien. After reading the twenty books in the series, crossing the Atlantic was a compulsion for Jane. She simply had to experience it on a tall ship.

Then there were many passengers who had made the crossing many times. There was Spanish Bill, also known as William the Conqueror (there were four Bills on the ship, so they each got a nickname based on their home). Spanish Bill is actually British, but now lives in Spain. Years ago, Spanish Bill had built a 35 foot sailboat in his backyard in England; then he and his wife sailed her back and forth across the Atlantic several times.

Seattle Bill, very introspective, thoughtful, captured every sunrise and sunset. He served in the US Navy in the 1970’s and loves the Atlantic crossing, which he has made several times now on both Star Flyer and Royal Clipper. He was kind enough to share his series of sunrises and sunsets, which you will find above.

All hands on deck! Head bartender Alberto becomes the loading foreman as Star Flyer takes on supplies for the crossing.
All hands on deck! Head bartender Alberto becomes the loading foreman as Star Flyer takes on supplies for the crossing.

Crew

I think very highly of the Star Clipper crews. I’ve spent almost seven weeks on their ships this year, and the people who work for this company are one of Star Clipper’s great strengths.

Many of the crew members have made their careers with the company. On my three cruises with Star Clippers, I have found the crew members to be highly skilled, very professional, and genuinely warm people. They are a big part of what makes passengers continue to return to the Star Clipper ships.

Star Flyer versus Royal Clipper

Many of Star Flyer’s Trans-Atlantic passengers fiercely prefer either Star Flyer or Star Clipper to their bigger sister, the square-rigged Royal Clipper.

Why?¬†Star Flyer heels over further — this enhances the feeling of sailing. Captain Sergey laughed at people who thought this meant that Star Flyer sailed better than the Royal — he thought this was silly. I will say this though. Sailors like to feel the ship move, and I think Star Flyer and Star Clipper attract more hard-core sailing people, and I really liked this aspect of my fellow passengers on this trip.

Star Flyer and Royal Clipper.
Star Flyer and Royal Clipper. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Star Flyer Royal Clipper
Tonnage: 2,298 Tonnage: 5,000
Length: 360 feet Length: 439 feet
Beam: 50 feet Beam: 54 feet
Draft: 18.5 feet Draft: 18.5 feet
Sail Area: 36,000 square feet Sail Area: 56,000 square feet
Mast Height: 226 feet Mast Height: 197 feet
Masts: 4 masts, 16 Sails Masts: 5 masts, 42 sails
Total Staff: 72 Total Staff: 106
Passenger Capacity: 170 Passenger Capacity: 227
Cabin 339 on Star Flyer
My Cabin 339 (Category 2 ) on the Star Flyer is on the Clipper deck — which is also the where the dining room is located. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

The¬†standard cabins on Star Flyer and Royal Clipper are so¬†similar that the minor differences aren’t worth discussing, but it is important to note that the cabins are smaller than cabins on large cruise ships.

I found my cabin on Star Flyer to be roomy and comfortable, with plenty of storage. However, Royal Clipper does have a group of cabins with private balconies, while Star Flyer does not — this can be a deal breaker for some passengers.

Additional differences: Royal Clipper has a small fitness center and two massage rooms. Star Flyer and Star Clipper do not have fitness centers. Massages are given in tent on a very private part of the Sun Deck. Royal Clipper has a marina platform that opens on the stern of the ship. Passengers can swim or windsurf off the back of the boat when she is moored. Star Flyer and Star Clipper do not have marina platforms. Royal Clipper has taller ceilings in the dining room, which makes it somewhat more quiet¬†because the noise isn’t as compressed.

Bill Palmer photographing the sunset on Star Flyer
“Seattle Bill” Palmer captures another sunset on Star Flyer. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

When the ships are sailing directly in front of the wind, Royal Clipper is faster. She can make 14 to 16 knots, while Star Flyer and Star Clipper have a top speed of 8 to 9 knots. However — and this is a BIG one: Star Flyer and Star Clipper can sail much closer to the wind than Royal Clipper can. This means they can sail more under more varied wind conditions than Royal Clipper without resorting to the engine.

All of the Star Clipper ships have bow thrusters and anti-roll tanks. However, Star Flyer and Star Clipper do roll more in rough seas than Royal Clipper, which is larger and more stable feeling. This might be a consideration for someone concerned about seasickness.

Look¬†– I loved both Star Flyer and Royal Clipper, equally. I can’t tell you I have a favorite. They each have different strengths, and I’d be back on either ship in a heartbeat.

