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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 Entertainment

Editor Rating

Entertainment-wise, daytimes are pretty much dominated by shore explorations. In addition to water sports (see below), the ship offers a variety of excursions in port, most of which are fairly standard sightseeing. Prices are in euros, which makes the excursions expensive if the euro is strong against the dollar or pound.

The sign-up process was pleasantly low key. At the beginning of the cruise, sign-up books for each island are set out in the library and guests can add their names to the lists at their leisure. If you change your mind, you simply cross your name off the list. You have until noon the day before to sign up or cancel (cancellations later than noon may incur a charge), but many of the tours did have last-minute availability. The cruise director is happy to answer any shore tour questions you may have, and does a presentation about the various options on one of the first nights. On the whole, the tours are well run and most of the group sizes are fairly small. But if you have your heart set on a particular tour, keep an eye on the bookings as tours can be cancelled if minimum numbers aren't met. This tend to happen more in the Med, where a lot of passengers are on their home turf and don't feel the need for sightseeing. In Cuba, there's more enthusiasm for exploring ashore.

The good news is, because the ship is so small, it gets into some of the nicest, and most 'yachtie' ports in the Mediterranean and you can just step off and stroll ashore in beautiful places like Portoferraio in Elba.

Daytime activities on sea days are pretty homespun. They're led by the cruise director and the water sports team (which also doubles as the activities staff), and include things like fruit carving demonstrations and knot-tying lessons. On the transatlantic crossings, passengers send messages in bottles, too, just for fun.

The most exciting daytime activity is climbing the mast, allowed on calm days, which involves putting on a rock-climbing harness, ascending a tall ladder, and hanging out in a crow's nest above the Sun Deck (the photo ops are better when there's land nearby).

On our Mediterranean cruise, Star Clippers was experimenting with a new wine buyer and there were excellent wine tastings on deck at 5:30 p.m. on three consecutive days; the buyer was friendly, knowledgeable and generous with his pours. There were also two cookery demonstrations from a Michelin-starred chef, but these were very basic. Some cruises also have a yoga theme, with an experienced instructor on board; check the Star Clippers' website for these as they happen just a few times a year.

Most people use sea days to sleep in the sun, read or take a dip in one of the two saltwater pools. Simply enjoying the sailing is entertainment in itself, watching the crew raise and lower the sails, maintain the rigging and steer the ship. There's an open bridge policy and passengers are often found chatting to the captain, or the officer of the watch.

Every evening at about 9:30 p.m., the cruise director hosts some kind of show, typically involving audience participation. Favorites include a fashion show of logowear, guest and crew talent show, team trivia and a hotly-contested music quiz. Sometimes, films are screened outside on the Aft Deck, projected onto an old sail; a very peaceful, very no-frills version of Princess Cruises' "Movies Under the Stars".

There's always dancing in the Tropical Bar, after the entertainment, to live music (typically, a keyboard player) or recorded music. The scene gets pretty lively as people stay up drinking with new friends and the jolly bar staff add to the atmosphere. The later hours are when several of the crewmembers -- officers, sports team -- come to hang out, so it's a nice opportunity for passengers and crew to intermingle. Star gazing is a perfect evening activity when weather permits, but though we even went up to the bridge to find a knowledgeable stargazer, most crewmembers were sadly lacking in constellation information.

Star Flyer Public Rooms

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Public Rooms

On a ship this small, public spaces serve multiple functions. The hub of ship life is the Tropical Bar, a covered bit of deck in the middle of the ship. It serves as aerobics room, al fresco dining area, show lounge, dance floor, waiting area and meet-up spot -- as well as housing the actual bar. Meetings and presentations for the whole ship -- such as the disembarkation talk and the shore excursion overview -- take place here. During the day, passengers sit and read on the benches on three sides of the deck, or play cards at the two high wooden tables on either side of the bar.

Hint: The water fountain on the starboard side of the Tropical Bar is perfect for filling up water bottles before heading ashore, or quenching parched throats without waiting for a bartender to pour you a glass.

