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Sail Date: March 2011
When booking our first ever cruise, I was nervous about what I had read on the boards regarding kids on Star Clipper. So I thought I would share our experience which can be summoned up in a single word- Great!!!!!I have 9 year old son and ... Read More
When booking our first ever cruise, I was nervous about what I had read on the boards regarding kids on Star Clipper. So I thought I would share our experience which can be summoned up in a single word- Great!!!!!I have 9 year old son and a daughter who actually turned 12 on our trip. My husband is a Scientist who despises crowds, shopping casinos, & cheesy Broadway reviews. When my daughter asked us if we could go on a cruise for our annual family vacation I was in a bit of pickle given that her Dad's idea of a vacation is not a big traditional cruise ship. He loves nature, adventure, history and science. After months of research we had zeroed in on Star Clipper. We signed up for the 6 night repositioning cruise from Costa Rica to Panama and booked the 2 day pre-land package in Monteverde cloud forest. The land package was fabulous. From the moment we landed we where taken care of. Our transfer driver showed us all sorts of things on the way to Monteverde, including stopping for lunch, monkeys and other wildlife. The visit to Selvatura park was lots of fun and we where able to add in Zip-lining which was heart stopping action adventure. The hummingbirds where amazing and the coatis just wandered all around the hummingbird garden. My family was entranced. The Hotel Fonda Vela had a lovey hot tub and pools with a gorgeous view. A real highlight for my daughter was eating a big bowl of Ice cream made locally at the Monteverde dairy, which the hotel brought to her in the hot tub. Pura Vida!!!! On the last Morning the Hotel helped me book a tour at Monteverde National Park and we where lucky enough to see a female Quetzal and a toucanette plus Coatis, agoutis and trogans. The guide was great! After a terrific lunch we headed to Puerte Caldera.We got to Puerte Caldera about an hour before the boat sailed which was a bit boring as the terminal is minimal but the line did have some apple juice and a nice plate of fruit for us. We killed the time watching the Star Flyer being moved further down the dock to make way for huge container ship so even that was interesting. Embarkation was easy and we where greeted with a nice fruit drink and music.Since there was 4 of us we booked 2 cabins a cat 6 and a cat 4 that where across the hall from each other. The cat 6 is tiny and no frills We joked with the kids it was a combination vacation and "scared straight"., but the kids did like the bunk beds. The cabin across the way was just fine with a port hole, DVD player and between the two we never felt cramped.When we first got on board my daughter said to me mom I think people are staring at us we are the ONLY family. Looking around I think we where attracting some looks. As it turns out we weren't the only family as a set of grandparents where traveling with their 14 year old grandson. The next day at the Captain's welcome speech he made a point to note how happy Star Flyer was to have a family aboard and to publicly welcome us. It was a nice feeling.At dinner Godwin and Herman went out of their way to make sure my super picky 9 year old eater knew that he could always have pasta or steak and french fries. The bar tender also made a point to tell the kids he could make them special fun fruit cocktails just for them.Pretty soon my kids where entranced with ship and the grand adventure. Our first stop was Quepos. We wanted to do the horseback riding but not enough people signed up. Ximena managed to switch us to white water rafting. Our guide was great. Just as we arrived the heavens opened up and drenched us. My son who had a cough was soon shivering. Our guide noticed his discomfort and quickly made him a plastic raincoat from a plastic bag which was very kind. The weather soon cleared and our guide was terrific. Helped us spot all sorts of wildlife and picked a perfect line through every rapid. After white water rafting back on board the kids hit the pools and tried out the bow net both of which where big hits! My son especially enjoyed diving down into the bottom of the pool and waving through the windows down there at the tropical bar.The next few days passed by a in a whirl. Tour of Corvacado National Park, Climbing the crows nest, even my 9 year old, plus raising the sails and swimming. The only tour that was a disappointment was the wildlife rescue center and orchid garden. Definitely not worth 80 E. Our best day was at Isla de Coiba in Panama. The most gorgeous beach I have ever seen. My 12 year old enjoyed the beach while my husband, son and I snorkeled. The snorkeling was fabulous. The highlight for my son was finding a harmless white tipped