Note: food on both Star Flyer and Royal Clipper was very good. I wrote about the food on Royal Clipper at length in my first article on the Royal Clipper, and everything I had to say there pertains to the food on Star Flyer as well.

If you are interested in¬†reading further about the ships, or looking at upcoming sailings, you’ll find Star Clippers website here.

Ports of Call

I boarded Star Flyer in Malaga, and spent the week visiting Tangier, Morocco, Cadiz, Spain, Funchal, Portugal, before winding up in Las Palmas, Grand Canaria, where the Transatlantic crossing segment of my trip truly began. 

Las Palmas¬†is, of course, an appropriate place to begin the Atlantic journey, following in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus. As part of my tour of the island, I visited Casa de Colon (The Columbus House) ‚ÄĒ really the mayor‚Äôs house where Columbus stayed before continuing to San Sebastian in La Gomera. One interesting note. There was a model of the ship La Nina — that ship was approximately 50 feet in length. Star Flyer: 360 feet. As small as Star Flyer seems next to large cruise ships, she would have dwarfed the ships in the Columbus fleet.

Las Palmas is large and fairly urban. I found the old section of the city interesting, but over all I was not captivated by Gran Canaria. It is of course, an important port for the ship — capable of resupplying the Star Flyer before its fourteen day crossing¬†to Barbados.

La Gomera, one of the smaller Canary islands, was our last port before beginning the voyage to Barbados. Columbus stayed a month on the island of La Gomera, doing final outfitting of his little fleet, laying in supplies. It was his final stop before his 1492 voyage.

While Grand Canaria did not captivate me, La Gomera did — and in a big way. La Gomera has micro-climates from one side of the island to the other. I loved the¬†stark differences between the misty laurel rainforests, and the arid, sun-baked southern point where San Sebastian lies. It’s easy to see why Unesco has declared it a world heritage site. One of the unique rock formations on La Gomera¬†is the Roque de Agando, a volcanic plug — very dramatic and beautiful part of the island.

Would I make the Atlantic Crossing again? Yes. It simply was not like anything else. It was beautiful, and it spoke to my soul.

Sunset on the Star Flyer
Magical. Each sunset we sailed into — there really aren’t words. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

 


I have written about my two other trips with Star Clippers on the Royal Clipper in 2016, in both the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. You will find those articles here:

Photograph of Royal Clipper
Article about my voyage on Royal Clipper in the Mediterranean.

Royal Clipper sails near Soufriere in St. Lucia.
Article about my cruise in the Caribbean on the Royal Clipper.

Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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For the Love of Tall Ships

Royal Clipper in the Adriatic

The first glimpse of her, across the harbor in Civitavecchia, made my heart jump — how I love this ship!

And then our driver blew right past Royal Clipper . . . he was looking for, you know, A SHIP — one of the current behemoths carrying 3,000 passengers or more.

My sister and I were saying, “No, no — she was right there — go back, go back! Royal Clipper is a sailing¬† ship!”

As we pulled even with her, I could understand the driver. Royal Clipper is diminutive in comparison to the Royal Caribbean ship just down the dock. She looks like she’s ¬†time traveled to sit between huge modern ships.

In an era when the mainstream cruise lines race one another to see who can have the largest ship, bigger has become the norm. Companies like Royal Caribbean build ships that look like a cross between resort hotels and shopping malls.

In comparison, the pure ship-ness of Royal Clipper is magical. I have enjoyed modern cruise ships, and I would definitely go on a regular cruise again. But having traveled on the large ships makes the experience of sailing on Royal Clipper even more amazing. It is so different. It is so special.

Allure of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. In an era when cruise lines build ships that look like resort hotels, the pure ship-ness of the Royal Clipper is magical.
German ship, The Preussen, built in 1902. Painting by Roger Chapelet.

For people who love tall ships and sailing, Royal Clipper is a destination all by herself.

A destination, you say? But isn’t that huge Royal Caribbean ship just that? Rock climbing walls and zip lines and diving shows and an ice skating rink and Central Park and 20 dining venues? How could a little ship with one restaurant, no theater, and no wave pool be a destination?

Michael Kraft, the Swedish entrepreneur who founded Star Clippers, believed that people who loved sailing and tall ships wanted something different. The first two ships, Star Clipper and Star Flyer proved he was right. The Star Clipper experience is akin to being on a private yacht, and it’s offered at a price that is close to the cost of better¬†mainstream cruises. Royal Clipper can anchor in small ports — in whatever part of the world she is sailing. It means her guests see things large cruise ships cannot offer.