Smoking is allowed on the starboard side of the Tropical Bar and on the forward deck; although both are in the open air, it can be an annoyance.

The indoor extension of the Tropical Bar is the Piano Bar, named for the white baby grand in the center sunken area of the room. Blue, plush banquettes and matching chairs circle the ship's main stairway, which leads to the Dining Room below. While not nearly as popular as the upper decks and the Tropical Bar, the Piano Bar is busiest between happy hour and dinner, when a classical pianist performs and groups meet for a pre-dinner drink, and on blustery sea days when everyone takes shelter from the bad weather and card players congregate.

The pretty, wood-paneled library is also a multipurpose space. If you're looking for a book, world atlas, guides to birdwatching and board games, you'll find them here (just check to make sure you can read the language your selection is written in -- quite a few languages are represented on these shelves). But more than just supplying books for guests to borrow, it serves as the information and sign-up center for shore excursions. Two computer terminals offer very slow Internet connections at a €6 per hour or €18 for 240 minutes. There's Wi-Fi, too, but it doesn't always work. This isn't a problem in the Mediterranean, where there's always a shoreside cafe with free Wi-Fi, but cruises to Cuba can mean being out of touch for a while.

The teeniest public room on the ship is the Sloop Shop, where travelers can buy a wide range of Star Clippers logo clothing, the soundtrack to "1492" (featuring the famous raising-the-sails song, "Conquest of Paradise"), and a few sundries. The purser's office is also here, should you need to exchange money, request a nurse (the ship does not carry a doctor, except on the crossings, as it offers mainly coastal cruising) or borrow a DVD to watch in-cabin.

Star Flyer Spa & Fitness

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Spa & Fitness

What really sets a Star Clippers cruise apart is its water sports activities. Although Star Flyer is too small to have an actual platform at the back of the ship, like its big sister, Royal Clipper, its team of four water sports crewmembers offer snorkeling, diving, waterskiing, kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing and sailing wherever possible.

On the first day of the cruise, all interested passengers can sign out snorkeling equipment for complimentary use throughout the entire itinerary. All water sports are free although there's often a long queue for water skiing. There are free shuttles to beaches in almost every stop, operating on a half-hourly basis. Getting on the tenders can be alarming for the less mobile; you descend a steep gangway down the side of the ship and are helped onboard by a crew member. It's not easy when the sea is choppy.

For onboard sunning and splashing, the fore and aft Sun Decks are the places to be. Both offer pools, which though small, are surprisingly deep. But swimmers be forewarned -- both pools have windows in the bottom. Passengers standing in the Piano Bar or the back hallway of the Clipper Deck can ogle your bum and legs through the windows while you cool off!

Both decks offer plenty of loungers, and both have a few rows of chairs covered by a tarp for a little bit of sun protection -- the covered section on the Aft Deck is larger. Other than that, shade is hard to come by and depends entirely on whether the sails are up and which way they're casting their shadow. People did leave belongings on the deck chairs to reserve them, but usually we had no problem finding a spare lounger. The best place to enjoy the sailing and especially the sunset is in the widow's net -- netting attached to the bowsprit off the front of the ship, where you can lie in what's essentially a giant hammock, directly above the water. When I was there (which was most days), dolphins came and rode the bow wave beneath me, creating a magical moment.

Unlike the larger Royal Clipper, Star Flyer has neither a spa nor a fitness center. The only spa offering is a Thai massage, which takes place in a makeshift cabana near the Sports Deck (you are fully clothed for this treatment). My massage was excellent and at €56 for an hour, good value. Fitness options are limited to morning exercises at 8 a.m. The routine hardly varies but quite a few people turn up for early yoga and the pool aerobics is well attended.

Next: Star Flyer Family
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Star Flyer Ratings

Editor Rating 4.0 Member Rating
Public Rooms
Spa & Fitness
Family & Children
Shore Excursions

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