Thousands of square feet of sail are unfurled over each of the three Star Clippers ship. The Star Clipper, Star Flyer’s sister ship, spends the winter and spring in the Far East, moving to the Mediterranean for the summer and fall seasons. Both ships have a crew of 70 and the cabins range in size from 120-211 square feet. A seven-night cruise in Tahiti on the Star Flyer in 2009 is priced from $1,925 per person, double.
The 439-foot Royal Clipper, inspired by the largest, fastest sailing ship the world had ever seen, the Preussen, is the only five-masted sailing ship built since the first decade of the 20th century. Flying 42 sails, Royal Clipper also has a state-of-the-art navigation system and the comforts of cruising today. The ship carries 227 guests throughout the Caribbean in the winter and spring and repositions to the Mediterranean for the summer and fall. With three swimming pools, a three-deck atrium and a spa and health club with underwater portholes, she is traditional on the outside and astonishing on the inside. A convenient marina platform lowers from the stern for watersports and diving. Rates for seven-night Caribbean cruises in 2008/09 start at $1,895.
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"We are sure we’re able to offer you an experience you will not find on any other cruise ship," said captain Bruno Borowka of the 170-passenger Star Flyer, which now sails year-round in French Polynesia.
The Star Flyer clipper ship is part of the lifelong dream of Swedish ship owner Mikael Krafft. Before it was commissioned in 1991, Krafft meticulously researched the Golden Age of tall, swift-sailing ships in order to echo the nostalgia and romance of the era. He also wanted to provide the luxury of a modern mega-yacht at affordable prices.
Star Flyer in Tahiti
Although passengers are not required to assist the crew in sailing the ship, they have opportunities to help with the lines or take the helm. A few even opt to climb the mast to the crow’s nest for a panoramic view of the horizon or to unwind in the bowsprit net.
"It’s a real kick for an experienced sailor to watch how the crew handles a fully rigged boat," said passenger Jack Mallinckrodt of southern California. "On the Wind Surf, they push buttons to control the sails. On the Star Flyer, much of this is done by hand."
"We are under sail about half the time during the entire year in French Polynesia," said first officer Andreas Slowik. "But whenever it’s necessary, the turbine engines are fired up in order to not miss a port call or arrive too late."
Although the ship has stabilizers, passengers sometimes feel the rough seas when the Pacific isn’t so smooth.
Typically, on this itinerary, about half the passengers are from the U.S. and most of the others are from France and Germany. So, cruise director Frederic Jansen makes announcements in all three languages. With a keen sense of humor, Jansen also leads low-key social activities on the deck next to the convivial indoor-outdoor Tropical Bar. These include sunset lectures, watching a nautical film on the ship’s largest sail, crab racing contests, team trivia, star gazing and entertainment by local performers. According to many guests, it’s this easy-going informality that makes the cruise so enjoyable.
The rich decor of the Star Flyer is reminiscent of its proud nautical heritage, with polished brass and gleaming mahogany, an Edwardian-style library with Belle Epoque fireplace (plus two computers) and a cozy piano bar, plus antique prints and paintings of famous sailing ships. The cabins enjoy both worlds, too, with traditional royal blue upholstery and carpets accented with rich, wood paneling and modern amenities such as a television and DVD player.
In the elegant ambiance of the open-seated dining room, the food is uniformly excellent, and the superb service is as genuine and friendly as it is throughout the ship. Resort-casual attire is appropriate dress every single night.
At each port of call, watersports, such as snorkeling, kayaking, sunfish sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing, are complimentary.
The seven-day itineraries visit six of Tahiti’s Society Islands, considered by many to be paradise on Earth. The legendary volcanic peaks, crystalline lagoons, deep mystical valleys, mountains of lush tropical jungles and cascading waterfalls are all perfumed by the delicate tiare flowers worn over the ear.
The 10- and 11-night roundtrip from Papeete adds the coral atolls of the remote Tuamotus Islands, a favorite of divers, to Star Flyer’s route. For non-divers, an Aqua Safari is a spectacular alternative. While walking among beautiful corals on the ocean floor, your head remains dry inside a helmet with a hose connected to the boat’s air supply. A myriad of multicolored, tropical fish will eat right out of your hands and you can even pet a manta ray.
Other favorite shore excursions include off-road, four-wheel-drive safari expeditions, jungle hikes to waterfalls, vanilla plantations, black pearl farm visits and motorcoach tours from Papeete to the Paul Gauguin Museum. On the smaller, less-visited island of Huahine, an open-air Le Truck tour makes several stops to explore fascinating archeological and historical sites on foot.