Star Flyer Review

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Why Choose Star Flyer?

  • Pro: The thrill of sailing on a beautiful masted clipper ship
  • Con: Small cabins
  • Bottom line: A unique experience for active passengers seeking a cruise with a difference

Star Flyer Overview

By Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic contributor
Editor Rating

Star Flyer was built in 1991 for Star Clippers as a four-masted, 170-passenger, tall clipper ship, technically a square-rigged barquentine. The ship currently ranks, along with its sister Star Clipper, as the loftiest tall ship in the world, with a mast that rises 226 feet high. Both ships, along with their bigger sibling, Royal Clipper, and a further ship under construction, are the realization of a childhood dream of Swedish entrepreneur Mikael Krafft, and apart from the German-owned Sea Cloud ships, are the only authentic square riggers in the world offering a comfortable cruising experience (as opposed to the many sail training tall ships, where you sleep in bunks and have to sail the ship). This is the point of Star Clippers: you don't have to do any work at all, although you can play sailor by hauling on the ropes every now and then with the crew, or climbing the mast, under supervision.

Sailing on Star Flyer is like stepping back in time to a golden era when clipper ships ruled the waves. The unfurling of the sails, to the stirring "Conquest of Paradise" by Vangelis, 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 feet 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. Simply standing on deck, watching the ship sail out of port never fails to be one of the most popular, and most romantic, onboard activities, day after day.

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 sails in the Western Mediterranean in summer and the Caribbean and Cuba in winter, offering repositioning voyages across the Atlantic twice a year. The ship's laidback atmosphere and its focus on sailing and water sports dovetail nicely with the Caribbean experience, or with the beaches in the Mediterranean; the company's itineraries favour lesser-known ports where possible, or beaches where the ship can drop anchor and ferry passengers ashore by tender. The Mediterranean itineraries feature plenty of popular ports, too, such as Cannes, Monaco, Valletta and Rome; the ship is also moored off Monaco every year for a special Grand Prix sailing.

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, like any other, to delay or cancel its arrival into port. A Star Flyer cruise is best for relatively 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; and because the ship was built for 'real'sailing, it cuts through the water beautifully.

Star Flyer Fellow Passengers

Star Flyer attracts a wide range of passengers from young honeymooners to retirees, but the average age range is 50s to 70s. The ship also attracts a variety of nationalities, from Americans and Australians to Brits, French, Germans, Dutch and other Europeans. Announcements, daily programs and menus are always presented in English, French and German. Many passengers are repeat Star Clippers cruisers and/or are sailing aficionados. Most are couples, either alone or in groups of friends, with a few families.

Passengers are typically well off, but are active, adventurous and friendly -- not stuffy or entitled at all. It's easy to make friends in the Tropical Bar, the main gathering place on deck, and 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 and there are no wheelchair-accessible cabins, and no elevator.

Star Flyer Dress Code

Daywear is quite casual -- shorts and T-shirts for land tours, swimsuits and cover-ups for beach days or lying on deck. Swim apparel is not permitted in the dining room. Eveningwear is, in my mind, the ambiguous "resort casual." Women tend to wear nice slacks or skirts and tops or sundresses, while men stick to slacks and button-down or nice short-sleeved shirts. Jackets and ties are definitely not required. Shorts and T-shirts are not allowed in the dining room at night; the European contingent is, in any case, quite glamorous. Star Clippers' passengers sport a lot of logowear, too, wearing their past passenger status with pride.

A few nights are themed -- pirate night, for example, although most people didn't bother to dress up on our cruise. 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 – some of the beaches are 'wet landings', where you may get your feet wet. A sweater or sweatshirt is useful for more blustery sea days, as well as a hat that won't blow off in the wind, and shoes suitable for walking around teak decks.

Star Flyer Gratuity

The suggested gratuity is 5 euros per person, per night for the wait staff and 3 euros per person per night for cabin stewards. You can hand envelopes of cash to the purser's office or sign a form to charge the gratuities to your shipboard account. Passengers are free to give additional cash gifts to other crewmembers whom they feel deserve recognition for outstanding service, but it is not required.

Next: Star Flyer Cabins
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Star Flyer Member Reviews

We don't like the huge ships. Coming from a small town, 3000 people is more than our cities population. My husband loves to sail. Star Flyer holds 170 passengers. We love the Carribean. Food was excellent. We found some of the passengers a ... Read more
Disappointing leeds cruiser
Be in no doubt this is a beautiful ship. This was our third voyage with them this year. We did one last year and we have another to come in 2016. On the other hand we may not book any more. Only vague thought seems to have been given to the ... Read more
This was our fourth cruise via Star Clippers and a disappointment. Our accommodations were fine and the overall service was great, especially in the dining room. The Hotel Manager (Arnold Deutchl) was exceptionally helpful and competent. ... Read more
1 - 3 of 28 Reviews

Star Flyer Ratings

Editor Rating 4.0 Member Rating
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