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Sea Cloud Cruises – Goldring Travel Checks out Sea Cloud Spirit in Costa Rica & Panama: Nautically Sexy!

Sea Cloud Spirit is downright nautically sexy. 

Sea Cloud Spirit off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
Sea Cloud Spirit off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

She is both a new ship with all the modern conveniences and a brilliant homage to the sailing ships of yesteryear.  Looking past this squarerigger’s impressive mast, yardarms, lines, and sails, the amount of teak (all decks are true teak with its wonderful texture and smell), lacquered wood cabinetry, detailed joinery, and more instantly makes sailing on Sea Cloud Spirit something special. To be sure, your experience is not a cruise or an expedition, it is a sailing experience. (More on that later!)

However – and once again – my sojourn begins with a sordid tale of getting to the ship.  This time – unfortunately, like most others, there were rough seas – actually skies – but I did board the beautiful Sea Cloud Spirit in Puntarenas, Costa Rica on time and with my luggage!

Sea Cloud Spirit
Sea Cloud Spirit

It all started with my well-planned flights departing Reno, Nevada at 7:00 PM to catch a redeye from San Francisco and then an early morning flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. Warnings of there being a big snowstorm coming caused me to change my Reno flight to 8:00 a.m. and to book a day room at a hotel near the San Francisco airport since I would now have a 15-hour layover.  

My day started with a 3:30 a.m. drive down the mountain in a blizzard with very limited visibility, but I made it. Then my flight was delayed and delayed again. My only concern would be that it could be canceled as I had plenty of time. We eventually took off and as we were landing in San Francisco in 50+ mph winds, just as we were touching down, it was aborted. But then the pilot announced that we were diverting to Sacramento as they needed fuel. Two plus hours later, we tried again, and with a hair-raising landing, we made it.

Because of the delays, it just didn’t make sense to go to the hotel, so I spent time in two different United Clubs that were packed with passengers whose flights were delayed or canceled due to the weather. But at least I had a place to go.

As midnight was rolling around, I wandered to the gate only to be told that the boarding was delayed. Ugh. Eventually, I boarded, and then an announcement: The captain was flying in and his flight was delayed so it would be a few minutes. An hour plus later, he arrived and we eventually left the gate…only to sit on the runway for over an hour due to the same high winds.

Upon arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica, Immigration was a disaster with the hall filled with arriving passengers. Over an hour later, I met my private transfer (Sea Cloud did offer a group transfer, but I would have had to sit around the San Jose airport for hours.), and another 1.5 hours later I arrived a Sea Cloud Spirit, just shortly after her embarkation started at 4:00 p.m.  She was docked in the ramshackle town of Puntarenas, Costa Rica,

Just seeing Sea Cloud Spirit energized me. Photographs just don’t do her justice. I couldn’t wait to get onboard, but there was a queue…and Pommery champagne in Sea Cloud Spirit bottles! 

While there are twenty-one nationalities onboard, the vast majority of the guests are German. (Sea Cloud Cruises is a German company.)  There is a mix of multilingual German officers and staff, including the charming and bubbly Cruise Director, Nicky. Most of the hotel staff (bartenders, servers, stewards, etc.) are not German but incredibly diverse in nationalities and proficient to fluent in English.  There is a casual and friendly way about all onboard.

Sea Cloud Spirit Junior Suite (Category B)
Sea Cloud Spirit Junior Suite (Category B)

I was escorted to my suite by my room steward and shown around. I really just wanted him to leave so I could just soak in the nostalgia of the décor and layout…even though the ship was launched just three years ago.  (Oh, and also finally collapse from my travels.)

Sea Cloud Spirit Junior Suite (Category B)
Sea Cloud Spirit Junior Suite (Category B)

The details, details, details, are fantastic. From brass mullions on the large door to the balcony and an almost floor-to-ceiling window, to the lacquered coffee table with carved detailing, the Nespresso maker that is hidden in a compartment on the desk with Sea Cloud espresso and coffee cups next to it, to the golden glass sink in the bathroom, it is a work of nautical art.

Interestingly, in order to pack all of the amenities into the space, in true nautical fashion, there are compromises as to the width of closets, the depth of shelves, space by the side of the bed, etc. However, in the end, it is a very livable space…and it is all mine for eleven days!

One thing to understand is that this is definitely a European product, so the beds may be next to each other, but there are separate duvets (no top sheets), all electrical outlets are 220 volt, there is no pool or hot tub, or live television and only a few movies on demand. Remember, you are on a sailing experience where you are supposed to laze around on deck under the sails, do some snorkeling, and maybe take a few tours.  Longer leisurely dinners with your fellow guests is the rule. But not to worry, there is a spa…and it has reasonable pricing.

Sea Cloud Spirit's Lido
Sea Cloud Spirit’s Lido

There are two restaurants, one al fresco on the Lido deck and one interior, a more classic dining room. Breakfasts are served buffet style in the Restaurant; including self-serve mimosas!  It is also used occasionally for dinner.

Lunch on the Lido is classic on a sailing ship. It can get a bit warm under the canvas, but the offerings are a testament to what can be done with simple ingredients with caring chefs.

As we left Puntarenas (and none too soon), there was the mandatory muster drill. This was, however, the most painful and lengthy one I have ever endured. Rather than splitting everyone into the German and English-speaking groups, they did a bit in German and then in English, and so it went for over an hour. Finally, they split us up and it took no time to finish. Whew!

The first day is not called a sea day, but rather a Day Beneath Full Sails. We were told to be on deck at 9:00 a.m. for the unfurling of the sails. It was incredibly interesting watching the sailors climb the ratlines (netting) up to the top of the masts and then move deftly across the yardarms to release the sails…and then the beauty as they were trimmed.


After the sails were aloft and photos taken by the bowsprit it was time to…do nothing…absolutely nothing. Just lay back, relax and live the life of a sailor in calm seas and winds.

I would take all my meals on the Lido if possible, but alas, the variety that is available at Breakfast just can’t be done al fresco. However, there is an early riser breakfast on the Lido.  Dinners vary: On the Lido, in the Restaurant, in either, or buffet on the Lido.  Each night is different.

Amazingly Fresh Fish on Sea Cloud Spirit
Amazingly Fresh Fish on Sea Cloud Spirit

My favorite part of lunch is the fresh fish.  It is filleted right in front of you and then expertly cooked on a grill. How do I know it is fresh? Oh, it isn’t just by looking at its eyes and gills, but rather by asking the crew what they caught off the stern!  Yup, three fishing lines are trolling when we are slowly sailing and jigging at night. Grouper, Yellow Tail, Mahi Mahi so far. (They also have made deals with some of the local fishermen.)  There are so many things that ships can do that are not subject to United States regulations…just like the restaurants you visit all over the world. But, alas, that is another topic for another article!

Sea Cloud Spirit’s staff and crew know how to put the show on.  Lunch included among many other things,  Seafood Paella, Grilled Grouper and Snapper, and Pata Negra (my beloved black ham).

There also was plenty for the non-seafood lovers and vegetarians.

There are a few other travel writers onboard – some with a partner or friend tagging along. I was kinda forced to have the White Night Dinner with them and felt, well, like they just didn’t get how special this experience is.

Why? Because this is not a cruise or expedition. It is a sailing experience! It can’t be analyzed the same way as a normal cruise. Given the change, Sea Cloud Spirit kind of seduces you…in a good way!

Next up: Let’s see where the winds take us!

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