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29 Star Clippers Southern Caribbean Cruise Reviews

Summary: My wife and I have cruised before in the Pacific and through the Caribbean. Our trips were on typical vessels of Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Although entirely satisfied with those, we wished to do something special ... Read More
Summary: My wife and I have cruised before in the Pacific and through the Caribbean. Our trips were on typical vessels of Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Although entirely satisfied with those, we wished to do something special and we both enjoy sailing thus our choice of Star Clippers Line. SPV Royal Clipper was the ship that we selected to sail on. As we are 68 and 70 years old respectively, our holiday requirements were more sedate than years ago... With the help of our travel agent we found what we wanted by flying to Barbados five days prior to the cruise, staying at the Coral Mist hotel then sailing two seven-day cruises back-to-back on Royal Clipper. We offer our commentaries below hoping that they may assist fellow travellers. SPV Royal Clipper: We will not attempt to repeat all that has been said about Star Clippers and SPV Royal Clipper. We offer our comments relating to our specific experience under distinct headings below: Overview There are no superlatives that adequately describe what we experienced. A cruise on Royal Clipper is a romantic experience of a lifetime! If you are looking for a floating spa with disco, casino, and floorshows, you will be unhappy on Royal Clipper. If you enjoy sailing with a few friends in a romantic setting you will love it. (With good sea legs) The line's web site is good but lacks a few features. For example, we sent them an e-mail that they never answered using the "contact us" section. There is no possibility of pre-registration as offered by the main cruise lines. Given the small number of passengers for each sailing (227 passengers total) there is no anticipated delays on boarding. They offered an excellent DVD for free which turned out to be very useful in trip planning, and made our friends envious. Once aboard, there is no doubt that this is a special experience that is almost unique and worth repeating. In our case, we had an outstanding cruise aboard an outstanding ship. At every stop people came to stare at this marvellous oversized yacht. It is unique in the world. However, there is one caveat. This ship is open to passengers of all ages but there is precious little activity geared to the needs and interests of children. The five levels of the ship from the spa to the sun deck are only accessible by stairs. When walking around at sea the rule is one hand for the ship and one hand for you. While on our two-week cruise we noted some electronic glitches. For example, our door key had to be re-programmed a few times because it failed to open the door. In addition, the same card has a bar code used when leaving and returning to the ship. This did not always show the passenger returning thus a frantic call was made to ensure that the ship would not sail without the passenger. Great idea but rather annoying when it happens every day to the same individual who has dutifully returned on time. The reception clerk had a language problem thus it was difficult to explain the problem and have the card re-programmed properly; a small point in an overall wonderful experience. Caroline, the cruise director was a wonderful lady fluent in four languages and who never stopped looking after the passengers. She was simply outstanding. Embarkation They were well organized for the embarkation process, which began at the specified time. Drinks were available for people waiting in line although the line moved rather quickly. Those who arrived early complained of waiting in line but the instructions were clear that embarkation would begin a 4 p.m. Our recommendation would be for people to arrive one hour after the embarkation time to assure a smooth process. The reception on board was first class and very well handled; wet towels, Bellini, escort to the cabin where the baggage was already awaiting us. Cabin/steward/amenities The category 1 cabin is a very roomy 150 sq ft with more than adequate storage space. It was obviously designed by sailing enthusiasts and not a hotel architect. Every nook and cranny offered storage space in the form of shelving or drawers. Two roomy wardrobe offered more space than we expected. The safe is located under the writing desk and is also larger than expected. Music and an internal video is available on the TV which also had a DVD attached although I can't see anyone going on this ship to watch a DVD. The beds had excellent mattresses with duvet and pillows. We slept like babes. The marble bathroom is a sight to behold. Lots of mirrors, ample towels and a double floor drain that allows the water to drain while showering in heavy seas. Two hair dryers are available, one in the room and one in the bathroom. The usual amenities and toiletries are