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Star Clippers: Star Flyer

  • Star Clippers
  • Star Clippers
  • Star Clippers
  • Star Clippers
  • Star Clippers
  • Star Clippers
  • Star Clippers

Star Flyer Review

Insider Take

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.

Onboard Experience

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.

Decor

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.

Public Rooms

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.

Cuisine

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.

Restaurants

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

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.

Tipping

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.

Entertainment

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.

Fitness/Spa

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.

Children's Facilities

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.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Megaship activities, casinos, spas, floorshows, spacious cabins, formal dining, dressing up for dinner.

Cabins

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.

Attire

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!




Ship Overview

Introduced in 1991, Star Flyer is a true clipper ship reflecting a proud heritage in new age of sail, where the traditions of the past merge with the comforts and amenities of today. Life on board is relaxed and casual, much like traveling on a private yacht. Expansive teak decks offer ample space and not one, but two swimming pools. This small sailing ship offers more outdoor space per passenger than most conventional cruise ships.

With its bright brass fixtures, teak-and-mahogany paneling and rails, and antique prints and paintings of famous sailing vessels, the interior decor of these ships reflects the heritage of grand sailing vessels.

Porthole-shape skylights create an atrium-like effect in the Piano Bar, which leads to a graceful staircase and the dining room one deck below. The centerpiece of the vaguely Edwardian-style library is a belle époque–period fireplace.

The Piano Bar is intimate and cozy. The Tropical Bar, one of the most popular areas on board, is the center of social activity for predinner cocktails and late-night dancing. It's the covered outdoor lounge adjacent to the open deck space, where local entertainers often perform.

In 1991, Star Clippers unveiled a new tall-ship alternative to sophisticated travelers whose desires include having an adventure at sea but not on board a conventional cruise ship. Star Clippers vessels are four- and five-masted sailing beauties—the world's largest barkentine and full-rigged sailing ships. Filled with modern, high-tech equipment as well as the amenities of private yachts, the ships rely on sail power while at sea unless conditions require the assistance of the engines. Minimal heeling, usually less than 6%, is achieved through judicious control of the sails.

A boyhood dream became a cruise-line reality when Swedish entrepreneur Mikael Krafft launched his fleet of authentic recreations of classic 19th-century clipper ships. The day officially begins when the captain holds an informative daily briefing on deck with a bit of storytelling tossed in.

The lack of rigid scheduling is one of Star Clippers' most appealing attractions. The bridge is always open, and passengers are welcome to peer over the captain's shoulder as he plots the ship's course. Crew members are happy to demonstrate how to splice a line, reef a sail, or tie a proper knot.

As attractive as the ships' interiors are, the focal point of Star Clippers cruises is the outdoors. Plan to spend a lot of time on deck soaking in the sun, sea, and sky. It doesn't get any better than that. Consider also that each ship has at least two swimming pools. Granted, they are tiny, but they are a refreshing feature uncommon on true sailing ships and all but the most lavish yachts.

Although the Star Clippers ships are motorized, their engines are shut down whenever crews unfurl the sails (36,000 square feet on Star Clipper and Star Flyer, and 56,000 square feet on Royal Clipper) to capture the wind. On a typical cruise, the ships rely exclusively on sail power any time favorable conditions prevail.

As the haunting strains of Vangelis's symphony "1492: Conquest of Paradise" are piped over the PA system and the first of the sails is unfurled, the only thing you'll hear on deck is the sound of the music and the calls of the line handlers until every sail is in place. While the feeling of the wind powering large ships through the water is spine-tingling, you will miss the wondrous sight of your ship under sail unless the captain can schedule a photo opportunity utilizing one of the tenders. It's one of the most memorable sights you'll see if this opportunity avails itself. However, when necessary, the ships will cruise under motor power to meet the requirements of their itineraries.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • The sheer beauty of real sailing combined with the luxury of creature comforts
  • Coffee and tea available around the clock at the piano bar
  • Seating for six to eight in the dining room is designed to maximize socializing

Cons

  • There are no tables for two in the dining room
  • Designed to conserve water, bathroom taps can be frustrating until you are accustomed to the regulated water flow
  • On a ship this size there aren't too many spots to get away from fellow passengers
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 72
  • Entered Service 1992
  • Gross Tons 3,000
  • Length 360 feet
  • Number of Cabins 85
  • Passenger Capacity 170
  • Width 50 feet
  • New

