Turquoise waters and pristine beaches, coral reefs and the rhythmic sway of palm trees, lilting patois and new discoveries – the diversity of the Caribbean islands make for a diverse Caribbean cruise experience. On a tall ship sailing experience onboard the Royal Clipper, we found an idyllic balance of relaxation and exploration as we visited Caribbean islands new to us.

We are unapologetically cruise lovers. Big ships, small ships, and ships in between. Oceans, rivers, canals. We enjoy them all for different reasons, different occasions, and different experiences. We believe there’s a cruise that’s right for most every kind of traveler. It’s just a matter of considering your interests and preferences and matching them up with a cruise line and cruise itinerary that meets those preferences.

Knowing where to start, and the questions to ask may seem complicated. That’s why we continue to write about different types of cruising, different ships, different cruise lines, and different itineraries. And we go indepth, all in one story, so you don’t have to hop around looking for everything. You’ll find everything you need to know right here – cabins, food and beverage, pricing, itineraries, what we did, any mistakes we made, and all of our recommendations. Our goal is to help you make an informed cruise choice.

The Star Clippers fleet has three sailing sailings ships – the Royal Clipper (the larger ship in the fleet), Star Clipper, and Star Flyer. This was our first time sailing on a Star Clipper cruise, and after a Windjammer sailing experience earlier in the year, we were excited to try a bit bigger ship that combined the beauty of sailing with a traditional cruise experience. 

Let’s get to it – here’s what we discovered sailing on the Royal Clipper. (Note: We received a complimentary sailing as media covering the ship and the itinerary.)

The Ship: Royal Clipper

The Royal Clipper is a five-masted, fully-rigged sailing ship, built in Finland by the Helsinki Shipyard and currently owned by Star Clippers Cruises. With a length of 439 feet and a total sail area of 56,000 square feet, the Royal Clipper is powered by 42 sails, which provide up to 40% of the vessel’s power. Royal Clipper holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest square rigger sailing ships in service.

Launched in 2000 and fitted with gleaming polished brass, rich mahogany paneling, white sails and intricate rigging in every corner, this vessel is a modern-day homage to the legendary clipper ships that graced the seas in the 19th century. 106 crew members take care of the ships and its passengers.

The ship can accommodate 227 passengers in 114 cabins, ranging from smaller studios to suites. There are three swimming pools, a library, and 19,000 square feet of open deck. The four public decks offer a variety of spaces to soak in the sun, sip cocktails, or simply lose yourself in a good book. One fine dining restaurant serves gourmet cuisine, with a few other spots available for snacks.

One of the Royal Clipper’s distinctive features is its ability to navigate smaller ports and harbors, allowing passengers to explore destinations often inaccessible to larger vessels.

Sun Deck

The Sun Deck, located at the top of the ship, as the name suggests. Lounge chairs and benches fringe the deck, offering spots for conversation, photography, and relaxation. All three pools are located on the Sun Deck. You’ll want to grab your best straw hats to be on deck for sail away and the raising of the sails. Always impressive, it’s even more so at night with the dramatic addition of lights and music.

One of the highlights of the trip for Tony was climbing the rigging up to the crow’s nest. There was no way that I was going to do this, but I was happy to photograph from below. Climbers are strapped into a harness, then begin climbing up the net. Once in the crow’s nest, climbers can look out at the ships, sea, and surrounding islands, as well as wave to those who they left on deck below. My fear of edges prevented me from jumping on this opportunity, but based on his experience, we give in a high rating.

Main Deck

At the heart of the ship is the Main Deck, where the Edwardian Library, Tropical Bar and Piano Bar are located. We spent a lot of time here – sipping a tropical drink, listening to stories told by the Captain, and enjoying the occasional live music.

The Observation Lounge is also an ideal vantage point for observing the intricate maneuvers of the crew as they unfurl and maneuver the sails. I wish we had spent a little more time checking this lounge out. Since we live in the Seattle area, where it is cold and rainy much of the year, it was a real treat to be outdoors all the time.

The Deluxe Suites with private verandahs and the Category 1 Deluxe Deck Cabins are located on the Main Deck.

Clipper Deck

The Clipper Deck is where most of the cabins are. The two Owner’s Suites and several of the Category 2, 3, 4 and 6 cabins are located here. The Sloop Shop is located on the Clipper Deck, where guests can shop for souvenirs from a modest assortment of logo wear. If you have any questions or concerns, the Reception Desk located here will be your go-to for information. 

