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Small Ship Cruise Line Review: Star Clippers
Articles About Star Clippers Submit Your Own Review Visit Our Reader Review Form Reader Reviews of Star Clippers QuirkyCruise Review ...
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Reader Reviews of Star Clippers

QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer Stephen Andrews from Australia Cruise Line Star Clippers Ship Star Clipper Destination Thailand # of Nights 7 Departure Date ...
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Reviewer David Mann from the USA Cruise Line Star Clippers Ship Star Flyer Destination Mediterranean # of Nights 9 Departure ...
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Reviewer Andrea Stoeber from Germany Cruise Line Star Clippers Ship Star Clipper Destination Thailand # of Nights 7 Departure Date ...
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Reviewer Alison Johnson from Jersey, Channel Islands, UK Cruise Line Star Clippers Ship Royal Clipper Destination Cross Atlantic to Barbados ...
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Reviewer Mark from England Cruise Line Star Clippers Ship Star Clipper Destination Thailand, Asia # of Nights 14 (I did 2 ...
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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review of Star Clippers

Star Clippers offers the perfect marriage of adventure, romance and comfort, not to mention the thrill of sailing on a gorgeous replica of a 19th-century Clipper Ship. The company’s trio of swashbucklers feels like they belong in the Caribbean,  Mediterranean and Far East, bucking through the surf and wind like ships are meant to. Watching sunsets melt behind the rigging or a port come into focus from a front row perch at the rails, a Star Clippers cruise is best spent on deck — that is whenever you’re not relaxing in the cozy nautical cabins or having a tasty meal in the dining room.

Owner and company founder Mikael Krafft, a Swedish-born industrialist and real estate developer, spared no detail or expense to design and build his fleet of three square-rigged clippers in the likeness of their speedy predecessors — Krafft and his team referred to the original drawings and specifications of Scottish-born Donald McKay, a leading naval architect of 19th-century clipper-ship technology.

The newest and largest of the three (until the new 300-passenger FLYING CLIPPER launches), the 227-passenger five-masted ROYAL CLIPPER, was modeled on the famed Preussen, a 1902-built German clipper. She is the largest square-rigged in service with 5,202 square meters of sail, hence she holds the honorary title Queen of the Seas. All three sport towering masts, sails, rigging, wooden decks and chunky ventilators. Facing forward on the top deck, if you didn’t hear the murmur of the engines much of the time (and could ignore the small pool and all those people in 21st century clothes), it’s not a leap to imagine being a crew member cranking winches on a three-month run to England with a cargo of tea and opium from China.

The Star Clippers’ ships typically rely on sails alone about 25% to 50% of the time; otherwise, the sails are used with the engines to maintain speeds of about 9 to 14 knots for the comfort of passengers — though occasionally in strong winds they clock speeds in the neighborhood of 15 knots. Hold on!

Sunset through the sails

Sunset through the sails. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Of course the beauty of a Star Clippers cruise is you feel like you’re on a real working ship without having to doing any work. While you can help pull in the sails a few times throughout the week or climb the masts (with a harness) at designated times, most passengers choose to be voyeurs, gazing out at the sea and distant landscape through the lens of the ships’ masts and lines. Sunrise and sunset through the sails, lines and masts are magical.

Fans were thrilled to learn that Star Clippers would be building a fourth ship, the FLYING CLIPPER, a much anticipated and complex construction project that has been an ongoing saga due to two years of shipyard delays. Now completed there is a dispute between Star Clippers and the shipyard, and it is unclear what will transpire. The FLYING CLIPPER’s details are 300 passengers and measures 8,770 tons. It is powered by more than 6,350 square meters of sails.  Technically a five-masted, square-rigged barque, it’s a near-replica of the FRANCE II, commissioned in 1911 and the largest square rigger ever built.

Just as the original FRANCE II eclipsed PREUSSEN (which the line’s ROYAL CLIPPER is modeled on) more than a century ago as the world’s largest square rigger, the newbuild will replace the ROYAL CLIPPER, as the largest ship of its kind afloat today. The vessel has have generous deck space, three pools, and a watersports platform in the stern. One restaurant will accommodate all guests and cabin choices include 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner’s suites. Like those of the Star Clippers’ fleet, there will also be a library and an al fresco Tropical Bar. The ship will likely start out sailing in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Stayed tuned to when all this begins to happen!

