Thank you so much for all the arrangements

Dear Zoltan,

Many thanks for your good wishes. We returned safe, on time and having had an amazing holiday!
Thank you so much for all the arrangements, and the pre-booking advice. Havana was fascinating and great fun. The Clipper Cruise was superb in every way, with the added bonus of only having 71 passengers! Then the Grand Case Beach Hotel was a delightful place to finish for a couple of days.
We have already said that we will be looking at going on a Clipper again sometime! (Maybe a couple of years away!)
Many thanks,
Kind regards,

David

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Introducing our NEW SHIP

Introducing… Flying Clipper

The newest addition to Star Clippers’ fleet

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The officially released the name of our brand new ship, which will be joining the fleet towards the end of 2017. Flying Clipper will carry up to 300 passengers and will be the biggest and most ambitious of the Clipper fleet to date. She will measure 8770 tons GRT and will be powered by 35 sails totalling more than 6.350 m2. She will be a near replica of the dramatic France II ordered in 1911 at La Gironde shipyard Bordeaux, which was the largest square rig sailing ship ever built.

SPV Flying Clipper will be the world’s largest square rigger and the largest ship of its kind afloat today.

Founder and president of Star Clippers, Mikael Kraft, released the name of the fourth ship in the year which marks the 25th anniversary of Star Clippers. Flying Clipper will join her sister ships Star Clipper and Star flyer, and current flagship Royal Clipper on the open waters by the end of 2017.

Star Clippers fascinating facts…

Currently, Star Clippers gets through around 5 tons of varnish per year, two for Star Clipper and Star Flyer, and approximately 3 for Royal Clipper. Varnish not only protects the wood on the ships from the various elements, but it also keeps the appearance of the ships looking tip top!

To pre-register your interest for Flying Clipper Sailings contact us on info@starclipperholidays.co.uk

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Barbados and Star Clipper Windward Islands

On the 3rd December I was lucky enough to be part of the Top 10 Agent trip for 2 nights in Barbados and 7 nights aboard the Royal Clipper. Here is my day by day account of the trip:
Day 1:
On arrival at Gatwick Terminal 2 we were advised at check in that there would be absolutely no chance of any upgrades on the busy flight we were on to Barbados so imagine our surprise when at the gate all of us got an upgraded seat!! Some in Club Class and some in Premium Economy!! I was lucky enough to have been upgraded to Club Class – what an amazing start to the trip – not even the 2 hour delay on the tarmac could dampen our spirits. In Club Class you are given champagne when you board, a pillow and blanket for your seat that turns into a flat bed, an elemis ‘freshen up’ kit, 3 course meal (with 2 choices for each course), afternoon tea (with warm scones!!) and unlimited drinks all the way to Barbados if you are so inclined. An amazing experience which left me feeling refreshed and very full up once we had landed. On arrival in Barbados the immigration was quite quick and before we knew it we were onboard our minibus and on the way to the All Inclusive Turtle Beach, our home for 2 nights and part of the Elegant Resort Hotel group that Star Clippers sell along with their cruises. We had an amazing welcome there and as we were nearly 3 hours off schedule we just expected to be shown to the buffet restaurant, have a bite to eat and head off to our rooms. Imagine our surprise then when we were lead down to the beach and saw a private table just for our group set out for dinner along with our own waiters and waitresses serving cocktails, wine, soft drinks and just about anything else we asked for. As we ate our dinner to a steel band in the background we all agreed it was a lovely treat for us!!

Day 2:
After a quick breakfast at the buffet, where you could have all manner of food including fried chicken livers (?) we were picked up from the hotel and taken to the port for our catamaran cruise. Having not been on a catamaran cruise before I wasn’t sure what to expect but as I settled onto the deck with a refreshing glass of fruit punch I knew I would enjoy it!! Unlimited rum punch, wine, soft drinks and a perfect buffet including the famous mac n cheese were awaiting us. The staff were amazing and during the sailing of the catamaran gave lots of information about the island which was very interesting (sprinkled with Caribbean humour!!) Occasionally the catamaran moored up and there was the chance to don flippers and snorkels for those that wanted it and swim in the crystal clear waters – sometimes with a guide and sometimes without. I noticed a lot of the times we moored up we were surrounded by lots of other catamarans from different companies so it is obviously a very popular excursion for the island. My advice would be to book it in advance if you want to do it!!
That evening we were treated to a meal at Champers Restaurant and Wine Bar, possibly one of the best restaurants on the island boasting a ‘water’s edge experience’ and to our surprise we were able to sit outside and soak up the wonderful atmosphere on the terrace. I had the most delicious prawn curry here that I have ever tasted – it was almost like the prawns had been fished from the side that very evening!!

