It was devilishly dramatic. As the compelling tones of Vangelis’ “Conquest of Paradise” rang out across the deck, the huge white sails of Royal Clipper slowly began to unfurl.
She’s the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world and, in the warm seas of the Caribbean, we were lucky enough to be on board.
My husband, Jim, and I are not sailors. It always looks too much like hard work to me. But here we were on this magnificent five-masted Clipper with all the luxuries of a liner but the romance of a tall ship.
With only 200 people on board, it’s a totally different experience to the larger cruise ships, and there’s a sense of camaraderie from the start. Everything about it feels more adventurous: the gentle rocking motion day and night is rather like being cradled, the sea crashing over the portholes as you dine means you never forget that you have the wind in your sails, in more ways than one!
And while we’re on the subject of food: the standard is excellent, the choice varied and the free seating arrangement means you can be as sociable or unsociable as you want. We met all sorts of interesting folk.
We joined Royal Clipper in Barbados and were welcomed aboard with a tasty Rum Punch. Over the next week, we sailed to islands in the Grenadines that we’d never even heard of: Tobago Cays, Union Island and the beautiful Bequia, as well as some of the larger islands like Martinique and Grenada.
The charm of a smaller ship is that you can get away from the crowds. At almost every destination, we anchored offshore and jumped onto a tender to explore the island. Sometimes there was very little other than a golden beach, curious iguanas, lounging lizards and excellent snorkelling. Who needs anything more?
On almost every voyage, the crew organise a barbecue on the beach for the whole ship, and there are all sorts of excursions on offer at each stop. One ever-youthful American guest called Liz, who was sailing with her 95-year-old husband, Orin, decided to celebrate her 81st birthday by going zip-lining through the banyan and mango trees of St Lucia. She loved it!
And that sums up the character of our fellow travellers. Most of us were 50 plus, and we all relished the chance to try our hand at something new: you can climb the mast, help set the sails or go on a snorkelling safari and swim with turtles. It all helps to keep you young.
On the other hand, if you just want to sit and read, there’s plenty of space on deck or in the library. I was surprised to find there was also room for two swimming pools on the upper deck – though I much preferred jumping in the sea.
We were sad when our adventure came to an end, back in Barbados, and we had to say goodbye to our stunning tall ship – and the many friends we’d made.
The only consolation was that we were whisked off to another kind of Paradise.
“The House” on the famous west coast of Barbados is simply exceptional. From the moment the hotel’s smart, electric gates swung open to reveal a world of comfortable luxury, set on a breathtaking beach, our stay was sheer bliss.
Every detail is taken care of: a champagne welcome, iced water delivered hourly to your sun-lounger, delicious snacks of cold melon or coconut ice-cream offered as you soak up the sunshine, complimentary tea and cakes at 4pm and canapés with your sundowners.
The rooms and suites are exquisite and the atmosphere relaxed. “The House” was a perfect finale to a fabulous holiday.
For up-to-date information on schedules and prices call 0808 231 4798 or visit www.starclippers.co.uk
A night’s stay in a suite at the adults only boutique hotel, The House, includes a champagne breakfast and evening canapes. To find out more call 0808 231 4798 or visit www.eleganthotels.com