Top News in Sailing Ship Cruises

Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper has a three-deck atrium and 19,000 square feet of open deck space. The ship is seen here in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.

This is the second part in our two-part series on selling sailing ship cruises. You can read the first part, on travel agent insights, here. 

Centuries ago intrepid explorers plied the oceans “under sail” on tall ships propelled by the wind. Today’s cruisers can take a sailing vacation that’s romantic, nostalgic and just plain fun without “roughing it.” Deluxe accommodations and pampering service await.

“My clients have enjoyed the experience of the sails unfurling in the wind while sipping cocktails and listening to beautiful music,” says Peggy Rosenthal, franchise owner / vacation specialist, Dream Vacations, Bella Vista, AR. Adds Nanci Ott, Tinker Travel, LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, Arroyo Grande, CA: “The engineering of the sails on these ships is amazing and it’s a magical moment to watch their mighty mast be touched by the wind and carry you to your next adventure.”

As the ship departs from port at sunset, “everyone is on deck, watching the captain call out orders to the crew to pull the sails up,” says Terri Haas, VP-sales, Star Clippers Americas, “and as the sails slowly start to rise and open…the ‘Conquest of Paradise’ by Vangelis starts playing, creating an emotionally breathtaking experience.” Some guests cry, and not just the first night, she says.  

While most sailing ships still have motorized power for maneuvering when arriving in port or during certain sea / weather conditions, canvas powers them about 75 to 85 percent of the time on average. From Star Clippers’ perspective, “We create our itineraries with wind charts, so it is our goal to sail under the power of wind as much as possible,” says Haas. 

Star Clippers is building a massive, new flagship, the five-masted, 300-passenger Flying Clipper. It’s 532 feet long and 60 feet across the beam. Floating out from Croatia’s Brodosplit shipyard in June, it will begin service in 2018. Flying Clipper will have five decks, 150 deluxe guest staterooms and 74 crew cabins. Capable of sailing globally, it will have a steel hull, teak decks, an ice-class rating, and more than 68,300 square feet of canvas sails.  

Star Clippers’ existing fleet includes three tall sailing ships plying Caribbean, Southeast Asian and Mediterranean waters. Star Flyer and Star Clipper both accommodate 170 passengers, while the five-masted Royal Clipper accommodates 227 passengers. Clients will discover a cozy, comfortable and casual aura, akin to a private yacht. “You could be standing next to a multi-millionaire but you’d never know it because everyone is dressed in boat shoes, shorts and a shirt,” says Haas. 

Royal Clipper has a three-deck atrium, three-level dining room with open seating, 19,000 square feet of open deck space, three small swimming pools and a watersports marina platform. The Captain Nemo Spa and Lounge affords floodlit underwater views through submarine portholes when the ship is anchored; the spa, fitness center, hair salon, massage room and body treatment center are also located in this area. 

Adventurous guests can don a safety harness and climb the mast to a passenger lookout “crow’s-nest,” furnished with a settee. Accommodations-wise, guests choose from a deluxe suite with veranda or several stateroom categories, all with private bathrooms and air-conditioning. Suites are 275 to 430 square feet while standard cabins average about 150 square feet. 

Reminiscent of sailing’s grand age, Star Clipper and Star Flyer offer interiors with antique prints and paintings, teak and mahogany rails, an Edwardian style library with fireplace, two small swimming pools and an outdoor Tropical Bar and Piano Bar. One itinerary highlight? Star Flyer sails roundtrip from Cienfuegos, Cuba, on an 11-night voyage that departs January 6, 2018. Port calls are Cayman Brac and George Town, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Cayo Rico, Punta Frances – Isla de la Juventud, Maria La Gorda and Cayo Largo, all in Cuba. 

Windstar’s 535-foot-long Wind Surf has 155 deluxe ocean-view accommodations, including 31 suites (one of which is pictured here), two bridge suites and 122 staterooms.

Next year in Europe, the line returns to Cres, Croatia and introduces Elafoisos in the Greek Ionian Islands. It offers both short and long European sailings. On September 12, 2018, Star Flyer operates a three-night “Croatia & Slovenia” cruise roundtrip from Venice, with calls at Rovinj, Croatia and Piran, Slovenia. A seven-night “Southern Cyclades” itinerary sails roundtrip from Piraeus (for Athens) to Rhodes, Santorini and Hydra, Greece, plus Bodrum and Dalyan River, Turkey

In 2018 and 2019, Star Clipper returns to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and between May and October 2018 sails to Indonesia’s islands. A 10-night roundtrip cruise from Benoa, Bali, makes several calls on Lombok; Komodo National Park and Pink Beach on Komodo Island; Waikelo, Sumba Island; and Satonda Island

Those reserving a newly released 2018 or 2019 voyage by September 30 can get 65 percent savings from brochure rates, a complimentary one-category cabin upgrade and prepaid gratuities. Returning guests always receive a 3 percent discount. Another opportunity? “We often have solo travelers onboard, and they easily meet new friends because of the family-type atmosphere and our outgoing guests,” mentions Haas. Solo travelers feel safe and thus repeat. “We often have ‘solo offers,’ where we waive the single supplement [normally 50 percent to 100 percent],” says Haas. 

Windstar Cruises also operates three luxury sailing ships (plus three motorized mega-yachts). “My clients love the relaxed atmosphere and custom experience of Windstar sailings,” says AnnaSue Spohn, owner, Itchin 2 Go Travel, LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, Excelsior Springs, MO. “They enjoy night cruising and longer stays at port, including some overnight stays that are available in destinations such as Tahiti.”

