The Beauty of the Royal Clipper and the Adriatic

Royal Clipper Visit August 16th 2015

With so many modern cruise ship experiences on offer these days, why would you turn back the clock and aim to produce a 21st century version of a vessel that Thomas Cook would recognize or take the lead from that famous BBC serial “The Onedin Line”? At Star Clippers, the desire is to be able to offer the romance of sailing to guests who may never have experienced it or those that know only too well what a feeling it has and are happy to be able to enjoy it without the need to cook or man the rigging!

Royal ClipperWe joined the Royal Clipper whilst it was visiting Kotor on its voyage from Venice and back to Rome via the highlights of the Adriatic. We took the tender from the quay and took around 5 minutes to return to the ship. The 220 maximum guests that the ship holds enjoy being able to get closer to the best sights that’s for sure. The entrance to Kotor harbour is right next to the old town. In Dubrovnik, the Royal Clipper was the only ship which could be seen from the historic unesco awarded old town due to its smaller size. With a draught of only 5.3m, guests can tender straight into the medieval icon. The MSC clients were over 45 minutes away and then had to take a shuttle bus. Unlucky! Old world beats modern.

Royal Clipper Masts

With 5 masts and 42 sails it has the Guinness world record for the worlds largest sailing ship. The certificate is on the wall. Within the body of the ship are nooks and crannies designed for the care free life at sea. A library with Chesterfield leather sofas and port holes and a table with incomplete jigsaws. The main bar is open on both sides with the breeze blowing through in the most refreshing way. So much so, an area of smoking is allowed. The dark wood and open area is where the evenings low key entertainment takes place. Resident pianist Emile Pandolfi plays in the piano bar which has classically styled chairs and brass. A lovely place to have an after dinner drink.

Michelin Star Dining Experience onboard the Royal Clipper

Go down a level again and you will enter the restaurant which serves buffet breakfast and lunch. And then in the evening there is the 3 star Michelin inspired formal dining experience from consultant chef Jean Marie Meulien which included Veal Parmigiana, creamy snail soup and wild mushroom risotto with sautéed chicken liver. The recommended bottles of wine are Mouton Cadet and Marlborough Valley are offered for €25 and €30, a reasonable price. Dinner starts from 7.30 and continues to around 9pm. Free seating is used and if the ship isn’t full then tables of 2 can be accommodated. But the idea is to intermingle and the various nationalities do usually encompass American, Australian, British, Italian, German. With the bar hours, then it is open all day and dependent on the nationalities on board stays open to around midnight or 1am most nights. People are relaxed and enjoying their sailing experience and drinks are purchased on a drink by drink basis or on a package.

The cabins on the ship are cosy unless you are in the owners suites but fit the feel of the ship. Category 1 features doors opening onto an outside deck area and the deluxe suites offer a veranda area, all cabins of this type are on the main deck, the next deck down below the sun deck.

Royal Clipper Cabin Image

For those that like the trappings of cruise life there is an adorable spa which is below water level, called captain nemo’s spa. And there are a few unique treats such as the full marbled hamam which is free to use. And a massage which involves tiger-striped clams from the Philippines which are then sanded and polished and warmed to be used in in either a full full Philippine Spa Ritual at 2 hrs 15 or a massage only.

The sun (upper) deck is however the place to know that you have come to the right holiday for you. The 5 masts and rigging tower over the beautiful vessel and the opportunity is there for every guest to host a sail at least once on a cruise. The lone is also there to be able to climb to the lower level on a mast and higher for those that can stand the height. For any guest that really wants to learn aboUt sailing the crew will put them to work and each cruise has at least one day at sea so who could resist.

Lunch on the Royal Clipper

So, moving along the deck there are 3 pools for relaxing and many shady and non shady areas for sun loungers. There are advantage points for feeling you are off the side of the ship and great for photo opportunities as well as more nooks and crannies in which to hide. This is not a ship for small children due to ropes and metal and all the trappings of a working vessel.

However, I would recommend it as an adventure on the high seas for teenagers and twenty something’s. Climbing the masts and sun bathing in the rigging is pretty cool. And water sports take place off the back of the ship so kayaking and snorkelling opportunities are plentiful and the joy of jumping in from height. There are no kids clubs or much of an Internet connection but the crew perform a show each sailing which guests are able to join.