reef shark while snorkeling. He was so excited it was amazing to watch. The sports team nick named him shark boy after that. Our last stop at Isla Iguana was canceled because the seas where too rough to safely get us off the boat and instead we had a day at sea. While disappointed I appreciated the crews concern for our safety.The kids also had a blast with the evening entertainment. My daughter loved making us pirate costumes out of our daily bulletins (hats) tying our red t-shirts on our heads, dressing yus in strips, and making herself an eye patch from mom's band aids. The frog races where also a highlight for them followed by dancing. The night of the crew talent show my guys where too exhausted to stay up so it was just us girls. We laughed our selves silly a the funny corny show and we topped the evening off with the Macarana. Another funny thing happened as folks began to realize our kids weren't going to be badly behaved or rude they became so friendly it was great. People we didn't even know cheered us as we climbed the crows nest. People called us aside to show us pictures of the kids at pirate night, frog races etc that they had taken. The atmosphere was just wonderful. Apart from that first day we never felt anything but warmth and acceptance.All too soon it was over and we sadly disembarked but then spent another great week touring the Panama Canal zone. As we booked the Star Clipper, what our cruise agent was most worried about was "will the kids be board?" The truth of the matter was they where actually exhausted by the end of every day because there was a lot of fun things to do. However, I do have to caveat a few things. Our kids are used to vacations in the US National parks where there is no TV and a fun time is a ranger lead campfire. We also came prepared, our own DVDs and a Nintendo DS for each kids with plenty of games. Also I wouldn't want to be chasing after a toddler as the tours require a degree of mobility and a kid screaming in the dinning room would not be good, but for a family with tweens (7-13). It was great.If your family loves adventure its a blast! My daughter is already scheming to do one of their Mediterranean cruises. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
Just returned from our Vantage booked Star Flyer cruise of Costa Rica and Panama. I will not repeat what Budaman wrote, since his review was pretty accurate as to what we experienced. Our cabins were the same and I agree Nelson and ... Read More
Just returned from our Vantage booked Star Flyer cruise of Costa Rica and Panama. I will not repeat what Budaman wrote, since his review was pretty accurate as to what we experienced. Our cabins were the same and I agree Nelson and Herman were outstanding as was Ximena. However, there are a few things I wish I had been aware of before I booked this trip and since I think they are important, that's what I'll report on here: 1. Star Flyer carries about 170 passengers and has two swimming pools. 12 chaise lounges under tarps is not enough shade on the sun deck. The weather in Costa Rica was bright sunshine, hot and humid every day and unless you were comfortable lying in the sun for hours at a time, there was very little shade. 2. Ship only docked in one port(Golfito) all others required tender. Now, if you have ANY problems going up or down a ladder, please reconsider this ship. Since it's a sailing vessel you leave and reboard the ship via gangway, which is about 1 1/2 stories long, very steep and both steps and handrails move. This coupled with the relative movement between the tender and the bottom of the gangway caused one person in our group to fall after which others were afraid to leave the ship at all. There were also several "wet" landings, which means that after the tender gets where it's going you jump off the rear of the tender into the water which can be anywhere from ankle to waist deep! Several people fell into the water and I got my hand caught between the ladder and the tender when reboarding at Isla Gamez. The crew was very helpful but it was still very difficult. 3. Shore excursions: What a surprise to find out that only a handful of people would actually be able to get a shore excursion! Virtually all of the excursions offered closed after 20-40 people signed up and others were on a waiting list. There were people in our group unable to get ANY excursions because by the time they got through the line all the good ones were filled. IMHO this is totally unacceptable. Excursion to wildlife rescue center and orchid garden very over-priced....we were supposed to spend two hours at refuge and only spent one and the gardens were lovely but not worth 80E per person!Other than that one, the excursions to the mangrove forest of Drake Bay and Manuel Antonio NP, which were by the same company, were outstanding. The BBQ on Isla Gamez was wonderful but Isla Tortuga is a rip-off! They actually charged you to walk through their garden grounds! 