Ship, Year Delivered & Passenger Count 

STAR FLYER (built 1991 & 172 passengers); STAR CLIPPER (b. 1992 & 172 p); ROYAL CLIPPER (b. 2000 & 227 p); and FLYING CLIPPER (2019 & 300p)

Star Clippers Passenger Profile

A mix of mostly Europeans, British and Americans in their 50s on up, plus a fair number of families with children aboard in summer and holiday weeks. In our opinion, it’s best for children to be at least 10 years old. Many passengers own their boats and just love to sail, with a huge number of repeat passengers who keep coming back for more. Repeaters get a 3% discount, not a lot yet a nod to their loyalty. Some passengers would never consider a standard cruise ship. Note: Announcements are made in English, German, and French.

Passenger Decks

4: No elevators.


$$  Expensive

Included Features

Watersports, weather and conditions permitting.

Star Clippers Itineraries
  • Generally, all three ships  (only two in 2019)  summer in the Mediterranean between late April and October doing mostly one-week itineraries, plus a handful of longer 10- and 11-night sailings. ROYAL CLIPPER is based in the Western Mediterranean calling at ports in Spain, France and Italy and the islands: Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the Balearics. STAR FLYER undertakes some cruises in the Western Medit. to then position in the Adriatic along the Croatian coast, Greek islands and the Turkish coast but not Istanbul, for mostly 7 nights but a few 10 and 11. To reposition between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean in the spring and fall, longer trans-oceanic positioning voyages are the target for those who wants days under sail between ports with perhaps calls in the Canaries or Azores, and of course, one may begin or finish the voyage  with a string of Western Mediterranean ports calls. These voyages may be as short as 15 nights or as long as 28.
  • Two ships winter in Caribbean on mostly 7-night sailings (November-March), ROYAL CLIPPER offers varied 7-night itineraries from Barbados, longer 14-nighters through the islands and along the coast of Colombia to Panama including a canal transit.  STAR FLYER makes 7-night cruises from St. Maarten and longer 14-nighters along the coast and amongst the island to Panama including canal transit.
  • Through 2019, the STAR CLIPPER is in Asia spending half the year doing Andaman Sea mostly 7-night cruises off the coast of southwestern Thailand (October-April) and 7-, 10- & 11-night itineraries in the Indonesian archipelago the other half of the year. New 10- and 11-night itineraries will sail from Singapore to ports along the Malaysian coast and to the island of Borneo, including Kota Kinabalu and Brunei.
Approaching lovely Monemvassia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Approaching lovely Monemvassia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Why Go?

For the great mix of adventure and comfort, you can feel like an old salt soaking in the sailing scene without giving up the luxury of nice cabins, good dining and even massages.

When to Go?

Two generally winter in the Caribbean and Central America and this pair then spends the summer in various parts of the Mediterranean with spring and fall transats to connect the two seasons.. The third is based in Southeast Asia and the Indonesian islands for the foreseeable future.

Star Clippers Cabins

Cabins are nautical, with wood-paneling, navy blue fabrics and brass details. The ROYAL CLIPPER’s standard cabins measure 148 square feet, while the CLIPPER’s and FLYER’s are a bit smaller at 120 to 130 square feet. The vast majority of cabins on all three ships are outside rooms with portholes (some with a pull down third birth); a handful is smaller inside cabins without portholes.

Each of the trio has a handful of suites, including six on the CLIPPER and FLYER, plus one large oddly configured owners’ suite. The 14 Deluxe Suites on ROYAL CLIPPER’s Main Deck measure 255 square feet and have private balconies, sitting areas, minibars, whirlpool tubs and 24-hour butler service; the two Owner’s Suites measure 355 square feet and have two marble bathrooms, though no balcony.

All cabins have TVs with DVD players, private bathrooms with showers, hair dryers, small vanity table with stool, and surprisingly ample storage space unless you’re a major clothes horse.

Consider that the lowest deck cabins near the stern will be close to the rumbling engines, and the cabins bordering the entrance to the dining room get residual noise and traffic and meal time.

A triple cabin, room 206.

A triple cabin, room 206. When not in use, the upper berth will be folded up and away.* Photo: Heidi Sarna

Star Clippers Public Rooms

On all three ships, the open air Tropical Bar is the hub of activity. Passengers gather around the chunky wooden bar for drinks and daily afternoon canapés are served there, and sometimes special theme lunch bunches as well. It’s the spot for evening entertainment (local talent that often comes aboard while the ship is at anchor) and informal briefings about the day’s schedules.

Adjacent is an indoor wood-paneled Edwardian-style library and card room, and also an indoor piano lounge mainly used for people who want a quiet place to read during the day. Each of the trio has one restaurant; the ROYAL CLIPPER’s fussier and multi-level. The ROYAL CLIPPER also has a small gym and spa and health club on a lower deck below the waterline with portholes to look out into the deep.

