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Cruising a Pirate’s World

clock 27th March 2019 | comment0 Comments

The adventure of sailing around the world often brings to mind images of the pirates of yore, especially since films and TV series have romanticised this historic way of life. There’s something thrilling about docking at ports where in years gone by pirates were swash-buckling, looting, and trading their wares. As well as in the Caribbean islands, pirates were once rife all over the world – from Asia to Ireland. Read on to learn more about cruise destinations which have a pirate history.

 

 

Tortuga (Haiti)

Made famous by the popular Disney films, in actuality, Tortuga acted as a refuge for English, Dutch and French thieves and escaped slaves back in the 17th century. These characters became what was known as the ‘Brethren of the Coast’, and they would attack Spanish ships in the Caribbean for treasure. Today, visitors to the island can see what’s left of Fort de Rocher – a 24-gun stronghold that was used by pirates to protect against Spanish invasion.

 

Nassau (Bahamas)

Nassau became a great pirate hang out in part due to its location in shallow waters. This meant that large warships could not approach the island, but pirate tall ships could. In the mid-18th century, there were around 100 natives compared to 1,000 pirates living on the island, and it was one of the latter – Benjamin Hornigold – who declared the place to be a Pirate’s Republic. Hornigold’s success as a pirate-inspired many other young adventurers, including one Edward Teach – who came to the island to join his posse. Other notorious characters including ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Charles Vane were all frequent visitors here. Today there are a number of pirate tours available on the island, on which guests can see various historical attractions.

 

 

Macau (China)

For centuries the South China Sea was a major setting for pirate activity, with Japanese pirates sailing south to raid and loot from the early 16th century. Activity went on for many years, and infamous Chinese pirate couple Zheng Yi and Ching Shih dominated the seas by the late 18th century with a fleet of more than 1,500 ships known as the Red Flag Fleet. After Zheng’s death, Ching continued with new husband Cheung Po Tsai, until they were defeated by the Portuguese Navy at the Battle of the Tiger’s Mouth in 1809. Madame Ching kept her pirate loot, however, and set up a gambling establishment in Macau, where many pirates had settled. Macau is accessible during a cruise to Hong Kong.

 

Port Royal (Jamaica)

Possibly the most well-known pirate haven is Port Royal in Jamaica – once referred to as ‘The Wickedest City on Earth’. Located close to modern-day Kingston, Port Royal was able to become such a place because the Jamaican governors offered it to pirates in return for help protecting against Spanish invaders. This led to the opening of many taverns and brothels, thereby attracting more pirates. Eventually, authorities began to intervene and by the mid-18th century, Port Royal had become a common location for pirate hangings – including those of Charles Vane and ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham. Visitors can see historic pirate and Jamaican Royal Navy paraphernalia at the archaeological museum here today.

 

 

Ile Saint-Marie (Madagascar)

Also known as St Mary’s Island, this small piece of land off the coast of Madagascar was once a popular spot among pirates. It is thought that a kind of utopia called Libertalia was developed among the pirate community here, although there is no real evidence of this. It is known, however, the pirates such as William Kidd and Edward Teach once walked here, and today there still stands an eerie pirate graveyard.

 

Charlotte Amelie (St Thomas)

Famous English pirate Edward Teach – better known as Blackbeard – lends his name to an important site in St Thomas’ capital; Blackbeard’s Castle. Built in the late 17th century by Danish colonists, the castle was originally known as Skytsborg. It is not known when or why the name was changed, but local tales say that Blackbeard regularly used the castle as a lookout point during his years of piracy in the Caribbean.

 

 

These destinations can be explored with a number of different cruise lines, on some fantastic modern cruise ships. Alternatively, if you’d prefer an experience more akin to those of a pirate, consider cruising with one of the more traditional tall ship style lines such as Windstar Cruises and Star Clippers. The beautiful ships in these fleets have been designed in an authentic, traditional way using plush, dark wood furnishings and rich colours.



Live From Star Clippers - Dubrovnik to Venice

clock 12th August 2014 | comment1 Comments

One of our trade partners, Rosanna has embarked on an adventure of a lifetime onboard Star Clippers, Royal Clipper. The only tall sailing ship experience of its kind, this is an experience for those thirsty for adventure and we are lucky enough to hear about it live.

Rosanna has kindly agreed to send me a daily update of her unique experience, here is how she is getting on...

