By Sandra Scott
“Welcome home!” was the greeting as we boarded the Sea Cloud II. For a short time it is our home. The Sea Cloud II, the epitome of luxury at sea, was designed after her sister ship, Sea Cloud I, which was home to Marjorie Merriweather Post and E. F. Hutton. Post wanted a home on the water that afforded the luxury to which she was accustomed. Money was no object.
The Sea Cloud II, a three-mast windjammer combines modern-day comfort while keeping true to the high standard of luxurious sailing set by Post. Today Sea Cloud passengers can enjoy the same level of luxury. Every day is a glimpse into the life of the rich and famous. From the moment guests are greeted by name at breakfast to the last goodnight aperitif, attention to even the smallest detail makes the adventure unparalleled in excellence. The spacious staterooms, in all categories, are richly decorated and unsurpassed in comfort elevating cruising to a whole new level of luxury.
During the winter months the Sea Cloud sails the Caribbean. And, she does sail. For the Sea Cloud is a grand lady of sail, not a dilettante sailing ship with sails raised electronically or, worse yet, one of those that never raises her sails. Here each day the sails are raised. On the first day, guests are invited to watch the process. “Hit the rig” is the order and the deck hands scurry up the masts and across the yards to unlash the sails. First Officer Henrik Karlsson explains each phase of the process. Every day the multi-national crew can be seen on the yards lashing and unlashing the sails, setting and lowering the sails. When the Sea Cloud is at full sail, find a deck chair, lay back, close your eyes and enjoy the silence and mystique of it all. You can envision sailing with the pirates who plied the Caribbean in search of treasure or pretend to be taking a break from hobnobbing with Post, Hutton, and their friends. The Sea Cloud makes use of sail and power, and often a combination of both.
Each day provides a new adventure as the ship visits the various ports. One afternoon may be spent in Dominica, one of the greenest and most beautiful islands in the West Indies. A shore trip includes adventure plus the beauty of the tropical rainforest.
After the Sea Cloud ties up at Cabrits National Park, near the small town of Portsmouth, a short van ride drops passengers at the Indian River where colorful wooden boats are waiting for the upriver trip. Local guides knowledgeable about the flora and fauna along the river row the boats for about a mile identifying the tropical vegetation and explaining their uses. As the river narrows the trees with root systems so artistic that only nature could have created them spread their branches across the river acting as a canopy from the tropical sun. With a little luck the noisy, endangered Jacquot parrot can be spotted. The destination is a jungle bar that looks like a set from the Sean Connery film, “Medicine Man.”
Another day, another island. Possibly St. Lucia with a visit to a drive-in volcano with the steam-venting fumaroles and nearby baths all touted to be good for one’s health, or an Eden-like walk through a botanical garden to a waterfalls featured in “Romancing the Stone.” Visiting a plantation unravels the mystery of growing of bananas, cocoa, and spices.
There is always something new to see, something exciting to do, every island unique and every day an adventure. Wander through Guadeloupe’s quaint towns with their colorful French Caribbean style homes. Shop in the many stores, walk up to a fort, or laze on a beach. After days of living like royalty, just when it seems that there can be no more luxurious way to travel, the Sea Cloud tender drops passengers off at the harbor in St. Bart’s. We walked the street darting from one high-end boutique to another, watching people purchase Cartier watches like it was an everyday occurrence. Along the docks I marveled at private yachts that rival the luxury of Sea Cloud.
It would be easy to never leave the ship as on board activities abound. There is always something to do. Movies are offered at various times though out the day. Why anyone would want to watch a movie when no movie could surpasses the views of passing islands and other yachts during the day, and sitting under the star-studded sky that highlights the frothy waves at night, beggars the imagination.
Become a savvy sailor by learning about sailing with a visit to the wheel house, take a tour of the engine room, or learn knot tying from a professional. The chef even gives a lesson in fruit and veggie carving. Better yet, sunbathe on the Lido Deck, chat with friends in the sauna, or relax with a book in the library. Just when you think you might be able to sneak back to your cabin for a nap, they announce, “The swimming platform will be lowered for swimming in the ocean.” With the safety buoys strung out, and a crewmember on lifeguard duty in a small zodiac, passengers take a refreshing swim in the open sea.
Every meal is an experience in fine dining worthy of a 5-star restaurant. When the captain introduced the staff, the chef received the loudest applause. Imagine a barbecue aboard a sailing vessel that presented a whole roasted suckling pig.
Dinner may start with Smoke Trout Aspic or Lobster Cappuccino, served with appropriate fine wines. After the palate is cleansed with Passion Fruit Sorbet, the wait staff, in unison and with panache, removes the individual silver domes from our plates and announce the entrée, “Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Au Jus on Cream Savory Cabbage and Potato Pancake.” Ah, there is no place like “home” – home on the Sea Cloud II that is!
Dessert may be Chocolate Millefeiulle with Mango Sauce or Lemon Tart with Grapefruit Granite.
The Sea Cloud II is an eclectic combination of fine cuisine, rare wines, activities and pampering. It is the ultimate way to get away from it all. Yes, there is e-mail but only if you give out the e-mail address to those you wish. And, yes there are places where the cell phones work but you can turn them off or leave them home.
Sea Cloud II offers unparalleled adventures for both the independent traveler and for group charters. Whether you voyage on the Sea Cloud II as a spirited independent or by participating in one of theme cruises offered by noted museums, universities or corporations you will leave with enough memories to last a lifetime.
Too soon it is time to disembark. The staff wishes us farewell and we think “There is no place like home! There’s no place like home.” And, like all homes, we all yearn to return.
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Images by Sandra Scott