Arriving from the airport after a long flight from London to Barbados, the sight of the Royal Clipper in port alongside the towering and by comparison impersonal cruise ships, you know you are in for something special.
But it’s not only the ship itself which offers a more intimate and personal experience, it’s the food and service too. Boarding directly onto the aft open-air bar area, you are immediately offered a delicious cocktail and snacks and so begins a week of indulgence and delight.
With the main restaurant featuring a high-galleried ceiling allowing a sense of space yet intimacy, a large open air bar area to the aft and a good-sized internal lounge behind the bar as well as a top deck cocktail bar, there are plenty of places to enjoy the fabulous cuisine and drinks on board. For a small ship, it maintains a large kitchen and serving team capable of producing high-quality food to meet practically all tastes and needs, it seems.
Each evening there is ‘a la carte’ dining from 7.30pm to 10.30pm offering dishes of an international flavour as well as local favourites, and always with the option of a steak or vegetarian dish as a fall back if nothing takes your fancy. These relaxed and informal dinners give you a chance to meet other guests if you would like to. The stewards are really helpful, not only in serving to table but also in seating guests, especially on the first couple of evenings. Once everyone has got used to the informality it happens naturally after that, and you meet some really interesting people.
As ever when faced with lovely food one tends to over indulge in the first few days. With a full buffet breakfast offered each day including treats such as pancakes and maple syrup, local papaya, pineapple and star fruit, as well as eggs, cheeses, omelettes and the sensational ‘baked fresh on board’ breads and pastries, one really feels the need to get ashore to walk it all off.
But then there is the pull of the lunch buffets, and these are simply irresistible. For me these were quite unexpected but were a highlight worth planning my day around. A little less sightseeing and history and a little more lunch, I say! Make sure you leave room at breakfast time, and you can see what the menu is each day in the Piano bar-lounge area.
The tenders used to run guests into the smaller bays and ports run every half an hour from about 9.30 a.m. so you can come back for lunch any time between 12am and 2pm or simply hang around on board reading and relaxing and have an early lunch before setting off.
Each day offers a different themed buffet; for me the Italian and seafood days were best, offering a chance to try so many lovely salads, roast meats, fish and incredible deserts – a whole table awaits you. It’s really impressive that the chef and his team can organise such a wide-ranging and delicious buffet for midday when breakfast only ends at 10am, but somehow they manage this each day.
Then on day four on Antigua at English Harbour, the team moves the whole show onto the beach for a Caribbean beach barbecue. Quite a show and a chance to taste typical local dishes as well as some international favourites. Caribbean punch and pina coladas taste so much better when served on the beach.
Each evening, the ship prepares to sail overnight to the next island, and you are asked to be back on board around 5pm or 6pm. This is no hardship as afternoon tea and a light snack is served in the main aft bar, and you can have a drink at the bar and chat to guests about your day before going up onto the top deck to watch the hoisting of the sails for departure.
Drink in hand with sun reflecting off salmon coloured skies it really doesn’t get any better as an experience. The Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis is played through the speakers as the wind fills the sails in what is called the sail-away, and we slowly move out to sea again, ready to do it all again the next day.