Jan 31, 2014

Costa Rica

We chose the Star Clipper line because we wanted the experience of a real sailing ship. We chose Costa Rica because of the rave reviews of family and friends. Both were well warranted and we can heartily recommend the Star Flyer cruise along the coast of Costa Rica. The food was exceptional. The cabins are adequate with very attentive stewards. The experiences on deck were very special. I did climb up to the 'crow's nest'. My new friends did pull

the line to raise the sail. I did lie down in the net next to the bowsprit and watch the water go by. Despite past history, my husband had no problem with seasickness. The ship is large enough and stable enough plus the seas off Costa Rica are fairly calm. Shipboard staff was wonderful. The excursions and pre-cruise tour added to the trip. And, yes, there is plenty of time to just lie next to one of the mini-pools on the deck or spend hours on a quiet beach. Breakfast and lunch were lavish buffets with always a custom cook station. Dinner was multiple courses with lots of choices. The level of the cuisine was very good to excellent with plenty of variety. The pastries were superb! Given the small kitchen used, it was truly amazing the level of fresh food that was served! Liquor was extra, of course, but buy your wine by the bottle because they will label it with your cabin number and hold it for your next meal. One highlight of the trip was the beach barbecue. The kitchen, dining room, and bar staff moved ashore with linens, cooking equipment, and a full bar. It was the most elaborate beach picnic that I have ever had! We were in one of the cheaper cabins on the lowest level. Waves sometimes splashed by our porthole. There was plenty of storage including room for two good sized suitcases under the bed after you unpacked. Lots of shelves and hangers were provided. Fresh towels were provided whenever needed. The very attentive steward checked our cabin at least two times per day. The bathroom was adequate with a roomy medicine cabinet. The shower is separated only by a curtain from the rest of the bathroom but it was adequate in size. Plenty of hot water was available at all times. The cabin décor is lovely but a little shabby. The ship has been scheduled for an overhaul soon. The beds were comfortable. The ventilation worked well. Electricity was 110w. A blow dryer and standard toiletries were provided. Almost everything focuses on this being a sailing ship to explore. Yes, there is a masseuse on board. Yes, there are two tiny swimming pools. Yes, there are lounge chairs. But, what makes this a different experience is climbing in the rigging or lying in the net next to the bowsprit or helping haul up the sails. Each day as you leave port, there is an announcement and special music as passengers go on deck to watch the sails go up as the ship leaves port. We did have one night that a local group came on board with very good musicians and dancers. Also, snorkel gear was given out for the cruise to anyone interested. Swimming was offered next to the ship at one point also. To get a more complete Costa Rican experience, we added on the Treetops Treasures pre-cruise tour and that was marvelous with a two night visit to the Cloud Forest for viewing hummingbirds, butterflies, and birds while ziplining and crossing suspension bridges. We also took local excursions while on the cruise portion of the trip. They were a lot of fun. Pick and choose from some excellent choices since there is definitely some overlap. We did one in a mangrove swamp, one in the ocean looking for marine life, and one to a rescue center and botanical garden. We skipped ziplining since we had already done that. In past reviews, I read that it could be difficult to get the excursions that you wanted. We did not have that problem. Very few excursions were filled to capacity because the ship was not full probably but if there is something you really want, do sign up quickly. Most of our trips from the Star Flyer to land were by tender and some were wet landings. Bring water shoes. There was never a line for the tender and you could take it to shore anytime in port to explore on your own. We had an absolutely marvelous time on the trip from beginning to end. Our only regret was not booking two weeks instead of one. There are two itineraries. There is one that heads south than back to Puerta Caldera and the other one that heads north then back to Puerta Caldera. If we had known how much fun we would have, we would have done both weeks. Our only problems were all centered around the incompetent office staff in Miami. If you book directly with them, make sure that you nag and follow-up every detail. Make sure that they mail to you the confirmation packet. We booked two months prior to departure and they never sent one to us. We were given contradictory information about a transfer. And, finally, the ship was told that about 20 of us were traveling for two weeks when we were traveling for one!

