Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

SoBaycruiser

Detailed Star Clipper Trip Report - Feb 26

Recommended Posts

General - I thought I'd share some details from our Star Clipper Treasure Island cruise out of St Maarten. I was surprised while researching this trip how little detailed information is out there. Everyone here is wonderful about answering questions... but sometimes one doesn't know what to ask. Let me say also that we all bring our own expectations and biases to these trips. We chose the Treasure Island cruise because we were more interested in the sailing and snorkeling/diving opportunities than we were with the ports. Hence, we took only one excursion and my comments will reflect those interests.

 

So to begin, let me say we had a terrific time despite some uncooperative weather. Captain Sergey Utitsyn couldn't have been better. He took every opportunity to sail that he could and did it with enthusiasm and skill. These ships are not for the infirm. There are a lot of steps and equipment around which one must maneuver. Every stop requires the use of the tender with some wet landings and some dry. While the crew is always there to help, you don't want to make a trip like this if you have balance problems or are not well.

 

Saturday: Sailaway was scheduled for 10 pm and we were told we could embark after 4pm. However, the staff did have a safe area where luggage could be deposited earlier. So if you arrive early, you can leave your luggage with them while you walk about town. After 4pm we were directed on shore to a location where we presented our documents, passports and customs cards. Our picture was taken for our Star Clipper ID card and we were asked for a credit card on which a 300 euro hold was placed to cover possible on board expenses. We were then given our keys and directed down the pier to the ship.

 

Upon embarkation we were greeted by the captain and several of his officers. Cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres was set up in the Tropical Bar. A complimentary rum punch (or non-alcoholic tropical punch) was given each passenger. We started to explore the ship immediately. It's a little difficult to go below deck because the crew is loading all the luggage and depositing it in the hallway outside the staterooms. Eventually though everyone makes it to their stateroom to settle in for the week. There is room under the beds for luggage. There are also a couple of large drawers (one under one of the beds and the other under the chair). The remaining storage are small shelves and hanging closets.

 

Announcements are normally made in three languages. The very talented young cruise director, Philip, made all these announcements. The difficult part was that instead of making the whole announcement in one language and then switching to the others, he would say once sentence in English, repeat it in French and German, and then go on to the next sentence. One had to listen very carefully because he didn't really pause and you would be listening to his instructions or comments and realize all of a sudden you didn't understand the words. Then you'd wait a moment until English was spoken again. We lucked out because the first night Philip realized that he didn't have to speak French so the announcements from then on were in only two languages.

 

Dinner was at 7:30 and exceeded my expectations as far as the quality and quantity. Two appetizers, a salad, a soup, a midmeal sorbet, 4 main courses, cheeses and 3 desserts were always offered. About a half hour before dinner, samples of the appetizers and main courses are placed on a table in the Piano Bar. One of the main courses is always vegetarian. We got a bottle of the house red wine and we were very pleased with it. It is reasonably priced, I've never been impressed with cruise ship desserts. They usually look better than they taste. However, I found every dessert I had on the Star Clipper tasted special and I looked forward to the choices each day.

 

We rushed through dinner a little the first night because of a 9pm scheduled meeting for potential SCUBA divers. (more about dinners later). Sailaway was at 10pm. The music from the PBS special 1492 is played as they raise the sails and leave the harbor. Since they play this EVERY time they raise the sails, you find yourself humming it at the oddest times by the end of the trip. We were told that because a cold front had moved in and the strong winds would make Anguilla difficult, the itinerary was being changed so that we would be sailing that night for St Barts with Anguilla then moved to the end of the trip. The passengers were encouraged to help raise the sails and we were off. With that we retired to our room.

 

Our bed was made up as a double. However, that really is somewhat of a misnomer. Yes the beds are together, but the top bedding (the comforter) is actually two singles that overlap. Since my side of the bed was up against the wall, the comforter stopped at the wall and then covered 2/3 of the bed. Once I got into the bed I realized that wouldn't work because the edge of the covers didn't allow for a body to be under it. So every night I untucked my comforter and pulled it over toward me and the wall. Because of the permanently place chair is at the foot of the bed, getting in and out of the wall side bed can be difficult... especially if one has to make a bathroom trip during the night. Our first night was a little rough. The high winds caused the captain to lower some sails because we were traveling TOO fast. Friends on the lower deck mentioned that their porthole had water washing over it...like looking into a washing machine. The boat DOES heel some. Trying to take a shower the first night was a little bit of a challenge.

