Fodor’s Expert Review
A four-masted sailing ship carrying just 166 passengers at most, the Star Clipper is, in fact, a true clipper ship. The 379-foot-long ship boasts 16 sails and cuts a handsome figure when it pulls into port. Smaller than the Royal Clipper but identical to its sister ship the Star Flyer, the Star Clipper boasts a traditionally nautical aesthetic, with teak, brass, and mahogany accents in spades, as well as tons of imagery of other famous sailing vessels.Read More
Put into service in 1992 and given a quick once-over during COVID, the Star Clipper isn’t the glitziest or most glamorous ship on the high seas, but if it’s a sailing adventure with access to smaller, more off-the-beaten-track ports you’re looking for, this could be the right choice. Voyages typically stick to relatively small regions of the Caribbean and Mediterranean, meaning you’ll have ample time in port to check out the beach and see the sights.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Star Clipper cabins are nice, if a bit dated. Cabins range from the very basic, 86-square-foot Category Six inside cabin, where you’ll just get two bunks and a bathroom, to the relatively spacious 156-square-foot Category One Deluxe Deck cabin, with its whirlpool tub, minibar, and door that opens directly onto the ship’s main deck. Interiors are all mahogany, navy, and gold, and all rooms boast a private bathroom, air conditioning, private safe, and at least some under-bed storage. Every class of room except Category Six also has a flatscreen TV which airs Star Clipper-related movies and information, as well as the BBC World Service and CNN.
The closest thing to a suite on the Star Clipper is the Owner’s Cabin, which comes in at 237 square feet, or about twice as big as most of the other Outside Cabins. Not unlike the Deluxe Deck Cabins, the room is handsomely appointed with a minibar, double bed, sitting area, and whirlpool bath. It’s a bigger room, though, and there’s only one on board, spanning the full width of the aft end of the ship.
There are no studio cabins available onboard the Star Clipper.
If you have mobility issues, the Star Clipper isn’t for you. There are no elevators, and you have to take stairs to get just about anywhere, from your cabin to the dining room. You’ll even have to take a set of stairs to get from the tender to the actual ship when boarding, so if you’re not 100 percent sure-footed, the Star Clipper can be a challenge.
In addition, the rooms lack accessible features like wider doorways and lower thresholds for wheelchair access. To get onto the ship, you’ll have to climb a steep, somewhat unsteady set of stairs attached to the ship.
Food & Drink
You’ll get fed six times a day on the Star Clipper, albeit on the ship’s schedule. There’s the buffet breakfast, a snack-focused continental breakfast, a buffet lunch, an on-deck afternoon snack, sit-down fancy dinner, and a casual, bar-adjacent midnight snack, all of which are prepared by the staff of the ship’s one solitary kitchen.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all take place in the dining room, and the meals are generally European-inspired, with the occasional exception of an Asian-themed feast. None of the meals we had were anything to write home about, but the food was plentiful—including a sorbet course each dinner—and at dinner, patrons could either order off the provided menu or opt for a steak and fries or whatever that evening’s pasta course was. Since the ship is small, the crew would even make the occasional exception if there was a special request. For instance, if you’re not feeling either of that night’s two dessert options, you could ask your waiter for an off-menu scoop of ice cream.
All non-coffee, non-tea, non-water drinks are a la carte, with the exception of some juices available at breakfast. Bottles of wine can be purchased for the table at dinner, and the bar manager comes around to take orders each evening should you want a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a soda with dinner. He’ll just charge it to your room, and you’ll settle up at the end of the cruise.
Speaking of the bar: There’s just one—The Tropical Bar—on board. Situated on the main deck, it’s pretty much the place to hang, catch up, or just get yourself together for a day on shore. It’s also the first thing you see when you get back on the ship, so you’ll be glad there are daily drink specials if you occasionally find yourself partaking in a cocktail or two.
What the Star Clipper lacks in entertainment options, it makes up for in humble charm. The ship boasts just one on board entertainer—a sort of jack of all trades who DJs, sings, and can handle both a piano and a guitar. There’s also a cruise director, and together the pair handle most evening entertainment, from musical quiz competitions to a pirate-themed skills challenge. There’s a crew and passenger talent show on the ship’s final night at sea, if you’re interested in partaking, and each night when the ship departs, there’s a slight sound and light display when the sails go up, complete with music from Ridley Scott’s 1492.
Spa & Fitness
If you’re looking to get pampered and fit, the Star Clipper might not be the best option for you. There is a masseuse on board, and passengers can choose from four different rub-down options, but that’s about it, spa-wise. No other services are offered, and there’s no hot tub, sauna, or any similar facilities.
The boat’s fitness offerings are similarly sparse. Some mornings on our cruise, one of the crew members offered a sort of Crossfit-light fitness class, but that’s about it as far as exercise class options. There is no gym or fitness room, and there is no track.
On days when the ship is docked and water sports are offered, you could take out a paddleboard or some snorkeling gear and get in a water workout of sorts.
If you’re looking for a good workout on the Star Clipper, take your running shoes when you hit the shore and maybe you can get a jog in.
Key cruising tips
Health & Safety
Every passenger aboard the Star Clipper has to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 before getting on board, and each passenger is also rapid tested before even getting on the ship’s tender. Currently, the policy is also to assign seats at dinner so as to contain any potential COVID outbreaks, so you’ll have the opportunity to become fast friends with any table mates, should you not be traveling with a party large enough to garner its own booth.
While the dress code on the ship is, in general, exceptionally casual, shorts and tee-shirts are frowned upon at dinner. Bring island chic apparel—including collared shirts if you’re a guy—and you’ll be good to go.
One more heads up: There’s generally a white party held each cruise, for which everyone is encouraged to don all white clothing. Pack accordingly, or you might find yourself sticking out like a sore thumb.
Technically, anyone over six months old is allowed aboard a Star Clipper cruise, but to be honest, we wouldn’t recommend it. There are no activities specifically for kids on board, nor are there babysitters. Rooms can be a little tight with two people, so you’d have to pop for additional cabins for kids, assuming they were old enough to take care of themselves. The Star Clipper’s programming and facilities are aimed more at adults, truthfully, and the rare kids that do end up on board tend to be teenagers who pretty much stay to themselves.
Gratuities aren’t included in the price of the cruise, and toward the end of the cruise guests will be given an envelope for gratuities for dining staff and cabin stewards. The ship recommends each passenger give at least eight euros per night on board, and you’ll want to tip your bar staff separately. For that, it’s always a good idea to just add a euro to the cost of each drink when you settle up your tab.
Service on the ship is kind and unobtrusive. You’ll find your beds turned down every night, and you have the ability to send laundry away to be cleaned for a relatively low fee. There’s no room service, but if you ever really need something, you can call the purser’s office during open hours and they’ll try and help you out.