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Leejnd4

Considering Star Flyer to Tahiti - many questions

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My husband and I are looking into doing a Star Flyer cruise to French Polynesia, and I have many questions.

 

A little background: We're a couple in our late 40's (me)/early 50's (him), avid scuba divers, love adventure travel. I'm also an experienced cruiser - multiple cruises on RCI, Celebrity, Radisson/Regent, Windstar, and an upcoming cruise on Crystal.

 

I say *I* and not *we* about the cruises, because most of my cruises have been with my Mom - Mom and I try to take one trip a year, and it's usually a cruise. With my DH, we usually do land-based or scuba-related trips, although we have done a few cruises together, including a Windstar cruise to Costa Rica, which we loved.

 

I've cruised French Polynesia before, with my Mom, on Regent's Paul Gauguin. This will be DH's first trip there.

 

Here are my questions:

 

1. Diving: On the Paul Gauguin, they had their own dive crew, and offered dive excursions from most of the ports, right off the back of the ship. I can't seem to find much information about the dive opportunities from the Star Flyer - do they have their own crew? Or do they make arrangements with local dive ops? Is there any info on their website? I can't seem to find any. We would definitely want to do as much diving as possible, so I'm eager to find out what dives are offered in each port, and how much they cost. Any ideas where I can find this information?

 

2. Comparing Star Flyer to Paul Gauguin - has anyone on this forum done both? While I expect that it will be a significantly different experience, I would love to hear from anyone who's done both, and how you would compare the two.

 

3. Comparing Star Flyer to Windstar: while I tend to go on the luxury ships when cruising with my Mom, DH much prefers a casual environment. He LOVED the Windstar experience, and felt it was very relaxing and nautical (we're sailors as well - we own a sailboat). He loves sailing, and felt that our Windstar cruise was the best of both worlds - sailing and cruising. How does Star Flyer compare to Windstar? Are the cabins, amenities, dining, etc. similar in quality?

 

Thanks for any help you can give me!

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Can't address 1 as I'm not a diver or 2 as I've not been on the Paul Gaugin. But 3 I can address, as I've been on the Star Clipper and Royal Clipper three times and on the Windstar twice.

 

The sailing is vastly superior on Star Clipper line. It is really a square rigger--they do not push a button (as they do on the Windstar) and all the sales go up. Actual sailors really raise the sales. As a first mate on the Star Clipper once told me, the hotel on the Windstar is better and the sailing on the Star Clipper is better. I've found that to be true. The rooms are a bit more luxurious on the Windstar, the food is a little bit better. Which is not to say the rooms aren't great on the Star Clipper and the food isn't good. But to us, the sailing makes all the difference. I'm guessing your husband and you will love it.

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KathyA, thanks for the feedback. I'm continuing to search for information so I can have some idea of what to expect on a Star Flyer cruise, and I'm beginning to get a better feel for it. (It doesn't help that there's only ONE member review in here for this ship - come on people, get writing! :D).

 

What's becoming clear to me is that Star Flyer falls somewhere between the former Windjammer barefoot cruising experience, and Windstar's more upscale cruise/sail experience. Which is great - I always thought my DH would love Windjammer, whereas for me, I thought it might be just a little TOO "downscale". It appears that the focus of the Star Flyer is the nautical, sailing aspect of the experience, while offering somewhat more upscale accommodations/service than Windjammer, and similar sports and excursion opportunities as the Windstar (albeit slightly less-upscale accommodations).

 

This will probably suit us very well. While I do love the luxury cruising experience, I also appreciate more adventurous types of travel. I can deal with the less-luxe "hotel" aspects - hey, DH and I did a Belize land trip last year, and stayed in a rustic cabin in the woods overrun with gecko's, and loved it! As for DH, he'll probably go crazy over the sailing part of it all. He'll be out there wanting to help trim the sails and tie the knots and climb the masts. ;)

 

I'm beginning to think this may very well be the right vacation for us. But I would appreciate any further feedback from Star Clipper passengers - especially, answers to my questions about diving. (This is an AWFULLY quiet board!) :o

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Hi LeeAnne!

