Sea Cloud: Legend of the Seas

Welcome aboard the gracious and legendary Sea Cloud! Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

St. John’s, Antigua; Monday, January 14, 2019
For all the cruises I’ve done in the Caribbean, I’d never been to Antigua before. It is a charming little island; a sort of scaled-down Barbados. British and French-influences are felt heavily here, along with the rich history of the island itself. Of course, the fact that Antigua reportedly has 365 pristine beaches – one for every day of the year – doesn’t hurt either.
On the ground, locals speak an interesting mix of English, French and a sort of local patois with each other, but many roll out flawless English and French when it comes to dealing with tourists. The Canadian Contingent is well represented here; expect to find folks from across Canada and the Francophone province of Quebec outnumbering Americans here. Brits are also here in droves, thanks to direct flights to the island’s modern V.C. Baird International Airport from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Built in 1931, Sea Cloud was the former private yacht of Marjorie Merriweather Post (of Post Cereal fame) and Edward Hutton. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

You might find it interesting to note that most Caribbean cruises don’t depart from places like Antigua. This is no ordinary cruise, however: I came to the capital city of St. John’s expressly to set sail aboard one of the most legendary ships afloat: Sea Cloud Cruises’ Sea Cloud.
Built in 1931 for Marjorie Merriweather Post, a socialite with money to burn, Sea Cloud is a living time capsule. Updated and modernized after a long and varied career, Sea Cloud embodies the past glory days of sail and transoceanic travel in ways that few other vessels can match. I didn’t want to leave this embarkation up to chance, opting to fly into Antigua a day early and avoid the stress of arriving upon embarkation.

Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

Here is what makes Sea Cloud so special: in addition to the miles of teak and impeccable woodwork found throughout, eight of her 32 all-oceanview cabins are originals that date back to the 1930’s. Unlike today’s cruise ships, nearly all of Sea Cloud’s cabins are all unique and entirely distinct from one another. You can even sleep in four small but delightfully nautical cabins that were formerly used by the ship’s Offiers, complete with upper and lower berths.
Over the course of the next eight days, Sea Cloud will take me to ports of call in the British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dyke, St. Marthelemy, Dominica and Barbados.

Sea Cloud: Trade Winds of the Caribbean

Day 1 Embarkation in Antigua
Day 2 At Sea
Day 3 Moskito Island, BVI
Day 4 Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Day 5 Gustavia, St. Barths
Day 6 Gustavia, St. Barths
Day 7 Cabrits, Dominica
Day 8 At Sea
Day 9 Disembarkation in Barbados

If Sea Cloud is deliciously “Old School”, so to is Sea Cloud Cruises’ documentation, which includes printed luggage tags, leather-bound luggage tags, and printed copies of your cruise ticket, shore excursions and air itinerary. Sea Cloud also does its own thing when it comes to embarkation; guests are warned not to arrive at the pier before 16:00 hours (4:00pm) “unless instructed otherwise” to allow the crew time to turn the ship around. For someone like me who is used to being at the pier at eleven in the morning, waiting until quarter after three to take a taxi to the main pier in St. John’s was like being made to gingerly unwrap presents on Christmas morning. And Sea Cloud isn’t kidding about the embark time: it started right at 1600 hours.

Aboard Sea Cloud, all the staples of the grand days of cruising are there, from teak decks and steamer chairs…Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

…to the ship’s stunningly well-preserved original public areas. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

When I arrived at the Nevis Street Pier, I found Sea Cloud bookended in port by the much-larger Norwegian Dawn and Celebrity Summit, both docked at the nearby Heritage Pier. Despite the obvious discrepancy in sheer size, the smaller Sea Cloud managed to turn heads on the pier. That’s the effect an old, classic schooner yacht has on the public: they all want to know what that magical ship in port is.
As with most small ships, embarkation was an easy and convivial affair. A quick check of the manifest against passports was all that was needed to proceed along the dock, with the brilliant Sea Cloud glistening in the setting afternoon sun. I stopped a dozen times along the way to photograph this classic vessel. Every angle was more beautiful than the last. Nautical aficionados talk about ships as a “she”, and speak of vessels in terms of “lines.” Like a classy and elegant woman, Sea Cloud is a graceful ship with sleek nautical lines; her grace further accentuated by the overly-boxy Celebrity Summit next door.

There’s a little size difference here. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

A complimentary welcome glass of champagne greets guests as the step aboard this floating legend. Whisked up to the Spanker Deck (the uppermost deck aboard Sea Cloud), guests assembled in the Lido Bar to have their passports stamped out of Antigua & Barbuda. Keycards – only used for getting on and off the ship – are issued (stateroom doors require no keys to open), and an embarkation photo is taken. After that, guests are escorted to their staterooms by a staff member.

Through Sea Cloud’s original Main Deck corridor…Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

….and up the stairs to my home for the next few days…Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

…the lovely Cabin No. 10. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

I was lucky enough to be placed in Stateroom 4 – one of the ship’s original rooms – but an unexpected hitch with a small water leak necessitated a move to Stateroom 10, with the promise to occupy Stateroom 4 later in the voyage. Trying out two rooms in one cruise? Sign me up!
Stateroom 10 is the furthest aft cabin on the port side of Main Deck. Spanning 242 square feet, it was carved out of two former crew cabins in 2002 and is one of the more modern cabins onboard. While it may not be as elaborate as the “Original Eight” cabins onboard, it is nonetheless immediately welcoming.
A large living room and bedroom includes a small sitting area with a char, coffee table and a stool; and a row of cupboards line the portside curvature of the hull.

Like Cabin No. 9 on the starboard side, Cabin No. 10 was carved out of former staff accommodations following a shipyard fire in 2002. Photo © 2019 Aaron Saunders

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