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  • New

May 2, 2006

Asia, Thailand, Malaysia

We sailed from Piraeus to Istanbul, stopping in three Greek islands and three Turkish ports. The ship shows its age in a variety of ways. The bed spread was so worn out I would have tossed it into the sea. The TV is and old 18 inch regular set. One day the toilet flushing mechanism stopped working and another day the sink drain flooded. I have to say that those and other minor problems were promptly resolved to satisfaction.

The ship is well kept overall. We had a category two cabin and it was more than adequate in size for us, with plenty of storage. The other travelers were of all ages, with no kids or teenagers. Many retirees and all very well traveled. I found the food to be of excellent quality and variety, specially at dinner time. I do not drink anything but beer, and the price was reasonable, same for the wine at dinner that my wife ordered. Although it is a sailing ship, we did not sail at all, probably to keep the schedule and lack of wind. Yes, they allowed us to participate in raising the sails, but as I said, it was just so the passengers could do it, since we did not sail. Except for one shore excursion which I found totally devoid of any value, the others were good. The on-board lectures very informative and interesting. Water sports were available and we used them on every beach we visited. Embarkation and disembarkation were very easy and fast. It is not luxurious, but it is very upscale and comfortable I would say. The open seating at dinner allowed us to meet fellow passengers and we had a good time. Entertainment on board is limited, ( you can rent a DVD or read a book), after dinner there are some activities. Overall we were very satisfied, but do not have unreasonable expectations if you book this ship.

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  • New

Feb 18, 2006

Asia, Thailand, Malaysia

Despite the advertising, this is not a luxury cruise. The ship is 15 years old and it shows. The cabins are cramped and shabby. The air conditioning does not work well. The smallest cabins are too small for two people of normal size to stand on the floor together at the same time - One person has to sit on the bed. We didn't expect this because the brochures do not represent this accurately. The purser admitted this when we

complained. The ship was only 50% occupied but they still charged us a substantial "upgrade fee" for moving us to a bigger cabin. This looked like a well rehearsed routine because in each cabin the first thing you see is a notice saying "how to upgrade". If the ship had had more passengers on board, it would have been very crowded, particularly at dinner. The food is ok at breakfast and lunch, but dinner is very disappointing. One night they served tinned fish! We do not drink very much, but be aware that if you like to use the bar or have wine with dinner, that this is extremely expensive. The tours from the ship are also very expensive. Four out of the six ports of call were nice places, but two were touristy and not really worth going to. One day we were dropped at a three star hotel in Langkawi where we were told we could use the beach. But they had not arranged this with the hotel and the passengers were removed from the sun chairs by the hotel security staff, so we ended up going back to the ship. Overall, we feel we were lucky because we met nice people and the ship only had 100 passengers on board, although it felt full (it can take 170). It is a very expensive cruise for what it provides.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

The Greek Isles

This was an absolutely fantastic experience. My husband and I would do another Star Clipper cruise in a minute. We won't go on another big cruise ship again. The Star Flyer was small enough that you got to know everyone, including the captain. The ship was small enough to get into little harbors but big enough that you didn't feel crowded. Best of all, it is the ONLY ship that sails all the time--no motoring except one day in a dead calm.

Passengers can help sail the ship too. Awesome!

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Phuket to Singapore

I can’t recommend this ship highly enough. It is so different from the large cruise ships but the size brings loads of advantages. At times it’s like being on your own private yacht. You can talk to the officers, steer the ship, help pull the sails up, sit on the bowsprit or simply laze by one of two small pools on board. Food is excellent and attire is smart casual so no need to bring

a jacket. Dinner in one sitting so take your time and enjoy. Evening entertainment is very restricted but if it’s big shows you want book a liner. Water sports are included when the ship stops at beach locations including water skiing, kayaks, dingys and board sailing. Whilst the clientele is somewhat younger than other cruises we have been on, It’s not really suitable for kids (hurrah!!!!!) because there’s no program or careers for them. Staff were fantastic (without exception) from the skipper down to our cleaner. Some truly memorable moments such as going out on the zodiacs and seeing the ship under full sail appearing from behind a limestone outcrop and standing at the bow at night with my wife as the ship ploughed on under sail. OK, it’s not cheap but I found it difficult to fault and am wondering when we can go on her (or one of her sister ships) again.

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