We stayed in cabin 244, a Category 3 outside cabin, which was located mid-ship on the Clipper Deck. Our cabin was small, but well-laid out, with two porthole window. There was sufficient storage for clothes and gear. That said, given the warm weather and casual dress code, you really don’t need to overpack. The bathroom had room for most everything we wanted to store there. Electrical outlets are 220–volt (European-style) so bring an adapter.

Pro Tip: Bring your own conditioner, if you use it, as it is not provided in the cabin. Also, when possible, we tried to take showers while the ship was anchored whenever possible. The movement of the ship when sailing often meant we had a little more water slopped about in the bathroom. I hate being messy. 

Commodore Deck

The Commodore Deck is the lowest deck on the Royal Clipper. The Clipper Main Dining Room is located midship here and the Category 3, 4 and 5 cabins are as well. The Captain Nemo Gym, Lounge and Spa (with a marble Turkish-style hammam are also on this deck. The spa offers a host of massages, scrubs, wraps and facial treatments. I didn’t make it to the spa or health club on our sailing; I regret missing the hammam.

Restaurants and Dining

While I like to fancy myself a foodie, I probably have a hard stop on too many ingredients to fully fall into that category. I jokingly tell Tony that I’m in my “season of yes” and that means making food choices that I might otherwise have skipped. 

Our expectations for food are reasonably basic. Fresh, flavorful, not too weird, and satisfying. Extra points for creativity, but we are not looking for Michelin-star meals every night. We’re more gourmand than gourmet.

Clipper Dining Room

The heart of the ship’s culinary scene is the Clipper Dining Room on the Commodore Deck, at the bottom of a three-story atrium.  Breakfast and lunch are served as a buffet with a fresh station, with open seating, come and go as you please. Lunch was themed around a different cuisine each day. Dinner was a multi-course seated menu, with a changing selection of daily specialties. It was usually easy to make a choice, but on occasion, we’d fall back on the traditional favorites that were always on the menu (steak, grilled chicken, etc.). You can pick and choose among courses, creating the dining experience that works for you. 

We ate dinner with a small group of friends, and our waiters quickly learned our preferences. Dinner conversations were lively and full of crazy topics, and our servers bobbed and weaved providing us with attentive service in an often challenging environment. That’s pirate night in the photo above.

For non-structured meal times, snacks can be found in the Piano Bar and the Tropical Bar.

Officially, room service on the Royal Clipper is limited to the 14 Deluxe Suites and two Owner’s Suites (ordering from the Clipper Dining Room menu). However, one evening meal time the ship had a little more rocking and rolling than usual,. I noticed lots of plates being sent off to cabins.


Alcoholic beverages are ala carte, with no beverage package available. We enjoy our beverages while cruising, a refreshing beverage or two in the afternoon and wine with dinner. We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices onboard the Royal Clipper. A refreshing Pina Colada in the Tropical Bar was about 7 Euros (the standard currency used on the ship is the Euro), with a glass of wine about 4 Euros. A nice mid-range bottle of wine at dinner was about 30-35 Euros, with a high end choice at 65 Euros. All these prices were about half of what we are used to at home. (Your mileage may vary as we live in a city where wine and cocktails are fairly high priced.)

Drinks are available outdoor in the Tropical Bar (a perfect place for an afternoon cocktail), and this was our usual spot when returning to the ship and before sail away. We enjoyed a before dinner aperitif or glass of wine in the Piano Bar, often as we listened to an excursion briefing for the following day.

Cabins on the Royal Clipper

The Royal Clipper has 114 cabins in eight categories. Of these, the 14 Deluxe Suites on Main Deck have private balconies overlooking the ocean. Cabins blend seamlessly with the general seafaring design of the ship, with vintage cream colored walls with moldings, a navy blue carpet and nautical motifs adorning the bedspreads, All cabins also come with storage room with drawers on the dresser, bedside table and under the bed, plus a closet and a cabinet with a safe.

The bathrooms in all cabins come with marble floors and storage space too. A hairdryer and standard toiletries like soap and shampoo are also provided. 

Pro Tip: Bring your own conditioner as this is not stocked as a standard amenity.

Owner’s Suite -There are two Owner’s Suites on board, on the Clipper Deck aft. While these suites don’t have balconies and open into the inside lobby, these 320 square foot rooms have a living room with sofas and a bedroom with an attached bathroom. There is also the option of room service, as well as a 24-hour snack menu. The main bathroom has a whirlpool tub in addition to a shower, and the other bathroom only has a shower.

Deluxe Suite – The 14 Deluxe Suites are located on the Main Deck, midship, just behind the Observation Lounge. Each of these suites has a private balcony opening to expansive views of the ocean. The rooms come with a sitting area and the bathrooms are fitted with a whirlpool tub in addition to a shower.