supplied throughout the cruise. The cabin exceeded our expectations. Of note, the current on board is 220v with an 110v outlet in the bathroom for a shaver. It will not accept anything else. Thus a converter is required for any 110v appliance. The reception offers an array of converters for a small rental fee of €10. The cabin steward is a key person on a cruise ship because he/she will leave a lasting impression. Our cabin steward was a young lady from Bulgaria who provided excellent service throughout our two-week stay. She kept the ice bucket full and re-supplied us with bottled water as we requested from her at the onset. Using a red/green door sign, she would refresh our cabin as soon as we left it. Restaurant/food/service For a sailing vessel, the food services far exceeded our expectations just like the rest of the ship. Typically, they had fresh fruit available at all times with tea and coffee. Continental breakfast was available 0600-0800 followed by a huge breakfast buffet and a chef available to cook eggs and omelettes to order between 0800 and 1000. Theme hot/cold lunch buffet was served 1200 to 1400; snacks were available on deck from 1700 to 1800 prior to the evening dinner. Dinner was a seven-course meal served à la Carte between 1930 and 2200 with open seating. The wine list is extensive and storage service is available. Should you not finish your bottle it is labelled with your cabin number and available at the next meal. Finally, there is a huge snack available at 2330 after the limited in-house entertainment. The bar and restaurant service was outstanding. Even with open seating the restaurant staff would remember your preferences and chat with you freely. Public facilities The sun deck carries a huge amount of deck chairs and offers three small pools for a refreshing dip. The centre pool forms the ceiling of the atrium visible from the dining room. (Don't scratch) The tropical bar on the main deck is the focus of most activities including evening entertainment. The piano bar is in the atrium and offers an air-conditioned space quieter than the tropical bar. It is also smoke-free as are all indoor spaces. Smoking is tolerated on the sun deck and in the tropical bar. The three-deck atrium has to be seen to be fully appreciated. There is also a well-stocked library, a conference room with Internet access, and a gym/spa below sea level. Sports & entertainment There is a three-member sports staff that offers morning exercise and a host of free activities during the day. The ship carries three zodiacs, two sunfish sailing boats, two sea kayaks, and snorkel equipment. All this is free but the scuba gear requires an extra fee. In good weather the staff also provides water skiing. At just about every stop an excursion to a beach is also provided free of charge. For example, at anchor off Le Bourg in Isles des Saintes (Guadeloupe) there was a tender going to town and another going to the beach every 30 minutes. Entertainment was provided by a musical duo every day, a local steel band at one stop, on-board talent show featuring crew members and the odd passenger one evening, a fashion show, etc. Itinerary Our first week on board went from Bridgetown Barbados to Union Island, Grenada, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent/Bequia, Martinique, St. Lucia and back to Barbados. During the second week we visited St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, Iles des Saintes, Martinique and back to Bridgetown. The captain is a true sailing enthusiast who demonstrated a keen interest in showing the ability of the ship and crew to perform difficult maneuvers. For example, using sails only (including the square sails) he performed a 360-degree turn that was an extraordinary demonstration of sailing choreography. (I was at the helm) It was simply awesome to see a 5000-ton square-rigger perform that maneuver. · Bridgetown - Clean and friendly as are the Bajans. There is a nice walking tour of the City or various excursions · Union Island (Grenadines) - A superb beach · Grenada - The spice island. Lots of excursions available · Tobago Cays - Another excellent anchorage and beach. Ship BBQ on the beach · St. Vincent & Bequia - Ship stops at both islands for excursions and beach · Martinique - Very nice city. The sidewalk from the cruise terminal to downtown (15 mins) is painted blue for ease of navigation. The botanical garden tour is interesting. · St. Lucia - Lush island with lots to do. We recommend the zip-line rain forest tour · Bridgetown - For passengers staying for another week the transition is very easy. Just exchange your door key at reception and voilà! · Dominica - Drop off at Roseau for excursions then sailed north to Cabrits National Park for a swim · Antigua - One of the jewels of the Caribbean. Great beaches. BBQ on the beach near Falmouth Harbour. Excursions include one for swimming with stingrays. · St. Kitts - Nice island with a scenic narrow gauge train ride · Isles des Saintes (Guadeloupe) - Anchor of Le Bourg which is a lovely and quaint seaside