 

Sunday: St Barts

Breakfast was good. There was something for almost everyone. It's a buffet and you can sit anywhere. Typically there was always the omelette bar, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, various fruits, rolls, and cereal. In addition there are a number of European style meats and cheeses. Then there were the additional hot items that changed with the day, pancakes, hot meats, french toast, potatoes, etc. The only thing I really missed was berries. I love to eat berries on my cereal and would have loved to see some dried blueberries or fresh strawberries available. However, I came out of the dining room full every morning so I'm not complaining.

 

10AM was the life boat drill. We all had to be at our appointed place with life jackets on. The crew then went through a fire drill. After the drill the captain gave a welcome speech and introduced the crew.

 

Because it was a Sunday, almost everything was closed in the town except one or two restaurants. I have no idea where the residents were because they weren't on the street. My husband decided to do the two morning SCUBA dives with Chelsea and Lulu. Only one other diver joined them. I should mention that on the first night you could check out mask, snorkel and fins for your use on the entire trip. These were loaned at no charge. However, the SCUBA diving with its additional equipment was treated like an excursion and therefore cost extra. Meanwhile, our friends and myself decided to walk to Shell Beach. We were told the snorkeling wasn't good there but it actually wasn't bad at the far end. Should you decide to go there, follow the signs that say "Plage" (beach in French) at the far end of the harbor. Shell Beach is certainly named correctly. I've never seen so many shells deposited in one place and in such good condition. There were so many shells that you had to be careful that you didn't cut your feet getting out into the water. One warning though. One of the guests said that while she went into the water someone approached her belongings in a suspicious manner. Had she not gotten out of the water and stared him down, she felt that he would have stolen her things. I was in a group of 3 and we always had someone on the beach so we had no problems.

 

We returned to the ship and decided to relax on board and have lunch. Lunch is also served buffet. Always a lot of variety. Each day has a different theme- Italian, Caribbean, Neptune (seafood), Oriental, Creole and American. The only thing I ever thought odd was at the salad bar- the greens or lettuce was always in the middle of the salad bar, not at the beginning. So I would end up accumulating things on the side before I had the bed of lettuce onto which I could put the olives, cucumbers, carrots, etc. Other than that, lunch was great.

 

After lunch we decided to get our books and relax on deck. It was still fairly breezy and not as warm as I expected. As others have mentioned, their are a lot of lounges on the deck but not many in the shade. There are two pools but both with what I considered a fatal flaw. Under the water there are portholes so that people in the Piano bar or hallways can see that part of you which is under water. I wasn't anxious to display that half of myself nor was it particularly warm on this trip, so I (and most others) never put a foot in the pools. Water sports ( sailing, wake boarding, and kayaking) are offered from a separate gangway. Snorkeling is NOT allowed directly from the ship. That was a surprise to us.

 

At 5pm every night, cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres were served in the Tropical bar. I was surprised at how much food came out at this time. One night there was a taco bar and another a waffle bar,..this is in addition to other small bites of food as well as cookies. Speaking of cookies, cocktail hour is the only time you see them, so if that's your thing, grab them during this hour.

 

That evening a demonstration of how to make several cocktails was scheduled for 6pm in the Tropical Bar. It started right on time and it was over by 6:10. I think many people wandered by a little late and were surprised they had missed it. It was a lot of fun. Two bartenders distributed a page of recipes and then proceeded to make the cocktails and then shared the results in small shot glasses with the watchers. There was limited space at the bar and if you weren't there from the start, you pretty much missed out.

 

While hanging out at the bar that evening, we discovered two other things - the water fountain and the coffee/tea station. We forgot to bring a water bottle on board with us and with all the stores closed in St Barts, we had no opportunity to buy one. Eventually we bought a bottle of water from the bar. Later that evening we saw a water fountain with glasses on the port side by the Tropical Bar. From then on we just filled our water bottle to have water in our room. In addition, just inside the doors to the Piano Bar (on the port side) is a coffee/tea station. I don't know if it is active all day long but it is working early in the morning during the 'early bird breakfast' time, 6:30-10:30. So when you get up and need a cup of java before breakfast, you can wander down there and get a mug and take it back to your room.