Day 3:
After another quick breakfast we were to take a tour of the Elegant Resort Hotels so we could see for ourselves where we were sending guests if the decided to have pre or post stays in Barbados. We saw Mango Bay, Colony Club, Crystal Cove, The House and Tamarind (hotel details on request.) As a quick surmise I would say that The House was by far my favourite – a small, intimate hotel that lives up to its name, it was just like coming home!! They really outdid themselves on our visit as well because as we visited one of the rooms there was champagne, strawberries dipped in chocolate and Parma ham with melon served to us by a staff member – a lovely surprise (although I was a little concerned about getting chocolate on the pristine sheets!!) Crystal Cove was another favourite, very elegant and understated. We ended our tour at the Tamarind where we had a lovely lunch and I got to sample one of the famous ‘Mango-Coladas’ – Yummy!!
Now for what we had been anticipating since we got here – our time to board the Royal Clipper. We jumped aboard our coach and made our way to the cruise terminal. Again immigration seemed quite quick and easy and before we knew it we were standing ready to board the Royal Clipper. I actually felt quite emotional when I saw her which I knew I would – she is just so beautiful and regal in port compared to her other cruise liner counterparts that were there – I felt very proud to be boarding. On embarkation we were offered a fruit punch and there were snacks laid out for those that wanted before we made our way to check in. Again, an easy process, they take your passport and an imprint of your debit/credit card, take your picture and produce your room key then you are good to go. Everyone is very welcoming and if you have trouble finding your cabin there are always people on hand to help you. I was on Clippers Deck in a Category 4 Outside Stateroom which consisted of double bed and private bathroom with marble shower. As well as this there was also air conditioning, TV and DVD, hairdryer and telephone so all the amenities you would be used to on the bigger liners. There was plenty of wardrobe space and room under the bed to store your suitcase. They also provide a lovely hardback book about the brand which is an amazing keepsake to take home. Another nice touch was the beach towel in your room every day for your convenience. In the bathroom there were plenty of towels and storage space for your toiletries / cosmetics (my advice would be to utilise the vanity unit cupboard to store them in because if you have a particularly choppy night they will end up all over the bathroom floor…….as I found out!!) After we had settled we had a safety drill on what to do in an emergency etc then I took the time before dinner to explore the ship and find my way around. That nights ‘sail away’ was before dinner and it was a sight that moved me to tears – the time and effort taken into carefully unfurling the sails and the beautiful twinkling fairy lights really are a sight to behold!!

Day 4:
After a particular choppy night (I seemed to roll from one side of the bed to another) we all meet for breakfast in the lovely dining room. I chose to have the homemade omelette and wasn’t disappointed – it was made to perfection. On completion of breakfast we were summound again to the Tropical Bar (the main social hub of the ship) where we had another complusory life boat drill, and our Captain, Captain Mariusz presented his officers and crew to us. After this as we weren’t due into St Lucia until about midday we decided to all sit on deck and soak up some sun. I was assured that it would actually be better to be up on deck as it would be less choppy – I wasn’t too sure but realised this was right when we got up there so was pleasantly surprised. There we sat spotting hotels we recognised and dipping our feet into the refreshing plunge pool until we decided to go for lunch (Italian Buffet) then take one of the tender to the beach. The tenders are very well explained in the Tropical Bar so it is quite clear what times the tenders leave, where the tenders are going (beach or marina) and – most importantly – when the last tender comes back. The other most important thing to remember is to bring your ID / Room card with you as that will get you on and off the ship and another tip is to, as soon as they have checked you off the ship, before you disembark the steps put it somewhere safe as you don’t want it falling in the sea!! The beach was just lovely – soft sand and clear blue waters. If you wish to do water sports the Sports Team are on the beach and will cater to your needs whether you are experienced or not. We chose to sunbathe, relax and occasionally dip our toes into the ocean. To my surprise the men and ladies selling their wares on the beach (some of them legitimate some of them not) were actually not too forceful and if you said no they tended to move on quite quickly which was refreshing. After spending most of the day on the beach we took the tender back in time to grab a drink and watch the sail away to Dominica before we got ready for dinner. While breakfast and lunch were informal buffet affairs dinner tended to be a bit more formal. This was a set menu with about 4 choices of main course but if you didn’t fancy any of those every night they had steak and chips or a pasta of the day so you weren’t stuck for choice and you could have as many or as few courses as you liked which was nice. There was also lovely bread and bits on the table once you sat down plus white, red and rose wine and of course water. After dinner this evening there was a music quiz in the Tropical Bar which was lots of fun and thanks to Alison we actually won!!