village. Great beach nearby. Prettiest stop in the cruise. Sea motion The one thing over which we have no control is the weather. This is a sailing ship and the Captain is reluctant to use the engine for anything other that arriving and leaving a harbour. During our first week we encountered strong winds (35 knots) and heavy seas providing a significant amount of rolling and pitching which did not bother us or most passengers but there were some who grumbled... Shore excursions Every evening a newsletter is distributed to the cabins outlining the activities of the next day. It is quite detailed and very useful but we found two minor issues with this process. First, an insert should be added with more information about the country being visited and the specific harbour/anchorage. This insert could also have a diagram of the shore installations found upon landing. This would be consistent with what cruise ships normally offer and be very useful indeed for those wishing to plan their own activities. Every morning the cruise director would give an arrival briefing on the bridge just before either docking or anchoring. Very useful but it highlights the second issue that shore excursion bookings close a minimum of 36 hours prior to arrival for valid reasons (bookings through their agent ashore). If more information were available on the ports and the excursions, better planning would enhance the visits. In a few cases we discovered information at the verbal briefing that would have enticed us to take an excursion but the bookings were already closed. We used a number of the excursions offered and found them all to be well-done and good value for money. Many passengers were content to do their own excursions or just stay on board and enjoy what the ship had to offer. Costs On board costs were consistent with industry standards. All charges are in Euros. We found the whole cruise to be good value for money. SPV Royal Clipper: A superbly romantic ship that provides a great cruise. This is a ten out of ten for sailing enthusiasts! Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
First of all we had a great time and the crew was terrific. The cabins and common areas were always spotless. HOWEVER, there were four complaints that many of the passengers had that according to the crew "only management could ... Read More
First of all we had a great time and the crew was terrific. The cabins and common areas were always spotless. HOWEVER, there were four complaints that many of the passengers had that according to the crew "only management could solve." 1. Although cold water was always available on the main deck the majority also wanted ice tea. That proved to be impossible as "management" had to make all decisions regarding any beverage change. 2. In spite of the fact that were no middle eastern passengers the Arab TV channels ran constantly. The crew said that was because a large portion of the crew were from that area. The crew does not pay the bills. After a near revolt by the passengers it was turned off and we all went to the very good bar to celebrate. 3. Rabbit. The last night dinner heavily featured rabbit which few ate and most did not want at all. The answer was again "management." Otherwise the food was excellent at all times. 4. The steel band came on board for less than one hour. It was great but the answer was that we had arrived in port late and something about a customs issue. Although the passengers tried to find the ever elusive "management", he stayed well hidden. But having said that, it was a great cruise and we are going again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
We selected the cruise for the Windward Islands because of the unique island ports and the character of the sailing ship. The ship was recommended by several others that had been on this ship before as well as the travel agent. There was ... Read More
We selected the cruise for the Windward Islands because of the unique island ports and the character of the sailing ship. The ship was recommended by several others that had been on this ship before as well as the travel agent. There was very simple and quick boarding as well as disembarkation. The lines are short as there are about only 225 passengers. The crew of the ship are the staff of the ship that will be working on the cruise. The cabin was adequate in size and very well appointed. There was a marble bath with stand up shower. There is only a curtain and very small half inch threshold separating the shower from the rest of the bath. It was comparable to the baths on other cruises that we have taken unless you get an upgraded cabin. The television and DVD player in the cabin was great to provide entertainment if one wanted to avoid too much sun or wanted to be alone with a partner. The public areas of this ship are nautical, but also elegant. There is much dark wood and brass colors and carpet throughout. The outside decks are very much like a working ship. There was sail repairs going on and normal upkeep maintenance all around. This was good to