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Island Windjammers

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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 ...
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Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway
QuirkyCruise Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway Boy do Heidi and Ted  love saying ... "And the Winner Is" ... We're excited ...
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Island Windjammers
Articles About Island Windjammers Reader Reviews of Island Windjammers Submit Your Own Review Visit Our Reader Review Form QuirkyCruise Review ...
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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 ...
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Reviewer Katie Lobe from Canada Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Vela Destination Caribbean # of Nights 6 Departure Date & ...
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Reviewer Shelly Davis from the USA Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Sagitta Destination Caribbean: St. Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Montserrat ...
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Reviewer David Harrell from the USA Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Vela Destination Caribbean # of Nights 6 Departure Date ...
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Reviewer Wendy from the USA Cruise Line Island Windjammers Ship Sagitta Destination Caribbean # of Nights 6 Departure Date & ...
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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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.

Note: Check the new European itineraries for 2020 with returns to major ports in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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

 

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Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure featuring cruisers and the ship crew on st lucia

By Elysa Matsen Leonard.

Island Windjammers’ Caribbean Sailing Adventure

If you want to know what an Island Windjammers Caribbean Sailing Adventure is all about, think adult summer camp, contagious laughter and completely checking out for a week. I entered the special Island Windjammer world recently when I sailed on a 6-night cruise aboard the 26-passenger Vela round-trip from Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. Along the way, we visited the islands of Dominica, Iles des Saintes, Marie Galante and Martinique. It was the next best thing to chartering your own private sailing ship, and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Read Part 1 of Island Windjammer’s Caribbean Adventure here.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure

The three-mast Vela is a beauty alright! * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

 

Part 2

Day Three: Oui Oui

Again, we woke up in a different port. Today, it was Iles de Saintes, a small island off the coast of Guadeloupe. I went with another passenger friend, Chris, to meet the dive operator that operations manager Jess kindly researched and recommended, “La Dive Bouteille – Plongées des Saintes.” Others went to shop in the village. Since we didn’t speak French and the French couple who ran the outfit spoke little English, it was a bit challenging above the water, but once below, we were all on the same page.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure stops in st lucia with people getting ready to dive

Getting ready to dive in St. Lucia. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

The diving was rich with all types of hard and soft corals and thankfully no signs of bleaching. All the usual suspects of an Atlantic coral reef were there, from sand divers to porcupine puffers, blue-headed wrasse and spotted moray eels. If you listen carefully to the audio you can hear me squeal with delight upon seeing a pair of puffer fish.  Above a sandy patch, we saw a mystical garden of small dancing eels and jawfish that hover over their holes and once they see your shadow disappear into the sand.

 

Our dive guides were experts on this reef and loved showing us their special place. We snacked on tea and madeleines on the dive boat between our dives, and it was one of those days where you breath deep, recognize the beauty of the sea and are just thankful for the experience. Back on board with our Vela-mates, we all hopped in the dinghy for some afternoon shopping and that evening, we took one more dinghy ride for a drink at a local café.

 

Day Four: Beach Paradise

The night before, Vela had moved on to another small island off the coast of Guadeloupe, Marie Galante. We had our own private and gorgeous sandy beach for swimming and snorkeling. The water temperature was perfectly inviting and there were areas for sunning and for shade. As our dinghy approached the island, we felt like we were on “Survivor!” — only we didn’t have to worry about food, shelter or competing for any immunity idols.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure cruise ship Vela on the ocean

Serene Marie Galante Beach. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

A delicious lunch from Vela was brought to us via the magic dinghy — “cheeseburgers in paradise” with breadfruit fries. It was a perfect day. I snorkeled looking for seahorses in the grassy bay and was surprised to find a few starfish and a baby queen triggerfish who was sheltering near a large conch shell. That night we sailed from the small cluster of islands surrounding Guadeloupe to Martinique.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure sets out home made meal

Viola! And there was lunch brought to us on the beach by our awesome crew; * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard


Day Five: Snorkeling as Good as Any Diving

Our day in Martinique began with a visit to the small quaint seaside town of Saint Pierre. This village was completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902, the worst volcanic eruption in the 20th century that killed some 30,000 people.

We had a choice of touring a rum factory or going into town and visiting the ruins from the volcanic eruption. I chose the latter and accompanied by my Bostonian friend, Joanne, who had become a close friend at this point, we explored the ruins and enjoyed a stroll through the picturesque seaside village. There were many small cafes and quaint French shops, and we indulged in coffee and pastries while we soaked up the views.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure

Vela reaches Martiinique. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

We returned to the ship and in the afternoon sailed over to a small swimming beach called Anse d’Arlet. Jess told us there was amazing snorkeling there, though when I saw the location and the large cluster of people in the water, I had my doubts. I had become the snorkeling leader, at this point in the trip since people began to figure out that I knew my fish. Turns out, the snorkel was outstanding and I was very happy to teach fish ID’ing for the afternoon. Our snorkeling stint was as good as any dive, with great numbers of a diverse population of fish, even an octopus.

