Cruise Diary: Crossing the Atlantic aboard a sailing ship, the Star Flyer

The following story is from Dave G. Houser's feature in All Things Cruise.

[caption id="attachment_16269" align="aligncenter" width="550"] View of Malaga from Gilbafaro Castle, Malaga, Spain.

Crossing the Atlantic on a sailing ship had been on my bucket list for many years – inspired largely by a couple of voyages I made with Star Clipper vessels Star Flyer and Royal Clipper in 1991 and 1995 respectively. When the opportunity came about to join Star Flyer on a 22-day transatlantic crossing from Malaga, Spain to Bridgetown, Barbados in October, I jumped at the chance.

To sail before the mast, following the trade winds along the same route taken by Columbus and other early explorers venturing from Europe to the New World, seemed to me a romantic and venturesome undertaking – a travel experience well beyond the ordinary.

It was my original plan to author a daily blog during the voyage, but after discovering that internet service onboard Star Flyer during such crossings is very slow, often unreliable and quite expensive (at about $8 an hour), I opted to post this report upon my return home.

Mercado de Atarazanas, Malaga, Spain.
Having never visited Malaga, in the heart of Spain’s fabled Costa del Sol, I booked a three-day stay in the city prior to my October 18 sailing. This proved to be a good decision and I heartily recommend such a pre-cruise visit to any of you who might join future fall crossings of the Star Clipper fleet. All three of the company’s vessels, Star Flyer, Star Clipper and Royal Clipper, routinely make the transatlantic crossing from the Mediterranean each October/November to reposition for the winter sailing season in the Caribbean. Here are some of my impressions and observations of the historic port city of Malaga:

[caption id="attachment_16271" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Marble-paved Calle de Marques Larios is Malaga's main shopping street, Malaga, Spain.

Malaga, like many Spanish cities, bears witness to a long and storied past. Founded by the Phoenicians more than 3,000 years ago, it was next colonized by the Carthaginians, the Romans, Visgoths and then by the Moors who held it for more than eight centuries. Finally Malaga came under Christian rule following the Reconquest in 1492. Aside from some damage and casualties suffered during the civil war of the 1930s, the city has subsequently enjoyed relative peace and prosperity.

Monuments to the Roman and Moorish times are to be seen around the city, including most visibly the Moorish Gilbafaro Castle and Alcazaba Fortress, and a well-preserved Roman Theater.

Built in the 14th century over the ruins of a Phoenician lighthouse, Gilbafaro Castle proved a good place to begin my visit as it affords a magnificent view of the city and harbor, and a good look too at Plaza de Toros de la Malgueta, the region’s top bull ring. Just below the castle sits the Alcazaba, built between the 8th and 11th centuries as the palace fortress of the Muslim governors.

I enjoyed meandering through the Alcazaba’s network of courtyards interspersed with tile and marble pools and fountains. It’s a relaxing setting, dappled in the shade of orange trees and draped with bougainvillea. A small museum houses a display of ceramics from the Muslim period and scattered all about the place are marble columns and other relics from the Roman times.

Situated at the foot of the Alcazaba, the Roman Theater rounds out Malaga’s most important archaeological collection. It was built in the 1st century BC during the reign of Augustus I and was used through the 3rd century AD. I paused to sit among the arching tiers of ancient stone – just to let my imagination wander for a moment.

[caption id="attachment_16273" align="alignright" width="245"] Malaga Cathedral, Malaga, Spain.
Malaga’s Cathedral draws a lot of attention, mainly due to a quirk in its construction. Building began in the 16th century but work was halted due to a lack of funds in 1782, leaving the south tower unfinished. This led residents to give it the nickname “One-Armed Lady.” It is nonetheless an impressive structure.

Iglesia de Santiago, built in the 15th century in Moorish-Gothic style, is another of Malaga’s most important and beloved churches. It is an aesthetic masterpiece, brimming with artistry. Malaga-born artist Pablo Picasso was christened therein and the church is home as well to some of the leading cofradias (brotherhoods) who lead the city’s huge Holy Week parade. The cofradias’ gleaming silver-plated parade floats are on display there.

Without question, Picasso is Malaga’s most famous native son – and I made it a point to visit both his birthplace and an extraordinary museum dedicated to his life and work.

Casa Natal, the house where Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in 1881, occupies a corner overlooking Plaza de la Merced and now serves as a museum housing a collection of his original works, along with books, documents and personal possessions of the painter and his family.

Just a few steps away is Museo Picasso Malaga, which opened to great fanfare in 2003 in the beautifully restored Palacio de Buenavista, a 16th century Renaissance-style palace. Brilliantly exhibited there in 12 galleries are more than 200 works – paintings, sketches, sculptures and ceramics – by Picasso, who is often described as the most influential artist of the 20th century. For me, Museo Picasso was the highlight of my stay in Malaga.