Star Clippers Dining

Each ship has one restaurant with open seating and tables for mostly six or eight, encouraging passengers to meet and mingle. The dress code is casual, though some guests enjoy wearing jackets on the captain’s gala night. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, with made-to-order omelet and pasta stations, respectively, while dinner is served a la carte. The FLYER and CLIPPER’s restaurant is one story, while the frillier dining room on the ROYAL CLIPPER is multi-level with a vaguely 19th-century Mississippi steamboat look.

The continental cuisine is simple and delicately spiced, with several options for dinner entrees, plus soup, salad and appetisers. To please the mainly European clientele, there are plenty of cheeses and marinated meats and fish at breakfast and lunch, and at dinner there are always pasta and fish dishes, plus choices like eggplant Parmesan and broiled lobster.

The staff is happy to accommodate special orders and second helpings, and several theme nights per cruise see them donning Italian garb or other fun costumes. A 24-hour coffee and tea station is set up on the bar, and each afternoon a complimentary snack is offered at the Tropical Bar, from waffles with chocolate sauce to fried plantains and salsa. About 11:30pm each night, a cheese board, fruit, or another snack is set out by the piano bar for late-night noshing.

Passengers are free to climb on the bowsprit mast. Weeeeee! Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

Passengers are free to climb on the bowsprit mast. Weeeeee! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Star Clippers Activities & Entertainment

There is rarely more than one sea day on a Star Clippers cruise, though the ships are usually on the move before dinner and early mornings so guests get plenty of time to enjoy the ships at sea. When weather conditions cooperate, the sails are put up and the engines are turned off; otherwise engines power the ship as well as a few sails up for show. The cruise director or captain does at least one talk a day about the ships or the destination, and passengers are welcome to crawl into the bowsprit netting at the front of the ships for an exciting stint sunbathing above the crashing surf.

When in port several times per cruise, you can climb a mast in a harness and stand on the crow’s next 55 feet up for sweeping views. Passengers are free to stroll into the chart house to chat with the captain or officer on duty, and occasionally there are engine room tours, excursions via tender to photograph the ships under sail, and exercise classes on deck. The ROYAL CLIPPER has a small gym and “spa,” while STAR CLIPPER and FLYER offer massages from a tent-like room up on deck within earshot of the crashing surf.

In port, if you don’t go off on a guided excursion or a walkabout on your own, there is free watersports equipment including paddle boards, windsurfers and snorkeling gear which are hauled to a nearby beach (passengers are shuttled back and forth on one of the ships’ pair of zodiac boats, which also offer water skiing) or used right next to the ship if anchored in an appropriate spot, inviting passengers to hop right into the sea. Some itineraries offer scuba diving opportunities for certified divers, including equipment (for an extra charge).

photo safari

The beloved “photo safari” when passengers can take photos of the ship from tenders. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Evenings, it’s drinks before and after dinner at the Tropical Bar, when a key board player is often on had to serenade passengers with evergreens. After dinner, there’s an hour or so of entertainment offered, from a local folk dance troupe when in port late (ie steel drummers in the Caribbean to whirling dervishes in Turkey) to a crew talent show, trivia contest or dress-up dance party. Once in a while a movie may be shown on deck, projected onto a sail. Things rarely howl on too late.

Along the Same Lines

Windstar’s sailing ships are the closest, and Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II are in the ballpark too.

Star Clippers Contact Info

Star Clipper Palace, 4, rue de la Turbie, 98000 Monaco;; (377) 97-97-84-00.    


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Overseas Adventure Travel

Here is a major travel firm that covers the world with land tours and many integrated with a cruise component, some as short as 3 nights and on up to 2 weeks and a bit more. Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) has been in business for over 40 years and is part of Grand Circle Travel, so there may be overlapping bookings from both sources. The multitude of O.A.T. itineraries are highly creative, and often they are cruises on ships taking between 16 and 210 passengers, many with land extensions, and land tours only. Here we cover a sampling of travel choices where a small ship cruise forms an integral part.

Overseas Adventure Travel

South China Seas sunset. * Photo: Ted Scull


Because there are so many choices, numerous ships are involved, some owned by Grand Circle Cruise Line, others chartered by Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure Travel, and in two cases, ships that also carry passengers who are not booked through O.A.T. or Grand Circle. These are cruise tours that include the Chilean fjords and the Yangtze River portion of a much longer China/Tibet cruise tour.

Passenger Profile

Americans, mostly 50+ and active. Levels of activities are noted with every departure — most cruise tours rate 2 on a scale of 1 to 6, but overall they range from 1 to 4 in terms of level of how active they are. With every itinerary, there is additional specific information about the distance to be covered on foot, the presence of uneven surfaces, and if significant, the number of stairs to be climbed.


