Rosanna's Adriatic Adventure
27th August 2014
Rosanna King, Sales Executive for Star Clippers UK, was lucky enough to sail the Adriatic Sea aboard the fabulous Royal Clipper. She shares her experiences aboard in her blog...
Two hours ago I excitedly stepped aboard Royal Clipper in picturesque Croatia. Rainy Britain seems a world away as I sit in the heat of the blazing Croatian sun, sipping a chilled Pina 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 this stunning tall ship. She is the largest full-rigged tall ship in the world, so it is no wonder that I am met with a feeling of complete awe and admiration. 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 never have to be anywhere else but here. 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 0730 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, 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. As her name suggests, Royal Clipper oozes charm and sophistication. The five masts stand tall and proud like guardsmen keeping watch over something very precious, yet perfectly able to hold herself.
After a delicious and much-needed 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... sun-kissed, salty and eager for the late sailaway. I have heard a lot about this unique experience, so of course am filled with excitement and anticipation.
For now, over and out.
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 sailaways on board Her Majesty the Royal Clipper. One in the darkness of midnight and the other under the gleaming afternoon rays.
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 Cruise Director, Anna, was hosting a Ship's Quiz. Guests ran to ring the bell when they knew the answer, which often involved two people colliding at the same time! The atmosphere was great- laughter, fun and spontaneity. The laid-back relaxed approach to entertainment on board is perfect and suits casual yet elegant feel throughout the whole ship. 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 Hvar this morning after a breakfast of an omelette and mixed fruit. There is a wide assortment of pastries, bread, cooked meats and eggs- something to suit the variety of preferences on board. 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.
So here we are now- 5:30pm on a Sunday afternoon, tucking into afternoon tea and still reeling from the buzz of the 4pm sail away 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 lying 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 laid there as the breeze whistled past us, although I don't think I have ever kept such a tight hold on my sunglasses!
Now we have an appointment with the ship's Crow's Nest- 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 on board.
Royal Clipper is today at anchor off the coastline of Rovinj, a small Croatian town unspoilt by masses of tourists and thriving with culture. After a leisurely morning on board meeting fellow guests and chatting to various passengers from all over the world, 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 before setting down outside a beautiful café on a cobbled street slope. 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 when we left I very nearly became a victim to a very fast teen on a very fast bike! Yes I did let out a yelp!
After my close-encounter we headed back on board in time for a dip in the crystal clear sea from the Marina Platform. It is lowered almost every day and the water sports team are on hand to assist you with anything you need. 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 on board 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 ask about our day- there is a family feel on here totally unique and 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..
As I titled the subject of this blog as 'Day 4', I find myself saddened in the knowledge that this means it's nearly time to go home. 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 on board (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 was the most spectacular yet. This was a 7pm sail away, 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. I even spoke with one guest who told me 'the first thing I did on my first night on board was download Conquest Of Paradise so it will always remind me of this’. 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 them were manoeuvring 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 full 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!
So here I am talking about last night and we haven't even got to today yet.. We are in Piran in Slovenia, a country neither myself nor Emma had been to before. After collecting our passports as local authorities requested, we took an early tender after breakfast to the town. 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 out 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 by the Tropical Bar. Tomorrow we arrive into Venice, our final port of call, so we will be up at dawn to witness us sail in to such an iconic destination. My final blog instalment tomorrow will most probably be written from Venice airport departure lounge after a wonderful 5 days away.
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..? It makes us even more sad that today we disembarked Royal Clipper.
We had a perfect last day on board. Late afternoon we were summoned to the gangway to board a tender for a truly unique photo opportunity. When fully dressed in all her sails, she looks magnificent. I imagine it like how a groom feels when he first sees a bride on their wedding day- as beautiful as always, 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. One woman even said that the images will be on the front of her Christmas cards this year!
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.
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! After realising we were up again in a few hours time to see the dawn sail-in to Venice we retreated to our cabins for our final night's sleep on board.
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 am sure 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. All reminiscent of the grand age of sail 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!
Our flight is delayed and the rain is pouring down outside...a bit of a reality check for us both after such a blissful time away. Until next time, Royal Clipper, it was a pleasure.
If you would like to book your own experience aboard Royal Clipper and create some memories similar to Rosanna's, you can get in touch with us today by calling 0845 200 6145 or download a booking form online.