There are holidays you enjoy, and then those you remember for years to come. You know, those extra special ones where the stars aligned and everything was just right – the weather, the people, the ambiance, and the food? For this very reason, guests on Star Clipper return time and time again, as they know they will always leave with memories to cherish, friendships renewed, and new connections made.
Being at sea is a passion, but the thought of being on one of those huge cruise ships with thousands of others leaves me rather cold. Someone mentioned Star Clipper as perfect alternative and on learning more, I couldn’t wait to experience for myself – and our ‘Delightful Dervishes’ Eastern Med Greek and Turkish island-hopping extravaganza began.
If you’re yet to be acquainted, Star Clipper is one of three most majestic true clipper ships from the company of the same name. Star Flyer is Star Clipper’s twin, and Royal Clipper its larger and grander cousin. Think towering masts, billowing sails – and in simplistic terms, maybe even Pirates of the Caribbean (in an altogether much more hygienic and contemporary way) …
Elegant & Majestic True Clipper Ship
Whilst the ships may look at first glance like something from a swashbuckling maritime period film, they are modern cruise ships in every way, where the traditions of the past are happily married to the comforts and amenities of the present day.
Created for luxury-appreciating passengers who also love the traditions and romance of the legendary era of sailing ships, Star Clipper is 115 metres long and carries just 166 guests in pampered comfort. Life aboard is blissfully relaxed, much like travelling on a private yacht.
This elegant ship offers spacious accommodation and expansive teak decks with ample space and two swimming pools. In fact, you’ll find Star Clipper and her siblings offer more outdoor space per passenger than most conventional cruise ships.
Arriving at the port of Athens, and seeing Star Clipper for the first time, really is something special. Larger and even more majestic then expected, she’s a sight to behold. Following a smooth embarkation, and warm greeting by the fantastic crew, it was time to explore.
After marvelling at the deck and noting all the perfect places to sunbathe, dolphin watch, and enjoy a cocktail or three at the deck bar, we stepped inside. The decor of Star Clipper is reminiscent of the grand age of sail. Antique prints and paintings of famous sailing ships please your eye, while teak and gleaming mahogany rails are richly remindful of Star Clippers’ proud nautical heritage.
Walking past the inside bar area and cosy lounge with a mini-grand piano, you descend to the delightful light and airy dining room where you take all your meals. All Star Clippers’ ships feature open-seating dining. Here you can choose to dine as a couple or share a table with others – something most people do, and we are so pleased we did as actually we made the acquaintance of two wonderful couples really made our time on board extra special. We enjoyed onshore excursions with them and evening drinks and have kept in touch and are planning to meet up again on Star Flyer on one of its Caribbean itineraries next year.
Meals are excellent and it’s quite astonishing how the chef and teams produce such a wonderful array of tasty dishes day after day. They really do make dining aboard a delightful culinary adventure with an international menu of foods from the corners of the Earth. From waking up, you can help yourself to a coffee and continental breakfast with Parisian croissants or sweet Danish pastries. Or you can savour a full breakfast with fresh tropical fruit and crisp bacon, grilled sausage and omelettes cooked to order in the dining room. At lunch, a marvellous buffet of seafood, salads and grilled favourites awaits your pleasure, and sometimes you can indulge in an outdoor barbecue on shore. And, in the evening, the pretty dining room becomes the setting for the chef’s finest culinary presentations, designed to please the eye and the palate, complemented by a selection of fine wines. The service is excellent – friendly and gracious, and most nights there is a different theme, so you don’t get bored of the same food night after night.
Each teatime, most guests head on deck to the indoor-outdoor Tropical Bar for cocktails and canapes and a range of tasty snacks, and to enjoy the musical entertainment and catch up on the day’s events. This bar is the place to head after dinner too, for more music, dancing and fun entertainment enjoyed by all.
Cabin wise, there’s a good choice of categories, and all are cleverly designed to maximise every inch of space, and far more comfortable than you might expect on a ship such as this. Some categories even have a whirlpool bath and cabin doors opening right out on to the deck. All have their own bathroom with shower, flat screen TV and most other mod cons you could wish for.
Ship aside, Star Clippers offers a wide range of exciting itineraries to choose from. Ours was to explore the Eastern Mediterranean, sailing through the Aegean Sea, and stopping off at various islands along the way to take in world famous archaeological sites such as Troy.
After a wonderful three days exploring Athens staying at iconic The Grand Bretagne and new and exciting gastronomy hotel xenodocheio Milos, we sailed to Mykonos, loved by the rich, famous, and hedonistic party people. One of the most cosmopolitan of all the Greek Islands, Mykonos is a contrast of rocky hills and beautiful beaches. Hora, the capital, spreads around a colourful harbour, a popular meeting place, overlooked by a variety of tavernas, in which fishing boats nestle side by side with luxury yachts.
Leaving Mykonos, we journeyed to Patmos, a serene island is known as the site of the apocalyptic revelations of St. John the Divine, the cave where he is said to have lived is now the site of the Monastery of the Apocalypse. It houses priceless icons and manuscripts in its treasury.
On day three our sights were on Chios, a mastic-scented island with fascinating history and said to be the birthplace of Homer and the ancient mathematicians Hippocrates and Enopides.
Leaving the Greek islands behind us, we sailed on to the sleepy beach town of Dikili, with its harbour lined with open-air restaurants and shops with local food specialties. Nearby, Bergama is worth a visit especially for its two main monuments: the Acropolis perched at a height of 280 metres and the Asklepion.
And on to Bozcaada with its ancient, cobbled streets and hidden sandy coves. You can stop off to visit one of the six wineries on the island and enjoy a tasting.
On the final full day aboard we were at sea, this is when you can fully relax on deck and watch dolphins play below. It’s a great opportunity to climb the mast too – weather permitting. Not for those fearful of heights but on our trip, one brave gent celebrated his 80th birthday with a bold climb to the top!
After a final night on board, we woke up as we were about to dock at historic Istanbul, a huge metropolis connecting continents, cultures, and religions. Very sad to say our goodbyes to friends made and all the crew, we set off on a final ship-organised excursion to see the famous mosques and historic city centre, before crossing the bridge to the Asian side and spending a couple of nights at the excellent Wyndham Grand Istanbul Kalamis Marina Hotel before heading home.
Any Star Clipper journey is a wonderful experience and it’s so easy to see why an amazingly high percentage of guests return year after year. Now this includes us, and we can’t wait to be on board again in the New Year exploring the sunny Caribbean.
7 nights voyage from circa £2,225 per person 2 sharing depending on dates and chosen route for a Class 2 cabin. Flights/ transfers not included.
Reservations: 0845 200 6145
By Lisa Curtiss