Watersports on Star Clipper

A Perfect Holiday for Teenagers on the Royal Clipper

Perhaps a young guitarist could be encouraged or a singer, dancer or actor to join in the fun. Let them discover their inner selves through inventiveness and then post that on facebook. Who wouldn’t envy them their life as a pirate? Find them a voyage during school holidays with other teenagers on and new friends can be discovered as well as new places. Is there really a teenager who will turn down a sailing holiday to the Caribbean even if it is with mum and dad? And for 2017 they are returning to Thailand and Indonesia. And Grandma and Grandad you will feel at home too. With short tenders to port on the days you would like to explore and shady areas to hide on board when you just fancy feeling the breeze with a book in hand whilst the family explore, or hold regular nautical conversations with the crew. A stroll on deck to help the sumptuous six course dinner settle and then to Finish the day with star gazing from the bridge for all generations in an uninterrupted clear night sky and there is a holiday for all generations on board the Royal Clipper’s bygone romantic era of sail.

Star Clipper voyages are available all year round covering Europe, the Caribbean and the Far East. To watch a little video about the Star Clippers and learn more click here:

Simeon & Alex on Royal Clipper

Alex & Simeon

Luftner – MS Amadeus Provence River Ship Review

The MS Amadeus Provence the newest ship in the Luftner fleet launched this year, in April 2017.  Sailing the Rhône and Saône rivers in Southern France, as well as selling this ship directly through our relationship with Amadeus, other operators such as “Great Rail Journeys” and “Saga” are also using the ship for the UK market.  View our latest offers here.

Here is our review of this 5 star  luxury ship. MS Amadeus Provence

The unparalleled natural beauty of the South of France in the peak summer season has always had immense appeal and this holiday takes you on a fascinating journey to the sun drenched vineyards, ancient cities and tranquil villages of France’s fabled wine country.

This delightful cruise takes you on a seven-night voyage on the Saône and Rhône Rivers, meandering past the vineyards of Burgundy and the lavender-scented hills of Provence.

What is the MS Amadeus Provence like?

A modern ship taking a maximum of 140 passengers in 62 staterooms 172-188 sq.ft  and 8 suites (284 sq.ft). It is slightly smaller than the Silver II or III in the Amadeus fleet, but no less luxurious and comfortable.  Fine dining using fresh local ingredients, allows you to choose between classical haute cusine, regional dishes or the vegetarian alternative.  Included with lunch and dinner are a selection of quality wines, beer and soft drinks, along with a 24 hour tea and coffee station.  In the afternoon a selection of cakes and pastries are available.

Amadeus Provence


But don’t take our word for it , here is the latest review one of our returning customer’s have just left for Amadeus Provence:

Customer review of the MS Amadeus Provence

“The Amadeus Provence is beautiful and the newest ship in the Luftner Fleet launched this in April 2017. 

Slightly fewer passengers and a little smaller than the Silver II and Silver III, but never felt crowded.  The nice addition is the small infinity pool (only large enough to stand in, not swim) with a couple of loungers, settee along one side and a few tables and chairs in front of a small bar which is open in Summer (but closed in October when we were on board) is a lovely peaceful place to sit at the back of the ship and relax.

The sun deck and the river terrace at the front is also available to enjoy the views and fresh air.  Then the Amadeus Club inside which tends to be a quiet spot.  24/7 tea and coffee is available there together with a small library and board games. 

The Luxurious Suites of which we believe there are 8, are the same size as on the Silver II or III are very comfortable with high quality fittings and toiletries.  The only disappointment is the narrow balcony (same as the Silver II and III) with only one backless chair to sit on and no room for a table, – however it was adequate for our needs. 

The crew was happy, hard working and nothing was too much trouble for their passengers.  We had met some of the crew and Hotel and Restaurant Managers on previous trips on the Silver II and III, Felt like coming home ! 

The food was as always, excellent too. 

This was the last cruise before the Christmas season starts and the crew are ready for a well earned break once the ship has been closed down. 

The actual cruise from Lyon north wards and then south to Avignon was very enjoyable.  A lot of cruising is done overnight, but this is not the Rhine, and there is little to see other than the odd bird and local village, so we didn’t miss much.  As usual, the excursions were expensive.  It was a nice touch from the Tour Director Andreea- Who was excellent- to enclose a detailed sheet along with the Daily Programe advising what to see, and how to see it, if you wanted to explore ports of call on your own , rather than trailing along with loads of other people. 