Day 1

To my absolute sheer delight I am currently laying in the heat of the blazing Croatian sun, sipping a chilled Pia Colada whilst the gentle breeze makes an effort to lazily comb my hair. I am nestled amongst ropes, sails and masts as a small accessory of the stunning and grand Royal Clipper. The coastline of Dubrovnik's Old Town has been painted onto the horizon, except this masterpiece is real- there are people walking in and out of the variety of restaurants and bars as if they have do not have anywhere else to be. There is no rush, no hurry, no hustle and bustle of the life we are all so accustomed to. This is exactly the Star Clippers experience I was hoping for...

My day started at 3:30am when I met my colleague, Emma, who then drove us to Gatwick's South Terminal for the first phase of our adventure. After initially arriving at the wrong car park (blame excitement and lack of sleep!) we were soon at the front of the queue to board Easyjet's 7:30 flight to Dubrovnik. Literally at the front of the queue, how eager are we?! After a slightly turbulent flight we were soon descending into the city, squealing like excited school children when we caught a glimpse of Royal Clipper sailing with pride into the port as we were landing. 'She looks so sailor-y' was one comment made soon after by Emma! We hopped into our taxi that would transfer us to the ship, at which point I had to try to subtly change my English rainy day jumper into a cooler top. It was 30 degrees plus and after the torrential rain of the cold British morning this sort of climate seemed a distant dream.

As we approached Royal Clipper on the tender boat, I could almost hear a choir singing out a jubilant and regal tune. Similar to when you see a movie scene where someone finds just what they have been looking for. Just as her name suggests, Royal Clipper oozes regality and royal charm. The five masts stand tall and proud like guardsmen keeping watch over something very precious, yet perfectly able to hold itself.

After a delicious buffet lunch (the seafood linguine was divine) a dip in the sea from the Marina Platform and a kayaking adventure with Emma here I find myself... Soaking it all in (the sun and the sea!) and eager for the late sailaway. I have heard a lot about this unique experience, so will report back tomorrow on how this goes…

Day 2

As I lay here in the sun listening to the distant drones of Bob Marley coming from the poolside bar, I feel extremely lucky that in the last 17 hours I have experienced two unique sail aways on board Her Majesty the Royal Clipper. One in the darkness of midnight and the other under the gleaming afternoon rays. Let me first tell you about last night…

After a delicious steak dinner and a glass of chilled Prosecco in the main restaurant myself and Emma made our way to the outside decks where the lovely Cruise Director, Anna, was hosting a Ship's Quiz. All the guests gathered round and rang the bell when they knew the answer. The atmosphere was great- laughter, fun and spontaneity. The DJ then put some classic tunes on and the deck was soon scattered with guests dancing and enjoying themselves. Most guests then gradually made their way to the upper decks to experience us sailing out of Dubrovnik.

The stars in the sky and the fairy lights around the masts merged into one twinkling light display as crowds gathered to watch us leave. All of a sudden Conquest Of Paradise, a piece by Vangelis, draped the air as the clock approached midnight. The sound was haunting yet enchanting, and we both found ourselves totally speechless. Couples were holding hands, people were filming, and I felt like I finally understood the stories I had been hearing about this moment. The lights were soon turned off and we were left sailing invisibly into the distant ocean, with the music still making our presence subtly known to the fading coastline.

With this circling my mind like a dream, I slept soundly and we were ready to explore Hvart. After a short tender ride we headed up the town's steep and windy streets (we both admitted we were slightly defeated by the heat and the sheer number of steps, so wandered slowly back down to the flat main square). The neutral brickwork and crystal clear waters make Hvar an idyllic destination, a picture postcard sight around every corner. We found ourselves watching the world go by in a beautiful local bar- absolute bliss.

So here we are now- 5:30pm on a Sunday afternoon, tucking into afternoon tea and still reeling from the buzz of the 4pm sailaway out of Hvar. Guests helped the crew pull the ropes to raise the sails, and the experience was made even more memorable for us because we spent the time laying on the bowsprit nets at the front of the ship. I felt like I was somewhere I shouldn't be, that we surely aren't allowed on the nets, but we were welcomed and waved at by the friendly crew. We layed there as the breeze whistled past us, although I don't think I have ever kept such a tight hold on my sunglasses!

I have to go...we have an appointment with the ship's Crow's Nest now, a harness and camera are the ingredients of the next adventure! Time to get a bird's eye view of the ship, another thing to add to the list of totally unique moments onboard.

