Michael and Margaret Bent-Marshall were
left with one regret after choosing to spend their 50th wedding
anniversary sailing on Star Clippers largest ship, the Royal
Clipper, in the Grenadines Islands. I wish wed known how good it
was, said Michael. We would have come sooner.
Bent-Marshalls are one of many couples that have chosen to
celebrate their honeymoon on a Star Clippers sailing. And anyone
who sails on the Royal Clipper can understand why -- there is no
denying that the ship lends itself to romance.
When the sails
unfurled for the first nights departure from Barbados, it was
nothing short of breathtaking -- the white canvas opened against a
dark sky, with Vangelis 1492 -- Conquest of Paradise playing in the
background. As Margaret Bent-Marshall said of that night, I didnt
know it could be like that.
sails are not for show; on this sailing, the Royal Clipper was
powered by the wind most of the time. A stroll along the ships top
deck, the sun deck, requires navigating around wooden barrels,
halyard rope used to hoist the sails, and the shiny, wooden helm
behind the bridge, reminding passengers that the Royal Clipper is a
working sailing ship. It is also a beautiful vessel, fit with teak
railings and brass touches throughout.
The ship entered
service in 2000 as the largest and only five-masted sailing ship
built since 1902, according to Star Clippers. Operating mostly with
sail power rather than an engine means a much quieter ride. Engine
buzz comes mostly from power used for electricity and
air-conditioning on the ship.
marveled at how quiet it was to sit on the ships stern on one of
the teak benches, where the lap of the ocean against the ships hull
is the dominant sound.
A feeling of
privacy in public spaces is attainable because of the 227-passenger
count. It also means never having a problem finding a bench or deck
chair to lounge on.
The Royal Clipper
is a ship with countless nooks and niches for couples to steal
away. Two balconies, just large enough for a pair, are hidden on
either side of the ships bow. On the Grenadines sailing, couples often sat there, feeling
very much alone, admiring the lush, green hills of islands passing
by. A widows net hangs off either side of the ships stern, where
guests often lounge together with only the rope between them and
the sea. It is wise to empty your pockets before doing so, as one
man saw his camera drop into the blue waters below.
At night, the
ship sails quietly under the blanket of stars that emerges beyond
the white sails. The sun deck is dark at night but for the small
white lights along the masts. On some days, the ships stopped at
secluded beaches only reachable by tender. It was possible to walk
off and be alone in a cave or on a deserted stretch of sand.
looking to socialize, there is plenty of opportunity for that, too.
After dinner, the open-air Tropical Bar is the place -- really, the
only place -- to be. On the liveliest night of the trip, a steel
drum band came onboard from Grenada while the boat was anchored
just offshore. The band packed the dance floor, which on other
nights saw bursts of liveliness before dying down. The two-person
ship band was not much of a party-starter. Most entertainment was
supplied by the crew, which invited guests to participate in a
fashion show, a talent show and a round of Name That
There is also an
onboard piano bar where some couples -- but never very many --
would slink into booths late at night. Groups sometimes congregated
on the sun deck at night to watch the stars together and put on the
occasional spontaneous sing-along.
open-seating policy means passengers can eat anytime they want
within set hours and can sit anywhere there is an empty place.
There are quite a few tables for two, but groups of up to 12 can
One thing couples
cant do is hide away in their rooms all day, as only the most
deluxe accommodations have room service.
But if a couple
prefers to stay in one night, there are televisions and DVD players
in every room and an assortment of free movies to borrow. All the
outside rooms are beautifully appointed with mahogany paneling,
brass fixtures and marble bathrooms. There are very few balconies
on this ship, but they are not really necesary, since guests can
use the plentiful outdoor space as if it were their own.
Bent-Marshall, 70, wore a T-shirt reading, Over the hill and
picking up speed, which defined this adventurous couple well. And
they said they were happy they came when they did; the Royal
Clipper is not a ship for the physically challenged. There are no
elevators or ramps and the stairways are narrow, steep and
sometimes winding. And it is also not for anyone with a weak
stomach; when the ship sails on the Atlantic from Barbados to the
Grenadines, it is a choppy ride.
Bent-Marshalls have sea legs from their own powerboat, which they
take on Englands inland rivers. But their boat doesnt have the
deluxe suite with a balcony they enjoyed on this sailing. Michael
decided to go all-out for this once-in-a-lifetime
Hes more romantic
than I am, said Margaret. This was his idea.
with cake and a bottle of bubbly on the night of their anniversary
and spent every other day sitting in their whirlpool bathtub and
admiring the gorgeous views off their private balcony.
strawberries and cookies on a silver platter were delivered daily
to their room, which unlike the other cabins, was stocked with wine
Like many guests,
the Bent-Marshalls plan on vacationing with Star Clippers again, on
the northern Caribbean itinerary.
This has been
more than we expected, said Margaret. Ill always remember
reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].