I hope my video gives an accurate impression of what it is like sailing on board Sea Cloud II, but I also wanted to share notes on some of the practicalities that are harder to get across…
Small IS beautiful but…
Sea Cloud II is most definitely a small ship. She has 47 cabins and carries up to 94 passengers with 65 crew. The levels of service are very high – the crew are super friendly and have a magic ability to learn everyone names in just a few days (ok so maybe its not magic, they also have a guest list with photos from your ID card to refer to!). But small does also mean that the facilities are obviously limited – there is one lounge (with bar), one indoor restaurant and one outdoor bar/dining/entertainment area. When everyone is gathered in one area, particularly the indoor restaurant, the noise levels are high.
There is also a small gym and small Spa (treatments are expensive) There is plenty of deck space – note its all teak and does get slippy if its been raining. We never once struggled to find somewhere to sit in either sun or shade. Personally, I liked the area behind the bridge which had a big mattress area for sunbathing. I didn’t find the wooden lounger chairs particularly comfortable – a cushion upgrade is overdue.
There is also a small library with an iMac for public use. Personal WiFi packages are available. I bought the 1GB access for 35 Euros and didn’t use it all in two weeks but largely because the WiFi is very slow and frustrating. Its probably better to take a digital detox whilst on board and update using free WiFi ashore.
What if I don’t like the food?
You will! Its really very good indeed and there is plenty of choice including:
A lavish buffet breakfast – the hot choices are standard but there is an egg station and a wonderful variety of fruit, cereals, yoghurts, fish, meats, cheese, bread and pastries. The coffee is decent too.
Lunch, weather permitting, is served on deck and will generally be barbecued meat or fish with a wide selection of salads and vegetables plus fruit, cheese, desert. If it is served in the restaurant the barbecue element is replaced by a speciality dish.
Afternoon tea – a selection of cakes, homemade biscuits and open sandwiches or savoury items
Dinners are either buffet style on deck or a la carte in the restaurant. The latter gives head Chef Daniel Gohler a chance to shine – he loves his foam does Daniel! The portions are small (which is a good thing as there are 4 or 5 of them) and the choices are limited but the quality of ingredients and presentation is outstanding. (Alternative diets can be catered for with notice)
Comfort is king
The cabins are especially impressive for a ship of this size. They are more spacious than you might imagine, especially the bathrooms. Furnishings, like everywhere on the ship, echo the traditional style but are high quality and immaculately maintained. The beds are very comfy. Plenty of electricity sockets (european), wardrobe space, Occitaine toiletries, nice towels, decent shower, powerful hairdryer etc etc. For filming purposes, I saw a selection of cabin types – all slightly different in decor and size. Deck 2 cabins have portholes and showers whilst Deck 3 have windows and a bath/shower. NB they have blinds of course but Deck 3 is the Promenade Deck so people will be walking past!
The two Owners Suites on the Lido deck have a bit more privacy and are marginally bigger with a canopy bed and a separate bath and shower. Deck 3 and the Owners Suites have the ‘show off’ factor of a fireplace with imitation fire – not a prerequisite on a Caribbean cruise but… a talking point 😉
In terms of minimising motion – mid ship is always best but they are always the cabins to sell first so book early if you are not a confident sailor.
What to pack
Sea Cloud II could justifiably be described as a 5 star experience but it is far from being stuffy or pretentious. That is reflected in the on board style which is relaxed and casual – people dress accordingly. I wished I had thought more about the practicalities of being on windy, and sometimes, wet decks. Floaty cover ups flap about – a lot! Non slip and ideally waterproof shoes are best both on deck but also especially when going ashore by zodiac or tender. I did wear flip flops quite a bit but they are risky! Take your cue from the crew – fitted clothes like shorts, T shirts and deck shoes are kind of ideal.
In the evenings, people did smarten up – shorts are not allowed in the inside restaurant – but certainly no ties or tiaras required. The Captain’s Welcome and Farewell dinners are the only ‘semi-formal’ events – most (but certainly not all) men wore a jacket and tie, some went all out with ‘Black Tie’ but amongst the ladies, a decent frock was the order of the day – preferably one that works with flat sandals.
Given the size of the ship, Sea Cloud II offers the huge of advantage of being able to access smaller ports. Wherever possible she will go alongside but on our cruise that only happened twice. The rest of the time we went ashore usually by tender a.k.a the ship’s two lifeboats. They try to make them as comfortable as possible with cushions and towels on the seats but they are basically floating cans. That said, we were always at anchor in the bay so ship to shore was no more than 5/10 minutes.
Much more fun is going ashore by zodiacs – inflatable rubber dinghies – these get used whenever there is no dock, and usually for beach landings. The zodiacs carry a dozen or so passengers at a time, zipping across the water at speed and depositing you right on the shoreline – be prepared for a wet landing.
Sail away, sail away
The huge draw of this ship is that she is a genuine sailing ship. Watching the 2700 square metres of sails being set is utterly mesmerising the first, second, possibly even the third time and then… it becomes normal – still wondrous but you probably won’t watch every time!
Sea Cloud II is about the same size as Nelson’s Victory – connecting with the series of lectures about the Golden Age of the Royal Navy made for an enlightening experience that gave a real sense of the history.
The flip side of the nostalgia and the glamour is that she IS a sailing ship, she does not have stabilisers and she does move about in line with the swell of ocean and the winds. With the sails up, the effect of the motion is slightly reduced. We were unlucky with the weather for peak season Caribbean – we had some rain and it was exceptionally windy for much of the two weeks we were on board. I can’t lie, some days more than a few people, including seasoned sailors, were seasick.
Owned by Sea Cloud Cruises (based in Germany), most of the year the ship is sold primarily in the German and US markets but in recent years UK based small ship specialists, Noble Caledonia have been running selected charter sailings, finding that she is well suited to their more mature clientele who love the small ship experience with a more educational bent.
Upcoming Noble Caledonia chartered sailings include a Round Britain cruise in late July 2018, Panama and Costa Rica in January 2019 and 3 West Indies sailings in February and March 2019
For more details visit www.noble-caledonia.co.uk