Day 3

Royal Clipper has anchored herself proudly off the coastline of Rovinj today, a small Croatian town unspoilt by masses of tourists and thriving with culture. After a leisurely morning onboard spent chatting to a lovely couple, Liz and Terry from the UK we were on the first tender to the shore just after midday. We spent a few hours exploring the town and soaking in the atmosphere. Local children, families and teens go about their everyday life as if we ourselves are one of them and blended in, so much so that I very nearly became a victim to a very fast teen on a very fast bike on the path! Yes I did let out a yelp!

After my close-encounter (really, it was!) we headed back onboard in time for a swim in the sea from the Marina Platform. There is something so invigorating about being in the open water, so close to the ship yet totally free. I felt so small but totally protected and safe. A number of yachts, dinghies and tour boats circled around us and slowed down, eager to get a closer view of Royal Clipper in all her glory.

Tonight we sail away at 7pm, just before the open dining restaurant opens. I think I will be avoiding the scales when I get home- the food is absolutely divine onboard and I find myself easily eating 3 courses out of the 6 on offer. Last night was the Captain's night, so we were presented with a glass of champagne upon arrival at the restaurant and we all toasted the Master of this beautiful ship. The cheers and applause from the guests were solid proof that this experience has been exceptional. The Hotel Manager, Carlos, spent time chatting with us and ensuring we were enjoying ourselves and we then joined everyone else at 10pm for the talent show up on deck. Guests and crew alike shared their various hidden talents, some hilarious and some truly outstanding. Seeing the Cruise Director put aside her role for 3 minutes and put on her dancing shoes for a Charleston was amazing! We then spent the rest of the evening dancing with the guests and showcasing some of our 'moves' (one guest commented today on how good we were at dancing, not sure he could remember rightly!)

So here we are now, catching the last of the afternoon rays. Almost every guest that walks past us stops to say hello and asks about our day, there is a unique family feel that is special to Star Clippers. Tomorrow we will arrive into Slovenia, a country I have never been to, so no doubt I will sleep well (the beds are so comfortable) ready for the next adventure tomorrow...

Day 4

As I say 'Day 4', I find myself saddened in the knowledge that this means it's nearly home time. Don't get me wrong, I love to be at home, but the solace and tranquillity I have found on here will be hard to find in 'normal' life.. If I could bottle up the Star Clippers experience and create The Royal Clipper Remedy potion, I would be in for a great future! Next business idea, maybe?

Aside from my desire to stay onboard (still planning the best place for us to stow away!) I find myself reflecting on yesterday evening. If possible, last night's sail away out of Rovinj topped all the others. This was a 7pm sailaway, which meant it coincided perfectly with the sun setting on the horizon. To make it more special, we were able to sail solely by the wind. For the first time, we saw the full sails being raised, the air silent apart from the music that will forever give me goosebumps. Without the power of the engines, we glided through the water gracefully, the whole time under the watchful eye of Captain Sergey and Chief Officer Arrigo. To my surprise, neither of these two were maneuvering the ship out of the harbour. A 9 year old boy was...

It was at this moment I realised how Mikael Krafft felt when his dream of making experiences like this became a reality to adults and children alike. I later found out that child has steered the ship almost every day and that he now wants to become a Captain himself. In 50 years time I have full confidence he will still be telling people about the time he steered a fully rigged tall ship out into the open sea. Fully embracing the ship's hands-on approach, we asked if we could have a look around the Bridge, something very unlikely to happen on most other cruise ships. We were welcomed in by Arrigo who explained how they navigate the ship and how they plan the course we will take. We were truly fascinated by the equipment and technology in there, I couldn't take it all in! Arrigo later joined us, Liz and Terry for the evening's Music Quiz where we chatted to him for 2 hours about his career and life at sea (yes we weren't very good at the quiz!).

We are in Piran in Slovenia, a country neither myself nor Emma had been to before. It's a very quaint place with shops and streets meandering off a main square, and a castle overlooking the town from the highest point. After buying a magnet (I make sure to get one everywhere I go) we settled ourselves down in a cafe where a local band were playing. Once they finished they sat down and tinkered away on their guitars, working our arrangements for their next set. They were laughing and truly enjoying themselves and the music, so much so that when we saw them again I made sure to put some change in their hat.

We have spent the remainder of the day enjoying the delicious open air lunch buffet and chatting to Liz and Terry. They booked this trip on a whim at a cruise show in London back in April, and have enjoyed it so much they are already planning to book again. Tomorrow we arrive into Venice, our final port of call, so we will be up bright and early to witness us sail in to such an iconic destination. My final blog installment tomorrow will most probably be written from Venice airport departure lounge after a day of exploring the beautiful city…

Day 5

They call it pathetic fallacy when the weather reflects how you feel. I'm sitting in the departure lounge of Venice's Marco Polo airport looking out at cloudy and overcast skies. It's the first time in 5 days we have not had weather that could be described as absolutely perfect. The absence of the gleaming sun makes us think Italy doesn't really want us to leave?