Visit the Photographic Museum in Charlons Sur Saone and then have a delightful walking tour,  visit the tourist office for a walking map and follow the brass triangles in the pavements so your don’t miss anything.  Lovely place to walk around. 

The center of Avignon is quite a walk from where we were docked, but we found parked outside the ship a golf buggy offering tours of the city for 25 euro.  We jumped on (only room for 2) and enjoyed a 2 hour guided tour in french.  fabulous and a boo for my husband who is disabled.  there is also a little “Train” which carried about 20-30 people, which you can reach by taxi and does a similar tour.  But be prepared for the Mistral winds – it was 40km and hour strong during our buggy ride and quiet chilly.  So all in all, it was a great trip.  Our private taxis and transfers worked a treat and worth every penny.   

The next ship, the Amadeus Queen launches next year.  We will be keeping an eye open for a possible cruise on her next year.”

Mrs & Mrs M – Traveled in October 2017 on Amadeus Provence

Sun deck on Amadeus Provence

Fancy experiencing the same cruise on the Amadeus Provence, Treasures of Burgundy & Provence, sailing from March to October and with prices starting at just £840pp cruise only,  you can choose to fly to Lyon or why not take the scenic route by train from London St Pancras to Lyon (approx 5 hrs).  A beautiful ship which also offers the ability to combine the journey with round trip return rail from the UK to Lyon.  Call us for a quote.

Or if like Mr & Mrs M you fancy trying the new ship Amadeus Queen,  it will tour the Danube, Rhine and Main rivers as well as Dutch and Belgian waterways from spring 2018.

Coming soon, the MS Amadeus Queen

This new vessel follows the award-winning model of the AMADEUS Silver ships. The  spaciousness has been maintained, with generous public areas but also spacious cabins: 12 large suites impress with an outdoor balcony and a cozy reading corner whilst the 69 standard cabins mainly have panoramic window fronts which can be automatically lowered and luxurious bathrooms. A new highlight is the indoor pool, the roof of which can be opened in fine weather. In the evenings, this area may also be used for informative talks, functions and cinema showings.



Tulip River Cruising In The Netherlands

The waterways of The Netherlands are ideal for a river cruise especially in springtime to see the stunning Tulip and Bulb fields in full bloom.  Ranging from a 4 night mini cruise to a luxury 10 day voyage.

One of our favourites  is with Amadeus onboard the beautiful Silver III – their brand new flag ship ( see a little preview of this amazing ship in the video below).

I also learnt that “Holland” is the name of only two provinces – North Holland and South Holland, so strictly speaking isn’t correct.  The country is called The Netherlands.

Watch our little video to appreciate what a springtime tulip river cruise in The Netherlands is like and then ring us as we still have some availability on 0800 471 4754.

Continue reading

Introduction to No Fly River Cruises in France By Rail

This week’s blog post is an introduction to the reality of doing a French river cruise without having to set foot in an airport.  In the UK, our rail system is poor apart from routes leading directly into London.  But once at St Pancras for the Eurostar, then the European mainland is waiting.  So, our introduction to no fly river cruises in France focuses on the quickest rail options available to our customers and explains where rail with a French river cruise works well and where it becomes more complicated.

Paris on a Seine river cruise

Paris No Fly River Cruises

By far the easiest river cruise to attempt by rail from the UK to France is a Seine river cruise. This will be a cruise that will start and usually end in Paris as well.  There are lots of trains from London to Paris daily.  Or you could even do Ebsfleet or Ashford in Kent.  You will be provided with the docking location of the ship, so you could then either take a taxi or the metro, or a transfer may be included by your cruiseline.

If you are travelling more widely in France, then the french regional trains and the high speed TGV will easily bring you to one of the Paris terminals.

Exact timetables for Eurostar and TGV are not available until 3 months before departure.  Savings are available for senior citizens.  If you’d prefer not to navigate the complexities of the Eurostar or French operator SNCF timetables, then we are here to help.

Examples of operators who run Seine cruises from Paris and back into Paris from May – October are: Riviera, Avalon, Amadeus, Amawaterways and Uniworld.

Bordeaux No Fly River Cruises

River cruises along the Garonne river start and end in Bordeaux.  This makes train travel a possibility but will be less straightforward than Paris.  If you are travelling by Eurostar, then you will have to cross Paris to Gare de Montparnasse to catch a train going Southwest on the TGV.  The good news is that the TGV also offers discounted rates for senior citizens and the prices are very good.  It is best to leave yourself plenty of time to make the change.  The journey takes between 2 hours and 2 hours 15 minutes.  It is then a short journey from Bordeaux St Jean station to the boat. If you were to become later than planned, then it is best to check that you are booked on a cruise where they ship doesn’t leave on arrival day.  That way, you won’t be left behind.