 

Link to my earlier post on diving:

 

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=828194

 

If you have any specific questions not answered, please ask. We had done FP previously on the Tahitian Princess and enjoyed the SF much more. In fact, it will be unlikely we will do another large cruiseship again. Even the PG seemed huge when we were docked next to her in Papeete.

 

Mike

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Thanks Budaman - somehow I missed that thread, although I don't know how it escaped my attention, considering the subject! I guess I just spaced over it. Anyway, I'll read that, and post if I have further questions.

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I just noticed that there was only one review and just finished up one and submitted it not 10 mins ago! We loved the Star Flyer..we remarked several times that we were glad we were on Star Flyer and NOT Paul Gaugin who was in port day before we boarded. We had 142 people on board, wonderful crew, ample diving opportunities and they provided snorkeling gear we would not have had to take ours. The snorkelers on our trip had a FABULOUS time..they loved all the opportunities. Easy diving right off the platform on the ship and they took tenders out to different areas for them. This is a MUCH nicer sailing experience than Windjammer as far as luxury goes or does not go. WJ is pretty basic..this is more like a ship..we also sail and enjoyed the sailing but..there was not a lot of wind. Loved watching the crew raise the sails. Food was just fine..not Oceania but certainly much better than WJ..very friendly and helpful crew and good group of passengers..not many very young ones but majority in the 35-50 age group. We liked the intimacy of the ship and felt that they did try to make sure that anyone who snorkeled had plenty of opportunities. Beautiful water and fish. Its a great trip and a super value! Be sure to sign up for shore excursions as SOON AS YOU BOARD and also opt for the day room at the Radisson at the end..a good finish and even more snorkeling here!! From what you say I believe you would enjoy Star Flyer in Tahiti!

Sherry

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What a timely thread. I've been agonizing over finding some sort of activity for our upcoming trip, and this sounds ideal.

 

Some background - I have never taken a cruise before, but since we are avid divers, we often like to do "Liveaboard" dive boat trips at places we visit, like Thailand, Australia, etc. For some reason, FP does not seem to have that many dive boats operating, so we started to look for alternatives like smaller yacht rentals, etc. that offer diving as an optional activity.

 

Which isn't to say we don't like stuff other than Diving. Usually on a 5-6 day Dive trip, we skip quite a few dives just hang out or go to an out-of-the-way beach or something. But we like the small size and the laid-back self-directed nature of dive boats and the folks that you meet on them.

 

So FP presents a challenge - there is one boat I could find (AquaTiki) which is even smaller than we are accustomed to and operates from the somewhat remote Atolls off to the east.

 

Since we are arriving in Papeete and there is a departure for the Star Flyer the next day, this seems like ideal timing, and the rates are competetive with hotels on a per-night basis. So now that we discover there is the opportunity (at added cost, of course) to do 8+ dives on the trip as well, its looking like a good altenative to a dive charter, with other plusses like more watersports, better food, etc. The rates are actually cheaper for the Flyer than for the AquaTiki.

 

So thanks for the info, I am now leaning toward booking this in lieu of a dive charter boat.

 

The only hesitation I have is whether this will STILL feel too much like the negative stereotypes I have about cruises. Hordes of people unleashed all at once on some unsuspecting town, faceless crew & faceless fellow passengers. Everything I read seems to indicate this is a great mid-way ground between the 30-person Dive boat and the 500-person 5* cruises, so I hope these fears are unfounded and I'll come away from this with an entirely new perception of what a cruise can be.

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The only hesitation I have is whether this will STILL feel too much like the negative stereotypes I have about cruises. Hordes of people unleashed all at once on some unsuspecting town, faceless crew & faceless fellow passengers. Everything I read seems to indicate this is a great mid-way ground between the 30-person Dive boat and the 500-person 5* cruises, so I hope these fears are unfounded and I'll come away from this with an entirely new perception of what a cruise can be.