When fully dressed in all her sails, Royal Clipper looks magnificent. I imagine it like how a groom feels when he first sees a bride on their wedding day- still as beautiful as ever, yet more divine than ever before. As we were snapping away, the crew shuffled along the front of the ship and gave us all a big wave. We spent 20 minutes capturing the ship from every angle possible, the result being photographs we will all treasure forever.

We were joined for our farewell dinner by Chief Officer Arrigo and a lovely lady from the UK called Margaret. She was travelling alone so we had a great evening chatting and sharing stories from the trip. The crew then came out singing and waving flags, ready for their final bow before rapturous applause and cheers. The smiles on everyone's faces (crew and guests) showed us just how well enjoyed the cruise really was.

After dinner and a spot of packing (cue sad face) Emma and I decided it would be lovely to spend some time under the stars before our early arrival into Venice. We laid on the sunbeds, looking up at the clear night sky. At one point Emma said 'wow, that's a really bright star'- it was the light on top of the mast!

Before I knew it, the alarm was going off at 5:50am. Still under the mask of sleep, and for the first time armed with a thick cardigan, I headed up on deck to see a sight I will probably never get a chance to witness again. I think I can count on one hand the amount of people I know that have had the opportunity to sail in to Venice at sunrise on a tall ship. Surrounded be equally intrigued guests, we watched out as we glided past St Mark's Basilica as the bright red sun began to appear on the horizon. Joggers were scattered along the paths, running with ease over the many bridges that connect the famous canals. An army boat went past us and stopped to match our speed so that the fully uniformed servicemen could get pictures with our ship behind them. People weren't really talking much, just taking it all in. I'm not sure I can even find the words to fully describe being up on deck for that hour this morning...

We came back down to earth once we were alongside and being told to collect our passports ready for disembarkation. We were fortunate enough to be offered a tour of various cabins once all other guests had disembarked, so we spent some time with Muslim, the Head Steward, viewing the different categories on offer. There are so many wonderful features in the different cabins, from the private verandah of the Deluxe Suite, to the privacy and luxury of the Owner's Suite. All cabins are spacious enough to suit the needs of the guest, and finished to the highest quality.

We were lucky enough to be on an evening flight to Gatwick, so we had time to explore Venice for a few hours today. I was last here in 2007, and Emma had never visited before so it was a lovely morning of reminiscing and making new discoveries. Normally I despise pigeons, but the feeling of having them perch on your hand at St Mark's Square is wonderful, it reminds me of the little old lady feeding them on Mary Poppins! You can't buy seeds for them now but many people were throwing remnants of crisps and bread for them to scramble over. We then headed over the Rialto Bridge for spectacular views over the Grand Canal, before enjoying authentic gelato in one of the cafes alongside the water. A truly wonderful, Italian day!

Flight EZY5268 is delayed and the rain is pouring down outside...a bit of a reality check for us both after such a blissful time away. The tans will soon fade but the memories from our time on board Royal Clipper will last a long time I'm sure.



Star Clippers Christmas in the Caribbean

clock 14th January 2014 | comment0 Comments

At the end of last year Marketing Manager, Laura Forward spent a week in the Caribbean with Star Clippers Cruises, here's what she had to say about this unique cruise experience

December in the UK. A time when we succumb to the gradual onset of winter. When soft grey mornings descend into stony afternoons and the joyful colours of autumn are buried under tightly drawn coats and frozen earth. With hunched shoulders and the instinctive resolve to carry on, we trudge into the isolation of winter, deaf to the rumbling heat that beckons across the Atlantic - for while we slumber in winters grasp, the radiant heat of the Caribbean endures.

Answering the call, with a mere 8.5 hour flight from London, seven pale, overdressed, excited travel agents stepped, blinking into the golden sunshine of Barbados, shrugging off the icy drizzle for flip flops, shorts and shades. We were here to join the largest sailing ship in the world, Star Clipper’s, Royal Clipper but we also took the opportunity to make the most of the beautiful island of Barbados with 2 nights pre cruise stay at Tamarind. The Tamarind Hotel is located on the sparkling West Coast of Barbados, locally known as ‘The Gold Coast’ for its premium properties and celebrity guests.

