Boy was I wrong! Some of my favorite memories of the cruise include a very rowdy game of team trivia won by our team of Americans, Mexicans and Brits; a lesson in constellations given by a 70-something fellow passenger who'd sailed around the world in his own boat; dancing to tragically out of date 70's music with the Swedish water sports team; and an introduction to World Cup soccer and Turkish music by one of the chatty bartenders. Because it takes a certain type to embrace the sailing experience on a small ship, shipmates tend to be kindred spirits -- active, open to new experiences, not at all stuffy or spoiled -- and after a few days passengers really begin to click. And suddenly, the trip is that much better for all the new friends you get to share it with.
Star Flyer was built in 1991 for Star Clippers as a four-masted, 170-passenger, tall clipper ship. The ship currently ranks as the loftiest tall ship in the world, with a mast that rises 226 feet high. Sailing on Star Flyer is like stepping back in time to when clipper ships ruled the waves. The unfurling of the sails, to appropriately bombastic music, is a highlight of each day, and passengers can live out their nautical fantasies by climbing the mast or sunning in the widow's net hanging off the bow of the ship.
Although the ship is motorized, Star Flyer's engines are switched off as long as conditions permit, and the crew unfurls 36,000 square ft. of billowing sails to capture the winds that can propel her along at a comfortable 8 to 10 knots. On a typical cruise, she relies exclusively on sail power around 25-35 percent of the time.
Star Flyer had been dividing its time between the Mediterranean and the Far East, but in 2008, Star Clippers repositioned the vessel to French Polynesia for year-round South Pacific cruising. Since the departure some years back of Windstar, which had long offered the only year-round "sailing" experiences in the region, only "big ships" and traditional luxury cruises have been operating here. So Star Clippers emergence offers a refreshing new option.
The ship's laidback atmosphere and its focus on sailing and water sports dovetail nicely with the French Polynesian experience. The islands' lagoons are calm enough for windsurfing, waterskiing and kayaking, yet are teeming with marine life to the delight of avid snorkelers and divers. And simply standing on deck, watching the ship sail out of port and past the jagged peaks of the surrounding islands, as the sun slowly sinks behind the horizon, never fails to be one of the most popular, and most romantic, onboard activities day after day.
It can't be forgotten that there is a less idyllic side to sailing. Rough seas and bad weather can turn sea days into nightmares of seasickness and cause the ship to delay or cancel its arrival into port. A Star Flyer cruise is best for hardy sailors -- if you're prone to motion sickness, opt for a larger ship with stabilizers. Unlike on some mega-ships, you never forget you're on a sailing vessel when you're onboard Star Flyer -- but most of the time, that's a good thing.
Passengers are typically well off, but are active, adventurous and friendly -- not stuffy or entitled at all. While single travelers may not wish to travel solo to such an overtly romantic destination, open seating at meal times and the sociability of the ship would seem to be welcoming for people traveling by themselves (though fewer than 5 percent of Star Clippers travelers go solo). I wouldn't recommend the ship for passengers with mobility difficulties -- lots of stairs, ledges to step over and rocking tender transfers could present a problem.
A few nights were themed -- nautical colors (blue and white), pirate night, Tahitian night -- where the dress code was even more lax than usual. Passengers can opt for slightly dressier apparel for the Captain's Dinner (the waiters and bar staff change to black vests and ties, like pseudo tuxes), but it's definitely optional, and no one goes really formal.
Don't forget to bring hard-soled water shoes -- Polynesian sand tends to have spiky bits of coral and seashells in it -- and a sweater or sweatshirt for more blustery sea days.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
After our cruise in 2013 on the Star Flyer, we didn't plan to ever book another cruise with them. There were just too many problems including unsafe tender transfers. However, we saw a sweet deal that included airfare and decided to give them ...continue
|Cuba to Cayman Islands and back|
February 2014 donald hatch
We too were on the second cruise from Cienfuegos Cuba to the Cayman islands and back, as was the previous reviewer. However, we rate the cruise more positively than he did. There were indeed teething problems, but nowhere near as bad as the ...continue
February 2014 magical_spider
This was my first cruise on a Star Clipper, and this was an adventure! We were on the 2nd cruise from Cuba, and there were many many teething problems. The transfers from Havana had been arranged by the land agents of Star Clipper, and many ...continue
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