 

Innerloop - I complete understand your concerns. Having been on many types of cruises, ranging from the mass-market booze-cruises to the ultimate luxury 6-star ships, and many different types in between, I can assure you that this will NOT be anything like yer classic Carnivore...um I mean Carnival :D...cruise. Nor will it be one of those snooty small-ship cruises with everyone in tuxes and gowns and dining in caviar. And I can say that with some degree of certainty, having not even BEEN on one of these Star Flyer cruises yet!

 

From everything I'm reading, this is very similar to the Windstar cruise that we did in Costa Rica, if maybe a little less "luxe". They also had a water-sports crew aboard, and did dives from a Zodiac directly off the back of the ship. I promise you, that cruise was not even in the same category as a typical mass-market big-ship type cruise. The way-smaller amount of people on the ship has a lot to do with it...when a huge cruise ship stops at a port and disgorges hundreds, if not thousands, of people, thats a huge difference to a ship with less than 200. Even the PG, which is a 6-star ship, only carries 330, so we never felt like there were crowds anywhere when we did that cruise. Also, there are enough shore excursions on the Star Flyer for each port that you will find the passengers scattered out to do different things. Further, if your interest is primarily in diving, you will probably be among a very small group doing that, so you will encounter even fewer crowds.

 

My only concern for you would be that this is not going to be anything like a dive liveaboard. (I do dive boats in SoCal all the time, so I know what they're like). You might find that the Star Flyer is not focused ENOUGH on diving. If the pax mix of the Star Flyer is at all equivalent to what I found on Windstar and the PG, there will be a pretty small group of folks on there who dive at all. Dive excursions often play second fiddle to the other excursions, and are very weather/conditions/sign-ups dependent, so you might find them being canceled more often than you'd like. That's the one thing I worry about the most - that we won't get to dive as much as we want.

 

But if you and your group are okay with this NOT being a dive-centered trip, but rather a sailing vacation on which they will probably get to do at least a few dives, this could suit your group very well.

 

Let us know what you decide!

Edited by Leejnd4

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Hi again!

 

Had to wait till I got home to find out which issue Scuba Diving had the article on the Star Flyer: http://www.scubadiving.com/article/island_hopping_in_tahiti

 

Other than the night dive, I can't think of any of the other dive opportunities that might be cancelled. The sports team really likes to dive and a couple of the other members of the sports team where getting their DM certifications on our cruise.

 

There never seemed to be any crowds and if I didn't know there were 170 passengers on board, I wouldn't have thought there were 50.

 

Mike

 

Link to our pics & a couple of videos.....I have finished a 45min DVD of the trip that I am trying to figure out how to get the size down so I can post it on our site.

 

http://gallery.mac.com/csealove

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But if you and your group are okay with this NOT being a dive-centered trip, but rather a sailing vacation on which they will probably get to do at least a few dives, this could suit your group very well.

 

Let us know what you decide!

 

Yeah, I think I would still enjoy it. Certainly I would be disappointed if all the dive opportunities were cancelled for the entire trip, but that seems unlikely.

 

Probably my best "Cruise" experience was a 4-day trip on board a retired Racing Sailing Yacht crusing the Whitsunday islands from Airlie Beach, Australia. I wouldn't consider that anything close to a Cruise, with bunk-bed accomodations adjacent to the kitchen and two heads with a sinlge shower in the entire boat, but the experience of going places with a group of maybe 20 people and sometimes having an entire sun-deck to yourself to watch the stars at night was pretty unreal.

 

And on that trip, we only dove one day of the trip.

 

So yeah, we're not the hard-core folks who bring crates of gear and get pissed if the dive master makes you come up before you've drained every last PSI of air.

 

So I've reserved a class 2 for our dates, so going to give it a shot.

 

Class 1 was quoted to be around $1000 more for a couple for the entire (7-day) trip, anyone have a thought on if that's worth the bump?