The Star Clipper company likes to say, “small is beautiful.”

Royal Clipper, which launched in 2000, was modeled on the great ship, Preussen. Royal Clipper is 439 feet (133 m) long, with a beam of 54 feet(16.5 m), and she has 42 sails comprising 54,000 square feet of sail. 9 kilometers of steel ropes and 14 kilometers  of regular rope hold the masts and rigging in place. She is only the second five masted full-rigged ship ever built, and she is the largest squared-rigged ship in the world. To be on her under full sail is extraordinary.

This cruise on the Royal Clipper in June of 2016 in the Mediterranean and Adriatic was my third cruise with the ship. In January of 2016, I spent one¬†week sailing on her¬†in the Windward islands, and liked it so much that I didn’t want to leave — so booked a second week and stayed onboard for the¬†Grenadine Islands (Review of my southern Caribbean cruise is here: Onboard the Royal Clipper). Yes, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I am a big fan of the Star Clipper experience, but I am not alone. On any given Star Clippers cruise, 40% to 60% of the passengers are repeat customers which often means that half the ship attends the Captain’s champagne reception for returning passengers.

A very special part of taking a cruise with Star Clippers, is that with this small ship — the crew remembers you. Stewards, the bar staff, the spa masseuses — start to feel like family. My waiter Marlon gave me a big hug, “Miss Ann – you came back!” Well, of course I came back — how could I not?

Raising the Main-Staysail.

How does the sailing experience in the Mediterranean compare with sailing in southern Caribbean? It was different. On this particular itinerary, we did not sail as much as we had in the Caribbean. Why? Two reasons. First, Royal Clipper is a square rigged ship. Square sails work best when the ship is sailing before the wind. Obviously the wind is not always going to come from directly behind the ship, which is why sailing ships tack back and forth. In parts of the Mediterranean with heavy shipping traffic, particularly ferries, this is not practical. We often had a combination of sail and engine going.

My sister and I shared cabin 116, a category 4 cabin, and we found it worked well. Staterooms on all Star Clippers ships are smaller than rooms on the big ships — obviously. It is more appropriate to compare the cabins¬†on Royal Clipper to those on a yacht. There was ample storage and I found the marble bathroom very spacious for a sailing ship.

I have listed the approximate sizes of the Royal Clipper staterooms below..

Cabin Category Size
Owner’s Cabins 320 sq. ft. (39.7 m2)
Deluxe Suite 255 sq. ft. (23.6 m2)
Category 1 226 sq. ft. (21 m2)
Category 2, 3, 4** 148 sq. ft. (13.7m2)
Category 5 113 sq. ft. (10.5 m2)
Category 6 108 sq. ft. (10 m2)

Cabin size: Please note: In categories 2, 3, and 4, there are exceptions to the average size of 148 square feet. Please look at the deck plans — you will see that as the ship tapers towards the front, the most forward cabins are slightly smaller. Also, cabins near the atrium vary. Be sure to verify with Star Clippers the exact size if it is important to you.

Cabin size information on categories 4 and above came from Star Clippers directly. Category 5 and 6 came from CruiseDeckPlans.com.

Laying in the bowsprit net watching the sun go down.

Sailing on Royal Clipper is an intimate experience. You are close to the water, not 5 to 10 stories above it. The ship’s bridge? As a passenger, you are right there. Time to raise the sails — move out of the way — the deck crew is on it! I have had friends ask whether passengers act as crew on Royal Clipper, and the answer is no. If you want to do the sailing yourself, you are looking for a different company. You may spend time asking the captain questions on the bridge, you might raise a glass of champagne as the ship sets sail, but you do not¬†crew the ship.

What is there to do on the Royal Clipper? On most of their cruises, there are ports of call every day, so there is no time to get bored. On a day at sea, there are typically talks presented by the crew or the captain, and the Captain Nemo spa is always a treat. When we were in Sicily, a group of folk dancers came onboard following supper and entertained us with music and dancing.

Briggs & Riley New Products
For the brave of heart, there is mast climbing (with a safety harness) as ship sails. One of my favorite pastimes is riding in the widow’s net on the bowsprit of the ship, the water rushing just below me.

The food on Royal Clipper continued to be excellent on this trip in the very capable hands of Chef Rudy from the Philippines. The galley on Royal Clipper is the size of two standard state rooms, so approximately 300 square feet. And what a feat it is to serve the ship of 227 passengers and 105 crew!

