Since this forum helped me decide to travel with Star Clippers, I feel obligated to report on the marvelous experience I have just completed, March 25-April 1 on the Star Flyer, Treasure Islands itinerary, and to counter the mutterings and nitpicking of some disgruntled previous posters.
Most importantly, this is a far different experience than traveling on a behemoth cruise ship with thousands of passengers. Harking to the bygone days of clipper ships, it replicates a much quieter, more intimate, more collegial journey. You get to know your fellow passengers (there were 155 of us, and 70 crew, total) far better, since you see each other frequently. Most are veteran travelers, with stories and advice to generously share, both with previous Star Clippers trips, and with other cruise lines. On my trip they were a pleasant mix of Americans and Europeans (British, German, Swiss, and French), although most nationalities tended to keep to themselves. All shipboard announcements were made in English, German, and French. I traveled solo, and found several other passengers who were as well. This presents no problem at all, as seating at meals and participation in on-ship and on-shore events allow constant mingling; I never felt like a fifth wheel, and was always welcomed to a table or to a social group. I was able to form some delightful friendships.
The ship’s entire staff and crew, top to bottom, deserve the highest praise for their unremitting professionalism, courtesy, and efficiency. It must take a special kind of crew to work amidst a bunch of always-in-your-way passengers, asking you questions, but every one of them handled their duties with aplomb and patience, every, every minute. Meriting special commendation is the cruise director, Steffi, who was worth her weight in gold! She was always on top of everything, giving clear information, and exhibiting a wonderful combination of enthusiasm, patience, and efficiency. Captain Yuriy, too, was a welcome, knowledgeable, reassuring presence (and many of us appreciated his early request that we eschew any talk of politics or religion!)
Was the rocking a problem? Not really. A few people wore patches or took tablets, but I found that you very easily, very quickly adapt to instinctively shifting your weight to accommodate. Even with a cabin in the aft area, clipper deck (#343), it was not particularly noticeable (although, admittedly, we had calm seas the entire trip). The appearance of the ship was absolutely top-flight at all times, in every single area. The stress on safety was appreciated, and clearly more necessary than on large cruise ships, since we were much closer to the ship’s operation. Safety instructions were reiterated and explicit, as they needed to be.
The food was far, far better than we had any right to expect. Absolutely superb. Day after day, night after night we marveled at how the chef and his staff (in that little galley) could continue to produce such wonderful meals. Everything was absolutely delicious and in many ways superior to that of the large cruise ships. The bars, too, were well-stocked and well-tended.
The service of everyone was excellent in all respects, from stewards to waiters, to tender operators, to engineers and sail crew, to officers, consistently exhibiting a high standard of quality and exemplary work ethic. My room steward was every bit as attentive and responsive as those on large ships. The tender operators diligently toiled in the hot sun hour after hour to ferry passengers to and from shore, always providing extremely helpful, safe, and efficient service. I was originally apprehensive about using tender service to and from the shore, as all but the initial embarking in St. Maarten and final debarking there was accomplished by tender. But at every moment I felt safe and under careful supervision and attention. Not to worry!
I am not a lie-on-the-beach person, and traveled mainly for the experience of enjoying the working of the ship itself and the destinations, so I found these latter, especially in Anguilla and the BVI, to be a little too remote for my taste. In Tortola, we had no chance to visit Road Town, the capital of the BVI, as we were there only one evening, anchored far from the town, in which everything was closed, anyway (which was regrettable). There are very few excursions provided (one or two per port), along with a few sports activities on shore and on the ship. I made my own arrangements for tours on St. Martin and St. Kitts, so I can’t effectively evaluate those provided by the ship.
The highlight of each day was the departure, with sails going up and music playing—really stirring, and unlike anything I had experienced before—a time we all looked forward to each day. I found no problem whatsoever with anyone hogging deck lounge chairs as some have mentioned on this board; everyone courteously vacated them, taking their towels, when no longer needed. The aft area under the awning was a refreshing hangout location, but it never became contentious.
I found extremely helpful, and would highly recommend viewing, the 360-degree virtual tour of the Star Flyer provided by Star Clippers: http://www.starclippers.com/us-dom/explore-star-clippers/virtual-tours/star-flyer-virtual-tour.html
A few quibbles:
• The embarkation process in the terminal was too slow, with only the cruise director valiantly trying to handle everything in the embarkation area, and long lines resulting. More help is needed on this.
• Even restricted to two areas, it was hard to avoid the smokers. Might Star Clippers give any thought to a smoke-free cruise?
My room, a category three, was more than ample. Storage space (even if there had been two persons), convenience, amenities, and décor were outstanding. Bathroom and shower were equivalent to those found on large cruise ships.