Day 5:
One of my favourite things to do in the morning was read the newsletter that had been left the night before (along with chocolates on your pillow) to find out all manner of information. Here you would find your arrival time in port, cocktail of the day, daily activities, excursions, evening entertainment and information about the port you were arriving into (currency, etc). I found this really set me up for the day. Today was Dominica and after breakfast there was a port talk from the lovely cruise director Cathleen which told you all you needed to know about our destination. Today we were interrupting our sun worshipping by breaking up the day and going on the Indian River Boat cruise. For this excursion we were transported from the town of Portsmouth up the Scenic Indian River. Experienced boatman in hand-oared river boats (harder to get in than you think) take you up the river at a slow moving leisurely pace (so slow some of us were nodding off) so that the different wild life and plant life could be enjoyed in the swampy river. We also took in scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean and a skeleton with only one leg hanging from a tree (that soon woke us up). We moored up at the famous ‘Bush Bar’ where we sampled some local rum (very strong) then it was back into the boat for the lazy trip back. Every afternoon there were afternoon snacks served in the Tropical Bar which ranged from fruit, cakes, tacos and everything else in between (as if we needed more food!!) These could be eaten while listening to music played on the piano by the resident musician Gabor. That evening after dinner was the Fashion Show in the Tropical Bar which Alison and Neil bravely took part in donning various outfits from the sloop shop on board. We were quite happy to spectate!!

Day 6:
Tuesday saw us docking in Antigua at 1000 which was nice because we could be up on deck as we entered the scenic Falmouth Harbour. Again Cathleen gave us a port talk on Antigua before we could take the tender to the beach for water sports and BBQ. Here, as something different, they had taken the Captain Nemo Spa that is usually on the ship, and set it up on the beach so that people could enjoy wonderful massages listening to the sound of the waves – a lovely, relaxing experience. Here we spent the afternoon on the beach enjoying the famous beach BBQ!! This evening was Caribbean Night so we were invited to wear the most colourful outfit we had and dance away to the Steel Band after dinner who were absolutely amazing!!

Day 7:
Today we arrived in St Kitts and did the Safari Island Drive excursion which took us all around St Kitts – what a beautiful island and our tour guide was amazing – when he greeted us with his beard dyed exactly the same shades as his outfit I knew he would be fun!! My favourite part about it was the botanical gardens we visited – who knew such lush greenery and amazing flowers could be on a Caribbean Island such as this? Here we also got to see the amazing Batik Making – a process which amazed me. A complicated process which uses wax and dye to make the most amazing prints, clothes and smaller items – it is absolutely beautiful but looks like back breaking work for the ladies and also hot with the wax in the already stifling heat.
That afternoon they had a photo tender where the tender goes out and you can take photos of the ship from a distance – a lovely opportunity. I was disappointed when they cancelled the second one, which I had planned to join, due to the weather and I had hoped they may do one on another port but it was not meant to be.
That evening was ‘Pirate Night’ most of us were unprepared for this but a few bandanas came out and also some eyeliner to draw tattoos so we were happy. Even more happier when after dinner and after taking part in the ‘Pirate Games’ on deck we again won!! Victory was ours once again!!