Examples of operators who run Garonne cruises from Bordeuax and back Bordeaux from May – October are: Avalon, Amawaterways, Viking and Uniworld.

South of France No Fly River Cruises

When we talk about river cruises in the South of France, we primarily mean cruises along the Rhone and Saone rivers.  These cruises run through Burgundy, Provence and down to Avignon. These cruises work really well with Eurostar and TGV as there is now no need to change stations in Paris.  Various options can be looked at, including a direct train to Marseilles, which runs on certain days.

MS Amadeus Provence Sun Deck

MS Amadeus Provence Sun Deck

Our favourite way of doing a river cruise through this region is catching the direct train to Lyon from St Pancreas and returning the same.  The MS Amadeus Provence, does a 7 night round trip from Lyon, to specifically take advantage of the shorter train journey.  The average journey time from London to Lyon is about 5 hours 30 minutes.

Or, other operators start or end in the south , so would use the train from Marseille. Again, with the direct link to either Paris or London, it makes the journey very easy.  The average journey time for this longer train journey is 6 hours 30 minutes.  We do recommend doing the longer journey at the start of your holiday, if at all possible.


Ocean Cruise versus River Cruise. What’s the difference?

River Cruise or Ocean Cruise what’s the difference? Plenty.  River is a more like a land tour than an Ocean cruise experience.

A few of the big differences are the facilities.  The mega ocean ships offer facitilies like swimming pools, multiple restaurants, bars and lounges and the endless activities on board every day.  Whilst the river ships do offer some of these, they are on a much smaller scale.

And you won’t have any ‘Sea Days’ on the river.  You will have some day time cruising but this is part of the charm – to sail quietly down the river watching the scenery drift past.

Best of all, river cruises generally include shore excursions along with many other extras unlike on the ocean cruise ships.

Although some ocean ships are now offering drinks packages these are an extra expense.  Most river ships will include wine, beer and soft drinks with meals, 24 hour tea and coffee, free Wifi.   So, with fewer on board expenses to add to your bill even though the original fare may be slightly higher to start with a lot more is included.  So no more large on board bills to settle at the end of your holiday.

River Cruise Ship

Ocean Ship

You will see land all the times on a River cruise and are in port daily.  Most stops are right in the heart of the town, you can literally stroll off the ship and you’ll be there.  No more docking in the less salubrious industrial ports full of tankers and working ships, waiting for your bus into town.  And on your return, then queuing again to get back on board at the end of the day.

River itineraries are a lot more port intensive, you could be visiting a different destination every day, sometimes two in a day as travelling between stops is not a great distance.

Carrying 200 passengers or fewer  European river ships are smaller than their ocean going counterparts which can carry up to 7000 passengers!, River ships are a lot more intimate, the atmosphere very sociable, no long queues for the restaurants, or waiting to get on and off.  Just imagine it to be a small luxury floating hotel.

Cabins can be slightly smaller than the large ocean suites, but still beautifully decorated and very comfortable, all with a window or balcony, and you will not find any inside cabins on a river ship.

Viking Sun Deluxe cabin, Ocean cruise

MS Lord Byron Deluxe Suite

MS Lord Byron Deluxe Suite, River cruise

The passengers on ocean cruise liners often range from the budget conscious, sun seeking cheap getaway last-minute booker, often sell off the cheaper cabins this way, to upscale guests looking for the sophisticated ambiance cruising can offer.

River ships offer something to both past ocean cruisers  who want to experience something different but still want a holiday afloat, and travelers who would never consider an ocean cruise but like culture and quality accommodation.  You also won’t ever find a cheap last minutes get away on a river cruise.  With so few cabins, the most popular ones sell fast.

And finally no need to pack your cases the night before the end of your cruise on the river and having to leave it the corridor outside your cabin you can just finish packing the day you leave.  And if your onward travel isn’t until later, continue to enjoy the facilities and leave at your leisure.

So, I hope that this blog post has moved you closer to knowing whether a river cruise is for you.  Each river offers something different as does each cruise operator.  As a specialist in our field.  We look forward to making river cruising work for you.