Cannes, France — This past Saturday morning, I disembarked an eight-day cruise on Star Flyer, and I can now say with confidence that a sailing on Star Flyer is unlike an ordinary cruise on ships large or small. Not once during our eight days sailing the Mediterranean did Star Flyer tie up alongside a dock, and that alone says something about this cruise.
Sure, any small ship can drop anchor in snug harbors and dispatch passengers ashore by tenders, as Star Flyer did in each port we visited this week. But Star Flyer does something that most ships don’t do: She recaptures the romance of sailing.
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Though it would be overly ambitious to characterize Star Flyer as a pirate ship, the sailing vessel did manage to bring out the Jack Sparrow in many of us this week, especially on the next-to-the-last night, when we dressed as pirates and betted on crab races. The races, we were told, have been a tradition on sailing ships for centuries.
By week’s end, Star Flyer represented to many of us what the Black Pearl represented to Captain Jack Sparrow. In “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a movie that aired on our stateroom televisions during the first day on board, it was apparent that Sparrow had great affection for his sailing ship.
My own affection for Star Flyer and getting in touch with my “inner pirate” emerged slowly as the week unfolded. Being a weather-dependent cruise for the most part, our voyage was not blessed with fair winds and clear skies on all of the days, and I found myself, along with a few others, feeling a bit like the skies, overcast and cloudy, during one day in port.
But as we sailed away on that same day, the clouds broke and the blue sky emerged. Sailors hoisted sails and a fair wind filled the cloth. No motor. We were sailing.
The captain gave turns to allow passengers to steer the vessel. A German lady widened her stance and gripped the wheel, turning gently to the captain’s instructions. For a moment, she pretended to be a captain or an officer or perhaps a pirate.
Nearly all activities take place outdoors. There is little, aside from dinner, for indoor entertainment.
On Star Flyer, passengers commune with the sea and stars. On one night of our cruise, a sweater-clad couple descended from the upper deck. The woman said to a group of us standing nearby, “The stars are beautiful tonight.” I leaned back and looked up. Indeed they were, like tiny diamonds perched against a black felt cloth.
While few, if any, of us were swashbucklers, nearly all embraced the sailing spirit. Following an entertaining fashion show where staff presented themselves in sailing apparel, the gift shop was busier than usual the next day, as buyers purchased the blue-and-white striped sailing shirts and other nautical clothing. Sailors, no doubt.
On Star Flyer, you can certainly imagine yourself to be a sailor — or a pirate. That’s something not easily achieved on ships without the sails. If Jack Sparrow were ever inclined to jump ship from his beloved Black Pearl, he would find a happy home on Star Flyer. I know I did.
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