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Innerloop: In my opinion Category 1 is not worth the bump. For one thing, all of the Category 1 cabins open directly onto the deck, so if you have your windows open everyone can see in. Category 2 much better. But just my 2 cents.

 

Also, it's nothing like a mega-cruise. You will love it.

 

Leejnd4: Although it's casual, and definitely geared primarily to the sailing, it's not comparable with the Windjammers as it is SO much nicer!

 

I agree that the board is quiet--the line is more of a best-kept secret than some would like. But not those who've been on it before--LOL.

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We just got back last month from a fantastic cruise on the Star Flyer, this is a cliff note version of our cruise. I want to do a full review, just short on time right now to do a proper job.

 

Star flyer has a dedicated dive team. I don't dive but I saw a number of folks headed out with the dive team. The ship has all the equipment you'll need. Star Flyer sails, I mean really sails and that's the way the Captain likes it.

 

Being my 20th cruise, I would say that it's almost an insult to compare Star Clippers to the now defunct Barefoot cruise line. This was my second cruise on Star Clippers and the product and especially the food has really improved. I've also been on two Windstar cruises, I like Star Clippers better. In fact I'll go out on a limb and say it's the best food I've ever had on a cruise. I know some others might disagree but just my thoughts.

 

 

Our cabin was on the lower Commodore deck. It was quiet and comfy with plenty of hot water. We both slept like tired dogs, it was great. This cruise exceeded all my expectations and we loved it so much we plan to make it an annual event.

 

 

Hope this helps

 

Pat

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Wow, Pat, thanks for the cliff note review! I've been hearing more and more good things about Star Clipper in general, and Star Flyer in Tahiti in particular. Hubby and I have decided to go for it - we're just trying to figure out which itinerary we want.

 

I'm happy to hear that the dive crew seems to keep the divers active. I hope we get lots of dives in. We'll be bringing our own equipment - as a frequent diver, I can't even imagine diving in someone else's gear. I've been diving all over the world, so I'm used to lugging it around. :) For us it's not so much about the cost savings, as it is just being comfortable with our stuff. It is, after all, life support equipment.

 

Budaman, thanks for the link to the article on Scuba Diving Magazine! Having been to French Polynesia before, and been diving in many of those places, it reminded me of why I'm so eager to get back there. I saw my first manta ray, and my first hammer-head shark, in FP. Can't wait to get underwater there again. I was a little disappointed that the article didn't have anything at all in it about the Star Flyer. It's actually kinda hard to FIND information about it at all!

 

I would have to agree that this entire cruise line is one of the best kept secrets in cruising. I thought I had a pretty good handle on all the different cruise lines, but this one somehow escaped my notice...until now. Looking forward to trying it!

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For some reason when you get back, those plans to get the review posted seem to take a back seat. I kept a journal so I could post the review, but.........Started editing all the video & pics, and before long it was 3 months gone.

 

The video came out very well....especially in HD. It was just too large a file to post on our site. I have found a way to download the DVD back onto the computer so it will be in SD & take up less space. In the process of putting it back together now & hope to have it up by the weekend.

 

As far as cabins, we had a 2 on the Clipper deck, but peeking in the Cat 3 that was right next to us, there wasn't much difference. Being on the Clipper Deck was nice as you had one flight of stairs & you were on deck. One other thing about the Cat 1's by the aft pool, everyone kept pulling on the doors because the down stairway was inbetween those two cabins.

 

Mike

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Hi,

 

I am also in the process of trying to decide between the Paul Gauguin and the Star Flyer. This would be for two families with children in their mid to late twenties. Has anyone been on both ships, and if so, how do you compare them? I have one daughter who loves to waterski, and I know it is offered on PG, but what about the Star Flyer? Also, I saw a reference to the Dec. 28th cruise on PG being the last one with the Rengent line. Does anyone know if this is true? The only time we can go is late December -- who is that for weather in FP?

