Probably the most uncommon new cruise ship of the last decade: Why Sea Cloud Spirit is a vessel you will need to strive

It’d simply be essentially the most spectacular present in all of cruising.

Standing on the teak-lined prime deck of Sea Cloud Spirit, the wonderful new crusing ship from Sea Cloud Cruises, I’m watching 18 sure-footed deckhands scurrying about excessive within the rigging to unfurl the sails — or sheets, as they prefer to say on vessels like this.

From my perch, the crew members appear like frenzied ants bumping round a lately disturbed anthill. Wherever you look throughout the vessel’s three huge masts, which rise practically 200 toes within the air, and the large “yards” that cross them at common intervals, at the very least one in all these little jumbles of legs and arms is untying sails and throwing them into the right place to unfurl.

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It would not take these deckhands lengthy to organize all 16 of the large items of fabric up above — one on every yard — and shortly they’re bounding again right down to the ship’s prime deck for the second half of the present: the (winch-assisted) heaving of the ropes that absolutely unfurl the sails.

It’s only then that the large vessel — 5 decks excessive and 453 toes lengthy — begins to catch the wind and speed up ahead. Name it the present’s epilogue. We at the moment are underway, propelled by the ability of the wind alone.

Even for a seen-it-all cruise author like me, it’s an exhilarating expertise — and a uncommon one.

Deckhands climb excessive into the rigging of Sea Cloud Spirit to unfurl its sails. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Within the (small) world of huge crusing ships that may be booked for multiday cruises, solely a handful of vessels have sails which can be nonetheless set by hand on this method — the old school method, prefer it was achieved centuries in the past.

Most massive crusing ships that provide multiday voyages, equivalent to these operated by Windstar Cruises, have automated sails.

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It’s rarer nonetheless {that a} vessel like this may be constructed new, with all the newest creature comforts, as Sea Cloud Spirit was over the previous 15 years throughout an on-again, off-again mission to craft one of many largest, most elegant passenger crusing ships ever.

That is on the coronary heart of what makes Sea Cloud Spirit particular. It’s an old-style tall ship that, above all, gives an genuine crusing expertise. However as I noticed lately on an 11-night voyage down the coast of Costa Rica and Panama, it is also a contemporary and upscale cruise vessel that can whisk you round such sailing-friendly locations because the Caribbean in type.

Listed below are extra of my first impressions of Sea Cloud Spirit, which is simply beginning to attract consideration within the North American market after a quiet launch to principally Germans in 2021.

It is an old-style windjammer with trendy rooms

Name it essentially the most uncommon new cruise vessel of the last decade — if not longer. Carrying simply 136 passengers, Sea Cloud Spirit is a full-rigged, three-masted crusing ship of the type that hasn’t been frequent on the world’s oceans for greater than a century. Nonetheless, it is no relic of the golden age of sail. Whereas it is modeled on traditional crusing ships of outdated, it was constructed with the entire trendy comforts that you’d anticipate on a brand new cruise vessel, together with elegant and amenity-filled cabins.

Geared toward an upscale traveler, Sea Cloud Spirit’s lodging are notably roomy for a crusing vessel, with most measuring greater than 200 sq. toes and plenty of boasting spacious balconies —a rarity for even the most important passenger crusing ships.

Cabins on Sea Cloud Spirit are upscale and spacious. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

All 25 cabins on the Panorama Deck (Deck 3), billed as junior suites and suites, have such balconies, permitting passengers to step out into the recent ocean air throughout lengthy sails between locations. That is roughly 36% of the 67 cabins on the vessel.

The remaining 42 cabins — most situated one deck down on the Cabin Deck (Deck 2), with a number of on the upper Lido Deck (Deck 4) — all have home windows to the surface. In an unusual-for-a-cruise-vessel twist, the home windows of the Lido Deck cabins may be opened for a breeze.

All of the cabins are effectively appointed with such trendy facilities as televisions with on-demand motion pictures obtainable at no additional cost, miniature fridges stocked with soda, private safes and a welcome bottle of Champagne. On the draw back, space for storing is considerably restricted, with comparatively tight built-in closets with oddly small slide-out drawers.

All characteristic decor that pulls its inspiration from the Thirties design of Sea Cloud Cruises’ unique vessel Sea Cloud — as soon as the non-public yacht for Postum Cereals heiress Marjorie Merriweather Submit (and, at one time, the most important non-public yacht on the earth). Assume classical motifs, white-on-white ornamental wall paneling and shiplap ceilings, and bogs with a number of marble, brass and gold. (In junior suites, the kind of cabin I had, the bogs boast deep whirlpool bathtubs and Villeroy & Boch fittings.)

