Star Flyer Entertainment & Activities
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 cruise director is happy to answer any shore tour questions you might 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 canceled if minimum numbers aren't met. This tends 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. 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.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
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.
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.
Star Flyer does not have a theater, nightclub or casino, but evenings include fun activities organized by the entertainment team and music. 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 the "Movies Under the Stars" found on other mega-ship cruise lines.
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 crew members -- officers, sports team -- come to hang out, so it's a nice opportunity for passengers and crew to intermingle. Stargazing is a perfect evening activity when weather permits.
Aside from occasional talks by the captain or a senior officer in the Piano Bar -- on topics such as sailing or navigation -- there is no enrichment program or guest speakers.
Star Flyer Bars and Lounges
On a ship this small, if you're not lounging by the pool or in the sun, you're likely hanging out by the bar.
Tropical Bar (Deck 3): This alfresco bar is the social hub of the ship, particularly on fine days and warm evenings. Passengers gather around the sociable horseshoe-shaped bar or sit at one of the round tables or benches situated at each side of the dance floor. In the morning people hang out with coffee before moving on to cocktails and the daily highlight -- hot and cold hors d'ouevres served late afternoon -- followed by after-dinner drinks, entertainment, music and dancing.
Piano Bar (Deck 3): The semi-circular bar area is a continuation of the outside Tropical Bar. The piano forms the centerpiece of the far end of the room and is surrounded by comfortable blue banquettes, along with chairs and tables. Decorated in rich shades of blue and gold, it has cozy feel, and many passengers sit in the bar during the day to read, catch up on emails or take a nap. Each evening, the resident musician will play popular tunes on the white piano in this inside bar from 7 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m. On our cruise, he also put on an accomplished after-dinner classical concert, featuring the works of composers such as Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Mozart. On warm evenings, this bar is virtually empty, but when it turns chilly, it is the late-night gathering spot of choice.
Star Flyer Outside Recreation
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 there was no problem finding a spare lounger. Two beach towels are provided per cabin and extra ones are available on deck.
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 (just don't expect to be able to clamber in and out with any sense of decorum!). When we were there (which was most days), dolphins came and rode the bow wave beneath us, creating a magical moment.
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 crew members offer snorkeling, diving, water skiing, kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing and sailing wherever possible. These activities are all free and conducted off the ship's gangway, dependant on the weather and sea conditions.
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. Diving can be arranged for certified divers at additional cost, using providers in port.
The most exciting daytime activity (for passengers watching from the deck too) is climbing the mast, allowed on calm days when the ship is at sea. It involves putting on a rock-climbing harness, ascending a tall ladder with rope rungs and hanging out in a crow's nest 65 feet above the Sun Deck. (The photo ops are better when there's land nearby.) It's a free activity, and signing up is not required. Up to four passengers are allowed on the ladder and in the crow's nest at any one time, but it is not generally oversubscribed and everyone who wants to take part generally gets the chance to do so. For anyone who doesn't suffer from a fear of heights, it's a must-do experience.
Star Flyer Services
There is a library and games room on Deck 3, opposite the Tropical Bar. With a fireplace and red velvet banquettes around the walls, it has a lovely old-fashioned feel. Books, mostly novels and travel guides, are available in English, German, French and Spanish and are free to borrow for the duration of the cruise. There are three card/games tables with four chairs and a selection of board games, including Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble.
The library also doubles up as the shore excursions desk. The sign-up process is pleasantly low key. At the beginning of the cruise, sign-up books for each island are set out, and passengers 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 library also contains two computers, which are available for passenger use but subject to the internet charge (€6 for one hour and €18 for four hours), which also applies to passengers' own laptops and mobile devices. In common with most ships, Wi-Fi can be patchy but the connection was generally good throughout our cruise.
The Sloop Shop, selling logowear, jewelry and accessories, is located opposite the purser's office on Deck 2. There is no passenger laundry or dry cleaning service.