With the sails and rigging of a classic clipper ship and the creature comforts of a modern mega, this pair of 170-passenger beauties provide a wonderfully rustic and cozy way to do the Caribbean.
Typical Per Diems: $275+
Clipper sails the Panama Canal from Barbados and Balboa (winter) and the Caribbean from St. Maarten (winter, spring).
Flyer sails Central America from Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, and Barbados (winter, spring).
Life aboard this tall ship means hanging out up on deck, and that's where most passengers spend their days. It's a beautiful sight to take in the sea and next port of call through the ship's rigging, a throwback to a simpler age. There's plenty of passenger space, including the many little nooks between the winches, ropes, and other pieces of equipment that appealingly clutter the decks of these good-looking working ships. Even with a full load, the ship rarely feels too crowded, except at dinner. Much of the sail-trimming activity occurs amidships and near the bow, so if you're looking to avoid all bustle, take yourself off to the stern.
Cabins are compact at 118 to 130 square feet for outsides, but feel roomy for ships of this size, and were designed with a pleasant nautical motif -- blue fabrics and carpeting, portholes, brass-toned lighting fixtures, and a dark-wood trim framing the off-white furniture and walls. The majority of cabins have portholes, two twin beds that can be converted into a double, a small desk/vanity with stool, and an upholstered seat in the corner. Storage space is more than adequate for a 7-night casual cruise in a warm climate, with both a slim floor-to-ceiling closet and a double-width closet of shelves; there's also storage space below the beds, a desk, a nightstand, and a chair. Each cabin has a telephone, hair dryer, and safe, and all but the six smallest 97-square-foot windowless inside cabins have a color TV and DVD player.
Standard bathrooms are very small but functional, with marble walls, a nice mirrored storage cabinet that actually stays closed, and a narrow shower divided from the rest of the bathroom by only a curtain; surprisingly, the rest of the bathroom stays dry when the shower is being used. The sink is fitted with water-saving (but annoying) push valves that release water only when they're pressed.
The eight Deluxe Cabins measure about 150 square feet, open right out onto the main deck, and have minibars and whirlpool bathtubs. Because of their location near the Tropical Bar, though, noise can be a problem, especially if there are late-night revelers at the bar. Take note: The ship's generator tends to drone on through the night; cabins near the stern on lower decks get the most of this noise, though it sometimes filters throughout the lowest deck. Note that four cabins share walls with the dining room, and cabin no. 311 and no. 310 actually open right into the dining room itself (so be sure you're dressed before peeking outside to see what's on the menu).
Note that the only difference between the cabins in categories 2 and 3 is a quieter location and a few square feet of space.
None of the units is a suite except for one carefully guarded (and oddly configured) Owner's Suite in the aft of the Clipper Deck, which is available to the public only when it's not being set aside for special purposes or occupied by the owner himself (which happens quite often). There are also no connecting cabins, and no cabins designed for wheelchair accessibility. Lacking an elevator, these ships are not recommended for passengers with mobility problems.
The handful of public rooms include the dining room; a comfy piano bar; the outside Tropical Bar (sheltered from the sun and rain by a canopy); and a cozy, paneled library with a decorative, nonfunctioning fireplace, a good stock of titles, and a computer with e-mail and Internet access. Debit cards for sending and receiving messages can be purchased from the purser.
The roomy yet cozy piano bar has comfy banquette seating and is a romantic place for a drink. That area and the outdoor Tropical Bar are the ship's hubs of activity.
Throughout, the interior decor is pleasant but unmemorable, mostly white with touches of brass and mahogany or teak trim -- not as upscale looking as Royal Clipper, but cozy, appealing, well designed, and shipshape.
Pool Fitness & Spa Facilities
The ship's two small pools are meant more for dipping than swimming. Both have glass portholes, the one amidships peering from its depths into the piano bar. The pool near the stern tends to be more languid and is thus the favorite of sunbathers, whereas the one amidships is more active, with more noise and splashing, and central to the action. At both, the ship's billowing and moving sails occasionally block the sun's rays, although this happens amidships much more frequently than it does at the stern.
While there's no gym of any sort, aerobics and stretch classes are frequently held on deck between the library and the Tropical Bar. You can sign up for a massage (at $75 an hour) that's doled out in an empty cabin or in a semiprivate area of the Top Deck.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.