We were welcomed with rum cocktails and friendly staff just as the sun slipped into ocean on the horizon. Local fishing boats and drooping palm trees were silhouetted against a streaked crimson sky as we sat down to a spectacular a la carte meal on the beach. The meal was as exquisite as the setting and was a sign of things to come. Elegant Hotels, of which Tamarind is a part of, also boast Colony Club, Crystal Cove and The House, all situated on this illustrious coast line. Tamarind and Colony Club are perfect for couples and families’ alike, balancing friendly public spaces with idyllic hideaways for private relaxation. The rooms are all recently renovated to a very high standard with water sports and available across all the resorts. Crystal Cove and Turtle beach (located on the south coast) also offers all inclusive packages which are great for families and groups. For the ultimate romantic getaway there is, The House, an adult-only sanctuary of exceptional elegance with the acclaimed ‘Daphne’s restaurant just next door.  All luxury properties are highly recommended and the perfect way to start a holiday.

 

You could easily enjoy a week here hopping from sun chair, to bar stool, kayak to dance floor but a must for any stay in Barbados is a day on a catamaran.  Sailing up the West Coast of Barbados, rum cocktail in hand, we lay across the open sea hammocks, waved to cruise ships in port and I crossed another thing off my bucket list, snorkelling through the turquoise waters with seas turtles. The bleak grind of London seemed but a distant memory, in this paradise there was only crystal calm waters, smiling locals, the best rum in the world and the remarkable Royal Clipper who greeted us in spectacular fashion.


Launched in 2000 she is the largest ‘true sailing ship’ in the world with 5202 square metres of sails, carrying just 227 guests. Offering a completely unique opportunity you would be mistaken to compare the Star Clipper experience with any other cruise although full modern facilities are featured onboard. Celebrating our relationship with the sea and wind, there is a resounding feeling onboard that we are to be a part of something very special and there is a fantastic sense of camaraderie between guests and crew. Guests vary from young couples and families trying their first voyage to retired friends and family on their 5th sailing with Star Clippers. The tropical bar, headed up by the flamboyant Manalita, offers the perfect location to make new friends with a spread of canapés laid out each afternoon before the day climaxes with a dramatic sail away ceremony. Gathered on deck with a flute of champagne, under a sea of stars (or against crimson sunsets) the sails are lowered to the haunting soundtrack of Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise each evening – the ultimate tribute to the power and majesty of this vessel. Once sailing the ship confidently powers through the ocean with stability and speed allowing guests to wander freely around the spacious ship with ease. The main atrium hosts an elegant tiered dining room where buffet lunches and a la carte dinners are served. The food is exquisite as it is varied with new menus every day and hospitable, familiar crew attending to every need.

On the second day, sailing from St Lucia we were treated to a spectacular experience as we met sister ship, Star Clipper off the coast of Dominica. This rare opportunity saw both ships pulling out all the stops for a race across the Caribbean Sea. Sails full and keen, Royal Clipper tore through the ocean, her sister proudly shadowing at our side. With everyone on deck, staff waved and cheered to their friends on the sister ship as ‘We will rock you’ blared across the speakers, egging on the friendly competition. With Royal Clipper charging forward Star Clipper made a last ditch campaign, nimbly falling back and tacking into the sunshine portside, but the sheer size of the Royal Clipper was in the end no match for the smaller vessel. As the coast of Dominica approached and Star Clipper faded husky into the horizon, we returned to enjoying the sunshine onboard with warm conditions inviting us to stretch out in the sea hammocks, take a dip in the deck pools or even test our nerves climbing to the crow’s nest.

With just 227 people onboard it can feel like your own private ship. From sunrise breakfasts on deck to evenings drifting off, under the stars to the gentle lap of the ocean, there are unique moments of bliss to be captured throughout the journey.  Smaller than standard cruise ships, the ports visited are local and authentic with unique shore excursions and complimentary water sports offered at each idyllic location. If it were not for the tinsel laden cocktail huts and twinkling fairy lights you would think we were in the height of summer.

There really is no excuse for begrudgingly hibernating all winter when the Caribbean awaits all year round. So while the wind and rain whips around the UK, seek solace in the sun and climb aboard a Star Clipper ship for an escape like no other.  With Royal Clipper gracing the Caribbean waters year round and her smaller sister, Star Flyer, heading to Cuba there has never been a better time to enjoy a traditional luxury sailing experience. Short sampler cruises can also be book on Star Clipper as she sails in the Mediterranean this summer/autumn. I cannot recommend this enough and am eagerly anticipating my next voyage with Star Clippers.



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