Best For People Who Want
To be propelled by real sails; to visit small ports large vessels can't visit; laid-back atmosphere; casual attire.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Megaship activities, casinos, spas, floorshows, spacious cabins, formal dining, dressing up for dinner.
The best word to describe these ships is "wonder," because that is what you experience the first time you realize your vessel is underway, but you didn't see a wake appear off the side of the ship from the thrusters, nor did you feel the sudden vibration resulting from propellars pushing against deep water. In fact, there is good chance you will be quite a distance before you even realize you have moved, because these ships move silently, like the wind.
No, not like the wind, they are the wind. They glide silently through the water, the only sound the occasional snap of canvas as the wind grabs one of the many sails from a different direction. So you glide, glide, glide through the water full of the wonder, and the sudden realization, that this is how sailing has been done for the vast majority of human history, and that it works so unexpectedly well.
As the first clipper ships constructed in the 20th century, near perfect recreations of the variety that domainated the 18th century, the stunning Star Clipper and her identical sister ship Star Flyer make a dramatic entrance into ports of the Caribbean, the Greek Islands/Turkey and the Far East, with some 36,000 square feet of sail billowing overhead.
Unlike Windstar's computerized sailboats, these are authentic clipper ships on which you are primarily under sail at almost all times. The only mechanical help that ever occurs is when it is needed to maneuver a difficult passage, or late at night in order to make up for lost time if the wind is particularly slow any given night. (That said, even the most fervent traditionalist on board would probably prefer the Captain's firing up the ship's engines to delivering you too late for a shore excursion). Therefore, the time you'll spend under sail can vary hugely from cruise to cruise, but will most likely be the majority of the trip.
Creature comforts are adequate for those not expecting luxury or nightlife glitzier than a crew fashion show. Because the ships were designed to use space efficiently, rather than for smooth passenger flow, getting from place to place commonly involves going through, rather than around, public rooms. And steeping high over door jambs designs to keep any water that may splash onboard from going inside. Because it has neither stabilizers nor anti-heeling tanks, the ship tends to tilt quite noticeably toward its downwind side, and definitely isn't for those prone to debilitating seasickness.
By day, camaraderie burgeons between passengers of diverse ages and nationalities (primarily English and German and 15 percent American). By night, new friends convene at the topside bar to dance to live music from a single piano player and shoot the breeze; entertainment often means a silly game on deck.
Mondo nautical, with sailship paintings, brass lamps and a wooden stairway. On the top deck there are yards of ropes, tall masts, and deck chairs from which to watch the crew hoist sails. Passengers get involved and are asked to help hoist sails, and are occasionally even invited to take the wheel and steer.
There are only the interior lounge/piano bar containing a white baby grand and a small library Internet Cafe. The library is often unavailable to passengers because staff and crew use it for meetings, and the ship's Internet connection is maddeningly slow.
Fill up at breakfast, a lavish, usually delicious buffet. At dinner, you may well find the food either a bit heavy, or inexpertly prepared, or both. There are frequent on-deck barbecues at lunchtime.
The Dining Room is the ship's most beautiful room. The central ceiling, two decks overhead, is actually the bottom of the top deck. Tables of assorted shapes and sizes seat two, four, six or eight.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, with an omelet station in the morning and a fresh pasta or stir-fry for lunch. Dinners are a la carte, with open seating; as there are commonly multiple nationalities aboard, be certain to ask to be seated with English-speakers - assuming, of course, that you're neither reclusive nor misanthropic. The dishes on the menu are displayed each evening in the Piano Bar, allowing you to see what you're getting yourself into.
Service is best described as friendly, as crewmembers often do double duty as waiters, nurse, and whatever else may be required. Meals are the times when you get to talk to them the most as they wait on your table and visit at the same time. Very much a "family" kind of atmosphere.
Star Clippers encourages tipping at $8 per person per night, of which the cabin steward gets $3 and the waiter $5. You may either hand out cash or have gratuities charged to your shipboard account.
The closest the ship offers to organized daytimes activities during a one-week cruise are a couple of cooking and vegetable- and ice-carving demonstrations at cocktail hour. A solo musician tickles the ivory and croons in the piano bar. Desperate entertainment-starved passengers are sometimes encouraged to stage their own talent show.
Classic sailboat design precludes Star Flyer's cabins being uniform either in size or in layout. The best staterooms, on Clipper Deck, are around 130 square feet, but mirrors make them seem much larger. Bathrooms have a medicine cabinet and hair dryers; the hand-held shower and faucet can be slightly infuriating; to conserve water, flow last only 15 seconds before you have to push a button for more.
Outside cabins have a single porthole, queen/twin bed configuration, a desk, telephone, TV with scheduled movies, a small banquette, and plenty of storage space. Inside cabins are too claustrophobic for all but the most avid yachtsperson. There are deluxe staterooms with tubs on the main deck. There are no elevators, no washers or dryers for passenger use, and no room service, but the room stewards are attentive and thorough.
Instead of a spa on this ship, you'll find two small pools. An aerobics class is scheduled on deck most mornings. In spite of acres of open deck space, there is no unbroken circle anywhere, so jogging is problematic. Frustrated joggers can keep themselves in peak cardiovascular condition, though, by helping to raise the sails. The only place for the onboard masseuse to work her magic is on the very top deck, under a small canopy. You are in port almost every day, so there is plenty of opportunity for exercise off the ship.
Star Flyer has neither staff, facilities, nor programs for little folk, though they'll scramble stalwartly to cobble something together if enough parents have ignored warnings about the ship's inappropriateness for children.
By day, very casual, as in shorts and T-shirts. At night, men wear pants and a dress shirt, women pants and skirts. Formal evenings? You've got the wrong ship!