4. Food: Herman was a delight and the food was really good with a nice selection of fish, meat or vegetarian at every dinner. Only complaint is that they need more waiters and they need to do something to lower the noise level, which is deafening, especially if you wear a hearing aid. 5. Air Conditioning: Sorry guys, but the advertised "individually controlled climate control in every cabin" isn't quite accurate. There is a/c duct in the ceiling over the beds with minimal amount of air coming through and you could NOT control the temperature. If you are in the cabin at night with the lights on, it quickly becomes a sauna! A/C doesn't mean turn off the lights and stay out of the cabin till it cools off! :) Also, in the dining room the a/c was totally inadequate once the room filled with people, which was every night! Only rooms that were consistently comfortable were the library and the piano bar. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
It was over before we knew it...isn't that the way it always happens. Pre Cruise We stayed Saturday evening at Villa Caletas. This is a beautiful small hotel perched on a hilltop between Tarcoles & Jaco. We met up with ... Read More
It was over before we knew it...isn't that the way it always happens. Pre Cruise We stayed Saturday evening at Villa Caletas. This is a beautiful small hotel perched on a hilltop between Tarcoles & Jaco. We met up with friends and enjoyed a beautiful sunset that evening. Sunday, we had a leisurely day lounging around the pool and enjoying the amazing views. Before we knew it, it was time to head to Puerto Caldera and board the Star Flyer. I highly recommend Villa Caletas for anyone looking for a romantic, well run hotel pre or post cruise. Also, we used Odyssey Tours for all our transfers, and they provided first rate service for a reasonable price. So far, so good.....great hotel & no transportation issues! The Voyage Begins I want to begin by saying that this was one of the most pleasurable, fun & action filled trips we have taken. However, there were a couple of issues that I am going to get out of the way first. None of these were deal breakers, just my observations.....here goes. Puerto Caldera...I wasn't expecting much, so I was surprised it was worse than expected. It is, pure & simple a container port. It is dirty, noisy and smelly. If they return next year, they should really look at Puntarenas. At least there is a town & a cruise pier. Itinerary....Isla de Coiba & Isla del Cano are on the itinerary. These have both been dropped from the schedule. I wish we would have been told prior to the cruise. We would not have hauled our scuba gear with us had we known. These are two of the premier dive spots in the area. Divers will be the only ones affected by this change, so it's not that big of a deal to the big picture. Sailing...or should I say lack of it. Officers...I believe all were new and showed a serious lack of interaction with the passengers. I haven't experienced this on either of our other Star Clipper cruises, so it was a little disappointing. Ok, that's all the bad stuff. Now on the Fantastic! Embarkation was quick & easy. Star Flyer was anchored in the bay....tall & beautiful as ever. We were able to catch the second tender to the ship, where we were greeted by fresh warm towels & a cool drink. After looking around the ship & meeting a few of the passengers, we were off to our cabin. We had a Cat. 1 on the Main Deck, #506. Our home for the next week. By the time we freshened up and got the cabin stowed away, it was time for dinner. The food all week was very good & the Maitre de, Herman, was a pleasure to be around. That will be all about the food...we all have our own opinions! Off with the dinner clothes & back into shorts...it's time for sail away! Always an exciting event. Day 1: Sea Day Didn't make sunrise today, but did make the exercise class with Viktor. Makes me not worry about eating as much. Breakfast, pool & lounge time, lunch, pool & lounge time, afternoon snacks,lounge time, dinner, pleasant evening on deck with friends. That pretty much sums up a Sea Day! We did see many dolphins throughout the day. Pods of 10 or more were common. We had the Fashion Show this evening. Day 2: Isla Gamez Woke up to a beautiful sunrise and dozens of little islands almost close enough to touch.Arrived just after gymnastics & breakfast. Isla Gamez is a small island with a great beach located among many other small islands...very secluded & quiet. Perfect spot for all the water sports or just lounging on the beach. This was also a Beach bar-b-que day, so the smells from the food were intoxicating. Soon after lunch, we were back to the ship for an afternoon dive. Wish we had stayed at the beach with everyone else, because they had a great time. Diving....not so much! The day ended much too soon & it was back to the Flyer. After dinner & several