Where do I even begin to start with this one!?
I have just returned from the most fabulous trip ever, hosted by Nicola from Star Clipper and Gillian from ITC.
We had a pre and post night stay in Phuket before boarding the magical Star Clipper for 7 nights sailing through the breath-taking Andaman Sea.
When I was first offered this trip, I will be completely honest and say I was a little apprehensive. I've sold Star Clipper for a fair few years and have some clients who go year after year so I knew how fantastic the product would be. I was just not sure it would be for me! I am not a cruiser or a sailor, and I was concerned that the ship was so small and that it would be very rough, and you would always feel the movement.
How glad am I that I accepted and embarked on the trip of a lifetime!
On arrival we stayed at the Sala in Phuket which was beautiful - the setting and the beach was like something from a movie.
The Sala is roughly 1hr15 from Patong which is where you embark the Clipper. We were transferred from the Sea View hotel which is right opposite where the ship docks. A lot of Star Clipper guests stayed at the Sea View out of convenience but from what I saw it's not for me. If you have a late flight in and it's just somewhere to put your head then it might be okay - Patong is a very busy touristy resort.
After filling in the embarkation forms it was our time to get the tender over to the ship.
As we approached the Star Clipper I was still feeling quite nervous, it is so small! I just imagined once on board you would feel every slight moment.
The South East Asia trip that we were embarking on was mainly visiting uninhabited islands with the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.
We all got ready for our first sail away party - a memory that will last forever. With the sails going up to the sound of Vangelis, champagne in hand, the whole ship lit up. It was very moving.
Our first port of call was Ko Surin - we all woke up to the beautiful sight of all the sails up as we sailed through the Andaman sea. We were not due to arrive until midday today so it was a real treat on our first morning on board to wake up and know you were literally 'sailing' through the sea.
We got our spot on top deck and watched the approach into Ko Surin. Once anchored we were all eager to go ashore and visit our first destination.
One thing to mention on this particular sailing is the tender service - these are quite eye opening in regard to getting off the Clipper and into the tender which is the ships life boat. You walk down the ladder to sea level and step over into the tender. However, we had quite high winds on this trip (which were excellent sailing conditions) so this did mean getting into the tender was quite a job! The current and swell was always very strong which meant the tender would be moving and the ladder swaying so you had to be very careful. However, the crew were fantastic in dealing with this. They made you feel very safe and were always there to help you onboard.
On arrival into Ko Surin the sports team had set up some water sports and advised the best beach was accessed by walking a few minutes to the opposite side of the island. Wow! What a sight this was. Our first day, our first beach, how could we better this?
We did some kayaking, had a beer on the beach and headed back to the Clipper in time for sail away again. The sail away is something that happens every night and something you will never tire of.
Ko Similan was the next port which was one of the most beautiful beaches - soft white sand and the clearest of sea. However, Star Clipper do warn you that at this current time there is sadly an invasion of tourists! So, it was exceptionally busy here and combined with a very hot day and little shade we did not stay for too long.
The next stop for us was Langkawi - I was really looking forward to this as we had planned to take a taxi to the cable cars! The cable cars are located about 30 minutes for the port so really easy to access on your own. Sadly, when we arrived the cable car was closed due to high winds. We had a wonder round the area, grabbed a coffee then heard an announcement that we were good to go and they had opened! The queue for tickets was exceptionally long! I would highly recommend buying the express pass as within no time we were sat in the cable car making our way up.
The views were incredible. Halfway up you change car to then go on up to the highest point. Once at the top a few of us decided to pay a little extra and do the sky walk which was amazing! Slightly scary but amazing! As we were walking across the sky walk the winds picked up and it looked like a storm was on it's way so we didn't hang around for long! After visiting beaches for a couple of days Langkawi was a welcome change and did not disappoint.
Now for my absolute highlight - Ao Phang Nga, better known as James Bond Island. There was an excursion taking you off to James Bond Island where Man With The Golden Gun was filmed. However, I decided to stay on board. The crew then announced that they would be drawing a raffle and those selected would be lucky enough to go off on the zodiac and sail through all the limestone rocks, see the Clipper under full sail from a distance and sail alongside. How lucky that three out of our group was picked and I was one of them! This was just an incredible experience - seeing Star Clipper under full sail, watching her appear from behind the limestone rocks was something that will stay with me forever. The best bit of all was when the crew all walked out along the plank, and we sailed right underneath the ship.
All of my worries before this trip thankfully did not come to anything. Star Clipper is a very sturdy stable ship. Yes, you can feel some movement, but nothing like what I was expecting. I think if you pick the right cabin you will be fine. My category 3 cabin, 107 was quite noisy of an evening and as I am not used to that kind of thing, I did find that a little off putting but after a couple of nights you got used to it. The cabins themselves are quite small and so are the bathrooms but having now sailed I fully understand that you really are never in your cabin. Why would you be when you could be on the sun deck?!
One stand out thing for me was all of the crew, they work so hard all day and night. You can see how much they love their job. They are one massive team which is so evident. Always happy, smiling and nothing is too much trouble for them.
We were exceptionally lucky and had beautiful weather for the whole trip and perfect sailing conditions which meant we were under the sails for a lot of the time.
Entertainment on-board is quite low key - staff fashion show, quiz night, a pianist, but it was always enjoyable. However, during different parts of the day and evenings there were lectures you could attend with history of the ship and information on the areas we were visiting.
The dress code on-board is super casual, no traditional formal evenings. Just smart casual.
The best evening for me was the Captains night - after dinner the crew got all the passengers on the dance floor and our Captain, Sergej, doing the macarena was hilarious!
A handy tip from me - please take a pair of beach shoes with you. They will be your best investment for this cruise. You need something like this for getting on and off the tender and you may have some wet landings so flip flops are not suitable.
I really could just carry on telling you about this trip and how special the whole experience was. Would I recommend this to anyone? Absolutely yes!