$ to $$$ — A wide range of rates depends on the ship involved, with most moderately priced. Singles are well catered for, and often there is no single supplement, and if there is, it is a smallish extra charge. Passengers who wish to share can apply for a roommate. Every cruise tour has a chart that includes the availability of single accommodations.


250 foot tower of ice. Antarctica * Photo: Ted Scull


O.A.T. offers a huge range of small-ship cruises in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Middle East, Central and South America, Egypt, China and Antarctica. Groups of no more than 25 go ashore with separate guides. There are simply too many choices, especially in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, to list them all here. Where the ship is not specifically named, the number passengers carried is mentioned.

Sample Itineraries

Mediterranean: 16 days from Athens (Piraeus) to six Aegean Islands and Ephesus (Turkey); 16 days beginning in Zagreb to sail along the Croatian and Dalmatian Coasts, calling in at Split, Hvar, Dubrovnik, Kotor, a stop in Albania and onto the Corfu, Delphi and Athens  aboard Grand Circle’s 50-passenger ATHENA. Other regional itineraries include Portugal, Spain, France, Italy (including Sicily), Malta, Adriatic ports, and Cyprus. Groups of 22-25 go ashore with a licensed guide.

New 15-day cruise tour returns to Turkey, including Istanbul and the Turkish coast, the via the Dardanelles to the Greek Islands and Athens. 7 days is spent aboard the company-owned 50-passenger ATHENA.

Northern Europe: 15 days England, Wales (3 ports), Ireland, Northern Island, and Scotland (5 ports including three isles) aboard the 98-passenger CORINTHIAN operated by Grand Circle Cruise Line. Additional cruises feature the Baltic ports, north of Norway (using Hurtigruten coastal ships that generally exceed our 300 passenger limit) and Finland, and Iceland.

Egypt: 16-day cruise-tour includes Cairo and the Pyramids, a 7-night Nile cruise from Karnak to Aswan aboard the privately-chartered 75-passenger NEFERTITI. N.B. The day visit to Abu Simbel facing Lake Nasser involves a very early start and a four-hour bus ride in each direction. Participants have the option to remain in Aswan for the day.

Overseas Adventure Travel

Nile riverboat NEFERTITI takes 75 passengers. * Photo: Overseas Adventure Travel

Israel, Egypt & Jordan: 18-day land & cruise tour begins and ends in Israel with 7 nights aboard the 89-passenger CLIO operated by Grand Circle Cruise Line. The cruise leaves Israel (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tiberias, Dead Sea) and sails for Egypt with calls that give access to Cairo and the pyramids, and after a Suez Canal transit, the Nile Valley (Karnak, Luxor) and Jordan, including Petra. Then return to Israel.

Panama: 12-day cruise tour of Panama, the country and the canal, including kayaking on Gatun Lake. Cruise transits the canal, taking 3 nights with stops along the way to view the canal operations, wildlife and local people, plus a land tour to visit indigenous people and Panama City. The privately-chartered catamaran 24-passenger M/S DISCOVERY is operated by Grand Circle Cruise Line.

South America: Itineraries with a cruise element include the Galapagos Islands, a 3- or 4-night cruise aboard an exclusively chartered 16-passenger yacht, plus Machu Picchu and Cusco; a 6-night Amazon and tributaries cruise aboard an exclusively chartered 24-passenger riverboat; and Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean fjords and glaciers aboard either the 100-passenger  STELLA AUSTRALIS or VENTUS AUSTRALIS shared with other passengers, while ashore with a guide it is no more than 25 O.A.T. passengers.

Overseas Adventure Tours

100-passenger VENTUS AUSTRALS. * Photo: Australis

Antarctica: 15-day cruise tour from Buenos Aires includes a 9-night expedition cruise aboard the company-owned 98-passenger CORINTHIAN sailing from Ushuaia.  Groups of no more than 22 passengers go ashore at landings along the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.

China and Tibet: A 22-day land tour uses air, coach, train and a 3-night downstream Yangtze River cruise. Riverboat (various used) holds from 208-378 passengers, and O.A.T. group never exceeds 25 when going ashore. Itinerary includes Beijing, Xian and the terra cotta warriors, Chengdu (panda sanctuary), Wuhan, 3 nights in Lhasa, Tibet and finishes up in Hong Kong.

Note: New are women only departures, and those that include a small ship cruise component are to Argentina’s Patagonia region and a Chilean cruise aboard an Cuceros Australis ship, and another including the Galapagos and the Peruvian Amazon. .

Included Features

It varies as so many different types of trips are involved, but it is safe to say most meals (all on ships), excursions and most tips are included in fares.