 

Dinner is at 7:30 but it's not like you have to be there as the bell is rung. However, most people come at that time. The smallest tables are the booths for 6 people. Most of the tables accommodate 8. You are free to sit anywhere and with anyone. One of the things with which I had difficulty was the length of the dinners. If someone ordered every course, the rest of the table waited. It seemed to take 2 hours minimum for a typical dinner. There was no other option of which I was aware. By the end of the week, my feet were swelling from all the sitting.

 

Entertainment was easy listening music in the piano bar before dinner and a comedy fashion show, talent show or quiz after dinner. We were usually too tired to stay up for the after dinner entertainment.

 

I should also mention that passengers are told that they can visit the bridge, try the helm or help with the lines. However, there is no organized 'visit the bridge' day. You just ask the officer on the deck if you can see the bridge or try the helm. (I suggest you don't ask during tight maneuvers but while the ship is sailing in a steady manner).

 

Monday - Virgin Gorda:

This was our only scheduled excursion (other than my husband's diving). While I guess it would be possible to do the "Baths" on your own, the timing was so tight that we thought it was preferable to take advantage of the ship's excursion. We were told that we would be bussed to the other side of the island where we then could walk to an area with pools of water under large rocks. From there one could walk through some caves to another beach where there was nice snorkeling. First off, the Baths looked more like just a bunch of large boulders rather than baths. They were also at the bottom of a fairly steep path with which some of the older folks had difficulty both going up and down. Secondly, the bus driver suggested we stay at the baths as there wasn't a lot of time to do everything. While the trip is advertised as a 3.5 hour trip, what with the bus travel, hiking, and panarama view stops, there was only an hour for the beach. Some chose to hike to the other bay and through the caves to the Baths. Those that did said they were surprised to see a rope was necessary to scale one of the rocks. They also had no time for snorkeling. Most went directly to the Baths because there was a bar and restrooms there. We joined this group and decided to stay there and snorkel. It was an interesting place in that the boulders attracted wildlife. I would assume those that didn't snorkel would have been somewhat disappointed.

 

Tuesday - Norman Island, Soper's Hole

Our trip through Sir Francis Drake Channel was a downwind sail- perfect for the scheduled mast climbing to the crow's nest. The bulletin showed one hour for this and in actuality that means only 12 people can make the climb during that time- four people per group, three groups. One of the sports team first makes the climb and sets up the harnesses. Then one person at a time makes their way up the rope ladder until all four are in the crow's nest. The first person up then starts making his or her way down so that basically everyone has the same amount of time up there. When all 4 are down, the next group starts. A number of people showed up 15 minutes before the scheduled end and were disappointed that they couldn't climb then. They were told there would be another opportunity later in the week.

 

We reached Norman Island about 11 am. The sports team immediately made the water activities available off the gang plank. Scheduled for the afternoon were two one hour snorkeling safaris to "the Caves". Both trips filled up the night before. The snorkeling takes place off one of the tenders. Participants must be able to climb in and out of the boat via a small ladder. Unfortunately, by the time they load everyone onto the tender, boat over to the caves, get everyone into the water and out, and allow time to return to the ship to unload everyone, there isn't much time to snorkel... maybe 20-25 minutes. The snorkeling was great. The caves are not deep and the snorkelers don't have to go inside to see the sights. Most experienced snorkelers were disappointed that there wasn't more time to look around. Others couldn't get out of the water quickly enough. They were not comfortable using the equipment. This was a classic example of people over estimating their abilities. We suggested on our comment card that they have dedicated snorkel excursions (open to experienced people only) for a minimal charge.

 

At 5pm the ship took off for Soper's Hole where we anchored for the night. Some people went into town and others, like ourselves, stay aboard. We asked the officer on deck if we could go out onto the net below the bow sprit. After getting approval we climbed out there and relaxed for a while. I don't think I would have done it while sailing. Up to this day, the sea conditions were probably too rough to go out there. However, when my DH asked later in the week if he could climb out there, he was told by the engineer the net was deemed as unsafe while underway. So I'm glad we went when we did.

 

Wednesday - Jost von Dyke

This was our last day in the BVI's. It's basically a day at the beach. The weather was ominous. Shortly after arrival and the first passengers went ashore, the skies opened up and it poured rain. There were a number of bars along this beach and most found shelter there. We decided to wait till after lunch before heading ashore. Luckily, we got a break in weather and the sun came out. We decided to take advantage of some of the sports equipment and work off some of the calories we'd been consuming. We went kayaking off the beach, tried volleyball, and played beach paddle ball with more success and swam a couple times to cool off. After a couple of hours we saw dark clouds starting to gather so we headed back to the ship. Again we were lucky because it started to pour rain again. One thing lacking on the SC ships is a place to go when it rains hard. There is the piano bar, library and the Tropical bar (which doesn't have a lot of seating). Unfortunately, this day the crew was madly trying to complete a repair on the spanker sail so that all sails would be available for the photo safari the next day. The sail basically took up most of the Tropical bar leaving little room for those seeking shelter.

