Staff Review

Aboard the Star Flyer


18 Nov 2016

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

My first cruising experience was on the wonderful Star Flyer - a majestic tall ship that glides through the water with the wind in its sails. Not your regular cruise you might think. And you would be right.

The Star Clipper fleet pride themselves on an authentic sailing experience interwoven with the luxuries of a cruise. The teak decks, brass fittings and coils of rope belong to a former era of sailing and I was surprised to find all the modern comforts and luxuries that are a necessity on holiday.

We joined the ten night cruise that had started in Stockholm. They had already spent some time in Visby, Tallinn and St Petersburg when we met them in Helsinki. Our ship was easy to spot, it's not often you see a four mast square-rigger moored up alongside your standard ferries and cruise ships! Many tourists had stopped to take pictures of this impressive sight and it was with a sense of anticipation that we boarded the ship.

We were greeted warmly and shown to our cabins which were surprisingly well-appointed considering it is a functioning sailing ship - large double bed, compact bathroom and porthole window. Some of the suites even have their own private terraces which I would highly recommend. We explored the ship taking in the piano bar, the sun deck and even a couple of swimming pools - people were wrapped up on deck reading, taking in the scenery and generally relaxing. Unsurprisingly I didn't spot anyone in the swimming pool on this particular cruise!

Heading down for dinner we were seated with a very friendly American couple who had sailed all their lives and had travelled with the Star Clipper crew many times. It became clear that most of Star Clipper's guests were on their second or third trip and had a passion for boats and sailing. Dinner was a very impressive affair considering the size of facilities on board and the relaxed evening entertainment was met with friendly enthusiasm from both staff and guests.

Our after-dinner coffee was interrupted by the evening's announcement that we would be setting sail; my highlight of the evening. We headed on to the deck to be greeted by deckhands hauling the ropes to hoist the billowing sails and the tune of Vangelis 1492, Conquest of Paradise - Star Clipper's theme tune which is played every evening when we set sail. To experience this for the first time is something special - the ephemeral lighting as the sun is setting and the triumphant, haunting music made it truly enchanting as we headed from Helsinki's archipelago towards to Baltic Sea.

After a very comfortable night's sleep and a hearty breakfast (eggs cooked to order and plenty of fresh fruit) we make our first port of call - Hanko (Finland's southernmost town). There are two different organized excursions that you can join each day or you can be as independent as you like. We decided to take the tender into the mainland and explore the town. We spent the morning taking in the sights and then returned to the ship in the afternoon when we took advantage of the activities on offer - we spent an hour kayaking around a small island and then climbed the rigging for amazing views over the lush countryside of rural Finland. All optional of course!

Our second day brought us to the town of Mariehamn, the capital of Aland which is an autonomous territory under Finnish sovereignty. Bizarrely, the majority of the population speaks Swedish as their native language! Unlike our visit to Hanko we were able to sail directly into the small harbour and we moored up next to the museum-ship Pommern - a four mast barque built in Glasgow in 1903 - as onlookers stopped to admire. We hired bikes and spent the day admiring the beautiful scenery as we pedalled across causeways linking the islands together. It really is a beautiful, unspoilt part of the world.

The size of the Star Flyer and Clipper with only 170 guests each and the Royal Clipper with 227 guests means that the ships can access ports that other larger ships cannot. This allows you to explore places that you otherwise would not consider visiting, often with few tourists but with plenty to see and do. The afternoon was spent relaxing on board lying in the netting at the bow of the boat with the sea racing past beneath with a book in my hands and the wind in my hair - all very romantic!

We ended the trip in Stockholm where we spent the day visiting hotels and I would highly recommend a couple of nights at the Victory hotel at the end of your trip. The owners have an impressive collection of nautical memorabilia which would be a fitting end to your stay aboard the Star Flyer.

Considering that I would not have thought of myself as a 'cruise person' I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed my trip - the Star Clipper cruises are informal, relaxing and welcoming with a fun mixture of comfort, sailing experience and authenticity. I can't recommend them highly enough!

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