Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Star Clipper
Ship: Star Clipper
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Southern Cydades
My wife, two teenage daughters, and I sailed on the June 19, 2004 Southern Cyclades cruise on the Star Flyer. As a novice cruiser, I can’t compare this trip with others, but I can say that we were very satisfied and would happily sail with the ship and the line again. My comments will concentrate on trip planning information that supplements the line’s brochure and the few other reviews on the web. Hopefully this will useful to other obsessive vacation researchers like myself.
Pre-cruise: We booked the cruise through our local TA, but arranged pre-cruise hotels, rental car, and airport transfers through Fantasy Travel, an Athens-based agency (www.fantasytravel.gr), who handled all the arrangements smoothly at a price that appeared comparable to booking directly. We stayed at the Hotel Athens Cypria in Athens and the Hotel Rex in Nauplio, both comfortable Class B tourist hotels with good location, air conditioning, and full breakfast. The rental car was delivered to our hotel in Athens and we were met by the rental agent at the terminal in Piraeus for an easy drop-off.
Embarkation: The Star Flyer docks at the Passenger Cruise Terminal in the southwest section of the main harbor of Piraeus. It is open for boarding from 4 pm to 9 pm with a 10 pm departure. When we arrived at 7 pm, there was no line. We exchanged our passports for boarding cards and room keys at the check-in counter in the terminal, lifted our suitcases onto the security conveyor, and walked onto the ship. Stewards escorted us to our cabins. An open-seating sit-down dinner was in progress in the dining room, finishing in time for the passengers to climb to the open deck for the departure from the harbor. Bags were delivered to the cabins within the hour. Muster drill was held the next morning.
Cabins: We had a Category 4 cabin (121) for the adults and a Category 6 inside cabin (220) for our daughters. Note: the doorways for the inside cabins open on the starboard passageway, so we had to walk a ways from our port outside cabin to our daughters’ inside cabin, even though the map shows them as very close.
Dining: We enjoyed the food very much. The schedule was
Continental breakfast in the Piano Lounge, 6:30 – 10:30 am, fresh fruit, croissants and sweet rolls, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
Breakfast buffet in the Dining Room, 8 – 10 am, large selection including an omelet station
Lunch buffet in the Dining Room, 12 – 2 pm, large selection, daily themes
Cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres in the Tropical Bar, 5 – 6:30 pm, tea sandwiches, cookies and pound cake, fresh fruit, one steam tray of hot appetizers.
Dinner in the Dining Room, 7:30 – 10 pm, typically two starter choices, two soups, one salad, sometimes one pasta, four mains (1 vegetarian), cheese and fruit plate, three deserts.
Midnight snack in the Piano Bar, 11:30 pm, one steam tray of hot appetizers, very low key.
Food and service were very good in the dining room. The maitre’d is active and skilled, handling open seating at tables for six and eight and matching languages among tablemates. Courses were served promptly and at the proper temperature, but without rushing.
Wine service is handled by the bar staff. House wines were 12 euros per bottle and the regular list ran from about 16 to 45 euros, as I remember. On several nights, I brought Greek wine on board from our port visits and they happily served it at dinner for a 10 euro corkage fee. Regular drinks ran from about 3 euros for a draft beer to 6 for an umbrella drink, including gratuity.
Passengers: There were 130 passengers on this cruise, with a maximum capacity of about 175. By my estimate, they were about one-quarter American, one-quarter other English-speaking nationals, one-quarter German, and one-quarter French, Spanish, etc. The majority were in their fifties and sixties, with two small children, 7-8 teenagers, a few younger couples and a few seniors. All the people we met were well-traveled and very positive about the cruise, the cruise staff, and their fellow passengers.
Staff: Recommended tipping levels were 8 euros per person per day, divided into separate pools for cabin stewards and dining room staff. This could be put on your shipboard account or put in two envelopes provided. Individual tipping was discouraged.
The cruise director, Peter Kissner, handled the practicalities, the entertainment, and the enrichment activities. His talks on sailing, geography, and European history were very well done. The important announcements were in English, German, and French, but the entertainment and enrichment were mostly in English only. The captain, Brunon Burowka, gave only two brief speeches in English; he and the hotel manager, Otto von Montfort, seemed to have little interaction with the non-German speaking passengers.
Activities: All in all, on-board activities did not seem as important as the ports for this itinerary. Evening activities included crew talent and fashion shows, quizzes and games, and a Greek folkloric dance company one night. Peter from Hungary played cocktail music for dinner and dance music in the evenings. There were a few cooking/bartending/napkin-folding demonstrations.
