The Royal Clipper
Text & photographs by Eric Pasquier
If you want to recapture the windswept romance of sailing while wallowing in untold luxury, The Royal Clipper is for you. Inspired by the late-nineteenth century sailing legend Tall Ship Preussen, she’s the world’s largest sailing vessel, and the only five-master on the seven seas.
With 42 sails billowing crisply in the wind, and her 439-foot length slicing through the waves, she’s an impressive sight. But the designers combined the style of Mutiny on the Bounty and Captain Cook with sumptuous five-star facilities and modern trimmings, putting her in a class of her own. The Royal Clipper gives all those who sail on her a trip to remember. She is the ultimate Love Boat – and she should be: she cost $70 million to build.
In 1902, the largest, fastest clipper in the world was launched: the Tall Ship Preussen. More than a hundred years later a clipper that could almost be a sister-ship is cruising the seas: The Royal Clipper. Based on the magnificence of her Victorian fore-runner, she is decked out in modern and sumptuous finery.
Her length is 133 m and beam 16 m; the open decks, covering 21,400 square feet, are made of solid teak; there are three swimming pools, a water sports platform at the stern, a fitness centre, beauty salon and spa; there are lookout platforms, a 3-storey atrium and an underwater viewing lounge. The Royal Clipper balances the grandeur, adventure and tradition of sailing aboard the world's only modern fully-rigged ship with the superb service, amenities and accommodations of the finest mega-yacht. Her unique design, navigational aids and stabilizing systems provide comfortable sailing, while the open teak deck and three swimming pools create a spacious outdoor environment.
The ship’s design means there is a roomy marina platform at the stern that lowers onto the sea.
The Captain Nemo Lounge offers underwater views of the sea and marine life through glass portholes.
There are four decks, from top to bottom: Sun Deck, Main Deck, Clipper Deck and Commodore Deck, each with its highlights and venues. The three pools are on the Sun Deck – appropriately – and surrounded by cheerful blue deckchairs. For the more adventurous, this deck also boasts the crow’s nests which offer unrivalled views over the Caribbean, Mediterranean or whatever other sea you happen to be sailing on.
But the fun really starts on the Main Deck. With the inside piano bar and the outside, more informal tropical bar, this is the place to hang out and socialise. If you can’t leave work behind, you can meet for conferences in the well-equipped Observatory, and if you want to just curl up with a book the Library – complete with wood panelling and roaring fireplace – is for you.
This is also where the poshest cabins of the ship are located – ‘posh’ originally being a nautical term from the days of British rule in India. Those who knew how scorching the sun could be during the passage to India, would always book the port-side cabins on the way out to India, and the starboard-side cabins on the way back to England: port out, starboard home. Nowadays, the 16 Deluxe suites of the Royal Clipper add a new meaning to ‘posh’ – with their enormous en-suite marble bathrooms, comfortable furniture, mahogany wood panelling and balconies opening to the sea breeze.All 114 cabins, posh or not, come equipped with private marble bath, television for movies, radio, satellite telephone, safe and air-conditioning. For a preview www.starclippers.com offers virtual reality guided tours.
The food is - as one would imagine – served in grand style, in the three-tiered Atrium, complete with ornate staircase. which you can descend with in Hollywood style to the main dining room on the Commodore Deck where a mouth-watering menu awaits. After a rich meal, you can burn off the calories in the gym (enough running machines, weights and cycles to keep a small army fit), and relax in the spa (with Thai masseuse) and sauna (wall to wall marble and classical designs).
.The ‘bridge’ – where the sailing is directed and orchestrated – has an open door policy to guests and any nautical questions will be answered. The professional watersports staff arethere to offer banana boating, snorkelling, water skiing, windsurfing and sunfish sailing. A scuba diving programme is available at an additional cost. There’s aerobics, live entertainment, barbeques, limbo dancing , talent night and fashion shows…if you want you need never have a quiet moment.
Just in case you forget you are on on a ship and not a five-star hotel, you only need to step outside on deck. This is not some floating tower-block like so many cruise ships – this is romance incarnate. An incredible 56,000 square feet of sails capture the wind's power to drive the ship silently through the sea. Her five masts, reaching 60 metres into the skies above the water level, are the tallest in the world. Each are equipped with a crow’s nest, all accessible for the more intrepid passengers who want to feel the wind in their hair and enjoy the view.
The man responsible for this dreamboat is Mr Mikael Krafft, a Swedish yachtsman and businessman. He began his fleet with the Star Clipper and the Star Flyer – smaller vessels than the Royal Clipper – but his love affair with the sea began much, much earlier. He got his first job in the Plyms Shipyards near his home in the Stockholm archipelago when he was six and, by the time he was twelve, sailed his own 18-footer on open sea. In 1986, after having made his fortune, he sold his Swedish locks, stocks and barrels and relocated in Brussels to concentrate on ships.
Inspired by Donald McKay, the 19th century clipper ship design guru, the Royal Clipper’s design team combined the classic lines of the Tall Ship Preussen with all mod-cons and safety measures. Robert McFarlane led the hull designs while the interior was designed by Donald Starkey. But the Royal Clipper was built at the Merwede Shipyards in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, before being registered in Luxemburg.
Launched on 28 July 2000, she was christened in Monaco by Her Majesty Silvia, Queen of Sweden, and sailed into the history books. She first sailed to London from Rotterdam and from May 2000 she’s been in Cannes – her half-year home-base. From there she sails two Mediterranean cruises: first, the Tyrrhenian itinerary: starting in Calvi to sail past Bonifacio, Sardinia, the Isle of Elba, Portofino and ending in Monaco. The second is the tour of the Balearic Islands, starting in Porquerolles, and covering Menorca, Palma, Barcelona, Palamos and ending in St. Tropez.
The ship is fitted with launches for secluded beach landings, so guests can enjoy still beach life and privacy in the hidden coves along the Mediterranean coastline, and combine it with trips into cosmopolitan cities, shopping and gambling.
During the the European winter months, The Royal Clipper crosses the Atlantic to the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The Windward Islands and the Grenadine Islands are just some of the destinations. Passengers can also choose just to make the Atlantic crossing.
You travelling companions are likely to be of all ages between 20 and 70, very international, well educated and cosmopolitan. If you are a gay man or a lesbian, there are special cruises just for you. So if you want to be pampered by 5-star service while at sea on the most incredible sailing ship in the world and stop off now and then for a wander (or shopping spree) on land, The Royal Clipper is the only answer.
Copyright © Eric Pasquier / All rights reserved