The eating is upscale (if restricted)

Onerous and tasteless sea biscuits, salted meats and pickled greens may need been the staples of crusing ships of outdated, however that is undoubtedly not the case on Sea Cloud Spirit. The ship gives a nice eating expertise in its most important eatery, the Restaurant, that mixes elegantly plated traditional continental delicacies equivalent to beef Rossini with domestically impressed dishes equivalent to a pan-seared fillet of grouper floating on a Caribbean-style salsa.

Sufficiently big to serve all 136 passengers on the ship directly, the Restaurant has a traditional really feel to match its continental delicacies. It sports activities massive arched home windows that bathe the room in mild, crisp white tablecloths, German-made china embossed with a gold line drawing of the ship, and work of crusing ships on its partitions.

The Restaurant on Sea Cloud Spirit. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Situated behind the vessel on the Panorama Deck, the Restaurant is, alas, one in all few eating choices on Sea Cloud Spirit, and it gives a restricted menu at dinnertime. Every evening, the menu options only a single starter, a single soup, a selection of three most important programs and a single dessert (that may be substituted with a world cheese plate). Plus, sorbet is all the time served in between the soup and most important programs.

Another possibility on some nights is a extra informal dinner on the open-air “bistro” — a coated seating space with teak furnishings and 270-degree views behind the ship. Its menu additionally is restricted to just some decisions, and so they usually overlap with what is obtainable on the Restaurant one deck under.

The bistro area, which is backed by a bar, additionally serves because the ship’s most important outside lounge area through the day and morphs right into a consuming spot at evening (full with a DJ spinning tunes). On some nights, there’s even dancing.

The only possibility for lunch usually is a buffet served on the outside bistro, with breakfast served as a buffet within the Restaurant. On some nights, dinner can also be a buffet served on the outside bistro, with no meal served within the Restaurant.

What you will not discover on Sea Cloud Spirit is the form of informal decktop grill that you just discover on some ships the place you may seize a fast burger in between lounges on the Lido Deck. And there isn’t any room service provided on board for many who need to swap one of many very-drawn-out meals in the principle restaurant for an early evening to mattress.

That is, little question, partly because of the small dimension of the vessel and ensuing limits on the variety of kitchen and wait employees members that it might probably carry. Even with the restricted menus and eating choices, the eating employees typically seems stretched too skinny.

Nonetheless, what the kitchen is ready to accomplish with its restricted sources is spectacular. Dinner buffets on the bistro typically characteristic cooks grilling recent native fish both purchased the identical day from native fishers or caught off the again of the vessel whereas it’s underway (one thing I’ve by no means seen achieved on every other vessel in practically 30 years of writing about cruising). Filet mignon, lobster and different high-end fare cooked in entrance of passengers on deck can also be frequent.

Sea Cloud has additionally begun internet hosting well-known U.S. cooks on some sailings to steer cooking demonstrations and lectures through the day and create particular dishes for dinners at evening. On my crusing, famend South Florida chef Cindy Hutson and associate Delius Shirley, who’ve had eating places in Florida and Jamaica, had been on board. Sea Cloud lately introduced that chef Michael Collantes of Winter Park, Florida’s Michelin-starred Soseki could be crusing on a voyage in October.

It is principally all-inclusive

Sea Cloud Spirit’s itineraries aren’t cheap. Ten-night Costa Rica and Panama voyages scheduled for 2025, much like the one I skilled, begin at $9,530 per individual — or practically $1,000 per individual, per day. High cabins on the vessel for such voyages value as a lot as $23,090 per individual.

However as is typical for cruise strains on the excessive finish, Sea Cloud Cruises features a lot in its base value. Along with a room and all meals, the fares wrap in the price of gratuities, a complimentary minibar in cabins stocked with sodas, and nice wines and different alcoholic drinks obtainable from the ship’s eateries and bar across the clock. These prices can actually drive up the full value of a cruise trip on many different strains.

The open-air bar on Sea Cloud Spirit. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

As well as, all passengers get 1 gigabyte of speedy Starlink Web entry free of charge on each voyage. (If that is not sufficient to final your complete crusing, you should buy extra at a charge of 20 euros for five gigabytes or 35 euros for 10 gigabytes.) Plus, these staying in higher-level cabins get free laundry service all through their cruise, a notable perk.