see and showed the concern of the crew for the ship. The dining was buffet for breakfast and lunch. As reported by others, the variety and amount of food available was sure to please everyone. There was a pasta station one lunch and a roasted pig in that location the next. There was afternoon snacks that was more like buffet meals, although with a smaller variety. The after dinner dessert buffet was a great highlight of the evening for most of the passengers. This was served upstairs in the Piano Bar and was better in my opinion than any dessert served in a dinning room on other cruises. The staff and crew could not have made us feel more welcome or gone farther to accommodate the passengers. There were enough activities on board to ensure there was no boredom, but not too much to prevent a relaxing vacation similar to a beach or sailing vacation. I would recommend this ship for anyone that is not expecting the big ship experience but is eager to meet others on the cruise and experience a sailing vessel. There is the sound of the water against the lower deck staterooms and there is more movement than large ships. This was never to a point that was excessive or obtrusive. Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
INTRODUCTION My wife and I sailed on the February 18, 2006 voyage of the Star Clipper round-trip from St. Maarten. It was by far the best vacation we have experienced. This was our eighth cruise overall, but first on a Clipper ship ... Read More
INTRODUCTION My wife and I sailed on the February 18, 2006 voyage of the Star Clipper round-trip from St. Maarten. It was by far the best vacation we have experienced. This was our eighth cruise overall, but first on a Clipper ship type vessel. We have previously cruised twice each on Celebrity, Carnival and NCL, and once on Royal Caribbean. We have grown tired of the larger ships and have wanted to try a sailing cruise for some time now. After sailing on the Star Clipper, we have no desire to return to the mass market cruise ships. ARRIVAL We arrived at the pier in St. Maarten about 3:30. We were told at the pier that check-in would begin at 4:00, but it actually began about 10 minutes early. Check-in consisted of receiving our room keys and ID cards and leaving an imprint of our credit card for purchases on the ship. We were finished with the process and were walking to the ship in a few minutes. We were met as we boarded by the Cruise Director and Hotel Manager and given a complementary cold drink. Light snacks were available on deck. We were escorted to our cabin and our luggage was delivered to our room shortly after our arrival. SHIP The Star Clipper is a fabulous ship. It is a sailing vessel, not a cruise ship. The ship is very elegant and sophisticated with none of the glitz of the bigger cruise ships. There are no casinos, atriums, show lounges, elevators or rooms with a verandah. There are two bars on board, the outside Tropical Bar and the inside Piano Bar. All of the nightly entertainment occurs at the Tropical Bar. The ship has plenty of teak and mahogany wood, all varnished to a high gloss. Additionally, there is a lot of brass, which is also kept polished. The crew was working every day doing routine maintenance around the ship. The ships passenger capacity is 170, but this week there were only 94 passengers on board, along with 73 crew members. The breakdown of passengers was very international - 41 were from the United States, six from Canada, one from Costa Rica and the remaining 46 passengers were from Europe. Of the 94 passengers, 63 had previously sailed with Star Clippers. The 73 crew members were from 25 different countries. The ship never seemed crowded. It is an easy walk from one end of the ship to the other. Because of its small size, the ship can fit into ports that the larger ships cannot. The ship offered several features not found on cruise ships: passengers could climb the mast to the first level crows nest (with appropriate safety equipment) on three separate occasions during the week; we could relax on the widows netting at the bow of the ship anytime the crew was not operating the sails; there was an open bridge policy throughout the week; the crew lowered lifeboats one day during the week to give the passengers the opportunity to photograph the Star Clipper at sea under full sails; and passengers were given the opportunity to steer the ship while at sea. Each day as the sails were raised as we were leaving a port, the ship would play the Vangelis symphony, 1492: Conquest of Paradise over the sound system. The passengers would congregate on deck to watch the crew raising the sails and to listen to the music. We felt there would be a lot of free time for reading - we brought several books along with us. However, we were only able to sit and read on deck one day out of the week because there was so much to do - each day was full of activities. The sailing throughout the week was rough. We had constant winds of 25-30 knots and the sea was rough while sailing. Several passengers were ill at points