I took the Christmas 2015 voyage on Star Clipper through the leeward West Indies islands (St Maarten to St. Maarten) as a single traveler. There was no single supplement, which was a bonus. I’ve been a long time Windstar cruiser for over 20 years and, in my experience, the only difference between the two is that Clipper will give you a more authentic sailing, if that’s what you’re looking for. As someone who has lots of sailing experience, I have no problems with rocking and rolling but if you have a queasy stomach and easily prone to seasickness, you should be prepared for it, especially while sleeping and using the head. I found the passenger demographics between the typical Windstar passenger types very similar to that of Clipper (couples in their 40s -70s). There were more teens on this cruise, mostly due to the fact that it was over Christmas.
Here’s my key dislikes about Star Clipper:
-There’s no exercise room and no exercise equipment. If you want to workout while aboard, you’re hosed. Plan to go on excursions that require you to get a workout. Oh yes,they do post a daily workout in the center of the ship but just try stretching and exercising while the ship is listing steadily from side to side!
-You can’t get your meals –or anything—delivered to cabin. And, you can’t eat your meals at the ship’s bar. This is a problem if you happen to be single, or even a couple, and simply don’t want to mix with others on any given night.
-The ship’s pursars were very snarky and not helpful. Also, you can’t buy anything practical in the ship’s store, i.e, sunglasses, last minute toiletries, etc. They also keep the fact that they offer movies on CDs a secret.
-While the ship’s cruise director is very knowledgeable about maritime history, he doesn’t provide much useful info on the islands prior to embarking if you want to go it alone outside of the excursions. He typically mentions just one thing (“take a walk to the fort”) if you are on your own. Be sure to Google the island to make your own way.
-If you scuba dive like me, you won’t be able to aboard Clipper. They stopped it, however, they still have tanks aboard the boat.
-The ship’s water sports equipment is dated and worn out. Also, I found the sports staff incredibly unfriendly and nonchalant about safety issues.
-The food is simply “ok” but not great or anywhere near inspired. You won’t find anything out of the ordinary here.
-Clipper glorifies the days of sailing yore (they say you’re welcome to help the crew with hoisting lines, etc., but don’t believe it. Its only hype.) and really plays this theme up as part of their brand. Problem is those days are in fact over and most people can’t really relate to them anymore. I kept thinking that they have a far better opportunity to provide some education on the importance of preserving ocean life, something that better resonates with today’s customer.
-The interiors, especially the dining room, looks like a Red Lobster restaurant only with linen. It's a dated look and should be updated without losing its sea faring branding.
-The house staff, with the exception of the bartenders and head waiter, seem relatively unfriendly and not happy. Some bad attitudes.
-Entertainment. I don’t go on cruises for the entertainment but keyboardist Charlie from Budapest will have you craving for Weird Al Yankovitch before the end of the cruise. They also put on a “Talent Contest,” which is really cheesy and should be retired. Its downright painful to watch the crew be forced to perform.
What I liked:
-No single supplements
-Low alcohol prices. Cocktails were $6; wine was $3.
-Ship exteriors—and cabin interiors-- were kept clean and well maintained. I didn’t notice a speck of rust on her decks. Clipper clearly takes pride in her fleet.
Small but efficient. Good storage. Kept very clean and neat.