We were greeted by Tom Hook, the cruise director who has been working for Sea Cloud Cruises since 1984. Comprising of two ships, the 64 passenger Sea Cloud and the 94 passenger Sea Cloud II, Sea Cloud Cruises are not your typical cruise company. Both their ships are sailed completely by hand - something that I didn't fully appreciate until I saw the three-masted barque tall ship. With rigging for the 23 sails all in plain view the sense of tradition was immediately clear, along with a certain romance of journeys dictated by the prevailing winds and the adventure that this brings.
Our tour of the ship immediately impressed. The deck areas provide plenty of places to sit and watch the crew at work, and the open bridge policy meant we could join the officers who were hunched over navigational charts. The cabins and suites have a wonderfully ornate and traditional feel, more like a grand hotel than a ship, and the feel of history and tradition is very strong. There's a small library as well as an impressively modern gym and small spa. The main restaurant was light and airy but my personal favourite part of the ship was the Lido Deck, where we spent some time talking to our host to get an idea of the atmosphere on board.
The appeal of a Sea Cloud cruise is clear: for those who have an interest in sailing the cruise line is unmatched. In fact it was mentioned that if the crew of HMS Warrior were placed on board, they'd be able to sail Sea Cloud II without trouble, such is the level of tradition that was adhered to when she was built in 2001. There's no pool or Jacuzzi, as when under sail it would simply not be practical, but a swim platform allows guests to enjoy water sports when at anchor in the Mediterranean or Caribbean, where she spends much of her time. It's small things like this that remind you that this is a sailing yacht and not a cruise ship.
As this is a German owned cruise line, many of those on board are German speakers, but the crew are all bilingual and, as our host explained, the atmosphere is one of camaraderie. Many enjoy a shared interest in sailing, and this, and the size and quirkiness of the ship, make it a sociable environment. Having had a wonderful time on board for just a day it's easy to see how unforgettable the experience would be if you were on board for longer.