So I’m nursing a Margarita- aptly, at five o’clock- at the Tropical Bar of the Royal Clipper. We are close cruising the lush, verdant coast of Dominica, and the mood is quietly electric.
Across my line of vision, a rainbow splits the landscape like some amazing, technicolor lightning rod, even as the last rays of the setting sun turn the still, silent ocean into a glorious, golden carpet. There are hot hors d’oevres on offer on a central display base- watermelon slices, cookies, and some absolutely delicious hot spring rolls, and the crowd milling around the open bar devours them with obvious relish. It’s a relaxed, dreamy vibe in a location that soon became the social centre of the entire cruise.
The Tropical Bar is not one of those cushioned, faux Miami Beach luxe style areas that are so currently popular on the mega ships. Here, it is very much a case of ‘less being more’; with an open view on both sides (covered by canvas screens when the sea gets up), the wooden deck area is sprinkled with a few tables surrounded by wooden stools, bolted to the floor. Immaculately varnished benches flank the edges, seeming to recoil from the three sided, central bar and the crowd that throngs it at this magical hour every evening.
Over our week in the Caribbean on this extraordinary, five masted flyer of a sailing ship, the Tropical Bar would pull in people like moths to a flame. At any hour up until midnight, and sometimes beyond, you would always find a few hardy souls braced there, sampling good German beer, or the potentially deadly Long Island Iced Teas served up with such deft aplomb.
And you needed to be hardy at times. As befits any royal lady with a temperament, there were moments when the Royal Clipper would suddenly heel sharply, almost as if she were trying to keep us on our toes. Or, perhaps, throw us off them. In so many ways, this magnificent paragon really does dance to her own, unique tune. And to hear it, well- that was to love it.
There was actual music, too, from a wonderful Hungarian guitarist/organ player by the name of Gabor. Like everything on board, it was subtle, understated, and it seemed to fit the mood of the moment with almost cosmetic perfection. Listening to his version of Hotel California as the last rays of the sun threw long, fading fingers of light across the wooden deck was a spine tingling moment.
With the vast, tree shrouded slopes of Dominica darkening slowly and almost within touching distance, a warm breeze ruffled my hair. The drinks straw in my glass did an idle, skittish little dance as the ice cubes in it clinked together, as if huddling together for protection. Suddenly, a thoughtlessly discarded plate slid down the bar like a runaway train. The barman caught it mid stream without even batting an eyelid. And so catastrophe was averted once more.
With that, I gazed out once more across the deep red carpet of the Caribbean, so lost in it’s vast, rolling beauty that I almost missed his words.
Another one? Hmm, why not? You don’t get to hang out in a bar like this one every day, that’s for sure.
So, when you do get the chance to do it, you absolutely owe it to yourself- and to your fellow travellers- to make every moment count.
Whether we’re talking food, drink or good music, there’s always something nice cooking at the Tropical Bar. Often as not, it’s all three.
Don’t exist-live. Get out there.