My Experience on the Star Flyer
I’m surprised by the tenor of the reviews here. We just returned from a 7-day cruise on the Star Flyer, where we had a wonderful time.
The ship is a working sailing vessel and, as such, provides a different experience than the typical ‘big ship cruise’. There is no casino, exercise room or spa, and the maximum number of passengers on board is only 170. Our trip had 120 passengers and 77 crew. 62% of the passengers were repeat travellers. I travelled with my spouse, Two adult sisters, their husbands and my parents. Our ages ranged from 47 to 79.
We were warned that travel by sail is weather dependent and, consequently, the ship may not make all its scheduled destinations. But Captain Yuriy Slastein and his capable crew hit every port as scheduled, despite some very challenging weather.
Our first night, we encountered a heavy storm at sea that claimed at least 17 lives on shore. Although there was some sea sickness on board, the crew handled the storm well and, thankfully, kept us all safe. Only one sail was torn, no one was injured — and we made port the next day on schedule. Amazing.
The next day, the damaged sail was taken down and repaired out on the deck where passengers could watch the process in action. A nice touch, and an indulgence for the avid sailors among us.
The Star Flyer’s reduced size also made it possible for us to go to smaller ports the larger cruise ships would have to miss.
Accommodation & Cleanliness
Rooms were cleaned at least twice a day, with fresh towels as needed. Each block of rooms had a dedicated steward to provide cleaning and turn-down service — plus the occasional towel animal and a chocolate on the pillow each night.
The ship and rooms were impeccably clean. There was no garbage or dirty dishes/glassware on deck, as others have described. And there always seemed to be plenty of deck chairs to go around.
The library and piano bar are comfortable environments, clean and well-maintained. The low-key ambience was conducive to relaxation and family fun; guests and crew alike were friendly and good-humoured.
The Tropical Bar is the social hub of the ship, serving as a general meeting point for many activities, while the upper decks (one fore, one aft) housed the pool, the jacuzzi, and the best vantage point for seeing the ship’s workings in action.
Our fellow passengers were mainly adults, aged 35-80, plus one small child and two teenagers. Passengers were multi-national: mostly American, German, Canadian, British, Swiss and Australian. I wonder how the nationalities vary on different schedules and locations. (Our trip was in October, travelling the Cote D’Azur from Nice to Barcelona.)
The atmosphere on board was congenial, and passengers generally easy-going and courteous.
The crew were approachable, friendly, and very accommodating, cultivating a more personal experience than we’ve had on larger cruises. Perhaps this is due to the vastly-reduced passenger capacity. Or maybe it’s just the way the staff are trained. Many crew and staff members had been with the Star Clipper ships for a decade or more.
The crew were quite open about the workings of the ship, with many tasks, like the aforementioned sail repair, taking place in full view of the passengers. Over the course of our trip, the crew invited guests to climb one of the masts, to lie in the nets on the bow sprit, to take a tour of the engine room with the engineers -- and to watch the ship set off and land every morning and evening, which was undoubtably a highlight of the entire experience.
A non-negligible percentage of passengers were avid sailors; it’s easy to see why.
Wifi is limited! But board games, card games, and regularly-scheduled group activities were welcome diversions from our screen-based habits. We were never bored.
Much of the daytime entertainment came from self-guided or pre-arranged tours. On our trip, one of the day excursions was cancelled due to lack of interest, but the two tours we participated in were well-organised. Often we chose to wander the destination cities on our own.
In the evening, the pianist, Bela, was the focal point of much of the entertainment, assisted by local talent, crew members and passengers. During our trip, there was a fashion show, a passenger/crew talent show, and a couple of live music acts.
The Pursor’s office had DVDs available to check out, as each room is equipped with a DVD player. Books in the library were also available for anyone to read.
Meals consisted of:
• An early-bird continental breakfast (juice and pastries)
• A large buffet breakfast with omelette station
• A substantial, themed, lunch buffet
• An afternoon snack in the Tropical Bar
• A 5-course sit-down dinner with multiple menu choices
• A midnight snack in the Piano Bar
• An all-day self-serve coffee and tea station
• An all-day bar (with bartender)
All meals were open-seating, with dinner slightly more formal (no shorts or collarless shirts). All meals and snacks were served on china, with real glassware and utensils.
Because we were travelling in a group of eight, the dining room staff reserved a table where our family could sit together throughout the trip. The food was much nicer than we expected — often it was excellent — and the number of choices was more than adequate. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised.
‘Pleasantly surprised’ is how I would describe much of my experience on this trip. Based on the reviews I read before departure, I thought I would struggle with aspects of the Star Flyer experience. Instead, I’m so glad I came. The service, the accommodation, and the personable, intimate atmosphere were much more than I’d hoped for.
Our family has sailed on smaller vessels for generations, but this trip was something quite different: the silent gliding of the tall ship through the water, the scale and beauty of the vessel herself, and our own experience as an integral part of the sail — this was something unique indeed, and truly unforgettable.