Day 8:
Today was by far my favourite day, we tendered at an island called Terre De Haut Les Saintes which is a small French island and it was by far my favourite destination. It was just such a beautiful island – very quaint and French, small shops selling local goods (which had to be paid for in euros), colourful houses with shutters and local people on scooters putt putting casually about. I just loved the unhurried feel to the island and the prettiness of the buildings. That afternoon was lunch on deck (another of my favourites) so you could enjoy lunch in the Tropical Bar and I always think food tastes better outside!! The layout was amazing and they had gone all out to make it look fabulous!!
The sail away today was 430 so we watched that before getting changed for dinner. This evening was the Guest and Crew Talent Show which our lovely Nathalie had signed up for and was bravely entering!! The Talent we saw was excellent ranging from singing and playing instruments to guitar playing to singing to acting and of course Nathalie dancing the Merengue. It was a lovely feeling to bring crew and guests together for the evening.

Day 9:
Today bought us to Martinique, probably my least favourite port to be honest. It was very built up and industrial very much like Southampton but it is where the ship has to get all its supplies so it wasn’t surprising!! Most of us spent the day up on deck soaking up the last bit of sunshine we knew we would be getting before flying back England tomorrow!! It was a nice day to reflect on all the amazing islands we had visited and all the lovely things we had experienced. I took the opportunity to look around the ship once more while it was quite quiet and remind myself of all the lovely facilities it had – I also chatted to some people on deck about their time on board – for some it was their first time, for some their 9th or 10th time, some were even staying on and doing a week more round the other islands (I didn’t speak to them for long!!) The last dinner was amazing but tinged with sadness as we realised after an intense 9 days spent living in each other’s pockets we had to get back to normal life in the next few days. We were also said to see the back of Wilmot our lovely waiter who had put up with us through almost all the breakfast, lunch and dinners with a smile and a friendly word no matter how annoying we must have been!!
We retired back to our cabins with the mindfulness that we needed to have our cases outside our cabin by 4am the next morning in order they would be taken off the ship for us. I felt quite sad when I got back to my cabin and saw the last newsletter with the ‘Disembarkation Program’ on.

Day 10:
After an early breakfast we checked out and sadly departed the ship. On disembarking I looked back at her and couldn’t believe I had been on her for a week it seemed just like yesterday I was moved to tears when I stepped out and saw her – time had gone so fast I wish I could turn some of it back. Once we had collected our suitcase it was off to the Hilton where we had some day rooms to pop our luggage before we departed on a Island Jeep Tour of Barbados. Our driver was brilliant and we definitely did some off roading – I couldn’t see much for the wind whipping my hair round my face but it was fun and he had some good stories to tell us plus some of his own ‘special brew’ rum punch to refresh us with. Thus the end of our trip was nigh and we went to the airport – the first airport I have seen where the check in desks are outside and neon flashing lights in the ceiling but hey this is Barbados!! Again some were upgraded to Club Class but as it was the same people as departure we did the honourable thing and let the people who hadn’t travelled out in Club Class travel back in it and we trooped down to Economy. I have to say though I still didn’t feel too short changed, the leg room on BA Economy is more than adequate, there is still a choice of main course and all the entertainment – just no flatbed………or unlimited champagne!!

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Thanks for making our holiday very special!

Dear Zoltan

Thank you for your welcome home email.

We have had the most wonderful holiday and cannot thank you enough for taking so much care over our booking. We were delighted to not only receive a complimentary bottle of champagne as we were celebrating our wedding anniversary, but also a celebration chocolate cake which was delivered with much musical accompaniment by the maitre ‘d and his team at dinner one evening.

We have made many new friends on the Royal Clipper and I have passed your name and contact details on to several of them with my recommendation that you give exceptional and personal service, something which is very rare these days.

Once again, many thanks for making our holiday very special. We will be in contact with you when we plan our next holiday.

Best wishes,

Carol and Dan

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A Cuban Christmas Gift

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I have to say I was overwhelmed when about 8 months ago I received an invitation from Star Clipper to attend a hosted trip to Cuba.  A trip that would allow me to see both the city of Havana, and then explore the still unspoilt coastline of Cuba. Quite an exciting adventure, I am sure you will agree.

So 8 months later here I am.  On what is day two of this sensational trip.

Yesterday we flew from Gatwick on the daily flight to Havana. Leaving at an agreeable 1230 our flight took 9.5 hours.  So we arrived at about 1730 the day light had just turned to dusk which was a shame as I was eager to start my adventure by looking around.  On advice we changed some cash (and only cash was accepted) into Cuban CUC. This was a fast and efficient service and all the money exchange bureaus were located once outside and were very easy to use.

