Menu
Menu
Seadream in the Caribbean

SeaDream Plans to Resume Caribbean Cruises

By Anne Kalosh.

SeaDream Yacht Club is poised to become the first cruise line to resume sailing in the Caribbean in early November.

Replacing its planned program from the U.S. Virgin Islands, SeaDream I is now gearing up for a winter season of Barbados round-trips, a new itinerary that includes yacht harbors in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This means SeaDream, which was the first line to resume international cruises in Europe in June, could make history again with this first-out-of-the-gate Caribbean program.

(Go, Quirky-sized ships!)

SeaDream

One, and maybe both, SeaDream yachts will be in the Caribbean this winter. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

The 112-passenger SeaDream I, which alongside SeaDream II is wrapping up months of Norway-Denmark cruises, is to depart Oslo Oct. 15 on a 21-night trans-Atlantic voyage that arrives in Bridgetown, Barbados, Nov. 5.

From there, starting Nov. 7, the yacht will undertake 22 Barbados round-trips of mostly seven days. Destinations are St. George’s, Grenada, and, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Kingston, Port Elizabeth (Bequia), Canouan Island, Mayreau, Tobago Cays and Union Island.

Seadream in the Caribbean

SeaDream will be sailing a new itinerary from Barbados to Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

SeaDream’s signature Champagne & Caviar Splash will take place at Mayreau.

The line hopes there will be so much demand that SeaDream II will be put on this route, as well.

SeaDream caviar s

SeaDream’s beloved Champagne & Caviar Splash. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

Testing 1, 2, 3, testing …

Travelers must have a COVID-19 PCR test between 48 and 72 hours before arriving in Barbados, as mandated by the country. Local officials may require another test on arrival, depending on the visitor’s origin. (The United States is currently considered high risk so Americans would likely be tested, though things may change between now and November. And they’ll need to go from the airport directly to the yacht, not arrive ahead for a land stay, or they’d be subject to quarantine.)

At embarkation everyone will get a quick test using Abbot ID Now technology. A health questionnaire and thermal screening with facial recognition will follow, and passengers and crew will get a daily temperature check throughout the voyage. All of the yacht’s interiors will be cleaned with a hospital-grade Altapure AP-4 ultrasonic fogger and UV-C technology will be used in accommodations daily.

Social distancing will be practiced on board. As of now, masks won’t be required, though SeaDream said that’s subject to change. In any case, masks will be provided.

At least initially, it’s likely travelers will need to stick to SeaDream’s organized shore activities in destinations.

After the last departure, on April 3, SeaDream I will head to the Mediterranean to resume published itineraries with SeaDream II.

Keel-laying for SH Minerva

Helsinki Shipyard held keel-laying festivities for SH Minerva, the first of two ice-class expedition vessels planned for the revived Swan Hellenic brand.

This saw the ship’s first 347-ton block — newly arrived from Klaipeda, Lithuania, where it had been built and painted — being set on the keel over coins to bring good luck, in accordance with maritime tradition.

SH Minerva's keel

SH Minerva’s first 347-ton block is set atop the keel. * Photo: Swan Hellenic

Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, was also the name for a ship that sailed for Swan Hellenic, an iconic British brand that was known for cultural cruises. It went out of business in 2017 but is now being brought back by new owners.

The ceremony took place with Swan Hellenic CEO Andrea Zito participating via video link. “We’re excited and honored to take Swan Hellenic into this next chapter,” he said.

SH Minerva is due to arrive in November 2021 for an inaugural Antarctica season. The 10,500-gross-ton vessel will have accommodations for 152 passengers in 76 spacious cabins and suites, most with large balconies.

SH Minerva to launch

The new SH Minerva is named for a previous Swan Hellenic ship. * Rendering: Swan Hellenic

Ponant picks up momentum

Ponant, one of the first cruise lines to resume sailing over the summer, has carried more than 3,000 passengers aboard eight of its small ships on over 50 cruises, according to Seatrade Cruise News. Most cruises focused on the French coasts, Iceland and the Arctic.

In coming months, the line plans to branch out in the Mediterranean with sailings along the Dalmatian coast, to Greece, Malta and Turkey, and the Red Sea. Ponant officials still hope to operate Antarctica expeditions this year — but it’s getting close; the season usually begins in October. They’re also working to get approvals to sail in the Caribbean and the Seychelles.

Ponant's Le Bougainville

Le Bougainville was among the eight Ponant ships that resumed sailing over the summer in Europe. * Photo: ©Philippe Plisson:Ponant

Peek inside American Countess

American Queen Steamboat Co.‘s fourth vessel, American Countess, was completed earlier this year but inaugural festivities and cruises have repeatedly been postponed by the pandemic.

The 245-passenger paddle-wheeler is scheduled to join American Queen and American Duchess on the Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio and Cumberland rivers. (American Empress operates in the Pacific Northwest.)

With four decks, including a sun deck, the new vessel sports a contemporary interior design with plenty of open space. The 120-foot-long portside bar provides floor to ceiling glass for panoramic river views. The accommodations are divided into four categories.

American Countess

One of the premium accommodations aboard American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

To give travelers a taste of what’s in store, AQSC just released pictures of American Countess interiors including the Grand Lobby with its monumental chandeliers, the elegant Grand Dining Room, the River Grill with its big windows and the wood-paneled library.

Grand Dining Room of American Countess

The elegant Grand Dining Room on American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

American Countess lobby

The Grand Lobby of American Queen Steamboat Co.’s new American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

American Countess library

The wood-paneled library on American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

Built using the hull of former gaming vessel Kanesville Queen, American Countess was lengthened by 60 feet and underwent a total renovation at Gulf Island Shipyard in Houma, Louisiana.

A sample 2021 American Countess itinerary themed on Abraham Lincoln begins with a pre-cruise hotel stay in Chicago before embarkation at nearby Ottawa, Illinois, and travels to St. Louis, Missouri (port of Alton, Illinois, across the river). Stops include Peoria and Havana, Illinois, and Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

In 1858, the Lincoln-Douglas debates started in Ottawa and ended at Alton. Alton is also where Lincoln and James Shields faced off with broad swords while preparing to duel in 1842. (Shields backed out.) Havana is located near Lincoln’s New Salem, a reconstruction of the village where he spent his early adulthood. In Peoria, Lincoln tried cases as a lawyer and gave speeches as a four-term state representative and a U.S. Congressman. There, in 1854, he delivered his first public argument against slavery.

Victory provides paid Cal Poly internships

AQSC sister brand Victory Cruise Lines formed a partnership with California Polytechnic State University to give Cal Poly students the opportunity to fulfill paid “Learn by Doing” internships aboard the new Ocean Victory in Alaska.

This internship program will invite a select few to join the ship starting in spring 2021 for four to six months. The students will live and work on board Ocean Victory as it cruises between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sitka, Alaska

Students will gain hands-on experience as they research Alaska’s wilderness, environment and culture. Internship roles will range from creating educational presentations to guiding and participating in tours and passenger activities, including skiff tours, kayaking, hiking and Zodiac voyages.

Ocean Victory

Cal Poly students will get paid internships aboard the new Ocean Victory in Alaska. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

The internship program is a passion project for AQSC Founder and CEO John Waggoner, a two-time Cal Poly graduate and one of its 2017 Honored Alumni from the College of Science and Mathematics. He majored in biology and earned his master’s degree in business administration.

Interns will undergo training prior to the start of the season. This includes a U.S. Coast Guard certification, practical Zodiac operational training and specific Alaska expedition leader training certifications, as well as first aid/CPR training.

A&K charts Northeast Passage in its 30th year of cruising

Abercrombie & Kent founder Geoffrey Kent will host a Northeast Passage trek in 2021, the company’s 30th year of luxury expedition cruising.

“In 1991 we set out to explore Antarctica, a place that speaks to my passion for discovery,” Kent said. “Thirty years later, I am excited to explore a new frontier, the Russian High Arctic, alongside A&K guests and my wife Otavia. In this rarely transited, vast wilderness, each day’s activities are determined by the captain and expedition leader based on ice, weather and sea conditions, as well as knowledge gained from years of experience. That’s the appeal of expedition cruising — the unpredictability, and thrill, of adventure.”

Geoffrey Kent of Abercrombie & Kent

Geoffrey Kent looks forward to exploring the Russian High Arctic. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Tromsø to Nome

The Aug. 27 – Sept 21 voyage will navigate from Tromsø, Norway, to Nome, Alaska, visiting remote settlements across the Russian High Arctic, seldom-seen Siberian islands, isolated wildlife habitats and Arctic nature reserves.

Travelers can discover Soviet-era Russia with visits to Murmansk, the biggest city north of the Arctic Circle, and Provideniya, a former military port. Wrangel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its vast biodiversity, is known for walruses and bird life. The Great Arctic State Nature Reserve in the Kara Sea sprawls over 41,000 square kilometers and is home to polar bears, Arctic fox, reindeer and beluga whales.

Accompanying the Northeast Passage trek will be Kiliii Yuyan, a National Geographic photographer of Siberian descent who specializes in indigenous people, and expedition leader Steffen Graupner, a scientist who has explored Russia extensively.

Steffan Graupner photographer

Steffan Graupner will serve as the expedition leader for A&K’s Northeast Passage cruise. * Photo: Russ Tschukotka

The voyage will travel on a chartered Ponant ship and is limited to 199 passengers. The 26-day journey is priced starting at a cool $36,995 with an early booking discount. Any A&K luxury expedition cruise booked by the end of 2020 gives the flexibility to change travel plans for up to 30 days before departure in the event of a COVID-19-related reason.

New Windstar president

Chris Prelog, who began his seagoing career as a waiter, has been promoted to the Windstar Cruises presidency.

Austrian native Prelog has vast first-hand service experience from 18 years at Seabourn, where he started as a Seabourn Legend waiter and worked his way through roles including head waiter, restaurant manager and hotel director before becoming manager then director of hotel operations and vice president of hotel operations and purchasing.

Chris Prelog

Windstar Cruises has a new president, Chris Prelog. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

As Seabourn moved to larger vessels, Prelog decamped to Windstar where some of the smaller Seabourn ships had gone, first as vice president of fleet operations. He was promoted to chief operating officer early this year.

Prelog has been leading the company’s $250 million Star Plus initiative to lengthen and expand three yachts — including Star Legend (the former Seabourn Legend), managing operations through the pandemic and working with parent company Xanterra to develop the “Beyond Ordinary Care” health protocols in conjunction with the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center.

RELATED: Windstar Cruising in the Sea of Cortez. by Elysa Leonard.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

Don’t miss great articles, reviews, news & tips about small-ship cruising, SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates and special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Pearl Seas Cruises

Pearl Seas Cruises

Pearl Seas Cruises is a newish (2014) subsidiary of the firm that owns American Cruise Lines with its large and ever-growing fleet of coastal and river ships. Its one ship, the 210-passenger PEARL MIST, shares many of the characteristics of the U.S. flag fleet yet it is an ocean-going vessel, registered in the Marshall Islands and operates with a largely non-American crew.

With this new ship, the firm’s cruise itineraries have expanded to New England, Eastern Seaboard, Eastern Canada, and the Great Lakes. Circumnavigations of Cuba were cancelled due to US government orders. Costa Rica and Panama, including canal transit, now cover the winter months. The ship is stabilized.

Pearl Mist in the St. Lawrence River. * Photo: Pearl Seas Cruises

Pearl Mist in the St. Lawrence River. * Photo: Pearl Seas Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

PEARL MIST (built 2014 & 210 passengers)

Passenger Profile

Mostly Americans and some Canadians, largely 50+ and many will be loyal American Cruise Lines’ passengers. Unlike the US-flag ACL, this ship is registered in the Marshall Islands and operates with a largely foreign national crew.

Passenger Decks

6; an elevator connects all cabin decks.

Price

$$$  Very Pricey

Included Features

Internet/WiFi; a daily cocktail hour before dinner, wine with lunch and dinner, open bar with hors d’oeuvres in the evening. Suggested tipping is high at $125 for a seven-day cruise or $18 a day.

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City. * Photo: Ted Scull

Itineraries

➢For spring 2020, the PEARL MIST will makes its way up the Eastern Seaboard on a 10-day itinerary embarking at Charleston, then calling at Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newport, Portland, Bar Harbor and Halifax.

➢After that the ship heads to the St. Lawrence River and Seaway with port calls such as in the Saguenay Fjord, Quebec Montreal and Toronto and into the Great Lakes.

➢May and September, 11 and 15-day cruises sees the ship operating between Portland, Maine and Toronto calling at Canadian Maritimes ports, plying the St. Lawrence River (Quebec City & Montreal), St. Lawrence Seaway and into Lake Ontario for Toronto. Additional 7-day spring and fall cruises from Portland visit three ports in Maine and three ports in New Brunswick.

➢11-day cruises, June to September, sail between Toronto and Chicago passing through four Great Lakes and Georgian Bay and stopping at Mackinac Island and Sault Ste. Marie, and shorter 7-day itineraries operate in August between Toronto and Chicago.

Pearl Seas Cruises

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island. * Photo: Ted Scull

➢Leaving the Great Lakes in September, the ship takes advantage of the fall foliage season in Canadian Maritimes and New England with 10- and 14-day trips between Quebec City and Boston.

➢ In October, at the end of the Canada season, the ship heads south along the Eastern Seaboard (a reverse of the northbound itinerary; see  above).

Note: The PEARL MIST will then make its way to a series of weekly 7-night cruises operating between December 1, 2020 and February 2, 2021 that feature the Panama Canal. Alternate cruises will begin in Cartagena, a port in Colombia and once the capital of the Spanish Empire in America, then proceed to visit the Kuna people in the San Blas Islands and pause at Colon at the entrance to the Panama Canal. The passage includes several sets of locks, often filled with impressive container ships. a crossing of Gatun Lake and lovely tropical landscape either side. Once in the Pacific Ocean, there is a day call in at the beautiful Las Perlas Archipelago before returning to Balboa for a final visit to nearby Panama City, a modern metropolis peppered with French and Spanish colonial architecture. The cruise ends here, and the next one embarks for the itinerary in reverse.

