Rigged for Adventure

The Royal Clipper combines the comforts of a cruise ship with the thrill of a real sailing vessel.

October 07, 2001|By Judi Dash | By Judi Dash,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With the wind in our faces and the vast Caribbean gleaming before us, my husband and I are savoring a quiet spot on our ship, where the rest of the passengers seem a world away.

Actually, they are 60 feet below us.

Ahoy there from way up the mainmast of the Royal Clipper, a 228-passenger full-rigged sailing cruise ship that takes adventures afloat to new heights.

You see, we climbed up the rigging to get here.

So what if other new ships have outdoor climbing walls? Here you can get an authentic high by strapping on a leather safety harness and scaling a rope ladder to this comfy wooden lookout with a bird's-eye view of life on deck and 360-degree ocean vistas.

Fed up with the typical mega-liner's crowded and noisy pool scene? Grab a book and crawl out onto the Royal Clipper's "widow's net," an immense white rope hammock suspended above the ocean between the bowsprit and the hull.

Why settle for mere virtual reality rides in other ships' amusement arcades? Here you can navigate for real, manning the Royal wheel (in calm waters), with an assist from one of the officers.

What we have here is the best of both worlds for those who love to sail but want the comforts and amenities of a cruise ship.

With 42 sails billowing from five stainless-steel masts, the 439-foot Royal Clipper -- the largest true sailing ship afloat -- can slice through the sea at a 20-knot clip. And you won't find any computer-controlled sails like those used on other sail-embellished cruisers, where the sails are more for show than for mobility.

Unlike most sailing vessels, which sacrifice space for aerodynamics, this ship takes an expansive approach to passenger turf.

There are plenty of open deck areas, decent-size cabins for a sailing ship (starting at 148 square feet), and three swimming pools -- one with a glass bottom that funnels sunlight into a three-deck atrium above the dining room.

Ahoy there from way up the mainmast of the Royal Clipper, a 228-passenger full-rigged sailing cruise ship that takes adventures afloat to new heights.

You see, we climbed up the rigging to get here.

So what if other new ships have outdoor climbing walls? Here you can get an authentic high by strapping on a leather safety harness and scaling a rope ladder to this comfy wooden lookout with a bird's-eye view of life on deck and 360-degree ocean vistas.

Fed up with the typical mega-liner's crowded and noisy pool scene? Grab a book and crawl out onto the Royal Clipper's "widow's net," an immense white rope hammock suspended above the ocean between the bowsprit and the hull.

Why settle for mere virtual reality rides in other ships' amusement arcades? Here you can navigate for real, manning the Royal wheel (in calm waters), with an assist from one of the officers.

What we have here is the best of both worlds for those who love to sail but want the comforts and amenities of a cruise ship.

With 42 sails billowing from five stainless-steel masts, the 439-foot Royal Clipper -- the largest true sailing ship afloat -- can slice through the sea at a 20-knot clip. And you won't find any computer-controlled sails like those used on other sail-embellished cruisers, where the sails are more for show than for mobility.

Unlike most sailing vessels, which sacrifice space for aerodynamics, this ship takes an expansive approach to passenger turf.

There are plenty of open deck areas, decent-size cabins for a sailing ship (starting at 148 square feet), and three swimming pools -- one with a glass bottom that funnels sunlight into a three-deck atrium above the dining room.

The 14 cabins with private balconies are an indulgence never before available on sailing ships, and a step up from the Royal Clipper's smaller sister ships in the Star Clipper Line, the Star Flyer and Star Clipper.

A marina deck lowers from the stern for water sports and diving, and the small, well-equipped, sub-deck gym provides views of sea life through underwater portholes.

Those with a literary bent will like the rosewood-paneled library, which has a wall of best sellers and nautical tomes, a fireplace and sink-into leather sofas. The piano lounge strikes a romantic chord, with pre- and post-dinner performances on a white baby grand.

Despite all the frills, the true thrill of life aboard the Royal Clipper is sailing. The ship is most alive when the crew is scampering around the deck, manning the winches and hoisting the sails, and the passengers are watching all 56,000 square feet of Dacron catch the wind, gliding them through some of the Caribbean's prettiest sailing waters.

On our seven-day Caribbean cruise out of Barbados through the Windward islands of St. Lucia, Les Saintes, Antigua, St. Kitts, Dominica and Martinique, we often sailed around an island before docking or anchoring, so we could experience as much daylight sailing as possible against a tableau of forested peaks or isolated coves.

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