Rosenthal says her clients are surprised that the crew know their names by the second day. One told her: “Sailing Windstar was the closest we have ever come to private yacht sailing with a feeling of having our own private space throughout our journey.”  

Fresh from a $3 million drydock, the 148-passenger Wind Spirit is dedicated to Tahiti cruising through 2019 and beyond. It has new teak decks, 215 square feet of additional deck space and more. Seven-night cruises sail roundtrip from Papeete, plus 10- to 11-day voyages combine the Tuamotu Islands with Tahiti’s islands. All Tahiti cruises overnight in Bora Bora and Tahiti. The Tuamotus itinerary adds calls at Fakarava and Rangiroa, plus two sea days. 

All-inclusive pricing starts at $3,999 per person double for seven-night cruises and $5,499 per person double for Tahiti and Tahiti / Tuamotu Islands itineraries. Those fares include roundtrip air from Los Angeles, a day room at Le Meridien Hotel, Papeete, Tahiti and transfers. The week-long, cruise-only fare starts at $2,499 per person double. 

Deployed in the Greek Islands this summer / fall and in 2018, the 148-passenger Wind Star operates seven-day round-trips from Athens. During a Kusadasi, Turkey, port call, guests can tour Ephesus and attend a private event at its Celsus Library. Other calls include Nafplio, Mykonos, Patmos, Santorini and Monemvasia, Greece. 

This winter, Wind Star returns to the Panama Canal and Costa Rica for multiple sailings. It’s a different type of experience sailing in a tall ship (rather than an ocean ship) through the locks and under the Bridge of the Americas / Continental Divide

Throughout the voyage, “guests looking to relax can visit the spa or read a book from a quiet place on the ship while active individuals can use the watersports platform…to take out kayaks and flotation devices from the back of the yacht,” says Tinker Travel’s Ott. This fall, Windstar will introduce new watersports programming, including new water toys, increased hours and water sports experts. 

During 2018, Windstar’s 310-passenger Wind Surf will offer back-to-back “Star Collector” voyages for 14-days with few / no repeating ports. This ship will sail dozens of seven- or 14-day Caribbean cruises between November and March 2018. Then between April and November 2018, Wind Surf will cruise the Mediterranean calling at such off-the-beaten-path ports as Port Vendres, Sanary Sur Mer and Collioure, France. New itineraries include “Iconic Italy,” “Hidden Harbors of the Côte d’Azur” and “Moorish Medley.”

Luxury line Ponant operates the 64-passenger, three-masted Le Ponant, a guest favorite with the feel of a private yacht. Thirty-two staterooms have a porthole and are decorated in blue-and-white décor. Public spaces include two lounges and two restaurants. 

On July 5, 2018, Le Ponant’s seven-night “Great Corsican Loop” sails roundtrip from Nice, France to Scandola Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site; Palombaggia and Roccapina for beach play; and Bonifacio with its fortress and cobbled streets.

Island Windjammers’ 24-passenger “motorsailer” Sagitta offers Caribbean itineraries.

Variety Cruises’ sailing vessels include the two-masted 49-passenger Panorama, which operates such 2018 itineraries as “Journeys in the Land of Ice & Fire: Akureyri to Reykjavik,” departing from Akureyri, Iceland, on multiple voyages between June and September. Calls are at Siglufjordur, Myvatn Lake, Isasfjordur, the Arnardalur Valley and Husavik.

The five-masted, 368-passenger Club Med 2 has 30,000 square feet of billowing white sails, polished teak decks and brass railings. Club Med 2 sails to the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Northern Europe. The ship has 175 staterooms and 11 suites, all with sea views, plus two restaurants, a Club Med Spa by Carita and two saltwater pools. A team of GOs (Gentil Organisateur) will assist guests, as they do at Club Med resorts. 

Sail Windjammer operates the Mandalay, a 236-foot sailing ship that’s the former luxury yacht of financier E.F. Hutton and shipping magnate George Vettleson. “The best tip in promoting these types of products is to really know your client,” says Suzanne Sneddon, senior sales and air specialist, SinglesCruise.com, which will host guests on Mandalay for a six-night cruise departing St. Lucia on September 17. 

Some factors to discuss with clients are these. “If getting dressed up and adhering to a schedule keeps them in their comfort zone, this is not for them,” Sneddon says. She also says clients on this type of trip should be able to climb up rope, ladders and stairs; jump in and out of tenders; walk along beaches; and be ready, willing and able to experience new adventures.  

Clients also have a choice of many other sailing vessels from such lines as Sea Cloud Cruises, Windjammer Cruises and Island Windjammers; the latter’s 24-passenger Sagitta sails throughout the Caribbean. The Borgo Santo Pietro Group just launched Satori, a wooden luxury schooner that combines a boutique hotel and gourmet dining concept.

Smaller sailing ships can sail where many big ships can’t - to off-the-beaten-path ports, coves or idyllic beach spots. Chuck Flagg, franchise owner, Cruise Planners, Canton, GA, says both his clients and his own family “love the unique and intimate shore excursions offered through these lines. You are not crowded on buses with hundreds of other passengers.” He also likes the open bridge policy.

For potential “sailing” guests, “paint an accurate picture of what they can expect - from top-notch service to a friendly, casual, but upscale experience,” says Rosenthal. “Wind sailing offers a nice adventure that fits somewhere between deluxe ocean cruising and river cruising. It’s about soaking in the environment and appreciating the breeze.”

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