Why Go?

Overseas Adventure Travel and Grand Circle Line are long-time professionals in the travel business, and if you (as an American) prefer traveling with your own country folk, then you have found your operator. The firms offer worldwide itineraries so someone who wants a one-stop shop, here it is.

When to Go?

All itineraries include the best time of the year to go, and also fringe season when the weather may be hot, rainy or cold. Check the climate averages for wherever and whenever you are thinking of going.

Cabins, Public Rooms, Dining, Activities & Entertainment

With so many different ships used, but most under control of O.A.T. or Grand Circle Travel and Grand Circle Cruise Line, the ships will be of a high, if not necessarily a luxurious standard.

Special Notes

The Overseas Adventure Travel website has an abundance of resources to help visualize and understand the part of the world in which you are interested. If you are anxious to know your ship’s reputation, just Google the ship’s name and add “reviews.”

Overseas Adventure Travel

Mekong River fish market, Vietnam. * Photo: Ted Scull

Along the Same Lines

Zegrahm Expeditions with its worldwide itineraries though with decidedly fewer departures.


Overseas Adventure Travel, 347 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210; 800-955-1925 for new bookings & information; 800-221-0814 for existing bookings.


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QuirkyCruise reader review

Reviewer: Laura Holman.

Cruise Line: Sail in Greece.

Ship: M/S Alexia.

Destination: The CycladesGreek Isles.

# of Nights: 7.

Departure Date & Ports: July 23, 2016, round-trip from Mykonos.

OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you been on a small ship cruise before? I’ve been on 2 small ship cruises.

Review: Sail Greece for under 35s.

We joined a cruise called YOLO to sail around the Greek Islands with a company called Sail in Greece. We were 25 people on board and had great time. Well priced and ideal for young people.

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews here, honest feedback from real passengers!!

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QuirkyCruise reader review

Reviewer: Don from Toronto.

Cruise Line: Windstar Cruises.

Ship: Wind Star.

Destination: Greek Isles.

# of Nights: 7.

Departure Date & Ports: July 23, 2016, round-trip from Athens/Piraeus, visiting Mykonos (replaced by Milos), Santorini, Rhodes, Kalymnos/Myrties and Nafplio.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Have you been on a small ship cruise before? Yes, 10+ with Windstar.

Review: Great itinerary that included two ports we’ve never been to before.

We had initially booked a 7-day Windstar cruise entitled “Greek Isles and Turkish Delights,” but two weeks before departure Windstar cancelled that itinerary because of the situation in Turkey and replaced it with one that included only the Greek Isles. As this was a special itinerary put together at the last minute, it is no longer available. However, Windstar’s “Treasures of the Greek Isles,” now on offer for 2017, is almost identical.

While disappointed that we couldn’t visit Turkey, this revised itinerary was great nonetheless as it included a couple of places that we hadn’t visited previously including Nafplio, a pleasant seaside town famous for the UNESCO site of Mycenea, and the Isle of Milos, another last-minute switch as the sea was too rough to operate the ship’s tenders in Mykonos.

Wind Star is not a typical cruise ship. It is described more aptly as a yacht, as it has functioning sails and accommodates only 149 passengers (with almost the same number of crew.) Service is consistently excellent, as is the food, which is served either on deck or in the larger dining room. Cabins are approximately 190 square feet but are designed well so that they seem larger. Bathrooms are nicely appointed with granite counters and high-end toiletries. All cabins have 2 portholes. Cabins are situated on the first and second decks. We always book a cabin on the first deck as they’re identical anyway, slightly less expensive, and more stable should seas be rough. Passengers were about 60% American, with a remaining mix of Europeans, Canadians and Australians. Age range was between 30 years to late 60s, early 70s. As the ship does not have elevators and does not offer much in the way of entertainment it tends to attract an active clientele who are more interested in exploring the ports of call. One of my favourite features of the ship is the watersports platform that is extended when the ship is anchored off shore — great when cruising the Greek Isles.  Overall, a wonderful experience. Highly recommended.

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews here, honest feedback from real passengers!!

small ship cruises copyright

Variety Cruises

Variety Cruises (formerly known as Zeus Casual Cruises) is one of the world’s largest small-ship cruise companies. Founded in 1968, it’s still going strong with a fleet of 12 fully owned yachts carrying between 8 and 72 passengers on intimate voyages in warm-weather regions around the world. They often stay late in a given port if the nightlife and restaurant scene is worth exploring.

