virtuoso global February 2019 Why it’s a great time to sail in Southeast Asia

Why it’s a great time to sail in Southeast Asia

With four masts, the <em>Star Clipper</em> cuts an elegant profile among the islands of Southeast Asia.
With four masts, the Star Clipper cuts an elegant profile among the islands of Southeast Asia.
Photo by Star Clippers
Star Clippers’ tall ship visits Cambodia for the first time next year.

There is nothing quite like the genuine tall ship experience: cutting through turquoise seas under more than a dozen wind-filled sails; anchoring in hidden coves that large cruise vessels can’t reach. Reveling in the golden age of sailing gets a little more golden next year when Star Clippers’ namesake ship begins calling in Cambodia for the first time.

The 170-passenger Star Clipper, with four masts and 16 traditionally rigged sails, is a true clipper ship with nineteenth-century design. Its polished brass and gleaming mahogany hearken back to the grand era of sailing. And its collection of antique prints and paintings of famous sailing ships stands as a tribute to Star Clippers’ proud nautical heritage.

“Star Clippers is a truly authentic sailing adventure,” explains Virtuoso travel advisor Mei-mei Engel. Her fondest memories of a recent voyage include lying in the bow net and watching the sea ripple directly below, and waking to quiet sunrises under the majesty of sails flapping above. “There’s a strong connection to the sea and sky and the wind upon our faces, each and every day on board,” she says.

Bow nets offer a truly unique perspective on the sea.
Bow nets offer a truly unique perspective on the sea.
Photo by Star Clippers
Much like a private yacht experience, life aboard a Star Clippers ship is informal and relaxed. Guests experience the pull of the wind filling the vessel’s sails. It’s easy to make new friends while climbing a rope ladder to reach the crow’s nest or even getting some hands-on knot-tying lessons from the crew. With unparalleled activities like these, it’s no wonder that more than 60 percent of Star Clippers’ guests are repeat bookings. In fact, two-thirds rebook within the first year.

The convivial atmosphere also flows at the indoor and outdoor bars, where friendly staff serve beer and wine or mix festive tropical drinks. Expect casual buffets for breakfast and lunch in the elegant (but never stuffy) dining room. Dinnertime brings leisurely multicourse meals with an ever-changing menu of excellent vegetarian, pasta, meat, and fish options. “There’s delicious gourmet dining from the chefs, with an exceptional onboard staff,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Lesley Anne Harpe. “Every day they would cater to all our wishes on board and welcome us back after a full day of adventure on land.”
Guests can help rig Star Clippers sails if they feel the call.
Guests can help rig Star Clippers sails if they feel the call.
Photo by Star Clippers
While you’re aboard, soak up sun on the expansive teak decks, cool off in the swimming pools, and unwind in spacious accommodations. You’ll never feel crowded, because Star Clippers’ vessels carry fewer passengers (170 to 227) than most conventional cruise ships and therefore offer more outdoor space per guest.

Star Clippers can also access smaller ports that larger vessels cannot, resulting in new discoveries and fewer crowds. Engel fondly recalls a recent Star Clippers adventure: “We tendered into islands so small they had no pier and jumped out on the beach in ankle-deep water to begin our day’s adventure far away from tourist hordes.”
Star Clippers combines nineteenth-century sailing traditions with modern-day trimmings.
Star Clippers combines nineteenth-century sailing traditions with modern-day trimmings.
Photo by Star Clippers

Eight new stops in Thailand, two in Cambodia

When Star Clipper launches these new 10- and 11-day journeys next year, it will drop anchor for the first time at some lesser-known gems in Thailand, like Ko Wua Ta Lap, a national marine park located in the southern Thai province of Surat Thani. A steep, 45-minute hike along a rocky path will reward you with one of the most breathtaking views in the entire country. Beach lovers can use the ship’s complimentary water sports equipment, scuba dive, snorkel, or just chill on a stretch of soft white sand.

The intimate island of Ko Samet has a little something for everyone, with bar-lined beaches to the north and a more family-friendly vibe to the south. On the flat island of Ko Mak, a new network of paths creates a cycling paradise.

Across the border, in Cambodian waters, Star Clipper calls on the densely forested, roadless paradise of Koh Rong, known for its coral reefs. Inland, you can join organized jungle walks among coconut palms and waterfalls. On the mainland, trendy Sihanoukville offers a peek into cosmopolitan life and some of the best beaches in the country.
 
You can’t take a bad photo of a Thai long-tail boat.
You can’t take a bad photo of a Thai long-tail boat.
Photo by Shutterstock
These new itineraries also mix in a fair share of bucket-list destinations. Both sailings begin and end in Ko Samui, Thailand’s second-largest island, which was featured in Alex Garland’s 1996 novel The Beach. Laid-back Ko Pha Ngan, a Thai island also in Surat Thani province, is a renowned backpacker destination famous for the all-night Full Moon Party, while Ko Tao, which means “Turtle Island,” attracts serious snorkelers and scuba divers.

Star Clipper will also call in Pattaya, a beachside city with hundreds of bars and a reputation for raucous nightlife. More subdued guests, however, can head for cultural attractions like the vibrant Pattaya Floating Market and tranquil Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. There’s also an optional overnight excursion to Cambodia’s iconic temples at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

While these routes are new, the tall ship experience is unchanged and unmatched. “It stole our hearts forever and left us with everlasting memories of full sails, new friendships, and life-changing cultural experiences,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Maria Mohinder. “You simply haven’t experienced luxury sailing until you do it with Star Clippers.”
Trip highlight: Sunset on Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.
Trip highlight: Sunset on Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.
Photo by Shutterstock

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