 

Pearl Seas Cruises adds Panama Canal

Panama Canal. * Photo: Pearl Seas Cruises

Why Go?

PEARL MIST is a small ship with just 210 passengers, roomy within, and one of the few lines that covers the Great Lakes, plus the St. Lawrence River, Canadian Maritime Provinces, New England and the East Coast. New for the winter months, Costa Rica and Panama with a canal transit, a pioneering possibility.

When to Go?

As the ship moves around according to the seasons, the when to go is already obvious. One point to keep in mind is that fall foliage in Canada occurs about a month ahead of New England.

Cabins

All are outside with sliding glass doors leading to a balcony with table and two chairs, and some additionally also have large picture windows. They are arranged over four decks and divided into five categories. 12 are set aside as singles. Oddly, cabin 302 is alone in having no balcony. Amenities include flat-screen TV, DVD player, and complimentary WiFi. Connection speed will vary widely by location. Be patient and remember it’s free.

Public Rooms

Two lounges are located forward. The Pacific Lounge has good views over the bow and to either side while the Atlantic Lounge, two decks below, has views to port and starboard. Additional small lounges are located on the next to lowest (2nd) deck and the Library Lounge on the 4th deck. The highest (6th deck) offers both covered and open seating.

Dining

The dining room, located aft on the main (lowest) deck, seats all at one open seating. Meals receive high marks and cater to North American tastes. Wine is included at lunch and dinner.

Activities & Entertainment

Exercise equipment resides outside on the 5th or Sun Deck. One or two lecturers travel with the ship to prepare passengers for what’s ashore. Mostly musical entertainment comes aboard in some ports.

Special Notes

While the ship has much in common with some of the larger vessels in the American Cruise Lines fleet, a sister company, the crew here is international. Many passengers will come over from ACL, hence a largely North American passenger list.

Along the Same Lines

Victory Cruise Lines operates similar itineraries on the Great Lakes, along the St. Lawrence River, and in the Canadian maritime provinces.

Contact

Pearl Seas Cruises, 741 Boston Post Road, Suite 250, Guilford, CT 06437. 1-888-882-1595. PearlSeasCruises.com

 

Don’t miss great articles, reviews, news & tips about small-ship cruising, SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates and special offers!

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Victory I of Victory Cruise Lines

Victory Cruise Lines

Victory Cruise Lines began operating with a short first season in 2016 along the St. Lawrence River and in the Great Lakes, using the American-built coastal ship Cape May Light (built in 2001), which had operated for Delta Queen Coastal Cruises until that company went bankrupt. After a lay-up period and work for other firms, she joined the new line in 2016 as Victory I.

A second unit, built as the US-flag Cape Cod Light, most recently sailed as the Sea Discoverer until chartered by this line in 2017. Following a refit in Europe, it appeared in summer 2018 as Victory II and focused on New England, Eastern Canada, St. Lawrence Valley, and the Great Lakes.

In 2019, both ships were purchased by American Queen Steamboat Company, and the pair will continue to operate as a brand, retaining the name Victory Cruise Lines. They expanded their horizons to include the American Southeast and Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

The line also includes the charter of a small 200-passenger ship called Ocean Victory, which was built for Miami-based SunStone Ships, offering Alaska and Pacific Coast cruises. Another operator, Albatros Expeditions, will charter the vessel for the rest of the year.

An interesting aside, sister-company Hornblower Cruises & Events operates dinner cruises, chartered private events and sightseeing tours from major American cities and destinations, including Niagara Falls, Liberty Island and Alcatraz.

RELATED: AQSC Acquires Victory Cruise Lines.  by Anne Kalosh

Victory Cruise Lines

OCEAN VICTORY will cruise Alaska in summer 2021. Here is a rendering of the splendid library. * SunStone Ships

COVID-19 UPDATE

Victory Cruise Lines will resume cruising in April 2021.

Be sure to check the line’s website for up-to-date news.

FLEET
  • Victory I (built 2001 & 202 passengers) – Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River
  • Victory II (b. 2004 & 202 p) – Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, New England, American Southeast & Mexico
  • Ocean Victory (b. 2020 & 200 p) – Alaska & Pacific Northwest
Victory Cruise Lines

The Victory I . * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

RELATED: Writer Peter Knego reports on his Great Lakes cruise aboard Victory I.

RELATED: Judi Cohen shares details about her Victory II cruise.

Passenger Profile

Americans, Canadians, and a few Europeans mainly 50 and up. Many passengers will be veterans of American Queen Steamboat Company who will have broader horizons to pursue.

Price

$$ to $$$ – Pricey

Included Features
  • Pre-voyage hotel stay
  • On-board meals, afternoon tea service & evening cocktails
  • Wine, spirits, beer, coffee, tea & soft drinks
  • Wi-Fi in public areas
  • One shore excursion in each port

Tips are not included; the recommended amounts are $15 per person per day for the ship’s crew, and ashore, $5 per person for guides and $2 for the bus driver.

Itineraries

Victory Cruise Lines is known for Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River cruises, which run from between 8 to 16 nights, and Canada and New England cruises, which run from between 8 to 13 nights.

victory-cruise-lines

Toronto’s skyline seen from Center Island, reached by passenger ferry from downtown. * Photo: Ted Scull

Public Gardens, Halifax

Public Gardens, Halifax, Nova Scotia. * Photo: Ted Scull

After the autumn foliage changes, the ships sail south for 12- to 13-night cruises of the historic American Southeast and the Bahamas (they cruise this region in the spring months as well, when the ships are repositioning back north).

Over the winter, the ships cruise Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula with 10-night itineraries. The line also offers an Alaskan and Pacific Northwest cruise, ranging from 11 to 16 nights, during the summer months.

Sample Itinerary

Yucatán’s Mayan Cruise Tour begins with an overnight in Cancun, Mexico before embarking in Cozumel/Tulum for 9 nights of sailing on the scenic Gulf of Mexico with calls at Costa Maya, Progresso, Campeche and Valladolid before returning to Cancun.

Why Go?

The key is the ease of cruising on a small ship to attractive ports, large and small, in the US and Canada. Few ships cruise the Great Lakes, though the numbers are growing. So it’s less charted territory for the many aficionados of exploring inland waters — lakes, rivers and canals.

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, lives up to its name. *Photo: Ted Scull

When to Go?

The Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway and Alaska cruises operate from May to October, the best months for touring the region.

Mexico is visited in the winter, with the U.S. Southeast in the shoulder months.

Sustainability Initiatives

On Ocean Victory, passengers are given personal water bottles that can be refilled at various on-board water stations.

RELATED: Ocean Victory Heading to Alaska.  By Anne Kalosh.

Activities & Entertainment

Victory I and Victory II host on-board lectures and have games in the lounge. Each night there’s live entertainment from the in-house band. Each port has a free excursion or optional premium experience led by local guides.

SHIPS 

Victory I

Victory II

These 202-passenger sister ships each have 5 decks accessed by elevator.

There are two dining rooms, the main Coastal Dining Room serves regional and seasonal fare and there’s a contemporary and casual Grill.

A cozy tavern serves up cocktails, while the Compass Lounge handles lectures and larger gatherings in a bright and airy space.

Victory I tavern

The cozy Seascape Tavern aboard Victory I * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

The sun deck provides an aft-facing observation lounge, and a wraparound promenade has a narrow path for constitutional walkers. Victory I & II also have a fitness center, spa, salon and medical clinic.

All cabins are doubles with twin or queen-size beds, picture windows and measurements of 146 to 185 sq. ft., and a single owner’s suite at 335 sq. ft.

Single travelers normally pay 160% for single occupancy of a double cabin.

In cabin: en suite, individual climate control, TV, minifridge, safe.

Victory Cruise Lines

An AA Category cabin aboard VICTORY I * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

Ocean Victory

A contemporary expedition ship, the 200-passenger Ocean Victory packs a lot on its six spacious passenger decks (all of which have elevator service).

Meals are served in the Main Restaurant, the Panorama Specialty Restaurant, at an outdoor bistro and barbeque deck. Enjoy coffee, tea and cocktails at the Explorer Bar and an observation lounge that wraps around the front of the ship for optimal views.

Passengers can attend programs in the Expedition Lecture Room and learn on their own at the Voyager Library.

For relaxation, there’s a showpiece pool that has glass infinity-style walls, two Jacuzzis, a fitness center, spa and boutique. Ocean Victory has Zodiacs and kayaks, a mudroom and medical clinic.

Cabins have queen and twin beds and desks, many have private balconies, a few have French balconies, still others have porthole views.

In cabin: en suite, TV, minifridge, safe, hair dryer.

Alaska Expedition Cruises with Victory

The 200-passenger Ocean Victory with its distinctive X-Bow profile. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

Special Notes

A doctor is carried on all cruises, operating out of an infirmary.

Along the Same Lines

Pearl Seas Cruises operates some similar itineraries, while Croisieres Saint Jacques and St. Lawrence Cruise Lines exclusively cruise the St. Lawrence River.

Contact

Victory Cruise Lines, US-based; www.victorycruiselines.com; +1 (833) 548 0187.

— TWS

 

Don’t miss great articles, reviews, news & tips about small-ship cruising, SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates and special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

Caribbean Scuba Diving + Island Windjammers Cruise.

By Elysa Leonard.

Excited and ready for an adventure, I left my land-locked home in the suburbs of Washington DC., and flew, via Charlotte, North Carolina, to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. It was an early morning with a full day of travel ahead, and I was chock full of adrenaline and happy, sun-shiny thoughts.

I had briefly visited St. Lucia on a honeymoon cruise more than 20 years ago and remember the striking green Pitons. This time would be different; I was traveling solo to do an Island Windjammers cruise, but pre-cruise I would spend a few days in St Lucia focused on scuba diving, a hobby I have enjoyed for more than two decades.

Click here to read Elysa’s story about her amazing Island Windjammers cruise.

Scuba diving in St. Lucia

Elysa with a fellow passenger, Joanne Hutchinson, and Fleet Captain Nervo Cortez, onboard Island Windjammers Tall Ship Vela.

Confessions of a Scuba Dive Junkie

I am an avid scuba diver, but it had been several years since I had been scuba diving in the “real” ocean. I am a scientific diver and part of an all-volunteer dive team at the National Aquarium – Baltimore. This position keeps my feet wet in between dive trips.

Dive 1: In the “Real” Ocean

For my three days at the Marigot Beach Club & Dive Resort in St Lucia, I’d be going out diving with Andre, the owner of “Dive Fair Helen.” He was an expert dive guide, full of knowledge about the coral, fish, and shipwrecks of St. Lucia. He took us to some of the best dive sites on the south side of the island right below the towering green Pitons. The contrast of colors from the green of the Pitons to the turquoise blue sea took my breath away.

St. Lucia’s Pitons. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

Luckily the coral of St. Lucia has not been the victim of bleaching. The corals were diverse, with deep mustard yellow to iridescent purple sponges, fern, elkhorn, and many brain corals.

It was a healthy, thriving and growing coral reef. There were plenty of moments to breath deep and admire the beauty of the Caribbean Sea. Ahhhhhh, My happy place.

It’s hard to miss the purple sponge coral in St. Lucia’s waters. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

The minute I saw St. Lucia’s bounty of fish, I wanted to shout through my regulator, “hello my friends! I am back for a visit!”

The gang from my Aquarium dives was all there, will some added species I had nearly forgotten. The number of eels in St. Lucia was remarkable. We saw at least two on every dive and sometimes they were free swimming instead of peeking out of a crevice.

Boat diving is usually a two-tank experience (as compared to one-tank dives from shore). The first dive is longer and deeper, the second shorter and more shallow. After the first dive, we surfaced, got back on the boat, change empty tanks for full ones and shared stories of our dive.

My dive gear. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

Dive 2: Like Riding a Bicycle

Dive two was similar to the first one but in the shallows. We saw a large black spotted moray eel. It was larger than any of that type of moray I have seen before and a stunning contrast against the colorful coral backdrop.

Scuba Diving in St Lucia

Black-Spotted Moray Eel. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

There were trumpet fish hunting for a meal and princess parrotfish crunching on corals. You could actually hear the crunching. The visibility was excellent, and it was a pleasure to see such a vibrant, healthy reef. Once we surfaced and removed our gear, we had a relaxing 45-minute ride back to Marigot Bay.

Dive 3: A Gift

The next day, once again, the weather was perfect for diving — the sea was flat and calm with no wind, but only three divers had signed up to dive. Andre went out of his way to make this second day of diving happen for me and I will be forever grateful.

Because of the small numbers, Andre was our captain, driving us to the site and then he donned a wetsuit and gave us an exceptional tour as our underwater guide.

He took us to the shipwreck of the Lesleen M, which was purposely sunk to create an extension of the coral reef. In the 33 years that this ship has been beneath the sea, it has developed into its own outcropping of thriving coral reef. The ship is now completely encrusted with healthy hard and soft corals of all shapes and sizes. Check out the whitespotted filefish I happened upon; they’re not usually so friendly!

And the fish? Oh, how they love this shipwreck! There were plenty of places to hide in the nooks and crannies and it was a perfect environment for so many species. Fish, fish everywhere!

There is something magical about a shipwreck, you can feel the energy there, and I think the fish feel it too.

I hope to go back and dive that wreck again. There was so much more to explore!

Our second dive on this trip was just as good as the first. As Andre entered the water, he seemed to be part fish. We visited another pristine reef with many baby fish, all supporting each other’s existence in such a delicate ecosystem.

