Star Clippers' newest, biggest sailing ship, Flying Clipper, was officially launched last month when its hull met the water for the first time at the Brodosplit shipyard in Croatia. The 300-passenger, 162-metre-long square-rigger is scheduled to start sailing in the Mediterranean early next year.
"This is the realisation of my boyhood dream when I sailed in the Baltic Sea," said Star Clippers' owner, Mikael Krafft, at the shipyard. "It is not easy to build such a boat and it is very exciting to see that in today's time the sailing vessels not possible 100 years ago are being made."
Having just sailed on the three-strong fleet's current biggest ship, the five-masted, 134-metre Royal Clipper, I can attest to the fascination these beautiful vessels hold, for sailors and passers-by alike. Everywhere the ship docked on our Mediterranean cruise, people gathered on waterfronts to look at it – and that was when the sails were furled.
As a passenger you obviously can't see what the ship looks like from outside when its full complement of sails (42, covering more than 5000 square metres of canvas) are hoisted, but it's exciting to be up on deck when all the action takes place. The ship sails at a fairly sedate rate of knots – if it goes too fast it would heel, making shipboard operations such as prepping and cooking all our lavish meals impossible.
Talking of meals, they are all served in the elegant, wood-panelled main dining room at the bottom of the three-deck atrium. A pool on the sun deck sits on top of the atrium, bathing it in a lovely filtered light, and you can look down from the Piano Bar to see what's being set up on the buffet table at lunchtime.
While Royal Clipper is based on the design of the German square-rigger Preussen, which was the world's fastest sailing ship at the beginning of the 20th century, it has all the facilities today's cruisers appreciate. A marina at the aft of the ship stocks water toys such as sailing dinghies, floating lounge-mats and waterskiing equipment; there's a spa and gym; and the service throughout is superb.
Royal Clipper is sailing in the Mediterranean until November, when it crosses the Atlantic for its Caribbean season. Its smaller sister Star Clipper is sailing the balmy seas of south-east Asia for the next two years, while Star Flyer has several Cuba sailings on its Caribbean schedule. Many passengers return to the ships again and again and I can see why – it's the perfect, relaxing holiday for sailing fans, romantics and devotees of the traditional, small-ship experience. See starclippers.com
Sally Macmillan sailed courtesy of Star Clippers.
MEET THE CREW
NAME Jennifer Kingsley, from Canada
POSITION Naturalist and field correspondent for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
MY JOB Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic sponsors me as a field correspondent for my Meet the North project. As a writer and radio producer, I report on modern Arctic culture around the world. When I come onboard as a naturalist, I share stories from my assignments with guests and people from local communities.
A TYPICAL DAY I split my time between story gathering and guiding. If we're visiting a town, I would get out for a few interviews and then join the guests to share what I had learned.
FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT As a journalist, there are a few Arctic communities I have visited for extended periods. When I return to those places on the ship, my favourite moments are the reunions.
FAVOURITE CRUISE I love Siglufjorour in northern Iceland. There is an amazing museum there where local people have turned their fishing history into a fascinating narrative of place and belonging.
INSIDER TIP To get the most out of cultural activities, take some time on your own to meet people! You never know what you will learn by starting a conversation somewhere along the way.
Leave a copy of your passport, itinerary and tickets, visas and insurance policy with your family or a friend and take a copy with you.
SeaDream Yacht Club's twin 100-passenger megayachts will both be cruising the Caribbean over Christmas, offering a dreamy escape from the silly season. The company says its chefs are already thinking up just what they can enthral guests with as SeaDream I spends Christmas Day at Iles des Saintes in Guadeloupe (French West Indies) and SeaDream II has Christmas Day at North Sound in Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands). Both yachts will sail their seven-day Christmas voyages on December 21, SeaDream I from Saint Martin for Bridgetown in Barbados, and SeaDream II from St Thomas on a round-trip itinerary. All-inclusive fares cover award-winning cuisine, premium wines and spirits, power and sail water-sports, a golf simulator and fitness centre, and all gratuities. See seadream.com
'Tis the season …
… for whale watching. From now until November 1, Captain Cook Cruises and Taronga Zoo are offering a Sydney wildlife combo package that includes a rocket ferry ride from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo, a morning visiting some of the 4000 animals there, and an afternoon of whale watching beyond the heads. Your on-board guide will provide expert commentary on the variety of marine life, including humpbacks, southern rights, orcas and minke whales, seals, albatross and fairy penguins. Dolphins nearly always accompany the cruise, with some pods numbering up to 100 individuals. According to David James, Captain Cook Cruises' marine commentator, "The season has only begun and we are already seeing a lot of whale activity, including many juveniles on their first migration." See captaincook.com.au