Last Updated on September 30, 2022 by Jim Ferri
Welcome aboard a Sea Cloud cruise on “the most beautiful cruise-sail ship in the world…and one of the world’s best travel experiences”…
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By John and Sandra Nowlan
According to the Berlitz Cruise Guide, Sea Cloud is “the most beautiful cruise-sail ship in the world…and one of the world’s best travel experiences.”
What makes this 60-passenger square-rigger, now almost 90 years old, even more interesting is when the cruise starts and ends in Barbados. This tropical paradise, popular with North Americans, is the ideal location to begin a Sea Cloud cruise in the Caribbean. It is one of the ship’s regular itineraries.
The friendly, former British colony has some fine beach hotels and excellent restaurants. We stayed at a resort that combines both. The luxurious, award-winning Fairmont Royal Pavilion is located on a superb stretch of sand. And every room overlooks the turquoise Caribbean. Fairmont’s enhanced culinary focus has made it even more attractive. That’s especially true in the new steakhouse, Palm Terrace, serving some of the best beef we’ve ever enjoyed.
Boarding in Barbados
It’s a 25-minute taxi ride to the busy Barbados cruise port in Bridgetown, the capital. Three big cruise ships are tied up but the vessel that stands out is our sleek windjammer, Sea Cloud.
The tallest of its four masts is 184 feet above the waterline and its sails are tied up. But the eight miles of ropes and rigging still evoke another era.
Sea Cloud was built in Germany in 1931, a gift from U.S. financier Edward F. Hutton to his wife, cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, the richest women in America. At that time it is the largest private yacht ever built. As one can see, no expense spared for teak decks, burnished brass and furnishings in mahogany and elaborately carved oak. The two master bedrooms, filled with Chippendale furniture, were huge with marble fireplaces and ornate gold faucets in the bathroom.
Sea Cloud has gone through many changes over the years, including time as a weather observation ship in World War II. In 1979 a group of investors bought the ship, spent $7.5 million refurbishing it and making it available for charters and scheduled service. Further enhancements added more cabins and modern safety features.
Aboard Sea Cloud, a Variety of Cabins
Sea Cloud can now accommodate 64 guests in a wide variety of cabins. There are eight ultra-luxury suites on the first deck. Others on decks two and three are more modest in size (our room has narrow, twin beds). The quality furnishings and excellent L’Occitane toiletries in the generously sized bathroom. There is no television, but internet is available in public spaces. And each day a newspaper summary arrives in one’s stateroom.
Many of the efficient and friendly crew of sixty continually maintain the ship and set its 29 sails. It’s a stunning spectacle to see the young men and women climbing up the rope ladders to the topmost sails where they untie the lines, then return to deck to wrestle and tug on the coils of rope which unfurl the vast expanse of billowing sheets. Several times each voyage, guests help with the rope pulling (they may not climb the masts, however).
Outstanding Cuisine on a Sea Cloud Cruise
Outstanding cuisine is a highlight of every Sea Cloud cruise. Buffet lunch, often with fresh fish from various ports, takes place on the Lido deck. There’s an adjacent bar with an excellent array of complimentary wine, beer and spirits. There was plenty of Caribbean rum with at least ten Scotch choices including high-end single malts like Talisker, Dalwhinnie and Oban.
In the evening, we enjoy elegant meals in the original lounge (one wall is a fine library) and adjacent dining room where the rich and famous dined and were entertained in the 1930s and 40s.
Surrounded by dark woods, hand carved mahogany and oak and nautical oil paintings, guests also enjoy fine wines and extraordinary cuisine like duck breast, rack of lamb, tender filet of veal or black halibut. We counted more than 20 different cheese choices during the cruise. The galley is small, but the quality of the output is remarkable.
Entertainment on a Sea Cloud Cruise
Entertainment on Sea Cloud is minimal. A pianist plays each day and a knowledgeable historian gives lectures about the islands we are visiting. And officer talks about star gazing (visibility at night is excellent, of course). A local band joins us one evening and, as a highlight, the crew assembls in traditional sailors’ outfits to sing sea shanties.
Our Barbados round trip itinerary was a treat. It included Bequia in the Grenadines where we boarded safari trucks to tour the island and visit a sea turtle rehabilitation center. After a relaxing sea day, we docked in Dominica by Cabrits National Park. There local historian Dr. Lennox Honeychurch showed us nearby Fort Shirley and the work he’s done to restore the British garrison, built in 1765 to deter the French.
A Quartet of Caribbean Islands
A short visit to St. Barths with its fancy yachts and high-end shops preceeds a fascinating tour of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands aboard Sea Cloud. The highlight was “The Baths”, a series of huge, volcanic seaside boulders with small, pristine beaches.
Unfortunately, the surf was too rough for swimming. We were able, however, to swim the next day at Iles de Saintes in Guadeloupe. The lovely beach alongside the village is filled with fishing boats and we could see the fishermen unloading their catch while surrounded by hungry pelicans.
Our last stop on our Sea Cloud cruise, Saint Lucia, was a particular delight. After anchoring in Soufriere Harbour close to the famous Twin Pitons, most guests take the complimentary tour. It includes the lush Diamond Botanical Garden and Waterfall, plus the world’s only drive-in volcano (still bubbling and steaming). It is the remains of a collapsed crater more than 400,000 years ago).
You may also enjoy: A Perfect Barbados Holiday…Sun, Sand and Seafood / Sea of Cortez, Mexico – A Galapagos-like Adventure, Closer to Home / A Guide to Caribbean Islands
We were reluctant to leave the remarkable and historic Sea Cloud once we returned to Barbados, but we had booked a half day Lickrish Food Tour through the UNESCO listed center of Bridgetown. We’ve been on food tours in other cities, but this was by far the most complete. Our entertaining guide was very knowledgeable about the history and culture of the city and took us to eight restaurants and food stands specializing in local Bajan cuisine like barbequed pig tails and spicy fish cakes.
After the extraordinary food on Sea Cloud we really didn’t need more temptations but the Lickrish tour was a delightful addition to our unique Caribbean land and sea adventure.
All photos by the authors, except where noted
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