Star Clippers is to the age of sail what Cunard is the Golden Age of the ocean liner. It evokes that sense of nostalgia, with a fleet of three traditional sailing ships.
Star Clipper’s ships are outwardly classic 19th century passenger clippers, while inwardly they are as modern and packed with amenities as one would expect from the modern cruise industry.
The great difference is that Star Clippers eschews many mainstream cruise traditions, such as dressing for dinner and rigid timetables.
The fleet of three ships (flagship Royal Clipper, as well as Star Clipper and Star Flyer) were launched in 2000, 1991 and 1992 in Belgium. Star Clipper and Star Flyer were the first clipper ships since 1911 to be granted the certificate of highest quality by Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.
When Royal Clipper was launched in 2000 she was the largest clipper ship built in a century. But the new ship, under construction in Croatia and delivered in late 2018, is larger still, carrying 300 passengers and modelled on the famous France II, the largest clipper ever built.
The Star Clippers cruise experience
Star Clippers offers a one-of-a-kind cruise experience. It’s a romantic fantasy voyage, with a sense of adventure, too.
Although cruise schedules are planned in advance, like any cruise lines, and although the ships have engines as well as sails, the route the ship takes depends largely on the wind.
The captain may switch port calls around, or add new ones altogether, in consultation with guests.
And because Star Clippers primarily operates in the world’s two major cruise markets, the Mediterranean and Caribbean, there are trans-Atlantic cruises twice a year for those looking for a true cruise adventure.
There is something wonderfully evocative about arriving in the Caribbean from Europe under sail.
Onboard entertainment is deliberately low-key. There might be informal classes in knot tying or celestial navigation, and there might be an evening show (starring passengers and crew), but there are no show lounge productions, nightclubs or 24-hour room service.
There is also no spa, but there is a massage tent on deck. Aboard Royal Clipper, however, there is a spa, and a water sports platform in the stern for use when the ship is at anchor in a suitable spot. The new ship has these features as well, along with 38 cabins with private balconies.
The cabins aboard Star Clipper’s ships are what you would expect from a sailing ship. They’re compact, but comfortable, with yacht-type creature comforts – lots of doors and drawers to keep everything in place when under sail. Remember that when under sail a ship will spend most of its time tilted at an angle.
Star Clippers ships are sailing vessels that carry passengers, whereas its rival, Windstar operates cruise ships that also carry sails.
The difference is important. Star Clippers is laid-back to the max, passengers even get involved in the trimming of sails (although it isn’t mandatory).
Dinner is the only meal that isn’t served buffet style. The menus and food presentation are supervised by culinary advisor Jean-Marie Meulien, a top French chef with many Michelin stars to his name.
Its new flagship, carrying more than 300 passengers and with balcony cabins and a full-scale spa, will be more in-line with what Windstar offers, but it also wont have the same timeless character of the more ‘basic’ clippers.
Types of passengers on a Star Clipper cruise
In the Caribbean, more than half the passengers are likely to be North Americans, with Europeans making up the rest.
In the Mediterranean on the other hand, Americans will find themselves in the minority amongst French, Italian, German and British passengers.
The cruise line has no children’s facilities or kids’ programs, so although children are welcome, its rare to see more than a smattering.
Most passengers are in their evening years, although some cruises, especially those in the Caribbean, do also get a younger crowd.
Cruise ships in the Star Clippers fleet:
Due in 2018: Flying Clipper
Categories: Cruise Line Focus