One other free perk on the ship is entry to its small spa’s thermal space— an additional cost on many ships. It is residence to a Finnish sauna, steam room, foot bathtub, showers and a leisure room.

Some vacation spot actions are additionally included within the fare. On my crusing, for example, guided snorkeling outings with a naturalist off the seashore throughout stops at Panama’s Coiba Nationwide Park and Pearl Islands had been obtainable at no additional cost. So was a go to with the indigenous Kuna folks of the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.

The handful of issues that value additional throughout a Sea Cloud Spirit crusing embrace extra-charge shore excursions provided throughout visits to some locations (on my crusing, there have been extra-charge excursions throughout three stops) and coverings within the ship’s small spa.

It is magical — and romantic

Beautiful rooms, pretty meals, inclusive pricing — these are all issues that you’re going to discover on nearly any higher-end cruise ship. However what you will not get on nearly every other vessel is the sensation of sheer awe that you just get spending a day underneath sail on Sea Cloud Spirit.

It’s, fairly merely, one thing magical — and romantic — to be propelled by way of the ocean on a vessel the scale of Sea Cloud Spirit by nothing greater than the ability of the wind.


It harks again to a bygone period earlier than the arrival of recent motor vessels, when crossing the world’s oceans was as adventurous because it was arduous.

It is an expertise that is all concerning the feeling of the wind in your hair, the lean of the vessel (generally known as the heel) because it’s pushed by the wind and the sway from the waves, which is smoother than what you get on a motor ship.

It is about wanting up on the huge sails swollen with the wind from the vantage level of a lounge chair and occupied with how far people have are available just some centuries — for higher or worse.

It is about occupied with our collective historical past and the private tales of our household histories.

Strolling round Sea Cloud Spirit’s graciously curved prime deck, with its seemingly infinite arrays of coiled ropes and winches and different gear wanted to function an enormous tall ship, I could not assist however consider my poor Scot-Irish ancestors putting off from Belfast and Londonderry to the Americas within the 1700s, setting off on crusing ship journeys that may take eight weeks in some instances.

Sea Cloud Spirit is enchanting for a lot of causes, together with its sheer magnificence. Slim and modern, as crusing ships all the time are, it is a sight to behold from the water when all 28 of its sails are unfurled and trimmed for optimum velocity — one thing passengers can expertise firsthand throughout a “picture safari” off the ship in rubber Zodiac boats.

When the sunshine catches the ship’s sails excellent, it’s pure majesty.

All that stated, in case you’re the form of cruiser who would not suppose a ship is full if it is not loaded with amusements, Sea Cloud Spirit might be not the vessel for you. Aside from the present of the sails being put up, it gives no onboard reveals, simply lectures by the ship’s employees and visitor audio system concerning the locations the ship is visiting and the ship itself. Its prime deck would not also have a pool.

In distinction to what you will discover on many new cruise ships, the expertise is not about being amused whereas carving your method throughout the ocean. It is concerning the easy thrill of touring throughout the ocean.

In case you’re an American, you is perhaps within the minority

Sea Cloud Cruises is a Germany-based firm, with an enormous following there, and because of this, its sailings are sometimes dominated by German-speaking passengers.

Whereas the corporate markets internationally, and its onboard program is bilingual (the comparatively uncommon variety of bulletins on board are made in each German and English, and a lot of the employees speaks each languages), sure sailings can have only a few English audio system on board. On my crusing, solely a couple of dozen of 104 passengers on board had been English audio system, for example.

As well as, you will discover that pricing for extra-charge gadgets on the ship, equivalent to spa therapies, is in euros. The plugs on board the vessel are all European type (although you can see a few USB ports to cost your telephones in each room).

Sea Cloud Cruises has been making a significant effort in latest months to attract extra vacationers from the North American market, so anticipate to see this ratio of English audio system to German audio system develop. However, for now, a cruise on the vessel generally has the texture of a keep on the form of smaller resorts in Germany that principally cater to locals.

When passing somebody in a corridor, whether or not passenger or crew, you are extra prone to be greeted with a “guten morgen” or “guten tag” than a “good morning” or “good day” — at the very least till they determine that you just’re one of many few Individuals on board.

Backside line

Different genuine crusing ships provide multiday journeys for vacationers — together with the 2 different vessels within the Sea Cloud Cruises fleet (Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II). However none are as massive or awe-inspiring as the brand new Sea Cloud Spirit.

If it is an genuine crusing ship expertise you are after, on a big vessel of the type that after was frequent on the world’s oceans, a voyage on Sea Cloud Spirit can be onerous to beat.

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