Exploring smaller bays

Ship ahoy: cruising for non-cruiselovers (what’s it like to go sailing with Star Clippers)

Although I had been on a ‘typical’ cruise before there was nothing that could prepare me for the experience of cruising with the Star Clipper. Star Clippers is a smaller cruise liner operating with three tall ships: Royal Clipper, Star Clipper and Star Flyer. They are among the  fastest and largest clipper ships ever built.

Cruising with these tall ships has nothing in common with classic cruisesDuring my days on the Star Clipper (cruising the Caribbean Leeward Island) my experience was that this was indeed a cruise that even non-cruiselovers would love. Here are 7 reasons why you too might get addicted to cruising with Star Clippers:

1. It feels like sailing a private yacht (but is so much cheaper)

I once had the change to talk to Michael Krafft, the owner of the ships, and he told me he wanted to give his passengers the feeling as if they were sailing their private yacht: to be one with the ocean, the ship,  the sails and fellow travelers. “Sailing brings people together”, he  stated.

When I finally was cruising with Star Clippers myself, I understood what he meant. Star Clipper carries only 170 guests. You’ll never get lost in the crowd, there’s a relaxed atmosphere on board and the other passengers soon become more like friends instead of just fellow-cruisers. You really feel like this is your own private sailing ship, without having to pay a fortune (Star Clipper cruises are very affordable).

Star Clipper versus cruiseship
Star Clipper versus cruise ship

2. The ships stop at smaller ports

The ships are smaller so they can stop in ports other cruise chips can’t reach. Think: tropical beaches and small, sleepy islands.

You don’t get dropped in a port with thousands of other passengers.

On our trip, Jempi and I visited Illes des Saintes and Antigua and we had the whole day to explore the islands just by ourselves, not another passenger in sight.

Exploring smaller bays
Exploring smaller bays

3. Sorry folks, no animation

There are no pool games or mister- & miss-cruiseship contest to keep you busy. But trust me, there are far more exciting things to do on board the Star Clipper.

Think about climbing the ship’s mast or laying in the bow spirit net out in front of the ship, watching the dolphins playing around.

If it’s watersports you love, you’re in for a treat. You can go snorkeling, kayaking, surfing and water skiing every day, all the equipment is available and it’s free of charge. There’s also lots of opportunity to go diving or to go on adventurous excursions. If you want to know more about the ships and life at sea, you can join the captain every evening in the library for some storytelling. The (fantastic!) crew does organize some entertainment after dinner, but it has more a family-playing-games-feeling to it, which is quit charming.

View from the crow’s nest

4. The food is fab

I had heard that the food could do with some improvement, but perhaps we had a better chef because the cuisine on our cruise was exquisite. All meals are open seating, the dress code is casual (although during the captain’s evening it’s better if you dress up).

5. You may want to cry (but these are tears of joy)

Imagine traveling half way around the world. Finally you reach your destination: the Star Clipper, waiting for you in a tropical port. The captain and his crew welcome you like you’re their lost and found again friend, and you feel a bit overwhelmed by being on a grand clipper.

It’s already dark when the Star Clipper starts to set sail, and then the music begins: Vangelis soundtrack for ‘Conquest of Paradise, 1492‘.

The music, the sound of the sails and the crew working the ship… yes, it may all seem a bit tacky but I saw how some people were so touched by this moment they had tears in their eyes. Of course Star Clippers plays the same music every time the sails are set, but you’ll never get tired of hearing it (although I’m not sure the crew does).

Not the Star Clipper but the Royal Clipper. It sailed together with us for two days.

Full sails. This is not the Star Clipper but the Royal Clipper. It sailed together with us for two days.

6. It’s all about romance

Do I really need to explain this one? It’s the sea, the stunning surroundings, the spectacular sunsets, the stars at night, the clipper, the relaxed atmosphere…

If that doesn’t do the trick, I don’t know anymore.

One more beautiful sunset

7. It’s a cruise for grown ups

Although Star Clippers do allow kids on their ships, there are no special activities to keep them busy. As a result you won’t find many children cruising Star Clippers. We think kids are great fun and adore them, but if you are a couple looking for a ‘private’ holiday, then this is definitely your kind of cruise.

Our fellow passengers varied in age from 30 till 70, some of them were traveling alone, others with their spouse or friends. We noticed that many passengers were repeat cruisers and/or sailing fanatics.

Did I say there were 7 reasons to go sailing with Star Clippers? Okay, so I lied. There are really 8 reasons I wanted to share with you:

8. Behind Star Clippers is a man with a dream

Meet Mikael Krafft, a Swedish entrepreneur who’s been obsessed with sailing ever since he was a little boy. He was only 6 years old when he worked at a shipyard near Stockholm, and at 12 years he already sailed his 18-foot boat in open seas. When he grew up, he relocated to Belgium in 1986 and became a successful real estate developer.

But his love for the open sea and tall ships never faded.  At long last Krafft couldn’t ignore his dream any longer and although people thought he had gone crazy, he took a big risk and began building two tall ships, based on original 19th century drawings but adapted to modern times.

Krafft made his dream come true: Star Flyer and Star Clipper, two four-masted clippers were launched at a Belgian shipyard in 1991 and 1992.

In mid-2000, Krafft launched  Royal Clipper, a five-masted clipper inspired by the mythical famed Preussen, a German clipper built in 1902. Royal Clipper is still the largest clipper cruise ship in the world.

Michael Krafft has plans for building a forth, even more spectacular ship than Royal Clipper. I’m sure it will be as impressive as the other Star Clippers.

star clippers

Check out this post if you want to read more about our Leeward Island cruise.

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