The fleet comprises eight motor yachts and sail-assisted motor sailers (34 to 72 passengers a piece), and four private yachts (with 5 or 6 cabins a piece). The entire Variety fleet is popular with private charter groups, including college alumni groups and travel companies that charter the vessels for photography, birdwatchers, wine, history, archeology and other themed cruises. (The four private yachts are only sold as full-ship charters with a crew, while the eight larger vessels also operate scheduled cruises.)

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The Harmony V in Santorini. * Photo: Variety Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

Divided into two groups: Private yachts — OBSESSION (built 2002, 5 cabins), MONTE CARLO (b. 2000, 5 cabins), ABSOLUTE KING (b. 2002, 5 cabins), and S/Y CHRISTIANA VIII (b. 2005, 6 cabins); and Mini cruise ships (motor yachts/motor sailers) — VARIETY VOYAGER (built 2012, 72 passengers), HARMONY V (b. 2003 & rebuilt 2009, 49 p), HARMONY G (b. 2001, 44 p), CALLISTO (b. 2000, 34 p), PANORAMA (b. 1993 & rebuilt 2001, 46 p), PANORAMA II (b. 2004, 49 p), GALILEO (b. 1992 & rebuilt 2007, 49 p), and PEGASUS (b. 1990 & rebuilt 1997, 44 p).

Imagine the views from this sun deck! * Photo: Variety Cruises

Imagine the views from this sun deck! * Photo: Variety Cruises

Passenger Decks

3 – 4 (no elevators)


$ – $$  Moderate to Expensive

Included Features

Drinking water, coffee and tea.


At any given time there are about a dozen cruise itineraries to choose from, mostly seven nights, including:

  • Year-round, 3-, 4- and 7-night Seychelles cruises aboard PEGASOS from Mahe or Praslin
  • Summers April – Nov, various 7-night Greek Isles cruises round-trip from Athens, and between Athens and Istanbul (including some with an expert lecturers, generally offered on PANORAMA II or GALILEO, speaking about the archaeology and history of the islands)
  • Winters Dec – March, 7 nights Costa Rica cruises between Colon, Panama and Puntarenas Port, Costa Rica
  • Winters Dec – April, 7 nights Cuba cruises round-trip from Havana NO CUBA CRUISES LISTED ON THE LINE’S WEBSITE FOR LATE FALL  INTO WINTER & SPRING 2019/2020
  • Winters Dec – March, 7 nights Canary Islands between Las Palmas and Tenerife
  • Winters Nov, 7 nights Cape Verde (south of Canary Islands) round-trip from Praia, Sao Tiago
Galileo is as gorgeous as her surroundings. * Photo: Variety Cruises

WOW! Galileo is as gorgeous as her surroundings. * Photo: Variety Cruises


Why Go

To feel like you own the ship and aren’t bound by rigid schedules or bogged down by big crowds.

When to Go?

Variety positions its fleet in the regions at the best time to be there.


Across the fleet, each cabin has a window or porthole, twin or a queen bed, and private bathrooms with branded toiletries and showers — some top suites have marble clad bathrooms. All rooms have flat screen TVs, DVD players, mini fridges, individually controlled A/C, safes and Wi-Fi (for a fee). VARIETY VOYAGER also has robes for passengers’ use.

Variety Voyager's very posh Category P Cabin. * Photo: Variety Cruises

Variety Voyager’s very posh Category P Cabin. * Photo: Variety Cruises

Public Rooms

The interior spaces are sleek in elegant wood paneling and buttery leather upholstery. All the vessels have an indoor lounge, bar and dining area. Some of the larger vessels also have outdoor dining space and a second bar, mini spa, and a small library. The sundeck on each has loungers and/or sun beds and a swimming platform at the stern provides easy access for watersports. Each boat carries aboard kayaks, and VARIETY VOYAGER and PANORAMA II also have stand-up paddle boards.


All offer one, open seating in an indoor dining room for all meals; some ships also have outdoor seating. Breakfasts are buffet style, and lunch and/or dinners are a combination of buffet and a la carte services, with BBQs offered on deck and on shore from time to time. Meals with an international appeal might include cream of asparagus soup and an endive and radicchio salad followed by a main course such as a smoked salmon fillet or roast veal, ending with something delicious and decadent like vanilla profiteroles drizzled with hot chocolate fudge. Various dietary needs are happily accommodated.

Activities & Entertainment

There are typically multiple swim stops throughout the week when passengers can hop into the water right from the vessels when at anchor in calm seas. Free snorkeling equipment is supplied on each boat. The ships stop at a port once per day, sometimes twice, and each carries one or two zodiacs for quick trips to shore. Except for complimentary walking tours in the Seychelles, shore excursions are optional (for a fee) and the greatest number are offered on itineraries in Costa Rica, Cuba and Canary Islands, with fewer options in the Greek Isles where many passengers want to explore on their own. Picnics on picturesque beaches are scheduled where possible.