More Diving from the Vela

The next day I would board Island Windjammer’s tall ship Vela for a week-long sailing adventure I absolutely fell in love with (read that article HERE). I quickly learned that with a little ingenuity, you could fit in diving as well as tons of snorkeling on a tall ship cruise like this one.

Jess, our operations director, arranged a two-tank morning dive for me and another passenger when we arrived in Iles des Saintes. The dive operation was called, “La Dive Bouteille – Plongées des Saintes” and was run by a sweet French couple — Phillipe and Laurence.

The small-scale operations at La Dive Bouteille. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

We stumbled a bit communicating above the water since we didn’t speak any French and the diving couple did not speak much English. However, once below the water, we all spoke the common language of “fish” which ended the language barrier.

Our dive guides, Phillipe and Laurence were once beekeepers in France. They relocated to Iles des Saintes and started a dive business. You could tell they loved diving and enjoyed life in this small fishing village. I thought many times that day about relocating to this beautiful little village myself, to dive and learn French. It is a nice dream that I haven’t forgotten, maybe someday?

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

The tiny village vibe of La Dive Bouteille. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

Channeling Jacques Cousteau

They were both very experienced divers who knew right where to take us and seemed to be part mermaid-merman. Their shop was pristine and the dive boat small but efficient. An added bonus was that the dive sites were a quick 10-minute trip from their shop. Philippe had us enter the water from a backward roll off the side of the boat.

This has always been my most favorite way to enter the water and seems like something from a Jacques Cousteau film. Philippe showed us his favorite places, the corals were healthy with no evidence of the bleaching, it was a thriving beautiful reef. I felt lucky as he let this dive stretch more than an hour.

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

Idyllic Iles des Saintes. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

After we had used up most of our air, we surfaced and climbed the ladder onto the boat. The language barrier again became challenging, but we traded fish stories and with the help of an English/French fish guide. Laurence served us a delicious snack of homemade madeleine cakes and hot tea. It was the perfect interlude before she took us for our second adventure.

Laurence took us to see the garden of eels. It was a sandy patch that at first looked as if it was covered with seagrasses, but as we got closer, we realized these were not pieces of seagrass but many small eels swaying in the current.

They looked like they were in a trance moving slowly back and forth. It was mesmerizing to watch. Along the edge of the field of eels were several species of  razorfish, that hovered over their holes and darted inside to safety as they saw our shadows approach.

As we passed the field of eels and razorfish, we were pleasantly surprised to see a pair of balloon fish, with their piercing blue-green eyes, a large porcupine puffer fish, and a smooth trunkfish that were all searching for a meal. On our way back to the boat, we found more giant lobsters hiding under the rocks and traveled through a shallow section of reef with many baby fish.

It was a perfect morning, which would be followed by even more perfect days and evenings in the beautiful French West Indies.

Snorkeling with New Friends

Not only do I like to dive, but I also enjoy snorkeling.

With my experience as a reef survey diver and my many years as an aquarium diver, I can identify more than 100 species of tropical fish and have learned much about fish behavior.

On this trip, the word got out that I knew my fish and I led a band of snorkelers on a few fun adventures. Snorkeling makes “teaching fish” a bit easier since you can surface often and explain what you are looking at.

One afternoon we arrived at a small village in southwest Martinique called Les Anses D’Arlet. There were so many people and children splashing, swimming and even standing on the rocks, that it didn’t look like a good beach for snorkeling. However, we were told it was one of the best snorkeling locations, so of course, you never know, I had to give it a go.

I put my masked-face in the water and almost shrieked in delight. I could not believe the number of different species. They were everywhere and in large numbers. It was better than some of my best dives when it came to seeing and identifying fish. I was so happy for my fellow snorkelers, most of whom, have never been diving, and they were seeing the best of the best!

We saw trumpetfish, even some baby ones, and a school of balloon fish. On a normal dive, you would be lucky to see two since they are often in pairs, but we saw a school of them! Large schools of hundreds of tiny fry moved through the water as if they were all part of one fish.

There were several types of grunts, porcupine pufferfish, eels, queen triggerfish, parrotfish, schools of blue-headed wrasse, and even an octopus!

It was the best snorkeling I have ever experienced and from the surface, you would never have expected that.

Scuba Diving in the French West Indies

A sand diver fish off the coast of St. Lucia. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

One More for the Road

Friday was our very last day on Vela and we were back in St. Lucia. We were anchored in Rodney Bay and went ashore with the intention of snorkeling on the beach at Pigeon Bay National Trust. As we entered the Park, I noticed that there was a dive operator doing shore dives from the beach. I decided to see if it was possible to sneak in one last dive.

I approached the dive master, a tall, fit St. Lucian man who was twice my size. I didn’t have any of my equipment with me since this was not the original plan. I borrowed a wetsuit, and all the gear, but since we were planning to snorkel I had my mask.

As we started to descend and swim off, I quickly realized that I was going to have trouble keeping up. One kick of his fins was about four for me. The fins didn’t fit me properly and I felt a burning pain on the top of my feet, but I kept going. I wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of my last dive.

We saw all the usual suspects and I couldn’t help thinking that I should be saying goodbye to all of my fishy friends. Porcupine puffers, balloon fish and three, yes three different species of eels in one dive, green, white spotted and brown morays. There were pudding wives, creole fish, parrotfish, black durgons, ocean triggerfish and some pipefish at the surface.

It was a wonderful way to end my trip until I got out of the water, took off my fins and saw the tops of my feet. Blisters, that had turned into bleeding open sores on both of my feet. Ouch, but luckily I could wear flip flops for the trip home. They have since healed and left only a few small scars.

Just one of the many memories, and ones that will always remind me of that last-minute decision to dive in St. Lucia. It was worth the scars and I would do it again, in a heartbeat!

Scuba Diving in St Lucia

I’ll be back. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

Top 5 Takeaways for Diving in St. Lucia

  1. St. Lucia is a great location for a dive trip! Fantastic diving, lots of fish, healthy reef.
  2. If you schedule a few extra days of diving, an Island Windjammer cruise is a great option for divers.
  3. If is okay if you don’t speak French because everyone can learn to speak Fish!
  4. Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially when selecting snorkel locations! Trust your cruise manager.
  5. When diving, make sure that your fins fit properly!

quirkycruise bird

 

 

I would like to dedicate this article in memory of Phillipe Borac who recently passed away and to Laurence who is carrying on without him. I feel lucky and privileged to have shared a fabulous day with both of you. It is a day and a memory I will never forget. You shared a small window into your special world, showing me some of some very special places not many get to see and I want to thank you for that. Laurence, I hope to be back and diving with you again soon. Phillipe may you rest in peace, you have given so much to so many. Thank you.

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

RIP Philippe

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Articles About Ponant

Seadream in the Caribbean
SeaDream Plans to Resume Caribbean Cruises By Anne Kalosh. SeaDream Yacht Club is poised to become the first cruise line ...
Read More
Ponant's Le Jacques Cartier
Ponant's Le Jacques Cartier By Anne Kalosh. French line Ponant, one of the first to restart cruising, has accomplished another ...
Read More
The SeaDream ships in a travel bubble
Cruising Restarts in "Travel Bubbles" or "Travel Corridors" By Anne Kalosh. Cruising will restart in "travel bubbles" and, not surprisingly, ...
Read More
Small-ship Sea Cloud Spirit construction
Small-ship Construction & Delivery Updates By Anne Kalosh. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty on the cruise ...
Read More
Antarctica Cruising with Abercrombie & Kent and Ponant
Antarctica Cruising with Abercrombie & Kent By John Roberts. This cruise was going to be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced ...
Read More

 

Submit Your Own Review

Visit Our Reader Review Form

 

QuirkyCruise Review of Ponant

Cruising for over a quarter century, this chic French line is a Francophile’s dream. Ponant’s crew is discreet, the décor is subtle and the food is tantalizing. French desserts, French cheeses and French wines accompany passengers on cruises around the world, from French Polynesia and the Caribbean to the North and South Poles, and lots in between.

Passengers are a well-traveled, well-dressed international lot and the handsome captains stroll around the ship in short sleeves chatting to guests as if they are one of the passengers. Ponant is a bit of Europe no matter where the ships are sailing.

In late 2014, the company’s name was simplified from the French Compagnie du Ponant, to just Ponant, a simpler name for the company’s growing international audience, though Ponant still remains the only French-flagged, French-flavored cruise line out there. Ponant is in the midst of building frenzy, with six 184-passenger expedition vessels in the pipeline between now and 2021. As they are delivered, itineraries will be expanded to offer more frequent sailings and brand-new destinations.

A hybrid electric icebreaker is to appear in 2021 and be able to make it to Geographic 90 Degrees North — The North Pole.

Note: Some sailings are directly operated by Ponant and others are under charter to well-known firms for individual sales as well as for special interest groups.

N.B. In August 2019, Ponant announced that the French-owned line has bought Paul Gauguin Cruises, operating the ship PAUL GAUGUIN in French Polynesia and that the ship will continue to operate under its current name.

Ponant's fleet hits the poles and lots in between. * Photo: Ponant

Ponant’s fleet hits the poles and lots in between. * Photo: Ponant

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

LE BOREAL (built 2010, 132 passengers), L’AUSTRAL (b. 2011, 132 p), LE SOLEAL (b. 2013, 132 p), LE LYRIAL (b. 2014, 122 p), LE PONANT (b. 1991, 64 p), LE LAPEROUSE (b. 2018, 184 p), LE CHAMPLAIN (b. 2018, 184 p),  LE  BOUGAINVILLE (b. 2019, 184 p) and LE DUMONT-D’URVILLE (b. 2019, 184 p), LE BELLOT (due April 2020, 184p), LE JACQUES CARTIER, the sixth Explorer-class ship (due July 2020, 184p), and LE COMMANDANT CHARCOT (due April 2021, 270 p), specifically designed for polar explorations.

Ponant's mini cruise ships are dwarfed by the giants. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Ponant’s mini cruise ships are dwarfed by the giants. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Passenger Profile

Mostly Europeans, heavy on French, Swiss and Germans, with a sprinkling of Francophiles from everywhere else — North America, Brazil, you name it. Children are welcome, but are expected to be well behaved; there is a children’s menu, Wii gaming console, and when there are a number of kids on board, a few activities are organized by a staff member.

On a handful of special family-friendly sailings per year (often a Med itinerary in the summer), a Kids Club is offered with kids’ counselors supervising games and activities for ages 4+. Several firms charter Ponant ships, so they will determine the languages, and a number of them are in the English-speaking markets.

Passenger Decks

6 with elevators to all decks (4 on LE PONANT, the motor sailing yatch, and no elevator)

Price

$$  Moderate to Expensive

Included Features

Open bar throughout ship, stocked cabin mini-bar, and all soft drinks. New for 2019 is free WiFi in all cabin categories on all ships.

PONANT                                                                                 LE BOUGAINVILLE delivered in 2019 as the third ship in the explorer class. * Photo: Ponant

Itineraries

The ships, with such an expanding fleet, roam all over the world on one- to two-week cruises (some longer): Mediterranean and Northern Europe, Alaska and Canada, Caribbean, Central America, both coasts of South America, West Africa and Southern Africa, Madagascar, Seychelles, French Polynesia and Oceania, Hawaii,  Indonesia, East Asia and focus on Japan, Eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, Antarctica, the Arctic including the Northwest Passage, trans0ocean positioning voyages. A few highlights include (and it’s a moveable feast:

  • 10- and 16-night Antarctica cruises November – February
  • Iceland & Arctic Circle cruises in summer; also Northwest Passage, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes
  • 6- and 7-night cruises out of Martinique to the Grenadine Islands in the winter; also Cuba (Cuban calls suspended due to a US government ban.
  • 7-night Croatia cruises round-trip out of Venice between May and September; also Western & Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt
  • 9-night New Zealand cruises in January and February; also Australia’s eastern coast
  • 7- to 13-night Alaska cruises in June and July; including Aleutian Islands
  • 13-night Chile cruises in November and February; also Amazon and Orinoco rivers, Sea of Cortez
  • New tropical destinations are being added to include the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean, also Maldives and Madagascar, and the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, also French Polynesia, Easter Island
  • South and Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Japan, Eastern Russia.
Why Go?

The French flare, the amazing food, the gorgeous interiors — tres chic. In 2018 Ponant signed an agreement with National Geographic Expeditions to have the latter’s experts and photographers come aboard in Australia, New Zealand and Asia/Pacific.

When to Go?

The fleet cruises in different regions of the world at the best time to visit.

Cabins

LE PONANT is an 88-meter, three-masted sailing ship with lots of wood and nautical touches such as navy blue and white bedding and fabrics in the rooms. Most cabins are on the lowest of the four passenger decks and have twin beds — two rooms have king beds — and there are a few triples. Five larger cabins are higher up on the Antigua Deck.

LE BOREAL/L’AUSTRAL/LE SOLEAL/LE LYRIAL are nearly identical sister ships with the majority of cabins measuring between 200 and 236 square feet, not including the balconies (which all but eight cabins have). Cabins are designed in stylish neutrals of champagne, smoky greys or blues, and crisp whites with pops of color, like a red border on a bed throw or pillow.

All cabins are stocked with L’Occitane toiletries, bathrobes, mini bars and iPods, and a have a great split bathroom set-up — toilet in one little room and a large shower (and/or tub) and sink in another. They also have a desk and great adjustable reading lights on either side of the bed. Many standard cabins can accommodate three people with one on a sofa bed; ideal for families are the Prestige suites, which are ostensibly two connecting standard cabins. There are four large suites on the Deck 6 near the top of the ship.