The drive from the airport to the hotel was just 20 minutes; we arrive in a downtown area of Havana to our hotel for the night. The hotel Capri, this hotel in my mind delivered an easy 4star that was of a good standard. Rooms were spacious and adequately equipped.

We headed into the “old town” for dinner.  The Plaza de la Catedral    I was instantly taken with this part of the town. The history of the buildings was breath-taking, full of very gold grand buildings dating back from the 17th century. The area was charming quaint and stunningly beautiful. We had dinner at Paladar Doña Eutimia.  Known as a Doña meaning a converted house as opposed to a restaurant.   Recommended to us we pre- booked which I would suggest you do as it is very popular. We had a lovely table outside which was perfect. The food was very cheap working out for two courses and two cocktails at approximately £15 per person.  Fish, rice, meat and beans were in abundance.  Perfect.  On our walk to dinner we met many local people offering directions and smiles.  People were charming and friendly and there was a real sense of calm everywhere.  All accompanied by the abundance of charming cobbled back streets oozing with character.

Day 2. After an excellent breakfast we had a couple of hours of free time. I chose to explore the nearby area.  My highlight had to be the cars!  What can I say; it was like heading back to the 60’s and seeing one classic car after another. Everything from bright pink conveyance Buicks, Chevrolets to old rusty Hillmans’ and beaten up fiats!  The colour and the charm of the cars are in abundance. Some of the drivers of the older cars almost looked pleasantly surprised that their car should actually work!  Bright and fun and transporting you back to an era of times gone past

Again the architecture was exquisite, a delightful combination of old, mixed in with a real sense of Art Deco colours and charm with an almost poverty type ambience prevalent throughout.

We did take a few minutes to explore another hotel that we often recommend for our clients who wish to visit Cuba: Nationals Hotel – a stunning 5 star colonial hotel. This is the place to say if you want to have a little more luxury and charm, but it is big! There were also some fabulous more boutique type hotels which looked stunning and are well located in the old town.  The Placio Marques de San Felipe Hotel comes well recommended.

We then head to the port of Cienfuegos   A 4 hour journey using mainly the motorway.  Quite a different experience to the UK, this is a quiet road where you will see horse drawn carriages and plenty of wild life in all the surrounding fields.

We arrive in the town and take part in a very easy check in to allow us to board the Star Flyer. Of all the cruise ships I have been lucky enough to travel on this is the product that excites me most. I can’t wait to get on-board her again!   The boat looks shiny and bright and everything nautical just seems perfectly placed. A truly exceptional experience

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We are met with music, canapés and a local cocktail! The Star Clipper experience has once again begun.  My cabin a cat 3 number 123 seemed more spacious than others I had been in before. The boat has had a good amount of refit in terms of bedding, curtains etc and the difference is impressive We decided to come off the boat and explore Cienfuegos as this would be our only opportunity.  I am so pleased we did as we all fell in love with this quaint and interesting town.  We had a horse drawn carriage which took us on a 15min journey into the heart of the town.  Intrigued by the locals and taking in what we could of their lifestyle.  We then enjoyed a little bartering at the local markets.  Things here are so inexpensive and all very crafty. We all agreed we would like to stay in this quaint little town as we hadn’t discovered all of the hidden treasures that this town seemed to offer. With many beautiful colourful buildings, statues and monuments in abundance it was a visual feast for us all.

Our first night on board was entertaining. We set sail at 10pm and as always I got drawn in with the romance of the sea and the sails. Vangellis, natural sails, beautiful light shining and the sounds of the sea, perfection.

As we awake on Tuesday we are only a few hours before we reach, Playa Ancon. A small friendly city and home to a Unesco world heritage site.  This port is reached by tender… And you arrive safely on the beach

The view of the beach ahead of us is breath-taking.  I would say at a guess that the stretch of white sandy beach was at least a mile long.  Striking to say the least.

We were greeted ashore with complimentary Mojitos and then haggled well for a ride into the town of Trinidad.  We got a great rate to 15CAC  to travel in a fabulous old convertible car and have a fun filled 20 minute drive into the town.  Trinidad is a quaint very old town that is once again full of cobbled (very uneven) streets… colours and craft shops are in abundance.