Variety Cruises

Snorkeling in the Seychelles. * Photo: Variety Cruises

When at sea, it’s all about cool drinks and sunbathing on deck, and on the largest ships (including VOYAGER, HARMONY V and PEGASOS), working in a visit to the mini spa or massage room. There are a handful of theme cruises throughout the year usually in the Greek Isles with an archaeologist on board to lecture about various cultural and historical aspects of the destination. On the Costa Rica and Panama cruises, a naturalist sails with the group and presents talks. Otherwise, all scheduled cruises have a cruise director on board to assist passengers with the optional excursions and to share port information, and sometimes there’s an additional lecturer as well.

It's paradise aboard the 5-cabin Obsession. * Photo: Variety Cruises

It’s paradise aboard the 5-cabin Obsession. * Photo: Variety Cruises

Along the Same Lines

In Costa Rica and in Cuba, Pearl Seas Cruises; in Greece and the Adriatic there’s no real competition.


Variety Cruises House, 214-216 Syngrou Ave, 17672, Athens Greece;, +30 210 6919191

­— HMS

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Gorgeous Amorgos from a scooter!

Star Clippers Greek Isles Cruise.

By Heidi Sarna.

After 30 some cruises on the megas enjoying the playrooms and video arcades, my 12-year-old twin sons Kavi and Tejas were finally old enough for a small-ship cruise. We booked a 7-night sailing round-trip from Athens on Star Clippers’ 178-passenger Star Clipper, where, besides a cabin TV for movies and wifi, entertainment boiled down to hanging out with mom and dad in port and learning the ropes of a clipper ship.

Climbing the masts is an event. Photo © Heidi Sarna

Climbing the masts is an event. Photo © Heidi Sarna

While many of the adults, a mix of mostly middle-aged Europeans and North Americans, chose sunbathing up on deck or taking a dip in the small pool, my sons preferred helping to pull up the sails and climbing the masts.

Pulling up the sails on a Star Clippers Greek Isles Cruise

My sons helping to pull up the sails! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Several times when the ship was at anchor, the adventurous of all ages were invited to don a safety harness and a climb a rope ladder to the crow’s nest observation platform 55 feet above the deck.

Climbing the masts on a Star Clippers Greek Isles Cruise

Climbing the masts! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

When they weren’t climbing up, they were crawling down into the net attached to the forward facing bowsprit mast just a few feet above the waves. This gorgeous replica of a mid-19th century clipper ship was their playground for the week.

Star Clipper is a sight to behold under full sail. Photo © Heidi Sarna

Star Clipper is a sight to behold under full sail. Photo © Heidi Sarna

The Perfect Ports

Kusadasi, Turkey

The first full day on route to Kusadasi, Turkey, was the week’s only sea day and for my husband Arun, sons and many other passengers, it was unfortunately spent lying down clutching a sick bag. Though the sky was blue, 40-knot winds whipped up five-meter white caps and Star Clipper bucked through the surf. The ship’s sails were raised and taut against the wind, pushing us to speeds of 14 to 15 knots by sail power alone (compared to its usual 8 to 10 knots with the engines engaged).

For some passengers, choppy seas are a beloved part of the authentic sailing experience, for others, they’re something to endure (don’t forget to pack Sea-Bands and Transderm Scop seasickness patches). By dinnertime, the chop died down and the rest of the week was smooth sailing.

We docked the next morning in Kusadasi and it was just a 20-minute drive to the spectacular Roman ruins of Ephesus. We signed up for the ship’s half-day guided tour and marvelled at the towering façade of the 2,000-year-old Library of Celsus, the enormous 24,000-seat amphitheatre and the ancient city’s marble streets. Our boys got a kick out of the row of ancient stone toilets in a communal bathroom.

The facade of the ancient Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey. Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

The facade of the ancient Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey. Photo credit: Heidi Sarna


The next day was Patmos, a hilly little island without an airport, which our excellent multi-lingual guide Vera told us was its saving grace. No airport means fewer crowds. We toured two beautiful old monasteries, including the “Holy Grotto of the Revelation,” a small hillside cave where St. John the Theologian, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, was said to have been inspired to write the Book of Revelations.

Afterward the tour, we ate lunch at a taverna, a delicious routine we’d repeat all week

We feasted on grilled squid and juicy red tomatoes. My foodie son Tejas fell in love with the mashed feta cheese salad and the crusty bread, and my husband and I went gaga over the smoky taste of the “melitzanosalata” pureed eggplant salad.

