All hands on deck for a yoga session at sea

A clipper cruise offers Adrian Mourby the chance to see the Mediterranean from a new perspective

Early morning in the Mediterranean takes a lot of beating, especially when you're on the deck of a five-masted clipper sailing from Spain to Italy. Every colour was enhanced as if someone had got hold of reality and then Photoshopped my mind. The air was still chilly and the deep blue of the sea contrasted acutely with the clear whiteness of the early morning sky – although, to be honest, for the past half-hour I'd mainly been looking at the brown planking of a well-scrubbed deck. This was because our ship, the Royal Clipper, was offering twice-daily yoga sessions as it raced from the Bahamas to Malaga, and then Malaga to Civitavecchia. Christel Vollmer, the ship's German yoga teacher, was helping passengers to salute the sun every day at 7.30am on the mizzen deck, and then to say goodbye to it on the aft deck every evening.

I'd joined her first group when the ship docked in Malaga. A core of three highly committed Americans had already been concentrating on their breathing all the way from Barbados for the past 14 days. They already had their yoga sea legs. I usually think of myself as a fine sailor and have no problem keeping my balance, but when your "downward-facing dog" is accompanied by SPV Royal Clipper rolling to starboard, there's a very real danger the dog in question will end up more downward than you intended.

By the end of the first session I had a headache, but Christel was upbeat: "All the little muscles you use to keep your balance will be getting an extra workout!"

I may not fear seasickness, but I don't generally like cruises. I am willing, however, to make an exception for anything with sails. Royal Clipper is a beautiful vessel, a reproduction of a five-master from 1900. Mikael Krafft, the owner, is a Swedish businessman in love with the great days of sail. One hundred and 50 years ago, the clippers were the fastest things at sea. They were built to "clip" the waves as they took passengers round Cape Horn and out to the Far East and Australia, and as they came back laden with tea, wool and grain.

Krafft built the Royal Clipper in 2000 hoping to revive the golden age of sail at an affordable price. Carrying 227 passengers, Royal Clipper is the largest square rigger in service in the world today. It's also pretty romantic.

When we embarked in the dark from Malaga's harbour, all five masts were lit up like great gold-painted Christmas trees and the ship's PA played Vangelis's relentless, questing theme from 1492. This sort of thing seems to be de rigueur for cruise ships these days, but there is schmaltz and there is good schmaltz. This was grade-A, high-octane stuff because the sails – all 42 of them – were unfurling one by one as we cleared the harbour. Apparently what used to be done by a crew of 100 men pulling on ropes can now be done by 20, thanks to some nifty modern hydraulics. Everyone stood on deck gazing upward as the ship's giant masts seemed to grow huge white sails. It was as if our massive clipper were blooming. Pure theatre. No wonder people are coming back to sail.

And there is something about masts that actually lifts the spirits. On our first morning at sea, on my way to the first yoga session, I looked up and marvelled at these 50m spires with all their middle sails and top gallants. The top of your average oil-burning cruise ship looks like the roof of Tesco, with all its practical details piled messily around two or three black, belching chimneys. You don't go up there if you want to retain the magic. But the white rigging that envelops and sustains a square-rigged clipper is a work of art. Walking the length of this 134m ship was like passing through a white-painted forest.

With a trilingual safety drill after breakfast – English, then French, then German – a long lunch and the discovery of a Victorian-style library where four leather Chesterfield sofas invite you to fall asleep with the thrillers discarded by previous passengers, my first day at sea passed very quickly. It was soon 5.30pm and time to join Christel for the second session of the day. The aft deck was a lovely place to sit cross-legged and watch the sun set as we surged on east. However, it is built on an incline, which meant that when I tried to raise my legs for a shoulder-stand I nearly rolled, heels over head, into Stephen, an accountant from north London who had heard us talking about yoga over lunch and decided to come along.

The passengers aboard the Royal Clipper were mostly in their late fifties and well heeled enough to be looking forward to retirement. Cruises are all too often dominated by masses of small, white-haired people thinking only about the next meal. (Or one big unruly crèche if the cruise is family-friendly.) Because the Royal Clipper moves by sails alone whenever it can, this cruise had fewer hungry pensioners and young families, and far more people interested in the actual business of sailing. Consequently, quite a few were trying out the more oddball activities on offer. Darleen, a health-care administrator from the US, was one, and then there was Lew, a jolly obstetrician from New Jersey who handed out CDs of himself singing "Catskill Mountain Sunrise" in lieu of a business card. Christel herself turned out to be a friend of Mikael Krafft – she had offered to teach onboard yoga and was surprised to find herself booked not just for this summer but 2013 as well.

"I trained with Bryan Kest," she told me. "He's the man who brought power yoga to Hollywood." Kest is also responsible for turning Madonna and Sting on to yoga. What Christel offers on board is a mix of Kest's power yoga and Taoist yin yoga. "Westerners don't want to spend too long just meditating. I call it clipper yoga now."

While Royal Clipper looks remarkably authentic on deck, the dining room is pure fantasy, a luxury, nautically themed chasm that plunges down three floors below the glass-bottomed swimming pool. I enjoyed one excellent lunch all too aware that the Beatles' biographer, Hunter Davies, was swimming round above our table. The cabins were more traditional: lots of polished wood, the smallest of polished desks, noisy air-conditioning and a porthole for a window which was frequently coated with fast-moving spray.

I spent very little time in my cabin. Meals and yoga lessons came round very quickly, as did my afternoon nap in the library. Routine is very important on board ship. A day at sea needs to be broken up. Meals and activities matter. When I'm at home, I find it really hard to go round the corner to use our local gym at lunchtime even if I've already paid for yoga lessons. I'm trapped by the minutiae of working from home, but at sea it was no effort at all to get out of bed for another morning session with Christel and her Snatam Kaur backing track.

"Age brings you to yoga," said Phil from California, who had not missed one single session on the Atlantic leg. "You need it to retain a level of flexibility."

Admittedly the other passengers did find us curious. As there were never more than 10 of us to be found doing the cat stretch or the cobra at any one time, there were always a few spectators trying to work out what we were up to and taking pictures. More distracting was the crew who always seemed to be noisily rebuilding the ship when we did our morning asanas.

After a day at sea we docked at Palma de Mallorca and what I thought at first was the harbour office block turned out to be the Costa Romantica, a 10-storey cruise ship. Our slimline five-master looked like an Airfix model alongside that monster.

We had only an afternoon in Palma, just long enough to get a bus to the cathedral and object to paying €6 (£4.75) to look inside. The Costa left harbour before us, its 100-decibel hooter making what can only be described as huge farting noises in salute to the other ships. I felt delicate and eco-smug by comparison as I joined Christel's evening class on the aft deck and our ship set sail, once again, to "1492".

It was going to be another beautiful evening on the Mediterranean. Two sessions a day were really beginning to pay off. I was not only sleeping well but also waking up looking forward to each day. I'd even started developing a fondness for Vangelis.

"Look at that sun!" cried Christel. "I want to be a pirate and stay on this boat for ever!"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?