Category 1 Deluxe Deck Cabins – The 175 square-foot Category 1 Deluxe Deck Cabins are situated on the Main Deck aft. They open directly onto the deck and are quite similar to the Deluxe Suites in layout but with a smaller sitting area. These cabins come with a whirlpool tub.

Category 2-5 Outside Stateroom Cabins – The 90 Outside Stateroom Cabins of Categories 2 to 5 are located on the Clipper Deck and Commodore Deck. All Outside Stateroom Cabins are an average of 148 square feet, come with two porthole windows, and each has a double bed or two singles. Some cabins in categories 2 to 4 also come with an extra pulldown berth to accommodate a third guest.

Category 6 Inside Stateroom Cabins – The six Inside Stateroom Cabins are all located on the Clipper Deck. These cabins measure 100 square feet and some come with an extra berth to accommodate a third guest.

7 Night Windward Islands Itinerary on Royal Clipper

When we talk with people who are new to cruising the most common question we get is “What’s there to do on the cruise?”

With experienced cruisers, we can talk using shorthand cruise and ship talk, pointing out how ocean cruises and river cruises differ, ship differences, and itinerary highlights with shore excursion recommendations. For those new to cruising, a little more detail is often needed to help make a booking decision – whether that’s a decision to book a cruise (and on which cruise line), choose an itinerary, select a cabin, review an itinerary and make an excursion selection.

You can choose to be as active or inactive on a cruise as you wish. Go to all the port talks, socialize in the lounge, join a large table at meal times, and meet new friends on each excursion. You can also choose a less extroverted option, dining at a small table, touring independently, and spending time in your suite or quieter areas of the ship and avoiding crowds.

We have done and enjoyed both. It’s all about the experience YOU are  looking for. On this cruise we were traveling with a group of friends, so much of our meal and socializing time was spent as a group. We still managed to find alone time to get read or get some work done (me) or nap (Tony).

We try to provide lots of information about cruise choices, but remember, you get to define your perfect cruise vacation!

Here are the specifics about our itinerary, our ports of call, what we did in each port, and our recommendations.

The Windward Islands are part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. This eastern Caribbean archipelago encompasses a chain of lush, volcanic islands including Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, and Grenada. Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. Culturally rich, the Windward Islands celebrate a blend of African, European, and indigenous influences, evident in their music, cuisine, and vibrant festivals.

Day 1: Bridgetown, Barbados

The voyage begins in the vibrant capital of Barbados, Bridgetown. This UNESCO World Heritage City blends colonial charm with a modern Caribbean beat. The Garrison Historic Area, Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown Jewish Synagogue, Broad Street and Grand Market are all places worth visiting for a cultural and historical fix.

Pro Tip: Plan to arrive in Barbados a couple days early (as we did) and see another part of the island. We stayed a couple of nights at the South Beach Hotel near Rockley Beach and the South Coast Boardwalk. Booking information here (affiliate link). Coming in a day early let us rest up after a very long travel day, let us see more of Barbados (this was our first trip there), and helped us get into that relaxed Caribbean mood before boarding the Royal Clipper. 

The boarding process is easier than easy. There is a luggage stand at the pier where you drop off your bags (they’ll be in your cabin later), then walk up the gangway and you’re onboard. Follow crew directions to the Piano Bar where you’ll proceed through a couple of stations for passport check, credit card processing, then get the key to your cabin. We like arriving for embarkation as early as we can so we can check out out cabin and then have plenty of time to explore the ship.

Sail away that first night was an impressive spectacle. The elegant Royal Clipper raised its sails to music and lights and we were underway.

Pro Tip: Sign up for excursions happen onboard (not in advance) at the Excursion Desk. Nothing fancy, just sign your name on one on the slots and that’s it.

Day 2: Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia

Situated on the northwest coast of Saint Lucia, Rodney Bay is renowned for its yachting marina, offering a picturesque harbor for sailing enthusiasts. The bay also boasts a lively atmosphere with waterfront restaurants, shops, and some nightlife. Island attractions include Pigeon Island National Landmark with its historic ruins and panoramic views, the back-in-time fishing village of Gros Islet, Diamond Falls and Mineral Baths, Soufriere Drive-In Volcano and Sulfur Springs and the Pitons, the two majestic volcanic cones rising from the sea.

