Subtle joy of green cruisingPublished 11:08am Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Sailing aboard the largest fully rigged sailing ship in the world is a cruise I would describe in one word…subtle.
I have been many places in my life and time, and I am usually disappointed by fanfare. You won’t get that on a cruise aboard the Royal Clipper, and that’s what makes it perfect for artistic types, from 35 to 91 years old.
My seven-day journey from Barbados to the Grenadines was the tropical highlight of a lifetime, accentuated by the unfurling of 42 sails in the wind as you found yourself swiftly and noiselessly being carried port to port like a character in a “Captain and Commander” novel. The same ship sails the Mediterranean and the pacific coast of Costa Rica.
Loved: Listening to the groan of the sails instead of engines, the fabulous menu, the soft adventure, and the mix of British, Canadian, American and German passengers.
Note: For the very things I loved, it took a day or two to lay back and realize that I wasn’t on the “megaship of the seas.” Be willing to leave anyone under age 20 at home. My daughter had a good experience, but she was the only teenager.
Favorite port of call: Grenada, considered the most beautiful harbor in the Caribbean. We hiked to the Seven Sisters Waterfall, a rite of passage. Martinique, which is like a mini-Paris, with great deals on French designer chic.
St. Lucia, and the iconic mountains of Les Deux Pitons, from the sea. St Vincent’s is waterfall heaven, and little known Bequia is laid back, but famous for it’s miniature boat building.
It was a goal of mine to end up at Thomas’ Boat Builders, where the most exquisite miniatures of sailing ships are hand-crafted before your eyes, as they have been for royalty since the 18th century. With prices ranging from about $25-$4,500, I settled on a coconut boat, and cannot be more proud of my souvenir.
Another goal was obtaining a freshly-grilled Caribbean lobster. I bartered with a local fisherman, and got a good price. It was snapping itself silly, when he asked, “do you want me to cook this now, or do you want to take it home as a pet?”
Star Clippers hired a three-star rated Michelin chef, which is a great merit in the world of cuisine. All the dishes and flavors are organically derived, with no “sour cream and onion” added! I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I enjoyed the most remarkable chocolate cake, which was almost savory, with no icing, and had just the right balance of sweet and chocolate.
It is something to be said for the Caribbean, that everyone should take a green cruise like this one, or ANY type cruise, and see the reefs for themselves.
The coral reefs of Tobago Cays Nature Reserve, another port of call, were the healthiest I saw during the trip, but it’s no mystery that many reefs are turning “gray.”
There was an active marine biologist aboard, and she explained the reason is not so much pollution, as it is sediment. It’s a cause and effect of storms that wash mud onto the coral, clogging a sensitive photosynthetic system can’t survive it. But you can watch dolphins swim alongside this ship, and you can climb the mast if you want to! That beats that rock wall on the megaships by a mile.
And finally, the captain was very popular in a subtle sort of way. Subtle, there’s that word again.
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