THE SEDUCTION OF LUXURY SAIL CRUISING WITH SEACLOUD
Hearts in our mouth, we watch transfixed as an aerial ballet takes place in the rigging high above our heads, approximately the height of a 20-storey building. It’s not unlike a performance by the extraordinary artistes of Cirque du Soleil. But this is no circus BigTop, nor ritzy arena in Las Vegas, instead we are on board the most beautiful sailing ship in the world somewhere off the coast of Spain.
We are underway on an eight-day voyage sailing in the wake of Portugal’s famous navigators. Our course will be from Barcelona to Oporto. Factor in Spain’s seductive Andalusian cities, the heart-wrenching, foot-stamping rhythms of flamenco, and the soulful angst of Portugal’s fado singers, SeaCloud’s fabulous gourmet fare, tasty tapas and sherry ashore, and this semi-circumnavigation of the Iberian Peninsula delivers an exotic journey of the senses - from flamenco to fado.
Our itinerary commences in Barcelona, followed by Ibiza, Malaga, through the Strait of Gibraltar to Cadiz (for Jerez de la Frontera), then Portuguese ports Lisbon and Oporto. Whether you are a foodie, fashionista, or purely a tall-ship tragic – SeaCloud Cruises and their enthralling ports of call, deliver incomparable sail-cruises of a lifetime.
With a sudden crackle and snap, 3000 square metres of sail cloth billows into bloom and SeaCloud 11 skims across the water like an elegant ice-skater on tippy toe. We never tire of this ritual which takes place several times daily, dictated by weather conditions and navigational needs. The routine is the same whether you are on the original SeaCloud, or SeaCloud 11. Every single manoeuvre is performed by hand in the finest tradition of seamanship. Automation is verboten.
The SeaCloud story is a compelling one. The original SeaCloud – still sailing to this day - was built in 1931 by Marjorie Merriweather Post, a mega-wealthy New York socialite and cereal company heiress to the Post fortunes. In addition to the most fabulous private yacht afloat – another of her trophies was Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. The sprawling estate is a National Historic Landmark which lies between Lake Worth and the Atlantic, its name meaning between sea and lake. The property was purchased by Donald Trump, who embellished and converted it into a private club. It is now referred to as the Winter White House.
But life on board SeaCloud 11 is reward enough for us and her fellow guests who are mostly savvy European couples, North Americans and a scattering of Antipodeans. While the predominant language is German, everyone speaks English, and the crew is international. (SeaCloud Cruises is owned by a consortium of German business persons).
All who sail on the utterly fabulous SeaCloud sisters share one thing in common. A love of sailing coupled with stylish comfort and serious luxury! Marjorie’s lavish taste lingers in gold fittings, marble fireplaces, ornate ceilings, beautifully-detailed wood panelling, gleaming brass fixtures and plump upholstered furnishings. Or if you opt for an owner’s suite, you can even have a fourposter bed. All this on a yacht you ask? In nautical terms, SeaCloud 11 is a 3-masted barque and quintessential windjammer.
She has 47 cabins,16 junior suites and two owner’s suites and the décor is tasteful twenties retro-style. The yacht accommodates 94 guests and an expert, attentive crew of 60. The dining room, is open-seating in a harmonious, lowkey environment with superb table settings. The quality and freshness of the food is faultless and fastidiously-served. Complimentary wines with lunch and dinner are mostly European, and comparatively young. Connoisseur choices attract a cost.
By day, most guests are content to lie back on the teak steamer chairs and gaze skywards as they watch the sails breathe. Heaven. And of course you can have a cocktail – an Aperol Spritz for me please - while you marvel at the magic of just plain sailing. But if you must, there is a charming library, an elegant lounge, small spa and fitness area, and water sports marina aft. And there’s always the Lido bar and casual dining area.
In port, most guests choose to amble around at leisure, or join a group excursion if the attraction is further afield. We did both. In Malaga, we chose to meander around the old quarter which delivers a heady mix of Moorish and western architecture, rambling streets lined with tapas bars, flamenco posters, the strum of guitars and the Picasso Museum.
We pass the Rock of Gibraltar in the wee small hours. Only the intrepid stay up to watch. Through the Straits we enter the Atlantic and Cadiz awaits. In Jerez de la Frontera – which gave the world sherry and exceptional horsemanship, you could see a performance at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. Others chose a visit to Bodegas Tradicion where we tasted 45 yr old Amontillados and Olorosos, and were dazzled by the owner’s private collection of Goyas, Velasquez and Zurbaran that would surely be worthy of Madrid’s illustrious Prado Museum.
Once in Lisbon, heel-stamping flamenco surrenders to the soulful sounds of fado. Everywhere around the city, facades of palaces, churches, railway stations and even three-wheelers are ornamented with Portugal’s traditional blue and white azulejos (tiles). It doesn’t take long before we are utterly charmed by the city’s slightly-faded, elegance as we peruse art-nouveau and art deco shopfronts, old-style cafes, bespoke glovemakers ateliers, gorge custard tarts, and take a vintage tram ride. But the city doesn’t lack a vigorous posse of clever contemporary creatives, whether they are cutting edge designers, architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, or fado singers. Back on board, we salute the intrepid Portuguese navigators who gave us the New World as we sail past their monument bound for Oporto, and an exploration of this famous city, and its great gift to the world – port.
|SeaCloud Destinations: SeaCloud Cruises sail the Baltic, Mediterranean and the Caribbean, even crossing the Atlantic. Itineraries include Northern Europe and Great Britain; the Baltic and Southern Norway; Eastern and Western Mediterranean; the Caribbean, Cuba, Costa Rica and Panama; and the Atlantic Coast with Canary Islands and Morocco. A fabulous feast of choice.
The yachts of SeaCloud are also available for charter.
|Luxury Cruises Link: www.seacloud.com
Maggy Oehlbeck, 05/09/2019