From the bridge of the three-masted windjammer, the Sea Cloud Spirit, the captain known as out the phrases we’d all been ready for.

“Let’s set the sails!” he cried, after turning off the engines, whereas maneuvering to take care of an optimum angle for his 18 deckhands to climb into the shrouds and unfurl the ship’s 44,132 sq. toes of sails by hand.

Like acrobats, the crew scurried up the masts to the higher topgallant sails that rose practically 200 toes above us. The ship’s captain, Vukota Stojanovic, later insisted that none of it was for present. “Each time there is a chance to sail, we sail,” he stated.

For the subsequent hour, the crew hauled the ropes till the 28 sails have been billowing within the wind, propelling the 452-foot-long ship — the world’s largest passenger crusing vessel on which the sails are raised by hand — towards its first port of name, Portofino, Italy.

At a time when cruise traces are packing their ever-more-gargantuan ships with water parks and basketball courts, the 136-passenger Sea Cloud Spirit, with its old style clipper design and wood decks, stands out. It’s the latest ship from the Hamburg-based Sea Cloud Cruises, and whereas it’s the firm’s greatest, Sea Cloud stated it wished to go away area for passengers to connect with the encircling components.

“Wherever you might be on the ship, it appears like you might be sitting on the water,” stated Amelia Dominick, 71, a retired actual property agent from Cologne, Germany, who was on her third cruise onboard the Sea Cloud Spirit.

I had arrived for a four-night “taster crusing” from Good, France, to the Ligurian area of Italy, designed to entice passengers to enroll in an extended cruise. Right here’s what I discovered.

The Spirit has many comforts and luxuries, together with a health middle, library, hair salon and a spa with a Finnish sauna that overlooks the ocean. The deck layouts are spacious, with nooks carved out for privateness and leisure.

Sixty-nine spacious cabins have home windows that open onto the ocean. My room, a junior suite on the third deck, had two giant arched home windows, mahogany tables, a balcony and a cushty sofa and armchair. The marble toilet was lavish, with a gold-plated sink and enormous jetted bathtub.

The elegant inside design is impressed by the unique Sea Cloud, inbuilt 1931 for Marjorie Merriweather Publish, the American heiress of the Common Meals Company, with shiny wood panels and gold trimmings. The Sea Cloud was the biggest non-public crusing yacht on the earth earlier than Publish handed it over to the U.S. Navy to be used as a weather-reporting vessel throughout World Conflict II. The four-mast, 64-passenger ship has since been restored to its former glory and can sail throughout the Aegean and Adriatic this summer time.

The expertise felt genuine — even earlier than the sails have been set — with an in depth security drill. On most cruises, the drill entails a security video and signing in at an meeting level. However right here, passengers placed on their life jackets and walked by way of emergency situations that included rationing meals provides and fishing from the lifeboat.

Every day, the sails have been set, even throughout heavy rain and wind speeds over 30 knots. Company eager to take part within the rigging are often invited to take action, however the climate circumstances made it too dangerous for this crusing.

“It was wonderful to observe the work go into placing the sails up and down and to expertise the wind energy pulling the ship so quick with out the engines,” stated Malte Rahnenfuehrer, a 50-year-old psychologist from Zurich, who was touring together with his accomplice and two youngsters.

It’s uncommon for cruise passengers to see the ship’s captain after the preliminary welcome drinks or gala dinner. However Capt. Vukota Stojanovic was omnipresent all through the cruise, from setting sails to lifeguarding to mingling with friends.

Initially from Montenegro, Captain Stojanovic piloted container ships for years. When he was requested to think about helming the unique Sea Cloud practically 10 years in the past, he hesitated as a result of he had no expertise crusing. Even after he realized the ropes — and there are 340 ropes (often known as operating rigging) on the vessel — he was not sure. “I grew to like the sailings, the boats, the crew the life-style, however I nonetheless felt I belonged on container ships,” he stated. “It might be an enormous adjustment, particularly as a result of I must shave day by day,” he joked.

Finally, he accepted the chance and labored tirelessly to learn to sail and function the ship. Right now, he retains an “open bridge” coverage, permitting passengers to go to the management room, even when he’s wrestling with the wind.

“The crew and the passengers are all a part of the expertise, and I like to fulfill individuals and obtain their suggestions,” Captain Stojanovic stated.

Sea Cloud Cruises aspires to take a “mild” strategy, utilizing wind energy to drive its ships wherever doable, even when which means altering course for optimum climate circumstances. When crusing isn’t doable, the Spirit has two diesel-electric engines that run on low-sulfur marine diesel gasoline. The corporate can also be working with ports which have shore energy capabilities to plug into the native electrical energy.

Onboard, there may be an emphasis on reusable bottles and paper straws, and crew members separate strong waste to be compacted and eliminated when in port.

We made stops in Portofino, San Remo, Italy, and St.-Tropez, France, anchoring offshore and attending to land by tender — a distinction to the massive cruise ships with their loud horns and thick plumes of exhaust spewing from their funnels.

For passengers eager to take a dip (there is no such thing as a pool), the crew marked an space within the water with floats and an inflatable slide. The water was frigid, however many passengers took the plunge from the swimming deck. Company may additionally take “Zodiac Safaris” across the ship to get views of the vessel from the water.

Excursions ranged from meals and wine excursions to e-biking and seashore journeys. In Portofino, passengers have been free to discover the sights independently, together with the Castello Brown Fortress and the lighthouse on Punta del Capo rock. There was ample time to eat meals on shore because the ship didn’t depart till 11 p.m. Over the summer time, the Sea Cloud Spirit will sail to Spain, Portugal, France and the Azores, amongst different locations. On Nov. 11, she is going to depart for St. Maarten within the Caribbean for the winter.

Wherever the vessel goes, stated Mirell Reyes, president of Sea Cloud Cruise for North America, the corporate tries to “keep away from the crowds and ports the place huge cruise ships spit out 6,000 passengers.”

Summer time costs, which embody meals and drinks, vary from $3,995 for a four-night crusing in a superior cabin to $9,420 for a veranda suite. Seven-night sailings value between $6,995 and $16,495.

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