[caption id="attachment_16270" align="alignleft" width="245"] Mercado de Atarazanas, Malaga, Spain.
Another of the city’s attractions I found fascinating was Mercado de Atarazanas, a bustling market lined with stalls spilling over with local produce, meat, fish and baked goods. Housed in an iron structure typical of French markets of the 19th century, this one incorporates the original Puerta de Atarazanas, the exquisitely crafted 14th century Moorish gate that once connected the city with the port. A large stained glass window composed of scenes depicting Malaga’s history adds color and charm to the old marketplace.

My evenings in Malaga were spent dining al fresco on tapas and salad at whatever sidewalk café struck my fancy around Plaza de la Constitucion or along the busy and festive marble-paved shopping and entertainment thoroughfare Calle de Marques Larios.

On my final night I dined once again on those tasty, traditional tapas – but this evening accompanied by a rousing flamenco performance at Kelipe. This cultural center and dinner theater features a troupe of professional singers and dancers who really put their hearts into the soulful music and dance of Andalusia. The theater is situated on Calle Alamos, which, like most of Malaga’s major sites and attractions was just a short walk from my hotel, the comfortable, reasonably priced Salles Hotel Malaga Centro.

I’ll say again that electing to arrive early and spend a few days in Malaga was a smart move – leaving me in a Mediterranean state of mind – relaxed and ready for my long Star Flyer voyage.

During his 34-year freelance career, Dave G. Houser has established himself as one of America’s most widely published travel journalists. More than 1,200 of his articles and tens of thousands of his photos have appeared in leading magazines, newspapers and online publications worldwide. He has received nearly 40 awards for his work, including three Lowell Thomas Awards. Dave has journeyed to 150 countries and is an avid cruiser, having experienced more than 40 voyages, most of them small-ship expeditions. He resides in St. Augustine, Florida.

To view the original story on All Things Cruise click here.
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Memories From Monte Carlo to Malaga

Star Clippers guest Pam recently sailed for two weeks from Monte Carlo to Malaga on Star Clipper and caught a rare glimpse of Royal Clipper and Star Clipper sailing side by side.

"This is a photo of the Star Clipper taken while leaving Port Vendres. The tenders took us out for a photo op during the calmest seas we had experienced in our incredible 14 night tour from Monte Carlo to Malaga! We had the time of our lives and cannot believe it is over!

During this photo op we also had the Royal Clipper alongside. We were told that this is a rare event, that they do not often have an opportunity to be in the same place at the same time and we felt very lucky to have had the chance to witness them both, dancing amongst each other on the sea."

Thanks, Pam, for sharing your experience and photos with us!

If you have a Star Clippers photo or story that you'd like to share on our blog contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. -- We hope to hear from you!

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Travel Writer's Star Flyer Adventure from Malaga to Morocco

Special thanks to Travel Writer Linda Buchanan Allen for this great article about her recent Mediterranean sailing aboard Star Flyer from Malaga to Morocco. Enjoy!

When we spotted the four masts of the Star Flyer rocking gently against the sky at the new pier in Malaga, my husband Boyd and I fought the urge to sprint toward the gangway. I glanced at my dad for a reaction to his first sight of the boat—I thought his eyes crinkled, but he didn’t walk any faster. He pulled both his suitcase and my stepmother’s along the concrete sidewalk, insisting he could handle this fine. I squelched the urge to help. In fact, it didn’t take long to check in with the white-uniformed crew and board the 300-foot-long ship, which holds only 170 passengers. (By evening, we learned that only 108 travelers had boarded, giving us even more elbow room.) This was Boyd’s and my second trip aboard the Star Flyer, which explained our earlier giddiness. We wanted Russ and Shirley to love it too.

Night fell as we tucked into our first five-course dinner in the elegant but cozy ship dining room. Above us on deck, the crew scurried back and forth, readying for departure. On each of the next seven nights, waiters would offer a choice of appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts—ranging from crispy roast duck to spicy Spanish bouillabaisse to rich chocolate ice cream. (On board, all meals are included except drinks—a glass of wine costs about $5.) At 10:00 p.m. we joined our fellow passengers on deck as the crew cast off the lines tethering us to the pier and the Star Flyer eased into the harbor under brilliant bouquets of stars twinkling in the black sky. In the distance, Malaga’s historic Alcazabar Castle glowed against the dark hill. We sail all night and awake off the coast of Africa. In the morning, we crowd the rail to catch our first glimpse of Morocco across a gun-metal sea. After a breakfast of sizzling omelets, thick bacon and fresh watermelon slices, along with an assortment of iced pastries and dense breads smeared with real butter—all chased down by hot black coffee and sweet glasses of orange juice—we’re ready to take on anything. Over the ship’s intercom, Ximena, the Star Flyer’s cruise director, calls us to the deck for the day’s briefing.

Star Flyer.

To read the rest of the article, click HERE.

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