What we did: We opted for an aerial tram excursion in Chassin, at the base of La Sorciere, an eco-adventure park in St. Lucia’s forest reserve. It’s a short drive to the park, and once there, you’re load onto an open-air gondola, then slowly ascend up the rainforest. As nature lovers, it was a treat to take a look at Ficus, giant ferns, and dozens of plants and flowers. We spotted several types of birds, including hummingbirds. On the way down, there’s a panoramic view of the water on the north side of the island. After the tram ride, we enjoyed a walk through a fern garden, a refreshing drink, and a little time for self exploration or shopping in the gift shop.

Our thoughts: We chose well. We haven’t been to a rain forest in a long time. While this gave us just a glimpse, we appreciate easing into the islands with quiet, impressive nature.

Day 3: Cabrits, Dominica

Discovered by Christopher Columbus on a Sunday, Dominica takes it name from the Spanish for Sunday, Domingo. Largely undeveloped, the island is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide, with lush mountains and only a few beaches. The mountain range spans the length of the island , peaking as high at 5,000 feet. 

Cabrits is on the northwestern coast of Dominica, and has a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park is home to a variety of plants and animals, including the rare Amazonian manatee. There are also a number of hiking trails, including the Waitukubuli Trail, which is the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean. The park extends to the Cabrits Peninsula, where sparkling waters meet rugged coastlines, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving with dolphins, turtles and thriving coral reefs.

What we did: We explored independently, walking to Fort Shirley in the National Park (admission $5). Once there, we were able to explore the park, choosing to follow a couple of trails. We enjoyed the exercise, fresh air, and the sites and history found in the national park.

Our thoughts: It was a good choice for us. There were a couple of excursions that caught our eye – including a guided hike in the Syndicate National Park in the Northern Forest Reserve, but I was concerned activity level needed. Yes, I need to start working out regularly and get in shape so I can do this on a return trip. Fellow passengers we talked with enjoyed it.

Day 4: Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Antigua was discovered on Columbus’ second voyage to the New World, naming it after a cathedral in Sevilla, Spain (Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua). The country is properly known as Antigua and Barbuda, although generally referred to as simply Antigua.

Falmouth Harbor, on the southern coast of the island, attracts boaters. And by boaters, I mean luxury yachts, some with helipads. Once a bustling sugar port, the waterfront is now adorned with pastel-hued houses, boutique shops, and cafes and inns. 

Historic Nelson’s Dockyard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight of the island. 

What we did: We chose an excursion to make our own rum. It was an interactive class where we learned about rum, discovered various flavor profiles, and eventually crafted our own special rum blend. Once crafted, we bottled, sealed, and labeled our rum to take home. We gave one bottle to a family member as a gift, and kept one for ourselves. While this isn’t fine sipping rum, it will be fine for hot buttered rums, fruity cocktails, and for flaming bananas foster. After our rum class, we had time to explore Nelson’s Dockyard, inscribed as a UNESCO site in 2016.

Our thoughts: Pretty much a perfect day! Combining a structured activity with personal time to wander is our recipe for an enjoyable time in port.

Day 5: Basseterre, Saint Kitts

Basseterre, the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, is a historic town with well-preserved Georgian architecture, including Independence Square, the Circus, the 17th-century British Fort Saint Charles and the Brimstone Hill Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. St. Kitts is one of the only Caribbean islands that the French and British shared.

St. Kitts and Nevis gained independence in 1983, and despite the growth in tourism (the primary industry), it still has a reputation as a quiet and unspoiled destination.

What we did: We heard from friends that the Essential St. Kitts tour was great. So that’s what we signed up for. The tour included visits to Romney Gardens, Caribelle Batik Studio, and the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park (a UNESCO site). Our favorite time was at Brimstone. We walked the ruins and looked at former quarters of the Royal Engineers, Adjutant, Artillery Officers, and Infantry Officers. The Citadel is the showplace of the fortress, and the views were impressive. It was a windy day when we visited, so we had to hang on tight to our hats, but it was still a glorious way to enjoy some island history. We also enjoyed our time at the Batik Studio. This was handmade by locals batik, not mass produced goods, and it was fascinating to watch the labor-intensive process. We bought a pillow cover for my office (the couch is filled with pillow covers from our travels), and a couple of gift items. There was just enough time there to watch the craftspeople, do a little shopping, and enjoy the garden grounds.

Our thoughts: Solid choice and since it was our first visit, we’re glad we went on the tour. St. Kitts is somewhere I’d consider going back to independently, and it has fairly easy access from the U.S.

Day 6: Terre-de-Haut, Isle des Saintes

A group of eight small islands, Isle des Saintes is known for beautiful beaches and reefs that attract snorkelers and divers. Two islands attract visitors, Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas. Terre-de-Haut is the largest island, with colorful Creole houses, cobblestone streets, and historic Fort Napoléon perched atop a hill.  