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This was by far and away the best place we visited for buying souvenirs and local craft and art.  A huge market with prices so good

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Once we finished into town we all enjoyed a few hours relaxing on the beach.

Sun loungers were available and a drink was easy to obtain from the beach bar.

Day 4 – Was a day at sea. Time to enjoy the facilities on board and take lots of photos of this nautical sailing experience.  I enjoyed a fantastic massage – a full hour for just £40 representing great value for money

Day 5 – Punta Frances, Isla de Juventud

Again a tender took us to the beach.  And what a beach it was!!  Completely un spoilt and with only one tiny beach bar situated there.  The white sand was perfect and the sea crystal clear!  A beautifully relaxing day.  A few of us did try to go a little off the beaten track, expecting to find at least a local town – but truly there is nothing.  We walked in dense trees and foliage and regretted it very quickly as we were attacked by mosquitos!  So I don’t recommend that.  Stick to the beach and enjoy.

Day 6 – Cayo  Largo and a day and one of the nicest beaches I have ever visited.  Here I swam with dolphins a dream come true and enjoyed a few hours on the extensive beach.  The transfer by tender is about 40 minutes but worth it…

Beautiful beach and the experience of swimming amongst the dolphins was breath taking.  See my top tips below for more details

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On our last day of the cruise we disembarked early in the morning sad to leave all our new friends and this beautiful part of the country

We then take the 4 hour journey back to Havana and have an afternoon and all day on the Monday before our flight home to enjoy this beautiful city, photos to follow of some of the things we saw and experienced including indoor markets, touring the old tour, China Town, Rum factory and Cigar Factory. For me the time I spent exploring off was more fun than the organised tours that we followed.  We saw more and the Rickshaw bikes gave us real access to the true poverty of this city whilst enjoying the newly restored buildings too.

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Top tips for this cruise

Cienfuegos

Whilst Havana is the most famous city and one that most packages encourage you to stay in Cienfuegos. I would look to include at least one or two nights in this lovely old town.

Money

This is important. During the cruise the smaller ports simply do not have ATM’s or indeed banks so you need cash. Even in the bigger towns finding banks is not easy. So I would suggest exchanging money at the airport in a higher quantity that you would normally. Remember you need sterling or euro notes to purchase your money; you cannot use your card to get cash in hotels or in most shops.  You can from ATM’s but they are very few and far between

Vintage Cars

A must do enjoy a ride in a classic car. This was easy in Trinidad. We paid approx.

15cac per car each way to the town and back. Approx. 20min drive

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Explore and don’t be afraid

Why not go a little off the beaten track and explore. A very safe country and the people are fabulous, and we saw so much more by taking our selves of the beaten track as a group.

Forms of Travel

In Cienfuegos if you don’t have extra time here pre or post, on day of arrival once on board and checked in take the time to go into the local town. We went by horse drawn taxi/carriage at a cost of 20 CAC return, a charming way to travel and hear about the locals in Havana, we travelled many times by the bike rickshaws.  About £2.50 (3CAC’s) took us about 20 minutes on the fun bikes and all through the back streets exploring the real Cuba, worth every second.   The vintage cars are a must and don’t forget to have a go and haggle over the price.  The mini bubble cars are a great experience.

Beaches

On this cruise you really are going to see some of the nicest beaches in the world in Cato largo the beach is exceptional. All facilities are available. The best bit for me was of course the Dolphins

Swimming with the Dolphins

If you wish to swim or interact with them you will need cash.  50CAC for 15mins interact or 90CAC to swim and interact. You can also buy photos of your experience from 10euros to 40euros. So if this appeal please take your cash ashore as there is no other way to pay and no facility to get cash

Tender

All the ports of call on this cruise are reached by Tender.

Journey times

A longer drive from Havana to Cienfuegos is up to 4hours.

Gifts for the children

In the more remote areas the children are very grateful for little gifts.

Soap, pens, lipsticks etc. Take your unwanted bedroom/cabin toiletries as this will make their day and may receive the littlest of smiles that will mean a lot.

In summary – Cuba is a must.  A fantastic place steeped in history and culture.  Cuba and Star Clipper were the perfect match and one I could really recommend.

I have hundreds of photos so if you would like to see more to quench your curiosity of this impressive country just let me know.