A lovely standard cabin aboard Le Lyrial. * Photo: Francois Lefebvre

A lovely standard cabin aboard Le Lyrial. * Photo: Francois Lefebvre

The new 184-passenger sisters LE LAPEROUSE (2018), LE CHAMPLAIN,  LE  BOUGAINVILLE, LE DUMONT-D’URVILLE, LE BELLOT, and  LE JACQUES CARTIER  began arriving in mid-2018 and will continue into 2020. A feature on the new ships is the Blue Eye, an underwater sightseeing lounge. They make up what is termed Ponant Explorer Class with enhanced ice-breaking capabilities.

Public Rooms

LE BOREAL/L’AUSTRAL/LE SOLEAL/LE LYRIAL have two restaurants, one main entertainment lounge, one combination lounge/bar, and a lovely outdoor bar with sea views. There is no casino. Each has a spa with a Turkish steam room, hair salon, and an excellent ocean-view gym with a row of treadmills and recumbent bikes, plus a Kinesis wall with weights, pulls and grips for weight training.

A small library area (with a Wii console nearby) and a boutique round out the public areas, unless you also count the medical clinic. The smaller LE PONANT has two restaurants, two indoor lounges and lots of deck space for sunbathing. All five of the vessels have a platform for watersports when anchored in favorable conditions.

Dining

Cuisine is a big part of the Ponant experience, and I still sometimes dream about the dark chocolate mousses we devoured on a L’AUSTRAL cruise to Croatia (I gained several solid pounds on that cruise). Each of the five ships has two restaurants, one a more formal fine-dining multi-course French gourmet venue for dinner and the other a casual buffet restaurant with outdoor and indoor seating and themed offerings. Some of the chefs are French (the pastry chef was on my last cruise) and no matter where they are from, they’ve been schooled in the French culinary tradition.

Desserts to die for. * Photo: Ponant

Desserts to die for. * Photo: Ponant

Meals incorporate fish and grilled seafood, and plenty of delicious soups and salads of all kinds. When possible, local ingredients are used, from cherries in Kotor, Croatia, to rainbow trout from Nunavut, in the Arctic. Amazing desserts on offer might comprise a hazelnut mousse cake, lemon meringue tarts and that to die-to-for chocolate mousse already mentioned; easily the best desserts I’ve ever had on a cruise ship.

A selection of cheeses from France and Italy are a staple in the buffet and of the complimentary wines generously poured, I remember an especially refreshing French rose at lunch on route to our next Croatian port of call. You can always order a bottle off the extensive menu if you want something extra special.

The more formal of two restaurants aboard Le Soleal. * Photo: Ponant

The more formal of two restaurants aboard Le Soleal. * Photo: Ponant

Activities & Entertainment

The ships are in port every day, or nearly so, but if there’s a sea day, most people enjoy simply sunbathing by the pool and soaking up the scenery. In the French way of doing things, there isn’t an abundance of scheduled activities or group events. There are theme cruises from time to time focused on gourmet food and wine, film and topics like oceanography, with experts on board giving talks and demonstrations.

Evenings, a singing duo moves around the ship before and after dinner to serenade passengers as they sip cocktails and chat about the day’s adventures and the ones that lay ahead. At the top of the tiered decks at the stern on LE BOREAL/L’AUSTRAL/LE SOLEAL/LE LYRIAL is a wonderful al-fresco bar, an ideal place to plant yourself as the ship sails off into the sunset — likewise on LE PONANT’s sun deck. After dinner from time to time, a dance performance or film screening may be scheduled in the show lounge of the four sister ships.

The new and larger 184-passenger sisters LE LAPEROUSE, LE CHAMPLAIN,  LE  BOUGAINVILLE, LE DUMONT-D’URVILLE, LE BELLOT, and  LE JACQUES CARTIER started to debut in mid-2018 and continued into 2020, and the larger 270-passenger LE COMMANDANT CHARCOT will launch polar explorations in April 2021.

Ponant passengers love to be outside on deck. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Ponant passengers love to be outside on deck. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Along the Same Lines

SeaDream is close.

Contact

Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions, 420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 2838, New York, NY 10170; us.ponant.com, 1-888-400-1082.

— HMS

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Roughest 8 Cruising Regions

By Ted Scull.

For small ship cruising, it is not always fair winds and calm seas. Some parts of the world see more chop than others, and to be in the know before booking, here below are the regions that have a bit of a reputation.

Now let’s begin with the good news. Advance weather forecasts give ship captains ample warning to steer clear of a hurricane’s track by altering course. A diversion may result in skipping a port or two and substituting others, and while you might still feel the swell from the storm, it is unlikely that the ship’s movement will be more than a gentle rise and fall.

Roughest 8 Cruising Regions

Some major white water in the Atlantic, off Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Stabilizers help reduce side-to-side rolling, but not the up and down pitching motions into oncoming swells. The smaller the small ship, the less likely it will have the stabilizing fins. Large cruise ships’ massive blunt bows tend to slam into head seas, and to lessen the unpleasant sensation, the captain may drastically reduce his speed to lessen the impact.

The bodies of water below have the potential for the being the choppiest in world; in no particular order:

1)  Caribbean

The Caribbean’s hurricane season (roughly June to October) tops the list in terms of the number of passengers potentially affected because of the large number of ships cruising here. However, with so many alternative routes and ports of call, in most instances, ships can avoid the storm’s fury and still provide a satisfying cruise.

2)  North Atlantic

The North Atlantic is notorious for its storms at almost any time of the year, and the further north the track the more likely it is to encounter some rough seas along the multi-islands’ passage between the North of Scotland, Shetland/Orkney, Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland and the Canadian maritime provinces and/or the U.S. East Coast. It is positive thinking to note that all islands have a lee side.

The ships that reposition seasonally via the Atlantic between the Mediterranean/Iberia and the Caribbean/Florida are much less likely to encounter storms. However, ships that sail between Northern European ports, Iberia and the Mediterranean pass through the Bay of Biscay. This body of water, west of France and north of Spain, has a long anecdotal history especially with Brits.

In my experience — 16 passages — only one (Santander to Portsmouth) was truly tempestuous and that was quite enough for everybody on board, including me who likes a bit of chop.

3)  Mediterranean

Speaking of the Mediterranean, the Mistral that roars down the Rhone Valley in France and then across the Western Med can stir up heavy seas in winter and spring as does the Meltemi in summer in the Greek Islands. I was aboard the ROYAL CLIPPER during a powerful Mistral and the sail-laden ship reached its maximum hull speed. It was exhilarating and more than a bit dramatic.

4)  Drake Passage

The dreaded Drake Passage between Ushuaia, Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula has a well-deserved reputation, and happily any storm that does occur rarely lasts more than 12 to 24 hours. If you are susceptible to mal de mer, be prepared to deal with any eventuality because the expedition is well worth it.

Longer itineraries that include the Falklands and South Georgia expand the chances for stormy weather.

Cowabunga dude!! That's some wave action on the Drake Passage. * Photo: Ted Scull

Cowabunga dude!! That’s some wave action on the Drake Passage. * Photo: Ted Scull

5)  Gulf of Alaska

The Inside Passage to and from Alaska may be well protected apart from a few short-open sea stretches, while ships traversing the Gulf of Alaska to Seward, on the other hand, may encounter North Pacific storms or swells from a more distant storm.

6)  Southeast & East Asia

Typhoons are an occasional worry in Southeast and East Asia from the South China Sea north to Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, but course alterations can minimize discomfort unless the ship must call at a disembarkation port, then arrivals may be delayed until the waters calm.

7)  Trans-Tasman Passage

The Trans-Tasman passage between Australia and New Zealand and the Bass Strait between Southeast Australia and the island of Tasmania can kick up a mighty storm, but few small ships venture into these southern waters.

8)  Point Judith

The only time I ever felt I might be seasick was standing at the bow of a small ship rounding Point Judith where Narragansett Bay meets Long Island Sound. The sea becomes confused here due to colliding waters, and by simply moving amidships, the unpleasant sensation eased.

Charles Darwin was seasick more than not during his three-year voyage on the Beagle, but back then there were few remedies, and today they are many. A truism is that everyone reacts differently, so there is no easy answer. Still, for the small percentage that do experience mal de mer, it is no picnic. Get professional advice before you go.

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Island Windjammers

Articles About Island Windjammers

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia
Caribbean Scuba Diving + Island Windjammers Cruise. By Elysa Leonard. Excited and ready for an adventure, I left my land-locked ...
Read More
Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway
QuirkyCruise Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway Boy do Heidi and Ted  love saying ... "And the Winner Is" ... We're excited ...
Read More
Island Windjammers
Articles About Island Windjammers Reader Reviews of Island Windjammers Submit Your Own Review Visit Our Reader Review Form QuirkyCruise Review ...
Read More

Reader Reviews of Island Windjammers

QuirkyCruise Reader Review: Vela in the Caribbean (ISLAND WINDJAMMERS) By Tim B.
Vela in the Caribbean Reviewed by Tim B. REVIEWER Tim B. from the USA. CRUISE LINE Island Windjammers. SHIP Vela ...
Read More
QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer Katie Lobe from Canada Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Vela Destination Caribbean # of Nights 6 Departure Date & ...
Read More
QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer Shelly Davis from the USA Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Sagitta Destination Caribbean: St. Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Montserrat ...
Read More
QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer David Harrell from the USA Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Vela Destination Caribbean # of Nights 6 Departure Date ...
Read More
QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer Wendy from the USA Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Sagitta Destination Caribbean # of Nights 6 Departure Date & ...
Read More

Submit Your Own Review

Visit Our Reader Review Form

 

QuirkyCruise ReviewQuirkyCruise Review of Island Windjammers

Remember Windjammer Barefoot Cruises? Enormously popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s for its ultra-casual, rum-fueled Caribbean sailing adventures, the line folded in 2008, leaving thousands of loyal passengers sad and landlocked. Enter Island Windjammers. Launched in 2009 by and for Windjammer Barefoot regulars when they got together to buy the 101-foot brigantine schooner DIAMANT, the line is a more mature version of its barefoot predecessor, operating truly intimate sailing adventures that tootle around the quieter corners of the Caribbean, far from the megaship mega-crowds.

Sure, there’s still plenty of rum punch and Red Stripes consumed, but the volume of the party has been turned way down to just the perfect level. (Island Windjammers is not to be confused with Sail Windjammer, a one-ship line that through 2020 is operating the 72-pax Mandalay, formerly of the Windjammer Barefoot Cruises fleet.)

Island Windjammers

Diamant in all her glory. * Photo: Island Windjammers

SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates & special offers!

Ship, Year Delivered & Passenger Count

DIAMANT (built 1978; refurbished 2016; 10 passengers), VELA (b. 1988; refurbished 2015; 26 p), and SAGITTA (b. 1960; 24 p — currently out of service).

Island Windjammers Passenger Profile

Young-at-heart American couples, singles and groups of friends 45+ who crave a carefree Caribbean getaway with zero pretension. Summers and holiday weeks see occasional families with children; though the minimum age is 8 and it’s probably better for kids to be at least 10 or 12+.

Passenger Decks

2 VELA & DIAMANT; 3 SAGITTA — all no elevators.

Price

$ Moderate

Included Features

Meals, wine, beer, rum punch, soft drinks and snorkeling gear are included in the fares; shore excursions are extra, as are optional tips. You’re also invited to bring along your own booze and the ships provide the mixers (there is no cash bar on board).

The fleet calls on great little places like Tobago Cays. * Photo: Island Windjammers

The fleet calls on great little places like Tobago Cays. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Island Windjammers Itineraries
  • 6- and 12-night Leeward Island cruises round-trip from St Martin or St. Lucia, calling on some combination of Anguilla, Antigua, Dominica (Portsmouth & Roseau), Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, Martinique, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Barths, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Tintamarre
  • 6-, 9- and 12-night Windward Island cruises round-trip from Grenada or St. Lucia, calling on some combination of Bequia, Canouan, Carriacou (Tyrell Bay & Hillsborough), Grenada, Mayreau, Mustique, Petit St. Vincent, Sandy Island, St. Lucia, St Vincent, Tobago Cays, Union Island and Young Island
  • 6- and 12-night British Virgin Islands (BVIs) & Leeward Island cruises round-trip from St. Martin or Tortola, visiting some combination of Anguilla, Jost Van Dyke, Nevis, Norman Island, Salt Island, St. Barths, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Tortola or Virgin Gorda
  • 6-night French West Indies cruises round-trip out of St. Lucia, visiting some combo of Dominica (Portsmouth & Roseau), Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, Martinique and St. Lucia
Why Go?

To let your hair down, work on your tan and hang out with like-minded others who operate on island time.

When to Go?

All year around, though remember hurricane season in the Caribbean is officially June through November.

Island Windjammers Cabins

Small as you’d expect on sailing ships, but charming, wood-paneled and the perfect cozy nests to catch up your beauty rest; otherwise, life is lived up on deck or on shore. All cabins have 110v outlets, blow dryers, shampoo/soap, portholes (except for one cabin on VELA and two on SAGITTA), and private bathrooms with separate shower stall (exceptions: the two Cadet Cabins on VELA each has an all-in-one bathroom and SAGITTA’s and VELA’s two Solo Cabins share one bathroom).

A cozy and very nautical Diamant cabin. * Photo: Island Windjammers

A cozy and very nautical Diamant cabin. * Photo: Island Windjammers

VELA’s cabins include: two tiny Cadet Cabins with raised small double beds (for one or two people) each with a private all-in-one bathroom (no separate shower stall); two Solo Cabins, one with a porthole and one without, share one bathroom with a separate shower stall (each cabin can accommodate one or two people); two Standard Cabins are a bit larger with a double lower bed and a single bunk above; six Deluxe Cabins have a larger double bed with single bunk above; the pair of Compass Cabins that are at the aft of the ship has a queen size bed (and no upper bunk); the one and only Topsail Cabin has a queen bed and larger bathroom; and finally the relatively spacious Owner’s Suite has a king size bed, mini-fridges, and a large bathroom — both cabin and bathroom have portholes.

