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Tall Ship Cruise

The experience of sailing aboard a tall ship is substantially different than a cruise with 3,000 to 4,000 fellow guests on a megaliner or even with fewer than 200 fellow travelers on a European river vessel, as by itself, such a vessel under full sail is a breathtaking sight to behold.

Star Clippers operates three tall ships: the 270-guest Royal Clipper, the largest sailing vessel in the world, and sister ships Star Clipper and Star Flyer, each of which accommodates 170 guests. The Royal Clipper is 439 feet long with five masts and 42 sails, and the line’s “twins” are 360 feet long with four masts and 16 sails. All three also carry an auxiliary diesel engine should the seas be calm.

Recently, I received a list of the “Top 10 Unique Experiences on a Star Clippers Cruise,” which does a fine job of illustrating elements of tall-ship sailing that can make for an extraordinary casual vacation for active groups. Here are some experiences that stand out.

Learn to tie knots like a sailor: Guests can fine-tune their sailors’ knots with a complimentary lesson on deck from the crew and master the art of tying a bowline and a clove hitch.

Shinny up the mast of a tall ship: One of the line’s most popular activities is when guests get harnessed and shinny up the steel rigging supporting the ship’s mast to the first crow’s nest like a professional deckhand. The 360-degree views and photo opportunities from aloft are spectacular, looking down onto the teak decks and up into the mass of rigging and billowing sails.

Water ski in the Greek islands: Each Star Clippers ship carries water sports equipment and a fleet of powerful inflatable Zodiac craft. Waterskiing and wakeboarding are complimentary activities, subject to sea conditions, in every port where the sports team is able to set up on the beach.

Enjoy a beach barbecue in the Caribbean: On Caribbean cruises, weather permitting, a day is set aside to feature Star Clippers’ popular beach barbecue.

Master the art of paddleboarding: Paddleboarding is peaceful, has zero environmental impact and is great for strengthening core muscles. Each ship carries boards. Guests start by kneeling and, once balanced, stand up. Relatively flat sea is required for beginners, but paddleboarders often can be seen in Croatia and Montenegro.

Admire the underwater world in the Grenadines: Star Clippers’ vessels carry a large supply of masks, fins and snorkels, all free of charge for guests to use. Where possible, a guided snorkel safari is offered by the water sports team. There’s no better place to snorkel in the Caribbean than the Grenadines, where marine life teems in the crystal-clear waters of Tobago Cays National Park.

Navigate the Atlantic using the stars: Daily Captain’s Story Time on the ship’s bridge provides insight into a different aspect of sailing, including an introduction to celestial navigation, a talk on wind and an explanation of the different sails and their functions. Guests are welcome to help the crew raise the sails and practice sailing maneuvers, and on transatlantic voyages, there are even opportunities for guests to take the helm.