From the moment we arrived at the pier in sunny St. Maarten, we knew our adventure cruise would be something out of the ordinary. Something timeless, something dramatic, something…like nothing we’ve ever experienced on a cruise before. The Star Clipper is a true tall-ship sailing vessel that makes her way over the seas powered by the wind for most of her journey. The wind! Think Christopher Columbus, think Magellan, think quiet sails billowing in the night breeze under a sprinkling of stars.
Why take a break from traditional cruise lines and sail instead on a tall ship with Star Clippers? So many reasons…A Star Clippers tall ship is an intimate luxury yacht (either 170 guests or 227 guests, depending on the ship) and offers unusual itineraries to small ports far from the mega ships and their crowds of thousands.
And for sailboat enthusiasts, the Star Clipper feels like home. She is sleek and luxurious with her dark, shining mahogany, her gleaming brass fittings and her four looming masts anxious to set sail. Most of the passengers of a Star Clippers voyage are either sailors and boat owners or, like me, just love all things related to sailing. Day or night, we could watch the goings-on up on the bridge, chat with the captain, peruse the charts, duck under lines to winches, listening to commands called fore to aft.
This is adventure cruising at its best, with a crow’s nest to climb and bowsprit netting to stretch out on in the sun.
We started making friends right away with fellow passengers from around the world. Germans, French, Italians and Belgians mingled with Americans in a camaraderie bred of our mutual love of an adventure at sea. A glass of champagne in hand, we explored the decks that would be our home for the next seven days and nights.
Ahh, then it was time to set sail. The “Sail Away” was truly the highlight of every evening, a dramatic coda to the day as the crew hoisted the sails accompanied by Vangelis’ dramatic “1492: Conquest of Paradise.” Music swelled as the sails filled and we pulled away from port.
Our itinerary included six intimate ports-of-call among the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands. Nevis, Domenica, Guadeloupe, Ile des Saintes, Antigua and St. Barthélemy welcomed us to their tiny villages and private beaches. At each destination we had the choice of several shore excursions. And on days when we were not enjoying whale watching, river tubing, submarine rides, a regatta race or historical tours, we played on our own secluded beaches. For those of us who love to laze on the sand and play in the surf, we were tendered ashore to our beach. Then the Sports Team followed with zodiacs filled with kayaks, sailboats, paddleboards and waterskis for us to enjoy throughout the day. The water was that perfect temperature, refreshing yet warm enough to stay in and play in for hours.
Star Clippers has three tall ships in her fleet and one day, two of these ships happened to be heading to the same port…so we raced! A dark-clouded squall blew up just in time, we leaned hard into the wind and edged past our big sister, the Royal Clipper–what a sight!
After each day on land, we returned to the Star Clipper for happy hour in the Tropical Bar (as if every hour wasn’t already happy!). At dinner, open seating and casual, we shared stories with new friends. Our meals were prepared to the deliciously exacting standards of the acclaimed Chaine des Rotisseurs, featuring the kind of menu where you really wish you could try one of everything. Sometimes we did!
After dinner the guests and crew joined together to create our own nightly entertainment. The first night, a fashion show; the second night, wooden “frog” races and ridiculous antics; our talent show (I use “talent” generously) featured songs and skits with crew and brave guests; the trivia contest was raucous fun; a local steel drum band jumped aboard next; and we spent our last evening together dancing and limboing into the night.
And at the end of each exhilarating day, those of us most enthralled by the sailing life would spend two or three hours up on the deck before retiring. We read, we dreamed, we relaxed and took a slow deep breath. We were savoring the romance of a bygone age of clipper ships, listening to the whispering sails and rush of the sea in the still, dark night.