Island Windjammers

Vela’s Owner’s Suite, not too shabby! * Photo: Island Windjammers

After her overhaul in fall 2016, DIAMANT now sports four cabins with double beds below and single bunk above, and with full bathrooms with separate showers; and a fifth cabin is a suite with a queen bed, sitting area and a full bathroom.

Each day is more gorgeous than the last. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Each day is more gorgeous than the last. * Photo: Island Windjammers

SAGITTA has 11 double cabins with a double bed below and bunk above, and two single cabins without portholes. One of the doubles is the Owner’s Suite, with a king-sized bed, small fridge, flat screen TV with DVD player, and granite and tile master bath (none of the other cabins have TVs). All have portholes.

Island Windjammers Public Rooms

The whole point of an Island Windjammer cruise is to be outside on deck soaking up the sun and fresh Caribbean air, and enjoying the sailing ship experience and the quirkiness of the vessels — each has a very interesting background.

VELA was built in 1988 in Puget Sound, Washington, and deployed in the Marshall Islands as a floating medical clinic called Tole Mour, or “Gift of Life and Health.” Later she was used as an education vessel for students studying sailing, oceanography and marine biology. In late 2014, Island Windjammers purchased the ship and rechristened her VELA, and a year later did major renovations, replacing the dormitory-style cabins with en suite single and double cabins; there’s also a new pilot house, large enclosed bar and dining saloon on the top deck.

DIAMANT was built in 1978 in Taiwan and then later spent two decades sailing in the Galapagos Islands before Island Windjammers purchased her in 2009 and she’s been the fleet favorite ever since. She got a facelift in fall 2016 that reduced her passenger capacity to 10 passengers in five cabins and create an overall spiffier look (“sophisticated not stuffy” the line’s website points out). Of the two passenger decks, the top deck has both covered and open-air dining tables, plus a bar and deck chairs. The cabins are on the lower deck.

Hanging out on Deck aboard Sagitta. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Hanging out on Deck aboard Sagitta. * Photo: Island Windjammers

The three-deck, three-masted SAGITTA was built for the Swedish Navy in 1960, and in later years was completely updated for cruising. Today she has a dining area, bar, lounge and mini library inside on the Main Deck; and above on the outside Upper Deck, another dining area, deck chairs, and an open bridge.

Island Windjammers Dining

Meals are served at one very social open seating at a few tables, with local dishes to the tune of chicken roti, conch soup, pumpkin soup, callaloo and fresh fish as well as continental standards the likes of cheeseburgers and salads. Fresh island fruits are part of the picture, from passion fruit to guava, star fruit, sour oranges and bananas.

Island Windjammers

Delicious meals cooked up with local ingredients and Island panache. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Island Windjammers Activities & Entertainment

The day starts with the captain’s story time when he explains what’s happening for the day; the ships spend part of every day in port somewhere. The pace is easy going and free — while away the day swimming off the side of the ship (when conditions permit), take the ships’ kayaks for a spin nearby, try paddle boarding, or sip rum punch with new friends in an inflatable “floating island.”

There are a handful of shore excursions offered on most itineraries, but many passengers are content to find a good beach or wander around on their own. Sometimes lunch is served on a quiet beach somewhere, otherwise meals on are on board. Occasionally passengers will arrange their own diving trips, and spend part of a day deep down under looking at the colorful fishies.

Happy hour is a big thing and drinks on deck are a favored pastime for many; you’re free to bring aboard your favorite spirits or mixers, though why bother when beer, wine, rum punch and soft drinks are on the house. Evenings, the crew may start a bonfire on a nearby beach or organize a pub-crawl. Theme cruises from time to time focus on rum (with a rum expert on board to educate and do tastings), solo cruisers (no kids or couples allowed!), pirates (with costume contests, pirate trivia and visits to spots where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed), local food tasting, and yoga. Om shanti! 🙏🏼

Island Windjammers

Swing from the rigging, yipeee! * Photo: Island Windjammers

Along the Same Lines

Star Clippers is in the ballpark, though its passengers are more international and its ships are much larger, and the overall experience is more high-end.

Note

These ships are not suitable for people with mobility problems, as staircases are steep, doorways narrow and door sills high.

Island Windjammers Contact

Georgia-based Island Windjammers; 1-877-772-4549, www.islandwindjammers.com.

— HMS

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

By Heidi Sarna.

For the past decade, Island Windjammers has been tootling around the Caribbean with its trio of 10-, 24- and 26-passenger sailing ships in all their wonderfully quirky glory. The vibe is laid-back, wind-in-your-hair, rum-in-hand chilling out.  Click here for our Island Windjammers review. 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

Island hopping in the Caribbean is a dream. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Adding some spice to the already appealing Island Windjammers ethos of island hopping, sun bathing, swimming, and snorkeling, is a handful of annual quirky Island Windjammers theme cruises.

Upcoming theme cruises for 2018 & 2019  include…
Taste of the Islands Food Cruise

Savor onboard cooking demos and visits to local markets to check out the island spices and flavors.

VELA, September 29-October 5, 2019

Round-trip from Grenada, calling on Mayreau, Bequia, Tobagao Cays, Carriacou, and Union Island.

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

A farmer’s market in the Islands. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Pirates and Mermaids Week

We’re talking costume party, treasure hunt, story time and lots of rum swilling. Did we mention rum?

VELA, October 6-12, 2019

Round-trip from Grenada, calling on Mayreau, Bequia, Tobagao Cays, Carriacou, and Union Island.

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

An Island Windjammers cruise is footloose and fancy free. * Photo: Island Winjdammers

 

 

Rum Cruise

You can guess what this is about. Learn the history of rum, how rum is made, and how to mix great rum drinks. Sample premium whites, darks, aged, spiced, flavored and even a drop or two of over-proof rum. Rum-related activities are hosted by Dave Russell and fares include daily sampling of some of the world’s most exotic rums.

VELA, November 24-30, 2019

Round-trip from St. Lucia calling on Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, Marie Galante, and Martinqiue.

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

Rum and chocolate pairing … life doesn’t get much better! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

 

Island Hops Beer Cruise

Island Windjammers has partnered with West Indies Beer Co. to offer beer lovers a sailing to remember — the 3rd annual Island Hops Cruise. 🍻🍺Cruise hosts for the week, Mark and Jill Heath, the proprietors of West Indies Beer Co., will explain all there is to know about styles, hops, yeast and malts. Sample lots of local brews, from Drunken Goat to Rogue Pirate and more, and even brew beer on board the Vela!

VELA, October 13-19, 2019

Round-trip from Grenada, calling on Mayreau, Bequia, Tobagao Cays, Carriacou, and Union Island.

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

Island Hops Testing & Tasting. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

The Vela under full sail. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Sagitta’s Solo Sojourn

These cruises are for solo cruisers only, no couples or children, just a group of adventurous, like-minded travelers looking for some relaxing fun in the sun.

Sagitta, December 2-8, 2018

Round-trip from St. Kitts, calling on Anguilla, Nevis, St. Barts, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten.

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

A Sagitta standard cabin makes sharing a breeze. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

G Adventures

For more than 30 years, G Adventures has been offering affordable adventure travel around the world including small-ship cruises (about 10-15% of their total annual business) on private yachts, catamarans and oceangoing expedition-style ships, with more recent offerings on riverboats. They also sell travel by rail, road and air. Their MO is providing small groups with authentic cultural experiences, through local guides, cuisine, and transport and uncontrived excursions. The target skews younger — 20s to 50s — than most other travel companies; though any age will be comfortable if they’ve got a young-at-heart attitude and a decent level of fitness.

A trained, local CEO, or Chief Experience Officer, guides all trips and acts as the point person to make sure things run smoothly. (On the G EXPEDITION ship, there are additional expert guides in various disciplines). The emphasis is on active exploring, using bicycles for example, and on supporting local businesses and communities (i.e. through visits to schools and charity-supported restaurants in Cambodia).

To keep rates reasonable on the various sailing trips, meals are not included, instead the skipper collects a modest amount of money from passengers who want to share a simple breakfast and lunch on board (skipper goes grocery shopping for the basics); for dinner, it’s expected that passengers will want to eat dinner in port on the islands (who wouldn’t want to!). A BYOB policy (bring your own booze) is in effect on board most of the Europe-based sailing and river cruises. The line matches same sex passengers to avoid single fares.

With 700 itineraries in more than 90 countries (including the new series of in-depth riverboat tours called National Geographic Journeys), G Adventures excels in offering trips geared to various ages, styles and interests — from families with young children to budget-minded “yolo’s” (the 18- to 39-year-old set).  Adventures is dynamic, cutting-edge, socially minded and hip (cue the great photos and video on their website), and definitely thinks outside of the typical travel company box. Quirky cruise anyone?

The line owns the G EXPEDITION ship for trips to the Arctic and Antarctica, and does full-ship charters for its many other small-ship offerings (hence ships may vary from year to year, and listings below reflect a portion of their current fleet). Consult their 150-page encyclopedia!

G Adventures

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

XAVIER III (built 1996, refurbished 2004; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

MONSERRAT (built 2005, refurbished 2016; 20 passengers) – Galapagos

QUEEN OF THE GALAPAGOS (built 2007; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

YOLITA (built 2007, refurbished 2016; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

ESTRELLA DEL MAR (built 1990, refurbished 2014; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

REINA SILVIA VOYAGER  (built 2020; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

EDEN  (built 2000, refurbished 2012; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

G EXPEDITION (built 1972, refurbished 2008; 134 passengers) – Arctic/Antarctica, designed to Ice Class 1B specifications

DANIELE (built 2015; 22 passengers) – Burgundy, France

TOUM TIOU II (built 2008; 28 passengers) – Mekong

VARUNA (built 2006; 24 passengers) — Ganges

AMATISTA (built 1994; 30 passengers) – Amazon

SAILING VESSELS in Europe, the Caribbean and Asia may change from year to year, but those chartered generally carry about 8 to 16 passengers.

A catamaran cruise in the waters of Thailand. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A catamaran cruise in the waters of Thailand. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Passenger Profile

Adventurous couples, singles, and families of all ages (though especially the under 40 set) mostly from North America, and a handful from the UK, Europe and other places. The ocean expedition cruises tend to attract largely couples, average age mid-50s, while the sailing tours draw mostly 30s singles.

Passenger Decks

2-3; no elevators.

Price

$ to $$, Moderate to Expensive

Included Features

Generally meals are included across the board except on the small sailing yachts. For Galapagos and South America coastal cruises, snorkeling gear is part of the package, while bicycles are carried on French rivers and on the Mekong. On some itineraries guided shore excursions are also included.

Passengers on an excursion in the Galapagos. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Passengers on an excursion in the Galapagos. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Itineraries
  • Galapagos: There are mostly 7, 10 and up to 17-day cruises either round-trip from Baltra or San Cristobal islands, packaged with a 1- or 2-night hotel stay in mainland Quito, Ecuador with the longest more elaborate stays in Ecuador. Itineraries focus mostly on the Central (including Santa Cruz Santiago), Western (Isabela and Fernandina) and Southern (Floreana and Espanola) island groups, to get up close and personal with the amazing wildlife and diverse landscape. (Note: airfare between Quito and the islands is not included in the rates as it often is with other lines).
G Adventures

Estrella Del Mar in the Galapagos. * Photo- © G Adventures, Inc.

  • Europe Rivers: 6-night cruises round-trip from Dijon through France’s Burgundy region visit small villages and wineries, with excursions on foot and by bicycle.
  • India Rivers: 15-night cruises from Patna to Kolkata (Calcutta) on the Ganges River visit ancient temples, ornate palaces and sixth-century rock carvings. South, east and north coast catamaran sailing in Sri Lanka.
  • Southeast Asia Rivers: 7-night cruises (plus 2 hotel nights) on classic-style riverboats between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap go to wet and floating markets, temples (including a sunrise visit to the legendary Angkor Wat on the longer itins), stilt villages, and Vietnam war sites (such as the Cu Chi tunnels and Reunification Palace, associated with the Fall of Saigon in 1975).
  • Turkey & Croatia: 9-night super casual catamaran cruises travel between Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia, and between Bodrum and Fethiye, Turkey.
  • Greek Isles: 7-night super casual yacht cruises sail between Santorini and Mykonos with stops at untouristy offbeat islands in the Cyclades; maybe including Folegandros, Sifnos, Ios, Antiparos, Paros and/or Naxos.
  • Cuba: 6-night super casual catamaran cruises sail round-trip out of Havana and visit points on the Canarreos Archipelago with a focus on snorkeling, swimming and beach-bumming.
  • British Virgin Islands: 6-night catamaran cruises are round-trip from Tortola and hit all the best offbeat swimming, snorkeling and beach sites.
  • Maldives: 6-night cruises aboard a traditional dhoni (a dhow-like fishing boat) spend a week snorkeling and diving in the gorgeous waters of the Maldives islands, and its lagoons and atolls.
  • Thailand: Choose from 6 nighters round-trip from Phuket and 3-night cruises between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. Indonesia Interisland catamaran cruising from Bali to nearby islands and Lombok.
Amarista on the Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Amarista on the Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

  • Amazon River: 7-night cruises on the Amazon depart from Iquitos, Peru; with optional pre- or post land trips to Machu Picchu.
  • Antarctica: 10- to 22-night cruises round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina visit points throughout the South Shetland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula. Longest cruises add the Falklands and South Georgia..
  • Arctic/Norwegian Fjords: 10- to 14-night cruises between Reykjavik, Iceland, and Longyearbyen, Norway, visit ports along the coasts of Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard.
  • South America: 4- to 5-week-long cruises along the west coast of South America (Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia) are offered as the G EXPEDITION repositions between Antarctica and the Arctic region, with excursions to fjords, glaciers, national parks and rain forests, plus a 3-day overland trip to Machu Picchu.
No shortage of South Georgia Penguins in the Antarctica. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

No shortage of South Georgia Penguins in the Antarctica. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

When to Go?