 

Thanks so much in advance for any guidance! These boards are an incredible resource.

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Bostonsister - I've been on the PG (in late December, as luck would have it), but not the Star Flyer (yet). Which is why I started this thread, hoping to get enough feedback to make my decision. Since I started this thread I've done a massive amount of research about the Star Clipper cruise line, and Star Flyer in particular, and I think I have a pretty good feel now for what the experience will be like, in comparison to the PG.

 

So with that in mind, here's my analysis. ;) This may help you in your decision.

 

The PG is a medium-small luxury cruise ship (330 pax) that sails exclusively in French Polynesia. Unlike other small-ship luxury cruises, which move all over the world (and sometimes also cruise in FP), the PG immerses you the French Polynesian experience, while also providing a reasonably traditional luxury-cruise ambiance (albeit a bit more casual, without formal nights). It's a pretty high-end cruise, with first-class service and amenities. The passenger demographics lean towards older, well-off, well-traveled couples, with a smattering of honeymooners - it is, after all, the most romantic place on earth! As a Regent ship it is truly all-inclusive, meaning ALL food, all beverages including wine and (non-premium) alcohol, and NO tipping or nickel-and-diming.

 

There are quite a few entertainment options on board - not like a huge mass-market mega-ship by any means (no Broadway revivals!), but there are the Gauguins, a troup of several Polynesian women who act as hostesses and entertainers throughout the cruise. There are traditional Polynesian dance shows, and usually some musical entertainers. They have nice big theater that usually has at least something in it every night.

 

The PG has three different restaurants onboard. Dining on the PG is a six-star experience, with high-quality creative cuisine served with top-notch service...although I have to put a caveat here that some Regent lovers who frequently cruise their other ships consider the PG to be a bit of a step down from their other six-star ships. I've been on one of their other ships (Voyager) and, while I would agree that the PG might be a slightly less luxe experience, the differences are IMO minimal. The food isn't QUITE as gourmet...the cabins are a bit smaller...the ship is somewhat more casual...the entertainment options are less. But I still absolutely consider the PG to be a luxury cruise experience. Certainly the service is - there's a high crew-to-pax ratio (in the range of other luxury cruises, way higher than mass-market cruises), and much of the crew have been on that ship for many years. You feel absolulely pampered in every way.

 

This begs the question, what's going to happen to the PG when it's no longer a Regent ship? I don't have the answer to that...there are probably big discussions over on the Regent board about that. I personally have huge doubts as to whether or not they can maintain the degree of luxury...and I know that there are some TA's who specialize in selling only luxury cruises, who do not plan to continue to sell PG cruises after she leaves Regent. That's one of the reasons I chose NOT to consider her for our upcoming cruise.

 

Now, how does all this compare to a Star Flyer cruise? The differences are going to be pretty significant - but I don't think it's going to be any less enjoyable...and it may be far more appropriate for your family. The PG is, by every measure, a "cruise ship", albeit a med-small, luxury one. The Star Flyer is a smaller (170 pax) "sailing vessel" - NOT a cruise ship in any traditional sense. The cabins are going to be small and pretty basic, especially compared to the luxe cabins on the PG. The ambiance is going to be more "adventure sailing" rather than "luxury cruising". The amenities are going to be pretty basic. The crew-pax ration isn't as high, and the crew has different types of responsibilities - there are a whole bunch of sails to manually raise and control! The dining, while it appears to be perfectly acceptable, is probably not going to be nearly as "gourmet" as the PG.

 

There will be almost NO entertainment - I guess there's a pianist onboard, but that's about it. The entertainment is going to be centered on mingling and getting to know your fellow cruisers. This sounds very similar to Windstar, which we loved - we didn't miss having entertainment one bit, as we were up late every night partying with all our new best friends. It will be a FAR more casual ambiance - on the PG, everyone dresses up for dinner, not in ball gowns, but in nice going-out-to-dinner clothes. On the Star Flyer, a nice pair of capris and summery blouse (for gals) and a pair of dockers and a Hawaiian shirt (for guys) will be the standard dinner attire. Star gazing on deck will be one of the most popular activities.