Call Clare at Ponders on 01954 232802

 

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New images aboard Star Flyer & Star Clipper

There is no better feeling than fresh bed sheets…. linen and upholstery aboard Star Flyer and Star Clipper have had a makeover and we thought we would share a couple of images with you of the new look in the cabins and also in the bar and dining areas – still in-keeping with the nautical feeling but looking very fresh.

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Voyage of the Star Flyer

We left Puerto Caldera on 24 March, and arrived at Balboa on 30 March.

25. March. Quepos.
During the morning Captain Jurgen Muller- Cyran introduced his team. He was in command of the Star Flyer 12 years ago when we sailed on her in Phuket. He has a great sense of humour, and we really like to hear his “Captain’s Story Times”, when he talks to a group of us on the sun-deck, about the great sailing ships of the past and many other fascinating subjects.

Various excursions went on shore and in the evening we sailed for Drake’s Bay: I.e. Sir Francis Drake!

26 March. Drake’s Bay. Drake seems to have left little trace, when he passed through, in 1579. Not much happened since. Went on a motorboat tour to see whales; no sightings of whales, but lots of dolphins, and wonderful coastal scenery (the Osa Peninsula). Also got a good photo of a crocodile slithering down the bank of a river, and also the canoeists we saw just afterwards! That was when the trip boat went into a river, which was hardly visible from the sea. That might just have accommodated a small ship, if Drake watered his ship here.

27 March. Golfito. Where we moored today is not very exciting, though the bay is lovely, and we took a taxi ride to a terrific photo-opportunity above the bay. The banana industry died here in 1985, due to disease and strikes. It has not recovered, though palm oil seems to be the way forward, as it is in Quepos.

28 March. Isla Gamez. This is the loveliest anchorage on this trip. As we shall see, it was our last stop. Keen types disembarked for beach football. How British! In fact we think it was the Russians playing the USA. War did not break out, so a diplomatic success. We learnt the nationalities of the 159 passengers, in the last ship’s newspaper; 39 from Russia and ex- Soviet bloc, 95 from USA, and 14 from Commonwealth (Canada and GB).

30 March. Panama. We have sailed 527 nautical miles since Puerto Caldera. We have been at sea since Thursday (28 March), without sight of land for part of the time.

We left Isla Gamez, having to sail 264 nautical miles to Panama. The plan was we would stop at Isla Iguana on 29 March, which is a sanctuary for frigate birds. We passed it by, because the wind rose to about Force 6, making landing impossible. With this great breeze, we had a marvellous run close- hauled, under jibs, fore and mainsail, all the way down the Panamanian coast, and out to sea. We then turned north to arrive on 30 March at Balboa, which is the port of spectacular Panama City. A wonderful finish to our voyage.

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A birthday Celebration to remember

Hello Clare

As advised in our last conversation I said I would give you feedback on our recent holiday. This feedback is aimed at a balanced view of the ‘Star Clippers’ holiday experience, utilising our experience in evaluating holiday goods and services (we used to act as mystery shoppers for Centre Parcs in the UK and Europe) combined with our extensive knowledge of travel in the Caribbean and beyond. Clearly with a ship of this size one cannot compare facilities with a large super cruise ship and we have endeavoured to bear this in mind when commenting.

Firstly may I thank yourself and Troy and also Stat Clippers for managing to upgrade Chrissys Mum she had the holiday of a lifetime. Also the ships management for including Chrissys Mum on the Captains table  In fact our overall impression of the holiday was very positive, please find below our feedback

The Ship

Beautiful ship very well presented both inside and out with constant paint renewal no signs of wear and tear. Public areas are well designed, especially the dining area which is both atmospheric and intimate whilst at the same time managing to service volume covers at peak times. We loved the access to all areas of the ship including the bridge and foredeck during sail hoisting etc

Staterooms

Generally well presented but small dimensions (cat 4), the marble bathroom however was excellent and matched the dimensions of that of much larger ships. The bed, sheets and pillows were not of the quality previously experienced on other cruises, also the TV in room was the old tech CRT not the new Flat panel technology which would add space and reduce weight . The media on the TV was totally under utilised showing very limited content ( one news channel, one German language movie that played for the duration of the cruise, one channel showing the ships construction and one channel charting progress but at a resolution that could not be viewed )  A massive opportunity is being missed here. this is a window into each stateroom that could be used to sell products, activities, excursions etc. Cruise info and messaging are also important areas that should be used with this service, personally we missed some cruise info because we did not know that the item was being discussed somewhere on the ship and had not picked up the communication