Galapagos is year-round, Antarctica late October through mid-March; Arctic late May through mid-September, SE Asia July-April, Maldives year-round, Thailand October-April, and Europe April-October.

Cabins

G EXPEDITION (Polar) is G Adventures’ owned ship for polar travel; it has five different cabin categories that range in size and layout. All have private bathrooms with showers, and a porthole or window. The two lowest categories are quads and triples with upper and lower bunk beds. All other categories have two lower beds, except for four larger suites that have a queen bed.

QUEEN OF GALAPAGOS (Galapagos) the most high-end of the company’s five Galapagos ships, has 9 luxury cabins all with windows, private bathroom and air conditioning, TV and DVD players — 7 have queen or twin beds, and 1 is a suite with a sitting area.

A light-filled twin cabin on the Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A light-filled twin cabin on the Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

YOLITA’s (Galapagos) 8 cabins have queen or twin beds, large windows, and TVs with DVD players. All have private bathrooms and air conditioning.

XAVIER III’s (Galapagos) 8 cabins are all double-occupancy with twin beds; 4 on the upper deck cabins with windows, and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All come with private bathrooms and air conditioning.

A twin cabin on Xavier III. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A twin cabin on Xavier III. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

MONSERRAT’s (Galapagos) 10 cabins comprise 6 double-occupancy upper deck cabins with windows and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All are equipped with private bathrooms and air conditioning.

EDEN (Galapagos) takes 16 passengers and a two wraparound decks to easily access all directions. 4 cabins are twin lowers, a double bed cabin, and  3 twin-share bunk cabins, all with private facilities and A/C.

ESTRELLA DEL MAR (Galapagos) has 8 double-occupancy cabins with bunk beds, 4 on the upper deck with windows and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All have private bathrooms and air conditioning.

DANIELE (France) is a canal barge with 12 lower deck cabins all with windows and private bathrooms, TV, radio, and air-conditioning.

TOUM TIOU II (Mekong) has 6 upper deck cabins and 8 lower deck cabins, all with windows and en-suite bathrooms.

AMATISTA (Amazon) has 15 cabins — 7 upper deck and 8 lower deck, all with windows and private bathrooms.

VARUNA (Ganges) has 12 air-conditioned cabins, all with en suite bathrooms.

CATAMARANS/SAILING YACHTS (Cuba, BVIs, Greece, Croatia, Thailand, Maldives), the vessels may vary from year to year, but generally have 4 to 8 double cabins often (but not always) with private bathrooms.

Dining room on Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Dining room on Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Public Rooms & Dining

All Galapagos vessels and the polar ship G EXPEDITION have an indoor observation lounge for talks by the naturalists, plus a bar, small library, outdoor observation deck with chairs for relaxing, and indoor dining area for casual and relaxed meals. The menus where possible incorporate local ingredients, such as fish.

TOUM TIOU II (Mekong River) has a main lounge with a large-screen TV for watching a limited selection of DVDs, a library, bar, and open-air dining area and indoor/outdoor lounges. DANIELE (France) has a lounge with bar, dining area, sun deck with loungers and parasols, and a hot tub.

The small catamarans and yachts in the Caribbean, Europe, Thailand and the Maldives, and the riverboat on the Amazon, all have a combination lounge and dining area indoors, plus outdoor seating for sunbathing and hanging out.

Some vessels have reliable Wi-Fi, including G EXPEDITION, but on many, connectivity is spotty.

Amatista on Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Amatista on Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Activities & Entertainment

In general, the entertainment is the destination and interaction with fellow passengers, sharing conversation and drinks on deck. Activities happen in port or in the water while snorkeling, diving, kayaking or zipping around in zodiacs or small skiffs. The Galapagos boats carry 2 zodiacs for expeditions and snorkeling equipment for passengers’ use (wet suits are free of charge on QUEEN OF GALAPAGOS and YOLITA only). DANIELE (France) has a hot tub, and it and the Mekong riverboat carry a handful of bicycles.

Along the Same Lines

QuarkOne Ocean, Poseidon Adventures in the polar regions.

Contact

G Adventures, 19 Charlotte Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H5; 416-260-0999. US office: 179 South Street, 1st floor, Boston, MA 0211, 877 390 9050. Additionally in USA & Canada 1-888-8000-4100; UK 0344 272 2060; Australia 1300 853 325; New Zealand 0800 333 415. Consult the website for additional international telephone numbers.

— HMS

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates & special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Silversea Cruises

Originally family-owned and operated by the Lefebvres of Rome, Royal Caribbean now has a 67% stake in Silversea Cruises. The line has been offering high-end cruises since the early 1990s when it first launched the SILVER CLOUD, joining Seabourn as one of the world’s most upscale cruise lines focused on excellent food and service, posh suites, and exotic itineraries.

A year after the CLOUD, sister ship SILVER WIND debuted — the latter the sole subject of this review — and then in 2000 and 2001, a pair of larger even more luxurious twins hit the water, the 382-passenger SILVER SHADOW and SILVER WHISPER respectively. In 2009, the luxury stakes were raised again when the 540-passenger SILVER SPIRIT was introduced, with six dining venues including an Asian restaurant. SILVER MUSE made its debut in spring 2017 upping the capacity further beyond our 300-passenger limit to be followed by The SILVER MUSE in the autumn of 2020. When considering the entire fleet, Silversea blankets the world with creative itineraries.

In August 2017, the SILVER CLOUD was refurbished and converted into an ice-class expedition ship and at the end of 2017 joined the company’s Silversea Expeditions division, whose fleet consists of the SILVER DISCOVERER, SILVER EXPLORER and SILVER GALAPAGOS.

In summer 2018, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd acquired a stake in privately-owned Silversea Cruises; here are more details.

Beginning in August 2020, SILVER WIND will get a second extensive refurbishment, completing a project started in late 2018, that will include a strengthened, ice-class hull, bigger suites and other upgrades.  The ship will emerge with the ability to operate both classic and expedition itineraries.

Silversea Cruises

The Silver Wind carries 296 passengers double occupancy. * Photo- Silversea Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

SILVER CLOUD (built 1994 & 296 passengers) and SILVER WIND (b. 1995 & 296 p).

Passenger Profile

Well-to-do couples 40s on up, and a number of senior singles, from North America, and a handful from the UK and Europe.

Passenger Decks

6; an elevator connects all but the topmost deck.

Price

$$ – $$$  Expensive to Super Pricey

Included Features

Just about everything — wine, spirits, and tips.

Itineraries

SILVER WIND:

  • Winters, 7- to 14-night Caribbean cruises round-trip from or between Fort Lauderdale, Puerto Rico and Barbados, with a vast variety of itineraries to the eastern, western and southern regions; most cruises are a combination of offbeat small-ship ports (such as Tortola and Bequia) and bustling big-ship ports (the likes of Grand Cayman and St. Thomas).
  • Spring and summer months of similar length in Northern Europe, including Norway, the Baltic and around Britain and Ireland from London, then westward to Eastern Canada, and fall foliage cruises between New York, Boston and via the St. Lawrence to Quebec and Montreal. Some transoceanic positioning cruises extend to 22 and 31 days. Following that via U.S. East Coast south to Fort Lauderdale and the resumption of winter Caribbean cruises.

SILVER CLOUD: Now see Silversea Expeditions

When to Go? 

The ship cruises where the optimal weather matches the destination.

Cabins

The all-suite ship has 149 very comfortable ocean-view suites, all with walk-in closets, a sitting area with sofa bed (for a third guest), and marble-clad bathrooms. The majority of rooms are 246 sq. ft. suites with 49 sq. ft. balconies. The 27 Vista Suites measure 240 sq. ft. and are the only rooms on the ship with windows and no balconies.

The largest suites measure 1,214 square feet and top categories have a one- or a two-bedroom configuration, plus a powder room for guests, full-sized whirlpool bathtub, CD player, and espresso machine. All this plus the amenities every accommodation on board boasts — butler service, plush robe, slippers, choice of pillows, choice of Ferragamo, Bvlgari or hypoallergenic bath amenities, ritzy Pratesi bed linens (if they were good enough for Elizabeth Taylor …), and a stocked mini fridge. Each also has a flat screen TV with on-demand movies, direct-dial telephone, Wi-Fi access and cellular service.

The majority of accommodations are 240 square foot suites with balconies. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

The majority of accommodations are 240 square foot suites with balconies. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Public Rooms

Overall, there is an appealing abundance of polished woods and teak decking, unlike newer ships. Up top is the forward-facing Observation Lounge, a quiet place for scenery viewing, reading and crossword puzzles. Just behind it are the spa, gym and hair salon. Otherwise, the public areas are at the stern of the ship. The windowed Panorama Lounge on Deck 8 is popular for daytime activities like dance lessons, and drinks before and after dinner, sometimes with live music; a cozy attached room called Connoisseur’s Corner is for cigar smokers.

Two decks below,  the multi-tiered entertainment lounge hosts mini Broadway-style shows; it’s also used for movies and lectures. Going down to Deck 5 you’ll find the small casino with blackjack, roulette, poker and slot machines, plus another bar and the ship’s boutiques. A small library and Internet room reside on Deck 4.

La Terrazza offers both indoor and outdoor seating, for wonderful stern views. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

La Terrazza offers both indoor and outdoor seating, for wonderful stern views. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Dining

Mealtime is a highlight of a Silversea cruise, with top-end continental fare and gracious five-star service. The four dining venues aboard the WIND include the elegant Restaurant with candle-lit tables, crisp white linens and china and seating capacity for all passengers at once; seating is open and there are tables for two and four passengers as well as larger tables, though you may have to wait for a two-top during the most popular dining times. Adjacent is the intimate Le Champagne, a 40-seat Relais & Châteaux conceived venue offering fine wines complemented by a set six-course tasting menu of regionally-inspired dishes ($40 per person and reservations are recommended).

La Terrazza serves buffet-style breakfast and lunch, with some a la carte options, and in the evening becomes a reservations-required Italian Restaurant inspired by the principals of Slow Food (ie, fresh and sustainable); for example, there is buffalo mozzarella from Naples, air-dried ham out of Parma, 24-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, and pasta made fresh daily on board.

The casual al fresco Pool Grille serves lite fare for breakfast and at lunch, you’ll get grilled meats, pizza, salads and more. Come evening, it becomes a novel dinner venue where you grill fish, prawns, steaks and other goodies exactly as you like them on a heated volcanic-rock plate right at your table (reservations are suggested). There is also room service that includes the option of ordering the same multi-course meals being served in the restaurants.

Activities & Entertainment

Most cruises have an expert lecturer or two — authors, scientists, professors, diplomats and others — who present day-time talks about the destination or other interesting topics, from foreign affairs to conservation. There’s a card room and some passengers entertain themselves with bridge and other games on long sea days. Others prefer spending time in the spa with its five massage rooms and sauna/steam rooms.

The oceanview gym sports a row of treadmills, stair climbers and stationary bikes, as well as free weights; there are Pilates, yoga and circuit training classes. Amidships on Deck 8 you’ll find the pool and two hot tubs, and a jogging/walking track up on Deck 9. Evenings, drinks with friends before and after dinner are de rigueur, plus there are live musicians in the various lounges and song and dance acts a few times a week in the show lounge.

Along the Same Lines

SEA DREAM I and II, and the ex-Seabourn trio, Windstar’s STAR PRIDE, STAR BREEZE and STAR LEGEND.

Contact

Silverseas Cruises, 110 East Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301; www.silversea.com, 800-722-9955

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

small ship cruises to the Greek Isles

Windstar Cruises.

This fleet of six combines Windstar’s three original sailing yachts, groundbreaking at the time for their large size and computer-controlled sails, with Seabourn’s former trio of small cruise ships also groundbreaking back in the day because of their luxurious all-suite accommodation and exquisite cuisine. All were built between 1986 and 1992, making them senior citizens in cruise ship speak, but thanks to repeated upgrades, the oldies remain in remarkably fine shape, and details are now available about the trio’s major reconstruction program.

N.B. The STAR PRIDE, STAR BREEZE and STAR LEGEND will undergo lengthening and the addition of 50 suites, all new bathrooms, two additional dining venues, and more fuel efficient new engines. The deck pool area and spa will be redesigned. The complete project will last from October 2019 to November 2020 with staggered withdrawals from service. The passenger capacities will increase to 312 but never fear, the trio will continue to be covered by QuirkyCruise. STAR BREEZE is currently undergoing its $85 million refit.

The collective aim is to provide a casually elegant no-jackets-required small-ship experience with alfresco dining, sail-away parties on deck, and generally lots of time spent outdoors soaking up the sun and sea. The MO is sophistication without stuffiness on cruises that are not crazy expensive. Windstar Cruises runs frequent promotions, from waiving the single supplement fees to discounts on fares, and free shipboard credits, shore excursions and WiFi.

N.B. WIND SPIRIT will further delay return to service from Tahiti to October 15, 2020 due to Centers for Disease Control “No Sail” date of September 20. 2020. The other five ships are scheduled for late 2020 and onto July 2021. In the interim, major HVAC updates will take place.

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

WIND STAR (built 1986, 148 passengers), WIND SPIRIT (b. 1988, 148 p), WIND SURF (b. 1990, 310 p), STAR PRIDE (b. 1988, 212 p), STAR BREEZE (b. 1989, 312 p I 2020), and STAR LEGEND (b.1992, 212 p).

small ship cruises to the Greek Isles

Gorgeous WInd Star under full sail. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Passenger Profile

The majority are North American couples in their 40s to 70s, with a fair number of British and European passengers in the mix.. Older children, 12 and up, might enjoy the sailing ships, especially on warm weather itineraries when there are oodles of opportunities to use the watersports equipment.