The four young members of the Sports Team led aerobics on deck in the morning and afternoon and provided water sports activities on the beach at a few of the stops. We didn’t participate and it’s not clear that many of the other passengers did, either. We didn’t see any effort towards organizing activities for the teens, who might have been a more receptive audience than the older passengers.
Massages, manicures and pedicures were offered at 48 € per hour.
Special activities included regular access to the bridge (except when entering or leaving port), mast climbing, sunning in the bowsprit webbing, and a photo opportunity to ride the tender around the ship with all sails hoisted. Passengers were invited to hoist the main staysail a few times when leaving port, but the regular deck crew and electric winches were perfectly capable of handling everything without help.
Sailing Conditions: The weather was very smooth on this trip, with little detectable pitching and rolling motion. We didn’t hear any complaints of motion sickness from our fellow passengers. On the down side, we had pure sailing probably less than 25 percent of the time. Between no winds and unfavorable winds, we were on engine power most of the trip to make the port schedule. There was a significant tilt to the ship while under sail, which required some adjustment. The cabin portholes on the lower Commodore deck were brought down to the waterline, which created some noise and “washing machine” action as the portholes skimmed the waves. It was noticeable, but didn’t keep me awake.
Ports: In planning our trip, I would have appreciated more advance notice on the port schedule, so I’ll go into some detail here. In general, the ship’s shore excursions seemed popular, but most of the ports could also be done on your own. Sign-up for the excursions was done on board, closing 24-48 hours before each trip. I didn’t hear that any excursion was cancelled due to lack of participation or overbooked so that people were turned away.
Rhodes: Arrived 12 noon, depart 11 pm, docked at the harbor next to Rhodes Old Town. Ship excursion “Acropolis of Lindos”, 40 euros, provides a bus tour to the town 30 miles south on the coast. One couple we spoke with did Lindos on their own using the island bus system.
Bodrum: Arrived 10 am, depart 6 pm, short tender ride to harbor, tenders every 30 minutes after initial excursion departure. Ship excursions “Castle of St. Peter – Walking Tour”, 22 euros, and “Gumuluk – Rural Culture and Islam”, 55 euros, which includes the castle walking tour plus a bus ride to a rural village.
Dalyan River: Arrived 8 am, depart 4 pm, short tender ride to beach. Ship excursions “Ancient Caunos and Dalyan River”, 34 euros, and “Dalyan River and Mud Bath”, 34 euros. Dalyan Beach is a nice beach with simple facilities in a nature preserve. Any sightseeing is best done with a ship excursion. Ancient Caunos is an archeological site reached by a boat trip (about 45 minutes) up the Dalyan River, past some impressive cliff rock tombs. The mud bath option is also up the river, with a communal mud dip and sulfur springs soak. I don’t know about the therapeutic value, but it was a lot of fun. Bring an old swimsuit you don’t mind getting dirty.
Santorini: Arrived 1 pm (scheduled 12 noon), depart 7:30 pm, short tender to port at base of Thira town. Ship excursion “Archeological Sites of Akrotiri and Oia”, 42 euros. The Captain’s Dinner was that evening, with about half the men in sports jackets and/or ties.
Hydra: Arrived 12 noon, depart 10 pm, short tender to port in Hydra town. No ship excursions.
A few general comments: Getting on and off the ship was fast and easy, no inspections, metal detectors, or time-consuming security procedures. Returning to the ship for a break from sightseeing was usually possible. The sun is intense at mid-day in these ports, so figure that into your plans. Evening strolls in Rhodes and Hydra were among the best times to sightsee. Santorini is spectacular, but Bodrum may have been our favorite port. The castle has a great museum (closed 12-1) and the bazaar behind it is fun.
Disembarkation: Suitcases were packed and set outside the cabin door the previous night. The shipboard account statement was slipped under the cabin door during the night. The Star Flyer docked around 7 am at Piraeus. A regular breakfast buffet was served, starting at 7:30. Passengers could depart at their own speed anytime before 10 am, trading their cabin keys and ship cards for their passports at a table by the gangplank. Bags were waiting inside the cruise terminal. Airport transfers, city tours, and post-cruise hotel stays could be arranged through the line, but there were also plenty of taxis right outside the terminal (we paid 35 euros for four people plus a lot of luggage to city center).
In Conclusion: All the detail I’ve provided doesn’t capture the real pleasures of this trip. There were no lines, no crowds, no regimentation, and no high-pressure sales tactics. . On a clipper ship with an international passenger list, we felt closer to the history, the geography, and the cultures of the lands we visited. The experience of a warm night on the open deck, the stars and sails above and the moonlit Aegean islands all around, is the kind of memory I hope to carry away from a good vacation.