Cruising Thailand's Similan Islands - My Family Travels

Join a Canadian family of adventurous sailors as they embark on a clipper ship to transit the calm waters between Thailand and Singapore.

Thailand is one of our family’s favorite vacation destinations, and we try to visit often. As much as we enjoy the land, the Thai people, and the magnificent coastline and beaches, we had never considered taking a cruise. Yet, after some R’n’R on the island of Phuket to recover from jet lag on an escape from Canada’s brutal winter, our family — including an adventurous 10-year-old at the timeĀ — boarded the 150-passenger cruise ship, Star Flyer, for a seven-day cruise from Phuket to Singapore.

She and her sister ship, Star Clipper, are faithful recreations of 19th century schooners — but with well-appointed cabins, a beautiful baroque library, and teak and burnished brass finishings. Our stops included Thailand’s uninhabited Surin and Similan Islands, Phang Nga Bay, and Langkawi and Malacca in Malaysia.

From Phuket, you can also take a daytrip by sailboat to the breathtaking Similans, one of the “World’s Ten Best Dive Spots” according to Skin Diver magazine. In pristine turquoise waters, a white-tipped reef shark and colorful coral reefs tantalized our dive group.

Not Quite for Families but Willing to Please

The Star Clippers cruise line doesn’t specifically promote itself among family cruisers (and does not recommend itself for children under 8, although children are welcome), but Christmas and Easter sailings average 15-20 children per ship. We were pleasantly surprised to meet two other families aboard with kids — a Norwegian couple with a 12-month-old and a couple from Denmark with an 11-year-old girl.

Though these ships are not designed for families, some cabins sleep three. There were no cribs, but the beds had safety rails, and your cabin steward will happily plump up pillows to keep small ones safely tucked inside. The friendly crew involve kids in hauling the sails, jumping in and out of the zodiacs on trips to and from shore, tying knots, etc. No bingo – just deserted beaches, water skiing, diving and snorkeling, banana boat rides, and excellent cuisine served up in a friendly, casual atmosphere.

Also, every day except one, we stopped to spend most of the day on land, so active children will have a chance to run around. Still, not for everyone. Best for families with older, independent kids who love sailing, or want to learn, or adventurous and patient parents.

Clipper Ships in the World’s Great Waters

The Star Clippers (800/442-0553) company has other very exciting itineraries that will tempt us for years to come. The Star Flyer we boarded cruises Asia, the Star Clipper sails the Caribbean, and both service the Mediterranean. The seven-day Asia itineraries cruise the north and south Andaman Sea, as well as the route we did from Thailand to Singapore, with about four departures monthly between November and March. Additionally, the Royal Clipper plies the Caribbean from October to April, the same period in which the Star Flyer serves the Society Islands and Tuamotu Atolls.

In recalling this unusual adventure, one of my best memories was how friendly the crew and other passengers were to all the kids, and how willing to play with them. Of course, that was true throughout our visit to Thailand, a country known, for good reason, as The Land of Smiles.

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