Passenger Decks

WIND SPIRIT/WIND STAR have 4 decks and no elevators; WIND SURF and STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND have 6 decks and elevators between them all.

Price

$ – $$  Moderate/Expensive

Included Features

All non-alcoholic drinks, bottled water, sodas and specialty coffees.

Itineraries

The Windstar Cruises’ fleet spends a lot of time in the Caribbean and Mediterranean on 7-night sailings, plus hits many other regions of the world as well. For the 2020 European program, Windstar will operate 116 departures and 80 itineraries with returns after several years absence to Ashdod and Haifa for Israel; Alexandria and Port Said for Egypt including Cairo and the Pyramids; and Istanbul with an overnight stay.

  • Three or four of the six ships spend winters in the Caribbean doing mostly 7-night sailings out of Puerto Rico, Barbados and St. Martin.
  • Two ships spend the winter doing 7-night Costa Rica cruises with a Panama Canal transit. Mexico is another destination.
  • In late 2017, the line returned to Asia for the winter with the STAR LEGEND doing mostly 10- to 14-night sailings in the region.
  • WIND SPIRIT resides in French Polynesia year-round doing mostly 7-night sailings round-trip from Papeete, and a handful of longer sailings that also include calls to the dreamy lagoons at Takapoto and Tiputa, Rangiroa.
  • Summers, five of the six ships undertake 7- to 11-night sailings in the Greek Isles, along the Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese coasts, and in northern Europe to Scandinavia, Scotland, Ireland and the Baltic countries. Alaska again is part of the summer program along with New England and Canada. The newly overhauled STAR BREEZE will offer 22 Alaska itineraries beginning in 2020 that include Prince William Sound with a call at Valdez and a cruise into College Fjord where five tidewater glaciers are found as well as Hubbard Glacier on the slopes of the St. Elias Mountains.
  • Note: Six new itineraries in 2020-2021 lasting 12-15 days aboard the newly refitted STAR BREEZE will explore Australia and New Zealand such as Cairns to Melbourne and Auckland at the top of the North Island and along he coast of the South Island.
When to Go?

The fleet cruises different regions of the world in the optimum months.

The cabins on WInd Star, Spirit & Surf are compact but offer everything you'll need. * Photo: Roger Paperno

The cabins on WInd Star, Spirit & Surf are compact but offer everything you’ll need. * Photo: Roger Paperno

Cabins

WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF’s standard cabins are 188 square feet with a nautical flair, while the all-suite STAR PRIDE/STAR BREEZE/STAR LEGEND standard suites are 277 square feet with an elegant posh-hotel feel, thanks to a walk-in closet, sitting area with sofa, desk and marble bathroom with double sinks and both a shower and tub.

Cabins on all six Windstar Cruises’ ships come stocked with L’Occitane bath amenities, bathrobes, slippers, fresh fruit, flat screen TVs with DVD players, wifi access, room service and mini-bars. Suites have additional amenities, and the largest living space on STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND is the 575-square-foot owner’s suite with a separate dining and living room area; the WIND SURF’S 495-square-foot Bridge Suite is it’s top accommodation. None have inside cabins.

About one-third of the suites on STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND have French balconies (sliding glass doors opening up to a small ledge) and no cabins have balconies on WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF.

Marble-clad bathrooms on Star Pride. * Photo: Chrissy Colon

Marble-clad bathrooms on Star Pride. * Photo: Chrissy Colon

Public Rooms

The STAR PRIDE/STAR BREEZE/STAR LEGEND are mini cruise ships and much of their public space is indoors, while life on the WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF is focused more on the expansive outdoor teak deck space with its inviting bar, pool and hot tub, and lots of seating. The outside decks on the STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND trio also sport a nice bar with great sea views. Otherwise due to the annoying configuration of the wide smoke stacks in the middle of things, the pool is in the shade much of the time and there isn’t the feel of wide open outdoor space like there is on Windstar’s sailing ships.

The interiors on STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND, on the other hand, feel spacious. There are two lounges, two bars and two restaurants (one with indoor and outdoor seating), plus a small casino, library, boutique, spa, and gym, plus a three-level atrium in the middle of it all.

The WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF also have multiple restaurants, an indoor lounge and bar, tiny boutique and library, slip of a casino, plus a gym and spa (both of which are larger on WIND SURF).

Dining

Mealtime is a big part of the Windstar Cruises experience, with each of the ships having two, three or four dining venues, including at least one with outdoor seating so diners can soak up the sun or starry nights. The WIND SURF has four restaurants, including a formal venue serving continental, a modern French bistro, a poolside grill for steaks and grilled skewers, and a casual buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch.

The WIND STAR and WIND SPIRIT and STAR PRIDE/STAR BREEZE/STAR LEGEND have a main formal restaurant (though jackets aren’t required, passengers dress smartly and some men wear jackets anyway) for multi-course fine dining with a continental menu and the more casual indoor/outdoor buffet venue called The Veranda at the stern that’s transformed into the a la carte Candles restaurant for dinner. Dining out on the deck facing the ship’s wake is a lovely experience.

Elegant Amphora Restaurant, this one on Wind Star. * Photo: Roger Paperno

Elegant Amphora Restaurant, this one on Wind Star. * Photo: Roger Paperno

Activities & Entertainment

On some cruises, usually longer itineraries with multiple sea days and cruises with a notable feature (i.e., the Panama Canal), an expert lecturer talks about the destinations. On occasion, a movie is screened in the lounge (STAR BREEZE and STAR LEGEND have a dedicated movie room). The fleet has an open bridge policy, so weather-permitting you are free to wander in and have a chat with the officer on duty, and perhaps the captain.

All six have gyms (and they’re small on WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT) and spas (one room on WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT), plus outdoor pools and one or two hot tubs. Sea days on the Windstar sailing yachts are meant to be spent sunbathing and relaxing on deck while taking in the majestic beauty of the masted ships. If anchored in calm seas, all six have watersports platforms for easy access to swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing and other water fun right from the ship and all free of charge.

Before and after dinner, passengers enjoy drinks and the company of their shipmates, plus live music from a pianist or singing duo in one of the lounges. Usually once per cruise local performers come on board for a few hours to entertain guests with folkloric dance or other cultural traditional entertainment. In port once per cruise, there is a complimentary special experience, the likes of a wine tasting and traditional lunch in Sicily or in Ephesus, a private dinner under the stars at the stunning ruins of the Celsus Library.

Along the Same Lines

SeaDream Yacht Club is a blend of Windstar’s sailing ships (where life is lived outdoors on deck) and ex-Seabourn ships (mini cruise ships without sails).

Contact

Windstar Cruises, 2101 4th Avenue Suite 210, Seattle, WA 98121; www.windstarcruises.com, 888-216-9373

— HMS

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for monthly updates!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Zegrahm Expeditions

Zegrahm Expeditions got its start in 1990 by a group of men who knew adventure travel with first-hand experience. In fact the company name is derived from their initials. The programs are worldwide and ever changing, and the firm has a very high loyalty factor with many return clients. Some field leaders have their own following amongst past passengers and biographies appear on the website.

While Zegrahm offers land programs in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, it is the unusually comprehensive expedition cruise programs that are the focus here. Most have one annual departure, while the Galapagos has two, so while we aim to update the changing expeditions and vessels chartered, use the itineraries listed below as a guide of both present and past itineraries.

Nearly every cruise has a land extension. Zegrahm has partnered with the Nature Conservancy to give participants a better understanding of the value of nature. They receive a year’s membership while a percentage of the cost of the cruise goes to the organization.

Zegraham Island Sky

Zegraham’s Island Sky * Photo: Ted Scull

Ships & Years Delivered

As there are many itineraries and multiple ships involved, every destination and the ship used will be treated together as a pair. Zegrahm does not own ships but takes on complete charters of a half-dozen vessels taking from 38 to 110 passengers.

Passengers

Mostly American, active, 50 and up, well-heeled, curious about the world and enjoying sharing the experience with others. Singles are welcome and rates are often favorable, more so than on land itineraries. Children are welcome and families are especially catered for on selected Antarctic and Galapagos itineraries.

Price

$$$ Very Pricey, yet with much included – see below.

Included Features

Zegrahm includes a lot in their pricing, so often there is little else to budget for other than air fare and land extensions, if any. All trips ashore and special events, entrance fees, kayaking, snorkeling and diving (when offered), all gratuities aboard and ashore, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner.

Itineraries (ship reviews following below)

Note: Many itineraries are one-of-a-kind and often not repeated from year to year, so the specific destinations and rotation of ports will change. Here, we aim to show you the numerous and ever-changing possibilities for world-wide small ship travel that Zegrahm has offered, does offer and made offer again. Also, all ships are chartered for a specific cruise or a finite period of time, and other ships may take over. The standards will be high throughout the chartered fleet.  

1) Antarctica: The 22-day comprehensive itinerary embarks and disembarks at Ushuaia, Argentina located at the tip of South America and visits the Falklands, makes five landings in South Georgia, then several islands off the Antarctic Peninsula and as many landings on the peninsula as time and weather permit. Highlights are the huge variety of birds, whales, seals and penguins, former whaling stations, places associated with the explorer Ernest Shackleton and his party, often a research station, icebergs, stunning land and ice formations, and some of the clearest atmosphere your will ever experience.

During the time spent aboard, the expedition staff gives talks, share experiences and show films and recently prepared videos. A second 14-day itinerary concentrates on the Antarctic Peninsula plus a foray south across the Antarctic Circle. N.B. For those who have traveled to Antarctica, Zegrahm offers an itinerary that includes the Falklands and South Georgia without Antarctica.

Ship: ISLAND SKY

Antarctica: Chinstrap penguins are having a noisy discussion over the children. * Photo: Ted Scull

Antarctica: Chinstrap penguins are having a noisy discussion over the children. * Photo: Ted Scull

2) The Philippines: Very few ships visit the Philippines, let along multiple calls, and here is a 17-day interisland itinerary that combines visiting tribal as well as mainstream Filipino communities, beautiful landscapes, a volcano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, orangutan rehabilitation center, coral reefs and marine life seen from boats and snorkeling activities. The main island of Mindanao and Manila, the capital, are not in the plans.

Ship: CALEDONIAN SKY

3) Japan: A 17-day cruise spring cruise features a voyage through the Sea of Japan and up the island country’s West Coast to visit Honshu Island’s fabulous gardens, landscapes, architectural wonders, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, medieval castles, and a sail across to South Korea’s World Heritage Site at Gyeongiu.

ShipCALEDONIAN SKY

4) Australia’s Kimberley: A 15-day coastal cruise embarks in Broome, a port in Western Australia, famous for its pearl industry, transports you to some of the country’s most remote parts (The Outback) reached by sea. Small-boats take you out to reefs, into river gorges, whirlpools, mangrove swamps and under cliff faces to search out some of the world’s most unusual sea, land and birdlife in the world.

Visit several waterfalls, some tidal and reversible, thousands of years old aboriginal paintings tucked away in cliff caves and an aboriginal village at a island port just off Darwin, the disembarkation port and the Northern Territory’s capital city. There are times that you feel you are stepping on shores that have seen very little human activity. The May 2018 Kimberley coastal cruise embarks in Darwin and disembarks in Broome.

Aboriginal cave paintings Kimberley Coast, Australia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Aboriginal cave paintings Kimberley Coast, Australia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship: CORAL DISCOVERER 

4A) Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: An in-depth 15-day exploration embarking in Cairns (Queensland) and sailing northward to much less visited Ribbon Reef #3, 9 & 10, Rachel Carson Reef, Cod Hole (giant potato cod), and Lizard Island with focus on seabirds, monitor lizards, and minke whales including close contacts by diving and snorkeling. N.B. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from global warming.

Ship: CORAL EXPEDITIONS II

5) Melanesia: A 17-day interisland cruise embarking in major South Pacific city of Port Moresby, New Guinea and sailing through the Melanesian islands to Port Vila, Vanuatu. The emphasis is on the local Melanesia culture (customs, ceremonies, dress, art, music, boat building) in several very isolated communities and great variety of exotic sea and birdlife amongst the coral reefs. There will be many chances to snorkel and dive over around coral reefs looking for clownfish, damsels, Moorish idols, and butterflyfish. One dive visits the USS President Coolidge that sank in 1942. From the disembarkation port, fly to Brisbane, Australia.

5A) Micronesia: A truly off-beat 18-day cruise embarks in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea and island hops (with no less than 13 calls) to Palau for diving, snorkeling, meeting the locals, birding, and an archeological site.

ShipCALEDONIAN SKY (5&5A)

6) Patagonia: Two cruises back-to-back feature first an 18-day voyage beginning in the Falklands and exploring the dramatic narrow waterways from Cape Horn into Patagonia and north along the Chilean fjords to Puerto Montt, just south of Santiago, Chile. This portion is nature at its most beautiful and rugged. Leaving penguins sightings in the Falkands, visit one of the world’s great national parks – Torres del Paine – for its birdlife and incredible mountain scenery. Cruise for whales, seals and sail up to the base of South America’s longest glacier, then navigate the fjords northward to Puerto Montt.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

7) West Coast of South America: The second portion, is an 18-day cruise visiting coastal Chile, Peru and Ecuador to see historic architecture, some pre-Columbian, some Spanish, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and the driest place on earth, settings of volcanoes and glacier lakes, and unusual South American birds and sealife, some via Zodiacs amongst off-shore islands. The voyage ends near Guayaquil, Ecuador.

