At 9:45pm on Thursday, August 29th, the soundtrack of the Christopher Columbus "1492" movie came out on the upper deck, where all passengers were assembled. While the 21 sails on the Star Flyer came up in the air, slowly, quietly, the ship left the harbor of Papeete. It was the beginning of my first epic adventure as a “sailor”!
We all get to wear different hats in the travel business - we become once a Spa lover, once a Honeymooner, anything that allows us to understand destinations and clients better! It was my turn to become an experienced ocean buff, maybe braving high winds and big swells, on a small sailing ship.
What a convenience to travel to seven different islands in 10 days, without packing and unpacking more than once, or deal with the inter-island flight and airport requirements! It was just so easy - 1 hour after landing in Papeete after a smooth flight and quick transfer operated by Star Clippers, I was in my cabin.
We were 124 passengers on board. The majority were from Germany or America. Then they were a few British, Brazilian, Dutch, French, Spanish, Canadian, Swiss and South African travelers. The crew was also very colorful! Its countries of origin were India, Philippines, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, and other parts yonder. While sailing on the Star Flyer was a real social experience on its own, meeting travelers from around the world was very enriching.
The chef, who was from Jamaica, was very talented, especially with spices. Lunch buffets were delicious, with different themes every day, and the a-la-carte dinners were great as well. I especially enjoyed the European-influenced cuisine.
Cabins were extremely clean, with a turn-down service at night. But they are very small, and the bathrooms, too. Mattresses are comfortable but thin & hard – the way European mattresses often are. There's a TV, but you better speak some French to enjoy its channels in this part of the world. Movies are available to rent any time onboard.
The Tuamotus - Fakarava and Rangiroa - were up to my expectations, like paradise on earth! Taha'a, Bora Bora and Raiatea were fabulous too! Arriving to each island on the Star Flyer was special — there was a sense of being up close and personal with the island, different than arriving by plane.
Where we tendered, the waiting time for a tender was, on average, about one minute. Flexibility to go back and forth between the land and the ship? Total. Tenders are even available for private requests such as going to visit a hotel or getting a complimentary drop-off and pick-up at the Bloody Mary's restaurant for dinner. All water-sports were available either from the ship or from land. (kayaks, jet ski, etc.)
Back on board, service was fabulous: the crew was very convivial, always ready to satisfy anybody's needs. The ship was shining all the time, as crew members were cleaning it constantly.
The Captain, Hotel Manager, Chief Mate and sports team are among the guests at all times. They are available for a chat, for a question, for dinner. They all take their meals with passengers, trying different tables every night.
They even occasionally participate in the numerous activities: crab race, music quiz, disco night, Tahitian dance lessons for women AND men, weaving of coconut tree leaves, etc. You can decide to do it all or nothing at all. Quiet spaces such as the library and piano bar are also available.
Most Precious moments on board:Sunrise & sunset viewings on the upper deck, wind blowing in my face, watching the Captain and the Star Flyer crew maneuvering the ship, asking questions, conversing with the passengers hanging out, sipping tea, coffee, or a sundowner. It was so special and so unique!
I personally had a wonderful time on the Star Flyer although the weather ended up being quite bad and the Captain had to cancel the 2 last stops on our itinerary, Huahine and Moorea, due to strong winds.
Star Clippers is a very active, adventurous and efficient way to discover French Polynesia. But you must understand what type of cabin/comfort you can expect, and how social the experience will be.
I'd compare my Star Clippers experience at sea with the Club Med on land: Same great (amazing) value for what the product is. And so much fun!! But it’s a specific type of vacation that is not suitable for everybody.
The Star Flyer took me to the best Tahiti has to offer, in just a few days.