bottles of wine for the 6 of us, Herman brought out my Birthday Cake & sang Happy Birthday. This was repeated 3 more times.....lots of birthdays on the 11th. After dinner it was off to the Tropical Bar for the Music Quiz and partying...and party we did. It was after midnight before we shut it down. Day 3: Golfito Golfito is now mainly a fishing port for all the sport fishing in the area. There are a couple of Marinas & a few shops selling artistic goods. We did frequent these after our excursion to finish up our day there. We joined the excursion to the Orchid garden & the Animal Rescue Center. A very pleasurable morning experiencing all kinds of flora & wildlife. Spent the rest of the day in Golfito walking around the town, having a few beers & buying some souveniers. Beautiful sunset as we sailed out of Golfito into the Golfo Dulce. Dinner & an early night tonight. Day 4: Drake Bay Woke up to what has to be the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. We were passing through the channel between Isla del Cano & the Oso Peninsula and it was very calm with a mist clinging to the land. The sky was filled with yellow, red & orange hues that was simply awesome. We arrived at Drake around noon. We had scheduled no excursions & it was a short day, departing around 5, so we just went to the small hotel that SC had arranged with for passengers to explore their grounds. It was beautiful there....reminded us of French Polynesia. We explored the property & did some shopping with local artists before heading back to the ship. That evening was Pirate Night. Side note....when we first got to the dock in Caldera, I had asked Ximena what night Pirate Night would be & she told me they wouldn't have one on the Southern Itinerary. There also wouldn't be Crab Races...what, no Crab Races....nope, no crabs large enough in the area. Well, we did have Pirate's Night and no, no Crab Races, but we did have Froggie Races which were just as fun. Did I mention Ximena was awesome! Well, once again we were partying till after midnight....don't know what got into me...guess turning 60 unleashed a new animal! Day 5: Quepos First real town we have visited, and the Three Musketeers(the girls in our group) did what all self respecting girls do....went shopping. The guys would meet up with them later as our horseback ride wasn't until 1PM. I don't remember what we did up until that time, but I believe it involved rest & food. Horseback riding was a blast. First time ever on a horse, and of course I paid for it later...my rear hurt for a couple of days. Really makes you appreciate those who spend all day on a horse. After the ride, we did a little more shopping, getting back to the ship for dinner. After dinner, they had a local band playing in the Tropical Bar. They were very good & I even got to Salsa with Ximena. Ended up on my rear while trying to do a double spin, but I don't think I crushed too many of her toes. We closed the bar down again this night....gosh, what have I become. Day 6: Isla Tortuga Another small change to the itinerary. Instead of spending half the day at Curu Reserve & half at Isla Tortuga, they now just anchor off Tortuga and take excursions over to Curu for those that wish to go there. More time at the beach for those that want that. Tortuga is a private island that charges for chairs, umbrellas, water sports...in a sense, everything. Because of this the ship cannot provide their equipment for use. Pay or no play in other words. We decided to just hang out at the pool & get some sun. It was very peacefull onboard that day....nice change of pace for us. Did go out in the tender for the photo shoot of the Flyer with all her sails out later in the afternoon. After dinner, it was time for the Talent Show. This is always a blast and tonight was no exception. The highlight was the guys doing a Spice Girls routine. Afterwards, you guessed it....party time. I danced more this week than I have in the last 10 years combined. Somewhere in there, we got our bags packed and out, as tomorrow we had to depart the Flyer. Day 7: Puerto Caldera Wow, it's over already. We pulled up to the dock in Caldera around 7AM. We had our last breakfast aboard & Odyssey picked us up around 9. We had wanted to Zipline aboard, but it never worked out, so we arranged with Alvaro(Odyssey) to take us to one prior to going back to Villa Caletas. He took us to one that had a new type of zip called the Superman Flight. This was totally exhilarating. A great way to end the trip. Anyway, if you're still with me, to sum it up, it was a fantastic trip. The ship was great, Ximena was great, Herman was great, Nelson(our steward) was great, our friends were great...everything! One more thing....weather. It was hot & humid. Never a need for anything with sleeves. Now, what's next.....maybe Greece. I always thought I looked good in a Toga. Read Less
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