Posted March 19th, 2017, 02:49 PM
We spent three weeks aboard Star Clipper and enjoyed their three Grecian/Turkish itineraries back in 2015. Because we wanted discrete itineraries for our back-to-back-to-back voyage, Star Clippers scheduling required a mid-July through week one of August time frame. We had concerns regarding both heat and crowds.
To a large degree - for us - those concerns proved to be non-issues. Some of the ports - think Mykonos, Rhodos, Santorini - had tourists and vacationers aplenty but never to the point that we couldn’t go where we wanted or were unable to get a table at a desired cafe or restaurant. Regarding the other islands on our itineraries, crowds were simply not an issue. Islands such as Skiathos, Hydra, Skopelous, and Limnos had vacationers but there were no large cruise ships with thousands of passengers descending upon the port city. Several of the port towns we visited were small, picturesque harbor towns.
The weather was warm but not unbearably so - we vacation in Mexico quite often, Cozumel - we’re divers - so that may have been a factor in that regard. We also arrived in Athens three days prior to our departure date for a pre-cruise experience and that may have helped with acclimatization. I don’t mean to minimize the heat but it does help to know one’s tolerance. One hint - wear a hat. The heat may be tolerable but the sun has no mercy.
This was not our first Star Clipper experience - previously we were aboard Royal Clipper out of Civitivecchia bound for Venice and we’ve had many sailings aboard both her and Star Clipper in the Caribbean. I say all that because we knew what to expect in terms of dining, berthing, excursions and whatnot and that is important aboard a smaller, more intimate ship - especially for three weeks. I will say this as well - because the ship is smaller, you will see your fellow passengers a lot!
Your fellow passengers on European itineraries will be more international than a traditional American cruise ship. Expect to hear conversations in French, Dutch, German, Italian, or English with an British, Australian, or New Zealand accent. Most are well-traveled and active. Many are in their late-50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. A few are older and a few, younger. Most seem to be adventurous types who want to see and experience.
Breakfast and lunch are casual, buffet affairs - dress is shorts, tees, sandals but no one will think you odd if you take your dress up a notch. Dinner is off-menu and the attire is more like “country club casual”. Jackets on men may appear at the Captain’s Dinner. Food is good with a decent variety - understand, the food won’t wow fanatical foodies but we haven’t been disappointed. The wine list is very serviceable without a price gouge.
Entertainment is not of a large cruise ship variety - no large floor shows and such. Folks migrate to the Tropical Bar for after dinner cocktails and conversation. Music for dancing and enjoyment is supplied by the ship’s musician/DJ at the Bar. Smokers are confined to one side of the ship - be advised that you will smell cigarette smoke even if you are on the non-smoking side. There will be several small organized “shows” after dinner as well - Talent Show, Fashion Show, etc. - where your participation is encouraged but not required. Most people turn in fairly early but there are usually a few that stay late on the bar stools. I must say that the ship itself provides most of the entertainment - going topside at night while under sail is an experience unlike others and is rarely available these days. Getting up early for a sunrise while approaching a small island under sail is a life experience that few have.
The Library is a quiet place for reading or resting - it is air-conditioned and the wi-fi is pretty fast there. The Library is also where one finds the sign-up sheets for shore excursions. The Main Lounge is a fairly large area good for relaxation, reading, puzzle-working and such. Wi-fi is good here as well - understand that “good” does not mean blazing FIOS speed. Another bar is located topside and is open for business during the day. Loungers are available but shade is at a premium. The swimming pools are very small and not very deep but can be used to cool off. One can relax out on the bowsprit netting - possibly one of the few opportunities one has for something like this. Mast-climbing is available on certain days as is helping with line-handling. Captain’s Story Time is an opportunity to hear of the experiences of the Clippers’ Skipper.
We are of a mixed bag with regards to shore excursions - we rarely use ship’s shore excursions on large cruise ships (Holland-America is our “big ship line”) but we are more apt to use the Star Clipper excursions. Also, sometimes a visit to a waterside cafe for some local food and wine is a shore excursion enough for us! Sign-ups for the excursions are aboard ship and usually have a required minimum/maximum participation rate. Costs for the excursions, as for all other shipboard expenses, are in Euro and are added to your shipboard account.
Laundry service is excellent - we have never had an issue with our laundry. Massages are available aboard. Star Clipper and Star Flyer have no fitness center. Royal Clipper has a small fitness center located outside the spa.
I’m sure I’ve missed many facets of the Star Clipper experience but hopefully you will gain some insight that may help with your decision. I’m including the itineraries of our voyage that includes shore excursion we chose. I understand that some or all of the Turkish ports may have been dropped or altered due to circumstances in that part of the world. That is truly a shame for our experiences in Turkey were integral to the success of our voyage.
Southern Cyclades - Athens to Athens
Sat 7/18 Piraeus, Greece - Embark Terminal A; Depart 2145
Sun 7/19 At sea
Mon 7/20 Rhodes, Greece - DIY Port
Tue 7/21 Bodrum, Turkey - DIY Port
Wed 7/22 Dalyan River, Turkey - SHOREX/Ancient Caunous & Dalyan River
3' 30"/90€/Boat ride to Caunos & Lycian tombs and Caunos for ruins/Beach stop
Thu 7/23 Santorini, Greece - SHOREX/Flavors of Santorini
4' 30"/100€/Bus to Akrotiri & Oia - also boat and funicular included
Fri 7/24 Hydra, Greece - DIY Port
Sat 7/25 Piraeus, Greece - Arrive 0700/Terminal A/Remain Onboard or Tour
Delightful Dervishes - Athens to Istanbul
Sat 7/25 Piraeus, Greece - Embark Terminal A; Depart 2145
Sun 7/26 Mykonos, Greece - DIY Port
Mon 7/27 Kos, Greece - DIY Port
Tue 7/28 Patmos, Greece - DIY Port
Wed 7/29 Camlimani (AM beach stop) & Kusadasi, Turkey - SHOREX/Ephesus & Terraced Houses
4'/120€/Bus to ruins and tour
Thu 7/30 Dikili, Turkey - SHOREX/Pergamon
4'/114€/Bus to site, cable car, ruins and trip to Asklepeion - 3' on-site
Fri 7/31 Canakkale, Turkey - SHOREX/Gallipoli Peninsula
2'45"/120€/Bus to ferry across Dardanelles - 1' 30" on-site
Sat 8/1 Istanbul, Turkey - Arrive 0700/Port of Istanbul, Karakoy - SHOREX/Highlights of Istanbul
4'/90€/Bus to Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia. Tour ends in city center.
Yachtsman's Paradise - Istanbul to Athens
Sat 8/1 Istanbul, Turkey - Embark Port of Istanbul, Karakoy; Depart 2200
Sun 8/2 Canakkale, Turkey - DIY Port
Mon 8/3 Myrina, Limnos - Greece - DIY Port
Tue 8/4 Mt. Athos (Sail-By) & Ouranopolis, Greece
Wed 8/5 Skiathos, Greece - SHOREX/Around Siathos on Mountain Bikes
4'/76€/Mountain Bike tour to island center and North Coast & return
Thu 8/6 Skopelous, Greece - DIY Port
Fri 8/7 Porous, Greece - SHOREX/Epidaurus
3' 30"/88€/Bus to Epidaurus - Shrine to Aesculapius, baths & theater
Sat 8/8 Piraeus, Greece - Arrive 0700/Terminal A/Disembark