 

As for the ports, here is where the two ships will draw much closer together. Both ships have their own water-sports crew, who will arrange all water-sports activities (diving, snorkeling, water-skiing etc). Both ships offer pretty much the same excursions - they probably use the same vendors on shore. The Star Flyer will probably visit some more remote ports that the larger PG can't get into - where the only excursions may be snorkeling from a beach.

 

Please remember that all of my descriptions of the Star Flyer are NOT from personal experience - they're what I'm assuming we'll find, given all that I've read. But having been on Windstar, I feel pretty confident that this is reasonably accurate. I'd love to hear from some experienced Star Flyer cruisers, to know if I got this right!

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Oh, and I forgot to answer your question about the weather - in FP you are so close to the Equator that there is little difference between the seasons. We were there in December '07, and it was hot and humid, but NOT uncomfortable - especially when we were at sea! The water was wonderfully warm - I went scuba-diving in nothing but a 3-mil shorty and no hood (I wear a full 7-mil wetsuit, hood and gloves when I dive here at home, in SoCal). We had hardly any rain - I think there was a storm off the stern once while between islands. But of course, your weather may vary! :)

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Hi LeeAnne,

 

I can't thank you enough for your thorough reply, and my sister in VA says thanks as well. I think you are right that the 20 somethings in our group would prefer the Flyer, and certainly it is less expensive. I have been on the Navigator and it was wonderful so I am a fan of Regent, but I do worry if they are keeping up the PG the way they have in the past, given that they are severing the relationship. Like you I am not interested in the shows, so the lack of entertainment is fine with me -- I will take the tropical sky any night! I guess my only remaining question is about sea sickness. Three people in our group are prone to it. What was your experience on the Windstar -- did a lot of people seem sick?

Thanks so much!

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Bostonsister,

 

Unfortunately I can't compare Windstar to the Star Flyer with regards to seasickness. Windstar is actually more of a traditional cruise ship that happens to have (motorized) sails; it also has stabilizers, so the rolling/pitching is significantly controlled and reduced. Even when we were fully under sail, the boat did not heel, and remained upright and stable. From what I've read, Star Flyer doesn't have ANY stabilizers, so when it's under sail it can lean over quite a bit, and it really rolls with the seas.

 

I too am prone to seasickness - at least on small boats, not usually on cruises. We actually have a sailboat of our own (a 27-ft sloop), and I can't go out on that thing without using something. Fortunately I'm one of those lucky folks who respond very well to the patch - it completely knocks all seasickness right out of me, with no side effects other than a little bit of dry-mouth, which doesn't bother me. Believe me, it's a helluva lot better than spending the entire time hurling over the side - which I absolutely would be doing if I didn't use it!

 

I have never had to use any kind of seasickness remedy on any of my cruises in the past, including Windstar. But I plan on bringing a full supply of patches on our Star Flyer cruise.

Edited by Leejnd4

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Thanks so much again. If we go with Star Flyer we will definitely bring a ton of patches for everyone!

 

I hope you have a wonderful cruise.

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We disembarked Star Flyer mid December and had fine weather for the whole trip..it was never rough and only rained one afternoon briefly when we were all back on board. On the day we went to the Motu, Tah'haa..I know they had people out waterskiing..don't know about other days. The focus does seem to be on diving so that should cover the divers. She is a much smaller ship than the PG and really is beautiful with her sails unfurled. We loved her and I think your crew with the 20 somethings would also enjoy her..lots for them to do on board even though there is not a LOT of evening entertainment..we saw the PG in port and as we sailed around remarked wbout how we were glad we were on SF and not the PG. Enjoy!

S&K

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Thanks for your insight. There is nothing better than getting information from people who have actually been on the cruise. Glad to hear you had such great weather!

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