If you’ve never taken been on a cruise holiday before, chances are that you know someone who has — and likely loved it. On the face of it, the ease of effortlessly travelling from one place to the next and the fully-inclusive nature of a holiday at sea with a different restaurant to dine at every night can seem decadently appealing, particularly when followed by a Broadway-style theatre show, dancing the night away to live music, or trying your luck in a glitzy casino with a cocktail in hand.
Not everyone wants a resort-style experience. Just like on land, where some holidaymakers prefer to search out small hotels and under-the-radar experiences, there are boutique-style cruises, too. And although ocean mega liners carrying thousands of passengers often steal the limelight with their bowling alleys, surf simulators, and floating restaurants, for those looking for a more exclusive style of cruise holiday, there are plenty of smaller vessels to enjoy, including glorious tall ship cruises, which are some of the best cruise ships around.
Star Clippers takes the notion of a small ship cruise to another level. This boutique cruise line has a fleet of three magnificent sailing ships - Star Clipper, Star Flyer and Royal Clipper - each with a full complement of billowing white sails. They accommodate only 166 guests, and when conditions allow, they sail the seas under wind power for a truly authentic but very comfortable sailing experience.
But back to cruise novices... Wondering what makes a Star Clippers cruise particularly ideal for first-timers? We delve into the reasons why it's perfect for your first experience with cruising...
You can explore smaller ports with fewer people
If the idea of visiting destinations with thousands of other people is a reason you haven’t taken a cruise holiday yet, then finding a smaller ship not only means you’ll avoid meandering around busy towns with your fellow passengers, but you'll likely miss the main (sometimes rather industrial) ports altogether. That’s because boutique-sized ships can tuck into smaller harbours.
There are still organised excursions, which can be a reassuring option when it’s your first cruise holiday, as you know you’ll be back on the ship in good time. But there’s always the option to plan your own adventure on land, breaking free from your fellow passengers to get to know a place in your own way, whether that’s swinging through the rainforest canopy or searching out a deserted patch of perfect beach on a cruise that visits Costa Rica and Panama’s castaway islands.
You can help sail the ship and climb the rigging
On Star Clippers' ships, you’ll have the opportunity to help the crew raise the sails. And while some winches are electric-powered, the captains and crew are experienced square-rigger sailors who know and love the traditional sailing methods. Star Clippers ships are also equipped with modern navigation technology, and guests are invited to visit the bridge to watch the crew in action.
On a cruise of the French and Italian Rivieras, for instance, perhaps you’ll find yourself winching sails between glamorous ports. Or climbing the rigging to get a prime view from the Crow’s Nest. Or simply sitting by one of Star Clippers’ swimming pools with an ice-cold drink in hand as you’re whisked away to the next idyllic place
You'll have a more informal experience
For some, a formal dress code on holiday can be a big no-no. Although family-focused cruise lines have gently moved away from ballgowns and tuxedos over the years, a black tie dress code is still very much part of the experience on more traditional cruise ships, both big and small. On a Star Clippers cruise, there’s a no-tie dress code to match the ship’s relaxed atmosphere. But it doesn’t mean the experience is any less elegant, and the food matches the sophisticated feel of the ship.
Similarly, some traditional cruise lines insist on pre-set table arrangements in their main restaurant. This could mean that although you travel as a couple, you’re seated at a table with six, eight, or ten others. This can be part of the joy of cruise holidays for some travellers, where you meet like-minded people, get to know them over long leisurely dinners, and even remain friends long after the cruise has reached its final destination.
Pre-set seating doesn’t suit everyone though, and on Star Clippers' ships, the choice is yours: sit with others or find a quiet table for two. You can even choose to sit and chat with the ship’s officers if you wish, as the crew join guests in the dining room on most nights.
On a Star Clippers cruise, you’re also not restricted to a set meal time. For dinner, you can dine as early or as late as you please. You can then return later to see what’s in store for the evening’s late-night snack offering.
You'll experience the romance of sailing
Teak decks, plenty of polished mahogany and brass, and plush velvet upholstery evoke a bygone era of beautiful sailing ships aboard Star Clippers cruises. While today’s modern ships are glossy towers of marvellous engineering, Royal Clipper, Star Flyer and Star Clipper are traditional with modern comforts.
If you spot a day at sea on a Star Clippers itinerary, this isn’t time to spend in a sprawling on-board spa, like on a mega ship (although there are modest beauty rooms for a much-needed massage when needed). Instead, time at sea is spent relaxing on the deck, joining the crew for knot-tying lessons, or climbing the mast to the crow’s nest. It's about having a proper sailing experience.
Likewise, in the evenings, you won’t be entertained by dazzling shows or trying your luck in a glitzy casino. The evenings on a tall shop are low-key and spent under starlit skies and in the company of guests and crew.
You'll have access to special events
While the journey on a Star Clippers cruise is a pretty enjoyable one, you'll really want to take home some special memories of the places you visit and the tall ship company does a great job of bringing you special experiences. For example, this September, Royal Clipper, the largest square-rigged clipper in service in the world, is taking its rightful place alongside other beautiful ships and yachts for St Tropez's glamorous regatta.
It's a fitting finale to an incredible cruise that visits Mediterranean highlights such as Corsica, Elba, and Sardinia. To make your adventure even more memorable, you'll be joined by TV chef James Martin who will host a live demonstration onboard, exclusively for guests of Royal Clipper.
Good Housekeeping has two exclusive cruises with Star Clippers in 2023 and 2024. In September, you can join James Martin during a nine-day South of France and Italy sailing on Royal Clipper. Next year, you can explore Caribbean waters on Star Clipper as you take in the beautiful nature and wildlife of Costa Rica and Panama.
Looking for inspiration for your next holiday? Grab a cuppa and browse our brochure packed with unique escapes.
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