Because Star Clipper devotes time to beach and water activities, there are few daily shore excursions. And even when they are offered, interest is often so low that they are canceled for not meeting the minimum required number of guests.
One conundrum of sailing ships is that the sails are always furled when they're at anchor or in port. That makes it nearly impossible to get those killer photos of the ship under sail. Star Clipper solves that by devoting one photo session to gathering great pics. Passengers board tenders that circle the ship so every angle is covered. The passenger paparazzi can snap away while the crew hoists the sails. Crew members even line up on the bowsprit to wave.
Star Clipper offers one resident entertainer -- a keyboard artist/singer who plays for cocktail hour at the outdoor Tropical Bar, then moves to the lounge's baby grand piano around dinnertime. After dinner, he plays or serves as DJ in the Tropical Bar.
One night, a talent show highlighted crew members' singing and dancing, along with a few ribald skits -- but, in an unusual twist, passengers were invited to take part, as well. Passengers were also invited to take part in a "fashion show" flacking products from the ship's shop. Another night, we had a music trivia session. And, after dinner on "pirate night," the pirate-play continued with a contest where passengers competed at various hilarious challenges (hopping across the deck with a coin between their knees, for example) to be dubbed the winning "pirate captain."
Everybody is so busy relaxing aboard Star Clipper that attendance at the few enrichment activities is slim to nonexistent. Any group enrichment activity is also complicated by language issues, because separate sessions need to be scheduled for the main languages spoken or things need to be translated multiple times.
Perhaps the most interesting activity we saw was a nautical knot-tying lesson, taught by one of the ship's crew. There were also towel-folding and napkin-folding classes and a slide presentation from the hotel manager about "behind the scenes" on the ship. On clear nights, stargazing is sometimes offered.
Star Clipper's adjoining bar and lounge are definitely the ship's main hangouts. They're at the hub of many activities and you need to pass through them to get to many places on the ship. As such, you'll find folks gathered at nearly any time -- to pick up a morning coffee, to share cocktails and trade stories about their day, or to dance the night away.
**Tropical Bar (Deck 3): **The outdoor Tropical Bar is Star Clipper's prime activity area. There's a horseshoe bar with fixed stools and a large open area of deck, covered with a canvas canopy, as well as a few high tables with movable stools. The port end of the bar and a table next to the rail are designated smoking areas. There's a whiteboard with information about the day's sailing times and sign-up sheets for snorkeling and other activities.
**Piano Lounge (Deck 3): **The inside lounge has a horseshoe bar with stools that mirrors the Tropical Bar's and bartenders pass back and forth through doors in the middle. The room centers around a white baby grand piano that sits on a mezzanine midway between decks; a stairway down to the dining room passes it along the way. There are banquettes and tables, as well as upholstered chairs. The space is more suited for smaller conversations, rather than larger groups to gather.
If you want a preview of the dinner menu, it's posted, along with sample dishes at a table in the front of the lounge. There's also always a towering display of whole tropical fruits in case you have an off-hours hunger pang. You can grab included coffee or tea here, as well. It's also the location for the massage sign-up sheet.
You'll definitely want to hang out on Star Clipper's gorgeous teak decks, both day and night. There are two petit saltwater pools on Deck 4 -- an oval one midship and a triangular one aft. In a nice touch, windows are set into both pools, so they not only let in light to the deck below, but also offer views of the water's soft aquamarine hues, or flailing legs therein. The pools are surrounded by plenty of white plastic loungers with bright blue webbing, and pool towels are provided. You're also invited to lounge in the ship's spar netting, suspended out over the water.
Star Clipper really shines when it comes to water activities. Water toys include standup paddle-boards, kayaks, laser sailors, water skiing, wakeboarding and snorkeling gear -- all included in your cruise fare. You can check out snorkel gear on the first morning and keep it for the duration of the cruise. The sports team also offers scheduled snorkeling safaris (sign-up required) at prime locations, also included.
Star Clipper also carries a PADI-certified dive instructor and diving gear. For an extra fee, you can take an intro-to-scuba course, then pay to go on additional dives (with certain limits), even if you're not a certified diver. For experienced divers, there are opportunities to dive at a number of outstanding locations (fee charged). Beginners start from the beach; experienced divers go from one of the ship's Zodiacs, which acts as a follow boat. We took the plunge and really enjoyed the beautiful colors and plentiful ocean life -- as well as the confidence-building directions of the Canadian dive instructor. (One thing to note: The onboard air pressure gauges read in "Bar" -- the European standard -- rather than "PSI," which is more commonplace in the U.S.)
There's no reception or guest services desk aboard Star Clipper -- only the purser's office (Deck 2, midship), which has variable hours. That's where you'll go for questions about your bill or for Wi-Fi connection issues. You can also drop off mail to be sent, and the purser will add the postage cost to your bill.
The Edwardian-inspired library has a small collection of books in multiple languages, as well as games and two computer stations. It's an elegant, yet cozy, space made even cozier by the faux fireplace, wood paneling, burgundy carpet and matching tub chairs. There are also a couple of sofas and a coffee table. Here, you'll find binders with printouts of the day's news in multiple languages, as well as information and sign-up sheets for shore excursions and scuba. One helpful change would be to have more than one notebook describing the shore excursions, since there was a large group waiting to look through it at the beginning of the cruise.
Wi-Fi is available, but rather slow and unreliable. One hour goes for 6 euros, and a four-hour package for 18 euros.
The Sloop Shop sells sundries and a variety of Star Clippers logo items, which are typically more stylish than the usual cruise togs.
The ship doesn't carry any self-service laundry
Star Clipper doesn't have a spa or fitness center, but it does include a massage therapist in its crew complement. The only space for her to ply her trade is on the very top deck under a small, stretched canopy with surrounding curtains (but no air conditioning). She offers traditional and sports massages, as well as spot massages, and a mani-pedi. Sign-up sheets are in the lounge.
There are daily morning gymnastics and aerobics classes (included) conducted on deck, and the once-a-day routine of raising the sails can provide a surprisingly decent workout as well. Also, on some afternoons there's an exercise session on the beach or in shallow waters. We were really impressed with the yoga instructor on our sailing, who offered classes suitable for all levels and took the time for position correction.
At least a couple of times during each cruise, there is the experience of supervised mast-climbing -- wearing a harness with a safety rope -- up to the first-yardarm crow's nest, affording a magnificent view of ship, surrounding sea and nearby islands as a reward for completing the scramble up the ratlines.
For all practical purposes, this is one of the least kid-appropriate ships on the water. Star Clipper has neither staff nor facilities nor programs geared to youngsters -- though, to be fair, the cruise director and sports team will piece a few activities together if there are enough children aboard for a particular sailing.
It's hard to conceive of any kids younger than age 10 or 12 who would relate to the Star Clipper experience (but easy to conceive of little ones tumbling down stairs or banging their heads on a rolling tender). There might be a handful of self-entertaining adolescents who have a passion for water sports who would find the cruise to their liking, but that's about it.
There are no children's menus or special dining options. What's more, comments on Cruise Critic message boards tend to turn to rants when passengers feel there were too many unruly kids on their sailing. (In other words, parents, prepare for the side-eye.) That said, the line sometimes offers special children's rates, and there are 12 cabins with a pull-down third bed. With the size of Star Clipper's cabins, that could give new meaning to the concept of "family togetherness."
Note that pregnant guests may not sail in their third trimester.
* May require additional fees