Cruises were certainly not on our agenda, ever, or so we thought. Spending our holiday with potentially hundreds of strangers in close proximity on a floating holiday camp did not enthuse us, no matter how exotic the destinations might be.
However the ad for this cruise on one of the Clipper ships, the Star Flyer, along the coast of Costa Rica and up to Nicaragua with a choice of daily excursions on land had us interested. We used to be keen catamaran sailors and this cruise looked as if we could experience the thrill of sailing again but without the hard work. After some research we booked and then got a bit apprehensive: would we be able to do the excursions which depended on the weather and conditions in the ports of call, what would life be like on board?
We needn't have worried. The trip proved to be one of the best holidays we ever had. From our embarkation in Puerto Caldera on the Star Flyer with the other passengers, most of whom we got to know during the 3-day excursion inland after arriving in Costa Rica to the dis-embarcation 7 days later we enjoyed our stay aboard. And yes, we were able to do all the excursions on land we had hoped to do when we planed the trip.
Sailing along the still unspoiled pacific coast of Costa Rica was a fantastic experience: sitting on the sundeck of Star Flyer we watched rain forest covered volcanic peaks give way to dreamy bays not yet overrun by tourism. We never as far as I know met another ship on our way north to Nicaragua which added to the sense of adventure. Hoisting the sails usually early evening was accompanied by music followed often also by a spectacular sunset. One passenger told my that the experience still 'gets to him' after several cruises with the ship. And it was moving, we all agreed.
Many of the passengers had sailed on these Clipper ships before and 'knew the ropes'. This proved to be useful for novices during the sometimes choppy and wet transfers from ship to shore on the tenders. Though most passengers came to enjoy the fun of racing towards the shore and having to wade the last meters in knee-high wonderfully warm water. It made you feel like the first explorers on these remote shores.
As to exploring the shores there was a well varied programme on offer each day as well as on board activities. From early morning keep-fit to snorkeling and diving lessons before venturing into the deep, excursions inland that included line zipping in the rain forest or visiting some historic place like Granada in Nicaragua, climbing up to the crater's edge of a volcano, trekking through dry forest, or lazing on an almost empty beach there was something for everyone.
Life on board too was great and not only the menu choices. There were lectures about the amazing bio-diversity of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a highly interesting account by the captain of his voyage from Sweden to Shanghai on a rebuilt historical sailing ship, and fun social evenings culminating on our last evening in a hilarious talent show staged by crew members. And speaking of the crew all, from the always calm but efficient maitre'd to the kitchen staff, the eager sports- and social programme team to the friendly cabin stewards, all worked tirelessly to ensure that the passengers had a good time.
If you are adventurous but like to have some comfort too a cruise on one of the Star Clippers could be for you. We certainly plan to go on another trip with one of these iconic sailing ships before long.