Letting the wind carry you across the ocean sounds like quite a relaxing holiday, right? Sailing cruises are a nice alternative to giant cruises, but they’re not for everyone.
You can book a private sailing yacht for 20 of your friends, or join the crew of a larger ship for up to 220 passengers. Bigger ships have the usual cruise facilities on board, plus plenty of restaurants and entertainment.
Smaller ships provide a more rustic experience. “On a sailing cruise, the focus is primarily on sailing, ” says Antonie Hoffmann, who works on the yachts of cruise company Sailing-Classics, based in Stuttgart, Germany.
“First and foremost, it’s about enjoying nature, the sea and being out with the wind.”
Larger cruise ships often travel at night and dock during the day. The experience of actually sailing is less celebrated, apart from on trips such as the classic transatlantic crossing. “With us, the journey is the destination, ” says Petra Quasdorf, manager of sailing tour operator Sea Cloud Cruises in Germany.
Sailing voyages are easy to plan, says Quasdorf, but storms can always mess with the schedule. If there is a lull in the wind, combustion engines can take the sailing ships to the next stop on the journey.
On board, guests can relax – or not. Anyone who would like to help can do so – whether sailing or maintenance and repair work. Mealtimes on sailing trips run on a schedule, just like on conventional cruises.
What should you take with you on a sailing cruise?
“Non-slip shoes, a wind jacket and sunscreen with a high sun protection factor are important, ” Quasdorf says. The sunlight reflects off the water, so sunglasses are necessary. “Even if you have booked a summer trip, you should take something warmer with you, ” advises Hoffmann, like a sweater and a hat.
Sailing ships have the selling point of being more environmentally friendly. “Cruises on large sailing ships clearly have an advantage when it comes to air pollutants and CO2 emissions compared to heavy oil-powered ocean liners, ” says Daniel Rieger of the German nature conservation association NABU.
But this only applies if the ships are actually sailing with the wind, not using their diesel engines.
Fossil fuels are also needed for the accommodations on board.
Sailing cruises aren’t particularly recommended for small children or anyone for whom mobility is an issue.
“Accessibility is something you can forget about, ” reports holidaymaker Manuela Stoelzle, who has sailed the Star Clipper twice. Steep stairs lead into the cabins.
”And on deck, ropes are stretched and the sails are lashed down. So you have to be very careful at all times.”
It’s especially difficult in heavy seas for people who have difficulty walking, because sailing ships are more sensitive to rough waters than large cruise ships. This also leads to many passengers becoming seasick. “Someone who is very sensitive should probably take a classic cruise ship, ” Quasdorf says. – dpa