An update on new tall-ship options

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For agents with clients who are looking for an alternative to the megaship experience, there is no shortage of small-ship choices.

But to be really radical, why not look at ships that are not only small but wind-powered, too?

There are two lines, Star Clippers and Sea Cloud Cruises, where guests feel the thrill of watching sails set by hand and listen to nothing but the breeze while underway. Both are in the process of building new ships.

(Windstar is another tall-ship line, but it sets its sails mechanically and also can operate under engine power.)

But while Star Clippers’ new Flying Clipper seems hung up for the time being in a shipyard dispute, Sea Cloud’s newbuild, the Sea Cloud Spirit, is on schedule to be delivered at the end of August.

That’s according to Sea Cloud CEO Daniel Schaefer. In an interview, Schaefer said the 136-passenger ship has recently been floated out and interior work is proceeding. He said the yard on its current pace will deliver the ship a bit ahead of when Sea Cloud actually needs it to make its schedule.

Building a new ship isn’t as routine for Sea Cloud as for the big lines, which crank them out every year. Its last ship, the Sea Cloud II, was delivered in 2001. The flagship Sea Cloud was built as a yacht in 1931 and converted to cruise use in 1979.

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The designs have been evolving more towards cruise ships, away from the yacht-like attributes of the original ship, Schaefer said. The Sea Cloud Spirit will have 25 balcony cabins, for example, a first for a sailing ship. It will also have an elevator, another first.

Dining tables will be round, rather than the long, rectangular ones on the Sea Cloud, he said. There will be a larger wellness area, a sauna and a second, more casual restaurant.

A third ship should really increase Sea Cloud’s availability for FIT passengers. Currently up to 50% of Sea Cloud’s capacity is devoted to charters. The Spirit will be chartered, too, but overall there should be more opportunities and itineraries for individual passengers.

In Europe, Sea Cloud will no longer have to shuttle one of its two ships back and forth between the Med and the Baltic, the line’s second most popular summer region.  It will be able to keep two ships full time in the Med, he said, and still offer Baltic itineraries with the third.