during the week due to the ships movement. CABIN We booked a Category 5 room and were assigned cabin 342. The room was small, but very efficiently designed, as was the rest of the ship. The room had a raised double bed, four feet off the floor - we had to use a block of steps or a ladder to reach the bed. The bathroom had a shower, toilet, sink and a medicine cabinet with plenty of shelving for storing toiletries. The cabin had sufficient storage and closet space for the two of us. A safe with a programmable lock was located in one of the closets. There was a TV in the room, which only received one English speaking program, Euro News (similar to CNN). A DVD player was also in the room, and video disks could be borrowed from the ships collection. There was a two channel audio system in room, one channel for classical music and the second channel for popular music. Our cabin attendant was very good and efficient. Towels were exchanged each morning and evening. MEALS All meals were served in the main dining room. Like the rest of the ship, the main dining room was very elegant. Booths lined the outside walls and accommodated four persons each. Tables in the middle of the room seated either six or eight. It was very common for the ships officers, including the captain, to join a group of diners at each meal. All dining is open seating, with service between 8:00 and 10:00 for breakfast, 12:00 and 2:00 for lunch and 7:30 and 10:00 for dinner. There are no formal nights - dress for dinner is resort casual for men and women. Buffet meals were served for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, there was an assortment of cereal, yogurts, pastries and fruits, along with scrambled eggs, french toast or pancakes, bacon and potatoes. There was also an omelet station for fresh omelets each morning. Lunchtime had a nice assortment of salads, cold cuts, cheeses, homemade soups and fruit. There was also a carving station each day with either fish or meat. The breakfasts and lunches were all very good. Each day between 5:00 and 6:00, an afternoon snack would be served at the Tropical Bar. Like the breakfasts and lunches, the afternoon snack was very good. We felt it was better than the dinners. The snack would consist of finger sandwiches, fruit, a hot dish and dessert. We were disappointed in the dinners served, both in the nightly selection and quality of food. Dinner would always have a seafood entree, a vegetarian entree and the two of the following: beef, pork, lamb or chicken. I only had one dinner I would classify as very good - a grilled sea bass. Lobster Tail was served on Thursday night, which is the Captains Dinner. My wife had the lobster, and said it was good, but not great. On two of the nights, I ordered the vegetarian selection when nothing on the main menu looked promising. The beef and pork dishes were consistently under cooked. I ordered a steak one night as medium well, and it came out very rare. On a different night, my wife ordered a steak very well done, and it came out rare. Others sitting at our table had pork and lamb dishes on different nights, and they were also done very rare. Coffee, tea and fresh fruit is available 24 hours a day in the Piano Bar. An early morning breakfast of croissants and pastries is also available in the Piano Bar from 6:00 to 8:00 in the mornings. Many mornings, we would be up early and grab a croissant and our coffee and tea and sit on the deck as the ship sailed to the next stop. SERVICE The service in the main dining room and throughout the ship was outstanding. Our waiters in the dining room were very attentive and we tried to sit in the same area each day with our favorite waiters. Bar service was mainly at the bar, with no bar waiters hounding you to purchase drinks every few minutes. The guys on the sports crew were excellent. The crew that worked the sails was also very good, showing great patience as the passengers were on deck as the crew was trying to raise or lower the sails. They were also very helpful with any information that the passengers asked them for. ENTERTAINMENT As mentioned above, entertainment on this sailing was very limited. There was one entertainer on board who sang and played the keyboard during the afternoon snack period. He also played the piano in the Piano Bar during the dinner hours and served as the deejay for nighttime dancing. There was an organized entertainment activity each night at 10:00 at the Tropical Bar. One night was crab races, another night was a Best Couples contest and a crew and passenger talent show was held on another night. These activities were very entertaining, and better than a lot of cruise line entertainment. The Best Couples contest was very hilarious, and the talent show with the crew performing was very enjoyable as well. Other forms of entertainment centered around the cruise directors daily talk on the upcoming port and the captains story time. Every morning before we reached a port, the cruise director would hold a briefing on the bridge. He would explain the history of the