 

At 4:30 pm, after we set sail, people were invited to visit the engine room or climb the mast (the second and last opportunity to do so). At 5:30 there was a fruit and vegetable carving demonstration. This was worth seeing. You'll have seen some of these carvings displayed around some of the buffets earlier in the week. This demonstration was followed by napkin folding which may sound frivolous but was again highly entertaining. That evening was the Captain's story time. We missed some of this while we cleaned up for dinner. However, what we did hear made us sorry that we missed it.

 

 

Thursday - St Kitts

We arrived at Basseterre around 8 am so that those taking the shore excursions could take the tenders ashore. At 9:30 we raised anchor and moved around the point to Friar's Bay where we anchored for the day. We had previously decided to stay on board and relax. It was nice to have much of the ship to ourselves. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very good. Rain threatened most of the morning. However, by late afternoon the sun was out and it was perfect conditions for the scheduled photo-safari - two tenders were filled with us amateur photographers who circled the ship while it was under full sail (all 16 sails unfurled). The tender drivers were very good about turning the boat around so people on both sides of the tender could take pictures. Those stuck in the back or front were dependent on the good will of those who had better seats to allow them access to the openings. In most cases everyone was fairly generous about sharing spots.

 

Cocktail hour included a taco bar. Again, like the salad bar, I didn't understand the logic of the setup. After the plates were the meat and cheese and THEN the taco shells. Someone doesn't understand the concept. Unfortunately I had forgotten that it was the Captain's dinner night. I ate two tacos with a lot of guacamole! Dinner that night included a choice of lobster or a really nice steak (plus 2 other choices) and Baked Alaska.

 

That night was a talent show. Some of the acts were performed by crew members, others by passengers. One of the funniest was by the water sports team. I won't spoil the surprise though.

 

Friday - Anguilla

 

Anguilla was another beach day. Again the weather threatened rain. In fact, most beach goers got rained on during some part of the day. We lucked out again and timed our visit to the beach while the sun was out. This beach didn't have any good snorkeling nor was the beach as pretty as Jost van Dyke.

 

That evening the captain conducted two sailing maneuvers with the help of the passengers. He asked for volunteers to help with the helm. If you are interested in doing this, speak up quickly and be near the captain. The remainder of the "crew" helped with the lines. This was a lot of fun as the captain called out the orders and orchestrated the maneuvers.

 

That night was our final night with our new friends. Passengers shared their pictures with Philip who then put on a slide show for the passengers. After that we had to pack up and leave our big luggage out in the hallway for the next morning arrival. We kept only what we needed for the morning departure.

 

Saturday - St Maarten

We arrived at the dock about 6am. If you weren't awake beforehand, the reverse engine noise will certainly wake you. Those who had arranged transportation to the airport or the tour of the island prior to going to the airport had to be off the ship by 8:30am as their buses left at 9am. We were taking a taxi with friends later in the day. Star Clippers was willing to watch our luggage until 4pm while we walked about town. However, before leaving the port area, you must identify your luggage and they move it from one pile to the next. Keep your ship's ID with you. I stuck mine in the my luggage before walking into town and then discovered I needed it to re-enter the port area.

 

Conclusion:

We had a terrific time. We would love to travel on Star Clipper again. It was a wonderful experience. It may seem like I was making some complaints above but these were just minor things that took us time to learn. However, this trip is NOT for everyone. You must enjoy boating and preferably sailing. The big cruise ships are mainly floating hotels that take you to different ports. This ship, while having many of the amenities of the larger cruise ships, assumes the attraction is being on the ship itself. The entertainment is minimal and space is limited. So if you enjoy boating, enjoy life on the water, I highly recommend the Star Clipper cruises.

 

One final comment... after a week at St Maarten and the one week cruise, we never had to convert any money from US dollars.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for writing this excellent review! My husband and I so enjoyed reading it. We will be on the Star Clipper for the first time this summer and this was so helpful. You are so right about it being hard to get a lot of information about what to expect. Now I really can't wait:-) But somehow, I've got to avoid that 5:00 food!!!

