Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego embarks on an eight night voyage to four western European ports from Southampton aboard Star Clippers’ four masted barquentine STAR FLYER.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Had I parted the curtains to our stateroom aboard the GRAND PRINCESS at Southampton’s Queen Elizabeth II Terminal a few minutes earlier, I would have caught the full approach of the 2,298 gross ton sailing ship STAR FLYER. Even from a distance, she looked splendid, passing an impressive gathering of cruise ships that included P&O’s VENTURA, Celebrity’s ECLIPSE and P&O’s ORIANA.
Several hours later, my traveling companion Rob Di Stefano and I were embarking the FLYER for an eight night positioning voyage to Lisbon via Brest, La Coruña and Vigo.
Although my sea legs have been relatively stout in recent years, I would certainly be putting them to the test in both the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay on such a beautiful but diminutive ship. At 366 by 49.6 feet, the STAR FLYER has a capacity for 170 passengers and 74 crew.
The first in a pair of four-masted barquentine cruise ships operated by Star Clippers, the STAR FLYER was built by Scheepswerven van Langerbrugge of Belgium (yard number 2183) in 1991. She was followed by the identical STAR CLIPPER in 1992 and the five-masted, 4,425 gross ton, 227-passenger ROYAL CLIPPER in 2000.
STAR FLYER has four passenger decks, beginning at the top with Sun Deck, which has fore, midships, and aft teak-lined platforms. From the fore deck, which stretches from the graceful bowsprit to the bridge, there was a nice view of Southampton’s visiting cruise ships.
Midships sun deck is located between the second and third mast and features a small wading pool, beautifully polished mahogany bench seating, and rows of deck chairs.
The aft portion of Sun Deck is actually a ‘tween deck fantail area between Sun Deck and the next level, Main Deck. Here, there is another wading pool, more deck chairs and yet more gorgeous teak and mahogany. There is also a pair of cabins that can be accessed from here.
Main Deck begins with a suite of six staterooms (all accessed from a sheltered outside promenade) and continues with the Bar, a tiered lounge with an unusual skylight in the form of the midships wading pool that hovers over a grand staircase and musicians’ platform.
The bar, itself, continues to a sheltered deck just aft, which would be the center of most shipboard activities.
An elegant reference library with maroon velvet booth seating, mahogany and brass-framed oak windows and a generous selection of books and games wraps up Main Deck.
Clipper Deck begins with a suite of fifteen cabins that lead to the handsome dining room with near-sea-level views through rows of portholes. Plush booth seating is on either side and large banquet tables surround a buffet station in its center.
Twenty two more staterooms, a gift shop/purser’s office and the owner’s suite finish off Clipper Deck.
A second, sweeping staircase surrounding the aft mast connects aft Main Deck with the Sun Deck fantail area. The aft mast is also the ship’s funnel, serving as the exhaust outlet for her Caterpillar diesel engines.
Forty four more staterooms line Commodore Deck.
There are six categories of accommodation, ranging from the posh owner’s suite in the stern of Clipper Deck to interior Category 5’s on Commodore Deck. Most of the staterooms are similar in size and layout, with their location determining the category.
We would occupy Cabin 327, a homey category 2 just aft of the dining room on port Clipper Deck. It has two twin beds and an unfolding upper berth, plenty of storage space, a television, phone, writing nook, settee, ottoman, bathroom with shower and a brass-framed porthole. Fittings, as with all of the ship, are in pleasing nautical blues with polished brass and mahogany accents.
Star Clippers provides a nice array of high quality amenities, including soap, shampoo, bath gel, moisturizer, emery board, cotton swabs and a sewing kit.
Guests are welcomed to their cabin with a selection of fruits and some delicious petits fours that hint at the culinary masterpieces that lay ahead.
Once finished with the documenting, we headed to Starbucks for some internet access, then returned in the late afternoon during regular embarkation. Guests are welcomed at the gangway on midships Main Deck with a refreshing towel and a cold drink.
A hot snack is only steps away, along with some small sandwiches and freshly baked cookies.
We assembled for boat drill, unpacked, then headed up to deck to watch the sunset prior to sail-away.
Once the last lines were hauled in, the STAR FLYER began her departure. Vangelis’ majestic “Conquest of Paradise” was broadcast on deck as we headed eastward, past the now-empty cruise terminals, Mayflower Park and Hythe Pier. A Red Funnel ferry passed as we descended to the dining room.
I had anticipated the food to be quite good but the first meal exceeded all expectations with gorgeous breads that could be buttered or drenched in a tapenade (tonight’s was blue cheese) and/or extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I ordered a green salad with citrus fruit dressing and an asparagus quiche along with a stuffed bell pepper entrée. A splendid start to what would prove to be a gourmand’s cruise…
Sunday, September 2, 2012
The English Channel was merely toying with us as STAR FLYER lurched and pirouetted on course to Brest. At one point, we spotted a Brittany Ferry speeding across, perhaps to Dover; otherwise, it was just us versus the great gray sea. We bee-lined it to breakfast where the buffet included fresh-baked pastries and breads, an omelet station (I did my usual onion, tomato and cheese), a selection of cereals, muesli, yogurts, cold cuts, ham, sausage, potatoes and crepes.
After breakfast, the officers and staff lined up on the shelter deck for their introduction by Captain Juergen Müller-Cyran. The master mariner is a veteran officer from the West German Navy with a deep passion for sailing ships and a wry sense of humor.
STAR FLYER has an open bridge when at sea, allowing the inquisitive guest a chance to study the charts and array of navigation equipment.
Even more unique than the open bridge, STAR FLYER has a bowsprit that is beckons the willing to climb out and dangle over the sea. Of course, there is a safety net, which on a sunny day would be a great place to lie out and stare at the plunging bow.
A salad lover’s paradise of a buffet began our lunch, which also included curried chicken and almond pilaf and a series of homemade cakes and desserts. Superb!
Unfortunately, I succumbed to the English Channel’s fury shortly afterwards and spent the rest of the day and evening in horizontal mode.
End Of STAR FLYER To Iberia, Part One
Much More To Come…
Very Special Thanks: Buck Banks, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Julie Ellis