island and places of interest to visit. He detailed what times the tenders would operate to the town or to the beach, and what time the last tender would return to the ship at the end of the day. On two of the mornings, the captain held a story time on the bridge. These sessions lasted 60-90 minutes and consisted of mainly questions from the passengers regarding the ship and sailing in general, with the captain answering the questions. ITINERARY This is not a typical cruise ship itinerary. As was pointed out to the passengers on more than one occasion: This is a sailing vacation, not a cruise. The stops are in remote islands and harbors. The focus on the stops is enjoying the nature and natural history of the islands. There is not a lot of activity going on in most of the ports. At many of the stops during the week, French was the main language and the official currency was the Euro Dollar. English was not spoken in some of the locations and the US Dollar was not universally accepted. At each stop, the ship would run two tenders, one to the town for limited shopping and to meet the shore excursions and one to the beach. For each beach stop, the crew would take a banana boat, water ski equipment, a wave board (similar to a snow board), a windsurf board, sea kayaks, and a small sailboat. All of these activities were provided with no additional charge. Snorkeling gear was also issued at the beginning of the week for use throughout the cruise, again at no additional charge. The stop on Sunday was the island of Nevis. However, all shops in town are closed on Sundays. The beach tender stopped at a nice section of the beach near the Four Seasons Hotel. The Sunshine Bar is an open-air bar located next to the Four Seasons. This bar is famous for its signature drink, the Killer Bee. The walls of the bar are adorned with photos of celebrities who have sampled a Killer Bee. On Monday the ship stopped at Deshaies in Guadeloupe. As with many of the other islands the ship visited during the week, the shops in town were closed between 12:00 and 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon. We took the tender into the town, walked around for a few minutes and returned to the ship for lunch. The afternoon was spent relaxing at the beach. On Tuesday the ship stopped at Iles des Saintes in the French Antilles. We hiked up a steep road to the fort at the top of the harbor, with great view of the island. After returning to the ship for lunch, I took the beach tender in the afternoon for some snorkeling. While sailing into Iles des Saintes, we met up with another Star Clippers ship, the Royal Clipper, and both ships sailed side-by-side for a period of time. On Wednesday, prior to arriving in Dominica, the captain arranged for the life boats to be lowered and the passengers had the opportunity to ride in the life boats and photograph the Star Clipper at sea under full sail. This event was originally scheduled for Monday afternoon, but had to be canceled on Monday due to high winds. The fact the captain rearranged the schedule to fit in the photo opportunity is another example of the great service offered during the week. The stop on Wednesday was at Cabrits National Park in Dominica. This was the only stop where we docked at a pier, versus anchoring offshore and taking a tender to shore. The park had another fort overlooking the harbor and several hiking trails. We hiked up one side and down the other, ending up at a remote stretch of rocky beach on the other side of the island. After lunch, we sat on deck and read, as the ship left the dock at 3:00. The Thursday stop in Antigua was at Falmouth Harbour in Antigua. The large cruise ships that visit Antigua stop in the countrys capital, St. Johns, on the other side of the island. Nelsons Dockyard, home of the British Navy during the battles for supremacy of the Caribbean, is located at Falmouth Harbour. The beach visit today was very nice. The ships crew set up a barbecue on the beach and offered grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, fish and ribs for lunch. There was also good snorkeling at this beach. The final stop on Friday was at Gustavia in St. Barthelemy (also referred to as St. Barth or St. Barts), a very exclusive and wealthy island. Many large private yachts and sailboats were at the dock or anchored just offshore. There are many shops and restaurants surrounding the harbor. This was the only day the ship did not offer a beach tender. We were able to walk to Shell Beach, which was about a 10 or 15 minute walk from the dock where the tender stopped. It is a very nice beach, with plenty of shade and a small bar and restaurant. In the evening, we took the tender back into town for a little shopping and a drink at a harbor front restaurant. SUMMARY Despite our disappointment with the dinner food and the ships constant rolling movement, this was a fabulous vacation, and we would definitely love to take another Star Clippers cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
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