Company Overview: This small company has carved out a niche for itself by offering very attractive one-week Caribbean, Mediterranean and Far East itineraries on the biggest, fastest clipper ships ever built -- at prices comparable to (and often below) conventional cruise ships'.
Both Star Flyer (1991) and Star Clipper (1992 are powered by 36,000 square feet of sail from four masts, with a diesel engine in reserve for calms and maneuvering in port; the cruise line asserts that their 226-foot masts are the world's tallest. With 56,000 sq. feet of sails and masts reaching 197 feet, Royal Clipper, which joined the fleet in mid-2002 with the fleet's first balcony cabins and smoothest ride, carries 227 passengers and 106 crew, has a spa and health club and a three-deck atrium with circular staircase. There are 19,000 square feet of open deck on and in which to relax 'neath sails and stars.
These ships offer a pure sailing experience and an opportunity to mix with fellow passengers from many lands and of many ages. Those seeking glitzy entertainment or fervent nightlife, guest lecturers, a casino, or elevator are advised to look elsewhere; Star Clippers' idea of entertainment is a crew fashion show of T-shirts and shorts. There's a guaranteed single rate.
Fleet Overview: Quite simply, Star Clippers are for those who love sailing. No celebrity chefs were involved in conceiving the line's starchy menu, there's no room service (due to limitations on the number of crew), and you're going to be well aware that you're at sea - which is to say that those prone to motion sickness are going to want to bring their own bonine or Dramamine -- or rejoice in the presence of the onboard nurse, who'll dispense some for you between shifts as a server in the restaurant.
The ships for the most part bypass the mass-tourism ports, anchoring at Cabrits in Dominca, for instance, rather than at Rouseau. Itineraries are, of course, planned in advance, but when it comes to actual arrival and departure times, the Captain follows the whim of the winds.
Though casual, the line isn't nearly as devil-may-care as Windjammer, more closely resembling closer Windstar.
Fellow Passengers: In Europe or the Caribbean, most of the passengers tend to come from groups organized by a few travel agents, so there may be a contingent with Scots on board with Germans and Americans from Detroit. Any possible combination can occur, but inevitably, by the end of the cruise everyone seems to be friends no matter what. On these ships, there simply is nothing else to do.
Children's Facilities: There are no children's facilities, but you might find a few kids six and older aboard many sailings, often enjoying themselves, especially if Mom and Pop have had the foresight and financial wherewithal to encourage them to invite a chum.
Tipping: The cruise line recommends $8 per person per night -- $3 for the cabin steward and $5 for the waiter. You may tip either with cash or by having the specified amount charged to your shipboard account. At the bar, a 15 percent gratuity is added automatically, just as on most ships lacking sails.