ShipSEA ADVENTURER

8) Central America: This 15-day voyage begins in the Costa Rican port of Puerto Caldera via a flight to San José and sails south scouting out the huge variety of birds in Costa Rica via Zodiac cruises and hikes, visiting the Panamanian marine park on Isla Coibe, the Embera Indians of the Darien jungle and the Kuna of San Blas Islands. Linking the two coasts is a Panama Canal transit with views of the second canal under construction. On the Caribbean side, explore the Tortuguero Canals near Puerto Limon for monkeys, sloths, caimans, iguanas, lizards and crocodiles and finish off by visiting the coastal reefs of Honduras’ Bay Islands and Lighthouse Reef off Belize where the cruise ends (Belize City).

Pedro Miguel Locks, Panama Canal. * Photo: Ted Scull

Pedro Miguel Locks, Panama Canal. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship: SEA ADVENTURER

9) Galapagos: 13 days amongst no less than ten islands may provide one of the most thorough explorations of the islands that Charles Darwin made so famous, as most cruises are three, four, or seven days. As well as the endemic sea and birdlife, there is time to study the land forms, the active and dormant volcanoes and the lava fields. See the section on the Galapagos for more details. In July/August 2018, the Wild Galapagos itinerary lasts 10 days (still longer than most).

Ship: ISABELLA II or EVOLUTION

10) Circumnavigation of Cuba: THIS CUBAN ITINERARY IS NO LONGER OFFERED DUE TO US GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS AGAINST TRAVEL BY SHIP TO CUBA . 14 days beginning with two hotel nights in Havana then joining the ship for nine ports calls, one sea day and return directly to Havana. Highlights are Old Havana, City of Bridges at Matanzas, exploring mangrove forest of Cayo Guillermo, snorkeling the reefs, nature reserve at Cayo Saetia to see water buffalo, wild boar and exotic birds, the World Heritage Site at Santiago de Cuba including the famous San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War (1898), the Spanish colonial town of Trinidad also a World Heritage Site, Cienfuegos for Zapata Wetlands and the Bay of Pigs where an unsuccessful American invasion took place in 1961, beaches at Cayo Largo, nature at its most diverse at Isla de la Juventud, and the biological diversity of Maria La Gorda. Note: this cruise is one of the most comprehensive offered by any cruise line.

Ship: HEBRIDEAN SKY

11) Canal to Cuba: THIS CUBAN ITINERARY IS NO LONGER OFFERED DUE TO US GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS AGAINST TRAVEL BY SHIP TO CUBA. 16 days embarking in Panama City, Panama thence to the huge marine park at Isla Coiba, the Embera community in Darién Province, a daylight Canal Transit, San Blas Archipelago, Spanish fortifications at  Portobelo, Tortuguero Canals at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, the English-speaking island of Isla de Providencia, Colombia, then the Cuba ports (see above itinerary for descriptions) of Cienfuegos, Isla de la Juventud, Maria la Gorda and Havana with a hotel night.

Ship: HEBRIDEAN SKY

12) The Hidden Gems of the Caribbean: For the tropical island buff, this 14-day cruise of the Grenadines will show you all aspects of island life, their natural beauty, sea and bird life, coral reef diving and snorkeling, as well as the long histories of individual islands, their conquest by European powers and struggle for independence to today’s varied lifestyles.

Ship: LE PONANT

11) Coastal Europe: A lot of variety is packed into this 16-day voyage that starts out in Lisbon and works its way northeastward calling Spanish, French, English, Belgian and Dutch ports with just one day at sea. Destinations ashore include UNESCO sites at Santiago de Compostela, Mont St. Michel and the Frisian Islands; the wine county upriver from Bordeaux; World War II history on the French coast; three of the Channel Islands – Guernsey, Jersey and the tiny utterly charming Duchy of Sark; medieval Brugge and ending in Amsterdam. The 14-day itinerary has similar ports but does not call at Brugge or Amsterdam and ends in Portsmouth, England. Another all Spanish itinerary (apart from a call at Porto) begins in Barcelona and sails south, around through the Strait of Gibraltar up the west coast, and across the north coast as far as Bilbao.

The village, Isle of Sark, Channel Islands. * Photo: Ted Scull

The village, Isle of Sark, Channel Islands. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship: SEA ADVENTURER

11A) Wild & Ancient Britain: A 14-day cruise nearly circumnavigates the British Isles leaving from Portsmouth, England and calls at Falmouth, Isles of Scilly, then islands off Ireland, islands off the West Coast and to the north of Scotland, ending in  Aberdeen. The highlights are seabirds galore, numerous Neolithic monuments, unusual natural features, and architectural treasures.

Ship: OCEAN ADVENTURER

12) The Baltic: A comprehensive 17-day itinerary departs London for ports in Germany, and a Kiel Canal Transit, then Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland and ending in Stockholm.

Ship: ISLAND SKY

13) The Adriatic, Sicily & Malta: The 13-day cruise begins at the Maltese port of Valetta, a World Heritage Site that survived heavy fighting in WWII: visits four Sicilian ports with roots in Greek and Roman times; even more cultural influences with a stop in Albania and another in Montenegro, then successive calls along the Croatian coast, including Dubrovnik and ending in Venice.

Ship: ISLAND SKY

14) Sicily: A more focused itinerary is a 13-day circumnavigation of Sicily calling at ten ports plus Malta and Lipari in the Aeolian Islands.

Ship: VARIETY VOYAGER

15) Black Sea Circumnavigation: A 15-day spin begins and ends in Istanbul and proceeds counterclockwise with three stops along the Turkish coast; a call at Batumi in Georgia, the spas at Sochi, then skipping the Crimea and stopping at the crossroads city of Odessa, two ports in Romania (including seldom-visited Histria, the country’s oldest settlement) and lastly Varna, with its Greek and Roman connections. 10 ports and cruising the Danube delta (home to 200 species of birds) makes this a thorough study of Black Sea history and communities today. All that is missing is Russia (Crimea).

Ship: ISLAND SKY

Livadia Palace, site of the Yalta Conference at the end of WWII. * Photo: Ted Scull

Livadia Palace, site of the Yalta Conference at the end of WWII. * Photo: Ted Scull

16) Iceland & Greenland: A 16-day voyage aims to combine searching in Zodiacs for sea life and birdlife, dramatic scenery that includes glaciers, fjords, icebergs, and vast expanses of tundra, Viking settlements and the colorful modern-day fishing villages and their cultural attributes. In June/July 2018, the 15-day expedition embarked in Narsarsuaq, Greenland by charter flight from Reykjavik and concentrates on Greenland’s south and east coast then crosses to northwest Iceland ending in Iceland’s capital.

ShipSEA ADVENTURER (2017) and HEBRIDEAN SKY (2018)

16A) Svalbard: A-14 day expedition uses flights to and from Oslo to join the ship at Longyearbyen, the island’s  principal port. The emphasis is on wildlife, especially polar bears, seals, walrus, whales and Arctic foxes; seabirds such as kittiwakes, guillemots, dovekies, puffins and ivory gulls, and the natural beauty of the lush tundra, fjords and glaciers. Touring off the ship is on foot, and in kayaks and Zodiacs.

Ship: HEBRIDEAN SKY

17) Indonesia: A 19-day linear voyage begins at the northern tip of Sulawesi and heads along the chain of Indonesian islands to Papua and Papua New Guinea, with a call at Australia’s Thursday Island. Activities are diving and snorkeling amongst the coral reefs, visits to Asmat’s warrior tribes and West Papua’s seafarers, and looking for birds of paradise, doves, parrots, cockatoos, friarbirds and flying foxes.

Ship: CALEDONIAN SKY

18) Vietnam: Zegrahm began trips to Vietnam 25 years ago shortly after travel was permitted. A 16-day coastal cruise begins in Hanoi with a transfer to Haiphong Harbor for embarkation. Eight calls are made en route to Ho Chi Minh City including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Chinese-style “Forbidden City” of Hue and a leisurely sail amongst the sculpted islands in Halong Bay. A special activity is discovering Vietnamese and French-influenced cuisine where passengers tour local markets and vegetable and herb gardens, sample treats at food stalls such as prawn cakes and grilled port patties with sticky noodles, and participate in cooking classes on board. In November/December 2018, a 19-day mostly land and air tour to Myanmar and Laos slotted in a two-day river cruise between Mandalay and Bagan and another two-day cruise on a less visited portion of the Mekong in Laos. Both use Pandaw river boats.

Ship: CORAL PRINCESS, now CORAL EXPEDITIONS I

19) Cuba: Travel to Cuba on a humanitarian project, a 17-day itinerary that includes a partial circumnavigation of the island and then onward land travel returning to Havana. The 56-passenger Le Ponant, a motor/sail vessel provides comfortable accommodations at sea and the nimbleness to get into small ports. Activities combine cultural, water sports and people-to-people encounters. In April 2018, there are two Cuban itineraries, the first one including Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama before sailing north to Cuba for three days, and the second, a 14-night cruise that completely circumnavigates the island calling at 9 ports and with flights to and from Havana.

Ship: LE PONANT or HEBRIDEAN SKY

The Ships

OCEAN ADVENTURER, formerly SEA ADVENTURER: Renewed in 2017, this traditional 120-passenger vessel was built in 1975 for the Russians to operate rugged sea routes especially in the Arctic has been refitted several times to offer a steady, stabilized oceangoing experience, including strengthening for ice. It has two lounges, including a lovely library, and an aft-located dining room with wraparound glass windows. Cabins are of small to moderate size and all are outside. Zodiacs carried.

CALEDONIAN SKY: Built in 1992 as one of the original six small Renaissance ships, she carries 100 passengers in roomy one-room suites with sitting areas, including eight cabins with balconies, many positioned in the forward half of the ship. One lounge is located above the bridge for glass-protected viewing and the other, with a bar, seats all passengers at once for lectures and socializing. In addition, there is a small library and gym. The dining room is aft on the lowest deck with portholes. A lido deck serves informal outdoor meals in good weather. Zodiacs and scuba diving gear are carried.

ISLAND SKY: Built in 1992, she is also one of the original Renaissance ships (100 passengers) though while her roomy one-room forward-located suites are similar (four with balconies), her layout is somewhat different with two aft lounges including a good-sized library, in place of a forward-viewing lounge. The dining room is on the lowest deck with portholes, and the aft-lido deck serves informal meals in good weather conditions.

HEBRIDEAN SKY: As with the two sisters above, the ship was first completed as one of the Renaissance ships in 1992 and most recently refitted in 2014 and 2016. Passenger capacity is 112 and roomy cabins with sitting areas measure 225, 266 and 325 square feet. The owner’s suite is even larger. The sofa bed will sleep a third person. An elevator serves all decks, and an observation platform is popular for spotting wildlife. Zodiacs are carried for exploring near land, edging up to glaciers and sailing into fjords.

LE PONANT: Completed in 1991, with French registry, as a sail-assisted motor ship, she has three masts and takes just 56 passengers in moderate-size outside cabins, most located on the lowest passenger deck and with portholes. Five others are clustered two decks higher amidships. The lounge is aft opening onto a deck at the stern. Dining is either in the forward restaurant, or in favorable weather, one deck above, aft and outside. Zodiacs, snorkeling and scuba diving gear are carried.

CORAL DISCOVERER, formerly Oceanic Discoverer: Built in 2005, this small Australian-registered ship carries 65 passengers in all outside cabins, most with view windows. A lounge, seating all, faces aft to an open deck, and the dining room is on the lowest passenger deck with a long rectangular window on either side. The top deck has a Jacuzzi. The vessel carries Zodiacs, a glass-bottom boat, and a tender taking all passengers ashore at one time.

ISABELA II: Completed in 1979, she was heavily refitted and last refurbished in 2012. Good-size cabins are all outside with two partial-view singles, to accommodate 39 passengers. The dining room, lounge and library are on the lowest passenger deck. The Sun Deck has a covered aft bar and lounge for informal dining. The vessel carries Zodiacs, sea kayaks and a glass-bottom boat.

CORAL EXPEDITIONS I, formerly Coral Princess: Completed in 1988 and refitted 2005, this 4-deck Australian-registered ship carries 65 passengers in all outside cabins. The lounge seats all for lectures, often illustrated on two large plasma TV screens. The open top deck has a Jacuzzi, and for sightseeing, there is a glass bottom boat, Zodiacs, and an excursion vessel that can take all passengers at one time.

CORAL EXPEDITIONS II, formerly Coral Princess II (Completed in 1985 and refitted in 2015, the three-deck ship carries 44 passengers in all outside cabins with the 4 D-Deck units having portholes rather than windows. A glass bottom boat is available for watching tropical fishes.

VARIETY VOYAGER: Built in 2012, this sleek-looking yacht handles 72 passengers in all outside cabins located on three of the four decks. Public areas include a lounge, single-seating dining, outdoor dining, library, gym, spa and top deck outdoor bar lounge.

Why Go?

If you long to visit off-beat places around the world, or popular expedition destinations, you will be in good company enjoying the experiences with other like-minded modern-day explorers. Many Zegrahm cruises offer longer itineraries than other operators giving you more in-depth connections but also increasingly the monetary outlay.

When to Go

All Zegrahm Expeditions are geared to the best season or seasons to travel to a particular region.

Activities & Entertainment

These cruises are designed for the active traveler with lots of destinations and as few sea days as possible. Time aboard, however, will be well spend with lectures and audio-visual presentations presented by the expedition staff who will bring their expertise to you on board and on excursions ashore. Excursions will be in vehicles, on foot and in kayaks and Zodiacs and some itineraries offer snorkeling and diving. Two vessels have glass-bottom boats — ISABELA II and OCEANIC DISCOVERER.

Along the Same Lines

Lindblad Expeditions.

Contact

Zegrahm Expeditions, 3131 Elliott Avenue, Ste 205, Seattle, WA 98121; www.zegrahm.com 855-276-8849 or 206-745-9364

TWS

 

SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates & special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.