What we did: Wandered independently. 

Our thoughts: We couldn’t make up our mind what we wanted to do here, so we didn’t make a decision and just wandered off on our own. It was fine. We enjoyed walking around and wandering along the beach, but I think we would have gotten more out of our time if we’d spent some time deciding what to do.

Day 7: Grand Anse Beach, Martinique

This French-Caribbean jewel is known for sandy beaches and art deco homes. It felt the most French of the islands we visited, with most residents speaking French or a local dialect, although we managed to limp along in English, spoken reluctantly at most shops and cafes. This also felt like the most “citified” of the ports we visited

What we did: In preparation for our return to Barbados the next day, we wanted to relax without much time spent on a schedule. We strolled the streets and shops, stopped off at a cafe for wine and charcuterie, then wandered the sandy beach and dipped our toes in the water. Unstructured at relaxing, which is what we were looking or.

Our thoughts: If the itinerary had been reversed, we would have opted for a tour of the south part of the island. But, since we wanted an easy day before returning to Barbados, this was a great way to ease back into travel reality.

Day 8: Bridgetown, Barbados

And finally, it’s time to disembark back in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados.

The disembarkation process was as easy as embarkation. We meandered to the Piano Bar that morning to officially check out, have our passports returned, and settle our account. That took about 5 minutes, then we headed to breakfast while the ship was getting docked and cleared. There was none of the frenzy of night before preparation. No bags outside the door the night before, no super early checkout, it was an easy start to the day with the crew still making us feel like valued guests rather than rushing us out the door.

Since our flight left late out of Barbados (most of them do), we did a city tour with friends before heading to the airport. If you weren’t able to get in a couple days early, add on a few days at the end.

The Price

Cruise pricing is full of special offers. You’ll find lots of bundling, two-for-ones, and special discounts. Keeping up with cruise pricing can be a full-time job!

You’ll need to do your own personal research to evaluate what’s important to you on any cruise, and the price point that is comfortable for you.  Armed with that information and knowledge, you can book directly with a cruise line or use travel agents with good cruise knowledge.

A quick look at pricing for 2024 sailings on Star Clipper’s Windward Island itinerary (sailing on the Royal Clipper) show fares starting around $2,500 per person. You can take a look at dates and rates here. Keep an eye out for special offers.

A few words about gratuities. 

I believe that people should be well paid for providing good service. It is a cost of doing business for a company and a cost of travel for the cruiser. I wish that gratuities were included in Star Clipper pricing (and every cruise line pricing) because it lets prospective passengers see the full price right up front. Transparency is important to me. (Creating artificially low prices that don’t really exist makes me crazy.) 

I love knowing that the crew is fairly compensated. It suits my travel ethos, my personal ethics, and I love knowing that I won’t be nickel-and-dimed on board. Constant upselling is tedious. And while gratuities were not included on Royal Clipper there was NO upselling getting in the way of cruise enjoyment. If you wanted to buy something, great. If you didn’t, equally great. It created a relaxing atmosphere consistent with the Caribbean vibe. Suggested gratuities are $8 per person, per day. We always like to give a little extra, handed directly to the crew member, for attentive service.

Is a Royal Clipper Windward Islands Itinerary Right For You

We believe that there’s a cruise for everyone, it’s just a matter of matching up your preferences for size and type of ship, onboard features and amenities, and itineraries. I love all types of cruises, having some favorites of course, and I love discovering new cruise lines, new ships, and new itineraries.

If you like the romance of wind power and a small ship with sleek lines, with all the modern amenities Royal Clipper is an ideal ship for you. There’s no casino, specialty restaurants, or entertainment stage like you’ll find on large ships – we have other recommendations if that’s your preference – but if you like a casual atmosphere and relaxed approach to sailing, we think you’ll enjoy the Royal Clipper and the Windward Islands itinerary. 

We loved the casual dress code on board, which just makes sense it the hot Caribbean weather, and have a new appreciation for real clipper ships (as explained by our captain). Smaller ships can get into small ports, and we were excited to visit five new island countries. There was much to like and enjoy on the ship, and we were glad to soak up every last experience. We think you’ll enjoy it, too.

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We received a complimentary cruise for the purpose of reviewing the Royal Clipper and the Windward Islands itinerary. Star Clipper, owner of Royal Clipper, respects the integrity of independent storytelling and reporting, and has no exerted influence over any coverage. The content of this post reflects our personal experiences and opinions.

Tony Manzanares contributed photos and opinions to this post.