Greece is all about food — a typical lunch in port. Photo © Heidi Sarna

Greece is all about food — a typical lunch in port. Photo © Heidi Sarna


Our third port Amorgos and by far my favourite. A lovely Italian couple from the ship, Carlo and Marie, invited us to join them on a self-guided motor scooter tour. Though it had been a few decades since I drove a scooter, the offer was too tempting to refuse. Thankfully there isn’t much vehicular traffic on Amorgos (no airport!), and after a shaky first few kilometres, my confidence returned.

With my son Tejas clutching my waist, my other son Kavi riding behind my husband, and the Italians in the lead, our convoy of three scooters zipped along the winding cliff-top roads of the arid mountainous Amorgos as we gasped at the views.

Gorgeous Amorgos from a scooter!

Motor scootering and amazing views of Amorgos. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Gorgeous Amorgos, an amazing place to rent a motor scooter. Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

Gorgeous Amorgos, an amazing place to rent a motor scooter. Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

We headed for the best beach on the island, Mourou, a wedge of pebbles at the foot of a rocky bluff. It was a scene out of Planet of the Apes, only this version had topless European women and children with sand buckets. We swam in the strong surf, climbed rocks and explored the edges of grottos, as I both reveled in the adventure and worried someone would drown. Eventually it was time to walk back up to the top of the cliff for yet another fabulous lunch at a local restaurant.

A beach on gorgeous Amorgos on a Star Clippers Greek Isles Cruise

A remote beach on gorgeous Amorgos. * Photo: Heidi Sarna


Day five was Mykonos, a busy island (with an airport!) known for its rocking nightlife. I hoped my boys didn’t notice the condoms flung amidst the seaside rocks at one photo stop near a whitewashed chapel. We strolled through the old town’s classic jumble of lanes, winding up at the nearly deserted but interesting Archaeological Museum for a look at Hellenistic vases and statuary dating back more than 2,000 years.

After lunch on the island, we went back to ship, hopped in a zodiac boat driven by the ship’s young water sports staff and headed for a nearby beach. We swam, kayaked and tried our hand at paddle boarding, which looks easier than it is. My son Kavi, ignoring mom’s pleas to be careful and watch the rocks (and to wear his aqua shoes), steered into some boulders, toppled off, and wound up standing right on top of a cluster of sea urchins. Luckily the tiny needles got lodged in the thick skin of his heel mitigating any real pain, and gradually fell out weeks later.


Our last port was the tiny island of Monemvasia, a rocky plateau just off the southern most part of the Greek mainland. We left our boys on board the ship to watch movies, and set off on an uphill trek along the ramparts of a medieval fortress, rewarded with sweeping views of the harbour.

We then roamed around Monemvasia’s picturesque old town, a golden maze of ancient Byzantine churches and sandstone houses with red tile roofs.

At one point, we found ourselves on a narrow lane that led to the sea, where a small stone jetty with a ladder beckoned us into the water for a quick swim.

Refreshed, we then strolled some more, stopping at a charming café for a glass of the local sweet wine before heading back to the ship, exhilarated once again.

Stunning views from the top of Monemvasia's ancient citadel. Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

Stunning views from the top of Monemvasia’s ancient citadel. Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

We shared our day with our sons over dinner in Star Clipper’s open-seating dining room. Tables seat 6 or 8, but we usually had a table to ourselves as the ship wasn’t sailing full. Food was simple and delicately spiced, and I especially enjoyed the eggplant Parmesan, broiled lobster and tasty desserts. My sons often ordered pasta and waiters were happy to accommodate special orders and second helpings.

Breakfasts were buffet-style and included a made-to-order omelette station, and at 5pm, a teatime spread in the Tropical Bar featured goodies like waffles with chocolate sauce.

Delish broiled lobster for dinner on board. Photo © Heidi Sarna

Delish broiled lobster for dinner on board. Photo © Heidi Sarna

After dinner amusements took place at the open-air Tropical Bar and ranged from a local folk dance troupe brought on board for a few hours in Kusadasi to a crew talent show and fun trivia contests. Most passengers headed to bed by 11pm, retiring to cozy wood-paneled rooms with brass details, platform beds, and portholes.

We could see and hear the water sloshing against the porthole glass of our rooms on the Commodore Deck, a constant and pleasing reminder we were on a “real ship.”

View from our Commodore Deck cabin. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

View from our Commodore Deck cabin. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

If a Star Clippers small-ship cruise appeals to you (and how could it not!), we also sampled and wrote about these awesome adventures with Star Clippers below! And here’s the Star Clippers site for pricing info.

Star Clippers in Thailand

Star Clippers in French Polynesia

Star Clippers in the French Riviera & Sardinia

Star Clippers in the Caribbean

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