Itinerary

This is a very subjective area in a nutshell, our personal preferences would be –

In the BVI’s change the snorkelling location from ‘the caves’ to ‘the indians’ as the latter is both more interesting and more impressive
We would drop the Isle de Sante destination and offer the Grenadines
We would substitute Rodney Bay/ Pigeon Island  on St Lucia for Soufriere
Lastly we would have liked to see more actual Sailing between destination We do appreciate that the cruise itinerary is ‘time critical’ and there is a limit regarding sailing efficiency/wind direction depending on routing but it would have been good to have a morning or afternoon pure sailing

Activities

We thought the excursions were excellent value for money with some scope to even increase prices by 15-20%

Sports Facilities, We did not use these despite brining my PADI card and anticipating some diving, We thought the dive facilities were poor using dated RIBs without even a dive ladder (I’m past scrambling over the tube of an inflatable at my age) from our point of view this luxury cruise is being let down by poor quality equipment in this area. The remainder of the Sporting equipment falls in to the OK but not exceptional category

Night time activities were generally low key and informal ( The Steel Band was the highlight ) suited the mood of the cruise exactly

Tenders, we thought were somewhat hit and miss in terms of frequency ( except when Glenroy was running things) also seldom were two tenders running at the same time which meant at least a half hour wait if we missed one by a few minutes. The process of getting people off the ship on arrival in port seemed to work OK most of the time

Staff

Staff almost without exception were excellent with special mentions to – The Hotel Manager, The Captain, The Restaurant Head, Manilito, Glenroy, Raquel, and all onboard.

Food

Generally was good if not exceptional with the exception of Breakfast which was very good, Wine and drinks were, by cruise standards good value for money especially the house wines
The area we see for improvement is access to fresh products e.g. Fish, shellfish en route rather than the frozen fare dished up on occasion. In short, in the context of ‘Luxury Cruise’ some of the food falls someway short of your competitors.

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A perfect week

Our amazing nautical experience began as we stepped on the ship. The ship was beautifully presented with huge masts, smart traditional sailors, teak floors and décor all providing a truly romantic and nautical experience. On the first night we were led from our dinning table to the decks to experience the ship sailing from port for our very first time. The champagne was flowing and unbeknown to us the very moving music “conquest of paradise” from Vangelis was played as the sailors and fellow guests all joined to pull the huge sails up as the boat was leaving port, then as the sails were raised the wind took command. That whole experience was repeated every night and was the most beautiful experience that can never be matched with cruising on modern liners.

The weather was perfect , the food five star dining and the staff very friendly and helpful from the captain to the engineer and from the maitre d’ to the sports team. Each day we went ashore often leaving the boat by a tender and looking back at the magnificent vessel, often in disbelief that we were fortunate to be sailing in such a splendid vessel. Following days of sightseeing, shopping and sunbathing we were welcomed back on ship where we joined our new sailing companions for pre dinner cocktails sharing our daily experiences before we dressed for dinner.

We will never forget the experience of climbing the masts, sitting in the nets, pulling up the sails, steering the ship, the crab racing night and of course learning to sail a dinghy.

A perfect week and we can guarantee you will be hooked and book again as many of the others had.

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Five Stars for Star Clipper

Safely back, as you know from our phone call; thanks for looking into the refund on transfer to airport on 10 Sept. which was abandoned because of a taxi strike in Athens! As you might imagine the terminal at Piraeus was somewhat pressured, but the agents laid on a coach for everyone affected for 27 euros each.

We cannot praise Star Clipper too highly. With only 130 passengers on board everyone got to know one another, the food is miraculous and the sailing experience unique. It’s a great way to see the Greek Islands, and sailing into the caldera of Santorini was an unforgettable experience. We hadn’t expected to enjoy our Turkish stops so much; the excavations of the greco-roman city of Caunus were great, but the museum of under-water archaeology in the Crusader castle at Bodrum were outstanding, on a par with the Mary Rose!

Thanks once more for looking after us so well,

Ted and Angela Williams

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