My online search last fall happen upon Star Clipper and everything about it fit what my wife and I wanted: size, region, ports and accommodations.
After all is said and none we feel like we achieved our goal of "adventure in smaller ports of call without having to do it with 3,000 of our closest friends". ON A REAL SAILING SHIP!
* The Ship and Officers - All first class. Clean, well taken care of (almost to an extreme). Thank you Julian (First Mate) for having dinner at our table one evening.
* Ports of Call - At every port we were the ONLY ship to be actually docked in the port, no mega liner in site. Each port an adventure for us and loved the people. Limited shore excursions which suited us just find.
* Staff - All well trained and friendly (minus one or two that had not got the memo, more later).
* Meals/Food - The Dinner menu and for the most part the Lunch menu were always different with new options and themes each day. Dinner presentation was always a highlight. Open seating which we love; did I say we love open seating??
* Drinks - Wine selections was very good; of course one would expect this while touring Italy! Thanks to Peter and Rachel for keeping our glasses full.
* Rooms - We stayed in the Deluxe Suites (do this no matter what) where we had room service and a room attendant (One Million Shout Outs goes to Jun; thank you for every thing and all your work to keep ice and drinks in the suite).
* Fellow Passengers - What a wide difference in nationalities. We met some great people from many different places. The ship at full passenger capacity is 225-227. We were told by one of the officers that the ship was only about 65% full.......What a deal.
I could go on and on; but you get the idea. However, I must point a a few of the CONS that the line should address and could.
* If you spend anytime on the company web site you will see that in very professional terms they communicate that if one has a "transferring issue and needs handicap support" that this ship is not equipped to handle this need. Additionally, they clearly state none of ships have "children program". PEOPLE! Do yourself a favor do not bring your children under the age of 15 or so on this ship. They will be bored out their mind by the second day.....no inter-net, no game boys, no TV and no else to play with. We had 3 or 4 couples that did not get the message and had 6 & 7 year old little girls with nothing to do but run wild through out the ship........and one couple that had a 2 year, OMG!!! Choose RCCL;you will be happier and so will all the other passengers on Clipper ships.
* Breakfast - You got to improve this area. The same selection 7 days in a row; not good. If you can do it at lunch and dinner?????
* Cruise Director - A Staff of ONE. Monja needs help in many areas first would be her "professional appearance, it simply does not match with other officers board ship.But she can speak 3 or 4 languages, fluently. Come on Mr/Ms Head of Marketing and PR for Star Clipper give it a look into. We thought it was just us; but one day we met a couple on Capri from the ship and we shared a bottle wine at an outside Cafe. Seems they were Star Clipper "repeaters" and were able to give us insight from other voyages. When I inquired as to the biggest difference (good or bad) about this ship and others the reply was the "Cruise Director" was a disappointment. My second point on this subject: Monja main concern was making the shore excursions (very limited number) happen each morning. If you were just going a shore on your on the ability to get good quality data from her on transportation, taxis, places to see was very limited or simply wrong. My wife and several other ladies inquired about transportation to the center city, at one port to be told " taxis will meet tenders or you can walk 800 meters to the first bus stop"....OMG. Not good!
* And the Tenders - Please do not attempt this ship if you have "Transferring" issues. Going up and down the small stairs to a waiting tender in water that is bobbing up and down while being secured by one or two deck hands (not to mention that everything is wet)........if an accident has not happen I will be very surprised or will in the near future. My wife and I are in very good physical shape (not overweight) and we found it a challenge at times; with my wife getting one big large bruise on her leg from one session coming on board. Its a trade off- smaller ports and no mega ships. In the end I will take the tenders; but many older travelers need to know this "speed bump".
* Entertainment on Ship- While not a big deal to us we found many of our fellow passengers voicing concern over the weak duo that was the sole option the entire 7 days. It did catch my ear as we initially boarded a Bee Gees disco tune would be being throw out at the welcome reception......I thought this was an Italian cruise; you can do better. If nothing else get the soundtrack from Moonstruck!
In the end it gets our 4 STARS+ and we would go again; but the next time we would throw the kids overboard, DAY 1. Happy Sailing!