 

Pam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the posting your review. We are on the Star Clipper April 2nd Leeward Islands and can not wait

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting, as a newbie Star Clipper passenger it was most informative and I now can't wait for my trip.:D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent review. Thank you! So many good tips are mentioned that I am going to read it again and take notes!!;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great review! Sorry to hear that the weather did not cooperate :( I am going along with friends on that itinerary on 3/26. I did a windjammer years ago before they went out of business. Thanks for the helpful info.

 

Kari

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Forgot to mention internet... I had my netbook with me so I bought an hour access at the pursers office. They give you a password and recommended using your own computer, saying they were faster than the ones in the library. From conversations with others, I found that the library computers were almost useless. I was using the wireless on my computer in the library and the connection said "low". Later I tried the piano bar and the connection was much stronger there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great report -- we will be taking the Star Clipper Leeward Island cruise on 12/17. Sure hope there are other reports as complete & comprehensive as this one

 

Paul & Rayna

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pvmeistral,

 

We were on the Star Clipper the two weeks following your trip (back to back). I have little to add to your great report other than we had great weather! I wish I had had a chance to see it before we left. We were boarding the day you got off.

 

A couple of differences -

-Itenerary difference - we went to Anguilla the first day and St. Barts last. This is the listed schedule and it seems that your itenerary was changed because of the weather.

-We had plenty of time at the Baths at Virgin Gorda to go through the tunnels to the next beach, do some snorkeling and lay in the sun for a while. Bus driver also stopped twice for photos on the return trip.

-Coffee and tea is available in the Piano Bar 24 hours.

-Snorkeling at the Norman Island caves was pretty good and pretty well run. They did make a big point of it being only for experienced snorkelers who were comfortable entering into deep water and putting on your fins there. I did advise and then help a couple of people sort out their snorkel gear at the first beach stop at Anguilla. Nothing to see there but its calm and you can get everything adjusted without stress. They had a great time later at Norman Island.

-Dinner tables for 8 are really difficult for conversation due to the length of the table and the back ground noise. Really two tables for 4. Most German, French, Dutch, Austrian, etc. passengers spoke adequate english. Had some trouble understanding the Brits and the Scots.

 

We though the Treasure Islands week (Brit Virgin Isles) was a bit better than the Leeward Islands week. Both were nice. On our second week we were parallel with the Royal Clipper from Norman Island to Jost Van Dyke (this is a once a season schedule). We raced from Norman Island to Sopers Hole. Star Clipper won. Ships were about 50 ft apart under full sail with crew and passenger doing much waving and yelling and sports crews dancing on top of the wheel house; much fun.

 

Robbie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the comments back. I wonder if some of the improvements were in response to complaints from our group. We would have had more time at the Baths had the bus drivers not told us to be up at the top 45 minutes before they actually left (so we'd have time for our free drink!).

 

I'm jealous of your side by side sailing with the Royal Clipper. That must have been fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for very fine information. We are on Star Clipper first time

in may a week (28th may from Athens ). After reading this it must be

real fun sailing. We have been around most islands before with "normal" ships

( seaborn odessey ) but this is another world.Caesar+wife(Cleopatra):D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for the review. I am curious about the available "excursions". Unlike the big box cruise ships where you have a list of what is available and arrange in advance, I am assuming that you learn about the possibilities on the ship and make decisions on the spot. The mega travel planner in me is twitching at the idea of not knowing what we will do until the day we do it.:o My only interest in the ports is where the best beaches are, where we can snorkel and when the kayaks are available. However, if there is an arranged trip to something interesting, I'd love to know about it....ahead of time. Your information helped a lot. Thanks again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2bamboo-they give a booklet when they mail you your documents for the cruise. It has the excursions in it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can log on to the Star clippers website, a few months ahead they list the excursion brochure at the bottom of the page.... On the ship they have a book to sign up for the excursions - its very informal - so just a day or two ahead of the excursion is sufficient. i.e. the first night sign up for the next day and then usually 2 days ahead after that. Hope this helps. We sailed Royal Clipper Windwards last January for our first time and loved it, loved it. Are trying to line up another one in the next few years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • SAIL-AWAY GIVEAWAY - Enter for a chance to win a $3,000 Norwegian Cruise Line Gift Card
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...