WE ARE (RE­ALLY) SAIL­ING!

A tall ship ex­pe­ri­ence is the way to go

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IIMAGINE THIS IS HOW IT MUST FEEL AF­TER YOU’VE WON THE LOT­TERY AND CHAR­TERED YOUR OWN PRI­VATE YACHT. I’M ON BOARD THE BIG­GEST FIVEMASTED SHIP IN THE WORLD, THE SPV Royal Clip­per, AND SAIL­ING AROUND THE MEDITER­RANEAN ALONG WITH 200 OTHER PAS­SEN­GERS FROM ACROSS THE WORLD. TECH­NI­CALLY, I AM CRUIS­ING, BUT THIS EX­PE­RI­ENCE COULD NOT BE FUR­THER RE­MOVED FROM ANY OTHER SHIP I’VE BEEN ON. FOR A START, THE Royal Clip­per HAS 42 MAG­NIF­I­CENT SAILS AND IF SHE WAS HU­MAN, YOU’D DE­SCRIBE HER AS AN AT­TEN­TION-SEEK­ING SHOW-OFF. SHE RE­ALLY IS A HEAD-TURNER ON THE WA­TER AND AN IN­STA­GRAM­MER’S

DE­LIGHT WHEN IN PORT. The Cham­pagne ‘sail­away’ from Venice at the start of a ten-day voy­age to Rome via Croa­tia, Montenegro, the Greek Is­lands and Italy, was ut­terly mag­i­cal. To the strains of Van­ge­lis Con­quest of Par­adise

(it sounds kitsch but, trust me, it works) we inched out of one of the most ro­man­tic back­drops in the world – peo­ple lit­er­ally stopped in their tracks to wave us off. When I do win the Lot­tery, by the way, I will be back just to re­live that mo­ment.

When­ever pos­si­ble, the ship uses sail but in par­tic­u­larly calm con­di­tions, the en­gines will kick in to make it to the next port. If you’re al­ready a sea­soned big-ship cruiser and en­joy be­ing up close and per­sonal with 6,000 other pas­sen­gers, then you’ve boarded the wrong boat; Clip­per cruis­ing is a whole other world – in­ti­mate, tra­di­tional, com­pact, but well-de­signed cab­ins (you’re only in there to sleep), and an ed­u­ca­tion in sail­ing.

The crew is won­der­fully pa­tient and more than happy to an­swer ig­no­rant ques­tions and ac­tively en­cour­ages pas­sen­gers to learn the ropes and un­der­stand what it takes to sail a ship of this mag­ni­tude. And two things you won’t get to do on more tra­di­tional cruise ships are clam­ber­ing out to the bowsprit (a word I never knew be­fore now) ba­si­cally a net stick­ing out from the front (prow) of the ship. A ses­sion in there and you’ll know you’re at sea! And if heights aren’t a con­cern, do the mast climb (in a har­ness) and soak up the un­par­al­leled views from the crow’s nest.

What I loved most, though, was chat­ting to my fel­low 'sailors', a fab­u­lous mix of North Amer­i­can, Ja­panese and Euro­pean. They ranged from hon­ey­moon­ers to wed­ding an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions, from vet­eran sailors to com­plete novices like me. A word of ad­vice, though, Clip­per sail­ing is not ideal for small chil­dren, so maybe call on the grand­par­ents to have them while you rekin­dle the ro­mance – trust me, there's no bet­ter set­ting for that.

The over­all am­bi­ence on board is laid back and un­pre­ten­tious – swimwear, shorts and T-shirts by day and ca­sual dresses/trousers in the evening – no for­mal Cap­tain’s cock­tail party to pack for, which is a bless­ing. Din­ner is de­light­fully ca­sual, too – just turn up be­tween 7.30-10pm and sit wher­ever you like, although the maître d’ takes great plea­sure in match­mak­ing din­ers. The menu is ex­ten­sive and caters for ev­ery taste and wine starts from a rea­son­able 21€.

There are three pools, but their pri­mary pur­pose is for cool­ing off – the largest will barely take you five strokes from end to end. Ded­i­cated swim­mers will just have to wait un­til the next port which, on our trip, was never more than a day away. What is great fun, though, is swim­ming from the ship it­self (ob­vi­ously when it's not mov­ing!) and try­ing your hand at sail­ing, pad­dle­board­ing or loung­ing about on one of the teth­ered li­los. Pure bliss.

By the time we reached Rome, ten days later, I was se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing be­com­ing a stow­away. I loved the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence and now I’m just wait­ing for that win­ning Lot­tery ticket to come good, so that I can book for a win­ter trip to the Caribbean.

‘There's no bet­ter set­ting to rekin­dle the ro­mance in your re­la­tion­ship’

FROM BOWSPRIT TO DIN­ING ROOM, IT’S EL­E­GANCE ALL THE WAY

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