When booking our first ever cruise, I was nervous about what I had read on the boards regarding kids on Star Clipper. So I thought I would share our experience which can be summoned up in a single word- Great!!!!!
I have 9 year old son and a daughter who actually turned 12 on our trip. My husband is a Scientist who despises crowds, shopping casinos, & cheesy Broadway reviews. When my daughter asked us if we could go on a cruise for our annual family vacation I was in a bit of pickle given that her Dad's idea of a vacation is not a big traditional cruise ship. He loves nature, adventure, history and science. After months of research we had zeroed in on Star Clipper.
We signed up for the 6 night repositioning cruise from Costa Rica to Panama and booked the 2 day pre-land package in Monteverde cloud forest. The land package was fabulous. From the moment we landed we where taken care of. Our transfer driver showed us all sorts of things on the way to Monteverde, including stopping for lunch, monkeys and other wildlife. The visit to Selvatura park was lots of fun and we where able to add in Zip-lining which was heart stopping action adventure. The hummingbirds where amazing and the coatis just wandered all around the hummingbird garden. My family was entranced. The Hotel Fonda Vela had a lovey hot tub and pools with a gorgeous view. A real highlight for my daughter was eating a big bowl of Ice cream made locally at the Monteverde dairy, which the hotel brought to her in the hot tub. Pura Vida!!!! On the last Morning the Hotel helped me book a tour at Monteverde National Park and we where lucky enough to see a female Quetzal and a toucanette plus Coatis, agoutis and trogans. The guide was great! After a terrific lunch we headed to Puerta Caldera.
We got to Puerta Caldera about an hour before the embarkation which was a bit boring as the terminal is minimal but the line did have some apple juice and a nice plate of fruit for us. We killed the time watching the Star Flyer being moved further down the dock to make way for huge container ship so even that was interesting. Embarkation was easy and we where greeted with a nice fruit drink and music.
Since there was 4 of us we booked 2 cabins a cat 6 and a cat 4 that where across the hall from each other. The cat 6 is tiny and no frills We joked with the kids it was a combination vacation and "scared straight"., but the kids did like the bunk beds. The cabin across the way was just fine with a port hole, DVD player and between the two we never felt cramped.
When we first got on board my daughter said to me mom I think people are staring at us we are the ONLY family. Looking around I think we where attracting some looks. As it turns out we weren't the only family as a set of grandparents where traveling with their 14 year old grandson. The next day at the Captain's welcome speech he made a point to note how happy Star Flyer was to have a family aboard and to publicly welcome us. It was a nice feeling.
At dinner Godwin and Herman went out of their way to make sure my super picky 9 year old eater knew that he could always have pasta or steak and french fries. The bar tender also made a point to tell the kids he could make them special fun fruit cocktails just for them.
Pretty soon my kids where entranced with ship and the grand adventure. Our first stop was Quepos. We wanted to do the horseback riding but not enough people signed up. Ximena managed to switch us to white water rafting. Our guide was great. Just as we arrived the heavens opened up and drenched us. My son who had a cough was soon shivering. Our guide noticed his discomfort and quickly made him a plastic raincoat from a plastic bag which was very kind. The weather soon cleared and our guide was terrific. Helped us spot all sorts of wildlife and picked a perfect line through every rapid. After white water rafting back on board the kids hit the pools and tried out the bow net both of which where big hits! My son especially enjoyed diving down into the bottom of the pool and waving through the windows down there at the tropical bar.
The next few days passed by a in a whirl. Tour of Corvacado National Park, Climbing the crows nest, even my 9 year old, plus raising the sails and swimming. The only tour that was a disappointment was the wildlife rescue center and orchid garden. Definitely not worth 80 E. Our best day was at Isla de Coiba in Panama. The most gorgeous beach I have ever seen. My 12 year old enjoyed the beach while my husband, son and I snorkeled. The snorkeling was fabulous. The highlight for my son was finding a harmless white tipped reef shark while snorkeling. He was so excited it was amazing to watch. The sports team nick named him shark boy after that. Our last stop at Isla Iguana was canceled because the seas where too rough to safely get us off the boat and instead we had a day at sea. While disappointed I appreciated the crews concern for our safety.
The kids also had a blast with the evening entertainment. My daughter loved making us pirate costumes out of our daily bulletins (hats) tying our red t-shirts on our heads, dressing us in stripes, and making herself an eye patch from mom's band aids. The frog races where also a highlight for them followed by dancing. The night of the crew talent show my guys where too exhausted to stay up so it was just us girls. We laughed our selves silly a the funny corny talent show and we topped the evening off with the Macarana. Another funny thing happened as folks began to realize our kids weren't going to be badly behaved or rude they became so friendly it was great. People we didn't even know cheered us as we climbed the crows nest. People called us aside to show us pictures of the kids at pirate night, frog races etc that they had taken. The atmosphere was just wonderful. Apart from that first day we never felt anything but warmth and acceptance.
All too soon it was over and we sadly disembarked but then spent another great week touring the Panama Canal zone.
As we booked the Star Clipper, what our cruise agent was most worried about was "will the kids be board?" The truth of the matter was they where actually exhausted by the end of every day because there was a lot of fun things to do. However, I do have to caveat a few things. Our kids are used to vacations in the US National parks where there is no TV and a fun time is a ranger lead campfire. We also came prepared, our own DVDs and a Nintendo DS for each kid with plenty of games. Also I wouldn't want to be chasing after a toddler as the tours require a degree of mobility and a kid screaming in the dinning room would not be good, but for a family with tweens (7-13). It was great.
If your family loves adventure- its a blast! My daughter is already scheming to do one of their Mediterranean cruises. :)