There are six meal offerings each day; in addition to the standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there is also an early bird breakfast, afternoon snack (British tea), and a midnight snack. Dinner is full-service, and the other meals are served as buffets. Each evening there is a selection of two appetizers, always a soup, a salad, at least four entrees — one of which is vegetarian, and the two desserts. Additionally, sirloin steak with pommes frittes and a pasta dish of some type is available every night. I found our server Marlon to be outstanding at selecting the best thing on the menu for the evening.

Chef Rudy oversees preparation of the deck lunch buffet.

Interested in reading about the ports of call? Part II of the cruise is coming soon, with a focus on the ten ports we visited in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic.

History of the Clipper Ships

For 135 years, The Flying Cloud held the record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco: 89 days & 8 hours.

Clippers: the fast ships of the final period of the great age of sail. Even as the most famous clippers made their record setting voyages, it was obvious that steamships would soon make sailing obsolete for the shipping industry.

Narrow for their length and built for speed, ¬†clippers could not carry as much¬†cargo¬†as many 19th century ships, but they were fast. Very fast. Tall spars (masts) designed to carry massive quantities of sail meant these ships could “clip” the waves, and dramatically cut sailing time on long voyages. Think of them as express services for special cargo and passengers.

Tea clippers and opium clippers were designed to handle the two major cargos coming from China.¬†Then the gold rush made fast travel between New York and San Francisco desirable. In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Between 1848 and 1852, nearly 160 ships set sail from the east coast, bound for San Francisco. Pre-goldrush: only two ships per year made the trip from the Atlantic to San Francisco.

In 1853, clipper ships began publishing ship cards that advertised their departure date.

Long distance shipping: Early steam engines on ships were inefficient, ran at low pressure, and consumed a lot of fuel.¬†Steamships couldn’t carry enough coal to make long ocean voyages and still have enough space for cargo to be commercially viable.

Then in 1869, the clipper trade with China collapsed. The Suez Canal opened, making it possible for steam ships to make the China run quickly. Sailing ships couldn’t get through the Suez without tugs to escort them¬†— which was expensive and impractical. Steamships¬†could carry more cargo, were more reliable than the sailing ships, and cost less to insure. Clipper ships continued to do service all over the world, but the numbers of them being built each year dropped dramatically. Transcontinental rail across America caused¬†the clipper trade between the east and west coast to decline.

The Preussen (pronounced Proysin), built in 1902 was first five-masted fully rigged ship ever built. Under full sail, she was capable of 20 knots, making her faster than any steamship of the day. It was her speed that led to her untimely demise in the English channel. On November 5, 1910, a small British channel steamer, the Brighton, grossly underestimated Preussen’s 16 knot speed and attempted to cross in front of her bow. Preussen rammed the Brighton, causing severe damage to the sailing ship. She drifted onto the rocks under the cliffs of Dover. Gale force winds in the channel prevented her rescue.

Note: The Star Clipper’s new ship, Flying Clipper is due to launch in late 2017. Word from the crew on the Royal Clipper is that the build is running behind schedule, so perhaps early 2018 is more likely. She is modeled after the great ship, La France II, built in 1911. La France II was the largest merchant sailing ship ever built, and Flying Clipper will be bigger in beam than Royal Clipper. However, if Flying Clipper¬†is a jubilee rigged ship (also known as a bald-rigged ship) like La France II was, she will lack the royal gallant sails above the upper top gallants, and then Royal Clipper would retain the title of the largest full-rigged ship in the world.

Returning to Royal Clipper. Going home in more than one sense of the word.

Classic Fiat in Rome
Visiting Rome in the summer? Tips for seeing the sights while avoiding the crowds.

Planning to do a cruise from Civitavecchia?

We spent a week in Rome, pre-cruise: Beating the Crowds in Rome; you may find the information on seeing major attractions like the Colosseum and the Vatican helpful.

 

 

 

 

 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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More information on clipper ships and the Star Clippers company:

“Clipper Ship Cards.” American Antiquarian Society. American Antiquarian Society, 2012. Web. 14 Aug. 2016.

“Full-rigged Ship.” Full-rigged Ship. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2016.

Ross, Kelly L. “Masts and Sails.” Masts and Sails. N.p., 2013. Web. 07 Aug. 2016.

Royal Clipper: A Dream Come True. Dir. Tibor Somogyi. Prod. Alexander Von Sallwitz. 2001. DVD.

“Star Clippers – Americas.” Introducing Star Clippers. Star Clippers, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2016.