 

Day 6: All Good Things Must Come to an End

Overnight we had sailed back to St. Lucia and into Rodney Bay, north of Marigot Bay, where we would spend our last day. One of the interesting excursion choices was an off-road Segway tour. I wasn’t sure I would be good at this but thought that on the last day I should break out of my comfort zone. I found out Segway riding requires no skill and it was just a ton of fun.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure with sailors on a segway tour on st lucia

The view was to die for! * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

We took a bus to the drop-off location and our guide led us up a mountain for gorgeous views and taught us about plants and history along the way. At the top of the mountain, we had drinks and snacks and then headed back down to a beach bar and then back to the pier for those who wanted to get back to the ship for lunch. Me? I just had to do one more dive! I saw that there was a scuba company doing shore diving — which means you don gear at the beach, walk into the water and swim from the shore to a dive location, in this case, a shipwreck.

The dive guide took me out to the wreck and we saw a school of squid, three types of moray eels, and all my fish friends. I was wearing the wrong dive boots with my fins and ended up with blistered feet, but it was well worth the pain.

Overall, the islands we visited had excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities to explore a spectacular coral reef environment. More on this later, stay tuned!

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure view underwater of an eel

We spotted a snake-like moray eel! * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard.


Our Last Evening

That night was our last evening together on Vela. We could have gone to a fish fry event on St. Lucia, but it was a unanimous decision to spend our last night together on the ship with our week-old Vela family. We played a raunchy laughter-filled round of “Cards Against Humanity,” as we swigged our beer and wine, that was made more fun since our 90-year-old patriarch decided to play and drink along; ever the good sport. We could see how he made it to 90 in such good shape and spirits. That evening on deck playing cards was a great ending to a beautiful week.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure with cruisers playing the game cards against humanity

Eric playing along! * Photo: Jess Benson

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PROS & CONS in a Nutshell

I loved ….
  • Gorgeous sunsets from the deck.
  • Unexpected double rainbows from the ship’s deck.
  • Food – Chef Lenny was amazing, a Caribbean twist and all food cooked from scratch and seconds were always available.
  • Dining al fresco on the deck of Vela.
  • Our own private beach; think Survivor but with awesome food and no competitions or immunity idols necessary.
  • Snorkeling is the best ever in some surprise locations, as good as any boat dive.
  • Dinghy Rides. Loved this mode of transportation, we could go anywhere — or so it seemed!
  • Meeting friends for life and connecting with great people.
  • Internet service slim-to-none for most of the cruise – you won’t be able to get online often with a clear connection (PRO & CON! )
But ….
  • Seasickness.  No joke, take the medicine.
  • Sunburn.  Also, no joke, wear 30 SPF (reef-friendly) sunscreen, hats, and sunshirts; thankful for the ship’s shady tarp!
  • Food.  Although it was amazing this is not one of those cruises where you get 1,000 choices on the menu. This was fine for me, and make sure it is for you too. If you have severe allergies, this is not the cruise for you. If you have minor dietary concerns, they can accommodate small requests.
  • The drive to and from the airport is an hour away and the roads are narrow and windy and the cab drivers are a bit crazy; stay calm and enjoy the ride.
  • Traveling to St. Lucia takes a full day so plan extra time to get there before you leave on the cruise; you need to give yourself at least one extra day.
  • Excursions. You won’t have a ton of choices, but this cruise is to enjoy, relax and do nothing at all or a few things if you want. It’s laid-back relaxation.
  • I can’t lie.  I’m having trouble coming up with any more, it was amazing and I sure hope to go again!

 

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure view of the ship from aboard the dinghy in the water

Our beloved dinghy. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

 

And Last but Not Least … My Crew Crush

You will be spoiled by the crew. From Bernard who figured out early on that that I needed three cups of coffee to function and start my day, to Chef Lenny who would let you have seconds of your favorite dishes and Stephen, our steward, whose laughter would instantly spread to whomever was nearby. Jess, the ship’s operations manager (aka cruise director), made sure we each did everything we wanted to do, including my diving, no matter how much time it took to arrange and set up. The captains and engineers worked tirelessly to make sure that we had a seamless and excellent trip, and the captain still managed to eat several meals with us during the week.

Island Windjammers' Caribbean Sailing Adventure crew aboard the ship Vela

Island Windjammer’s Vela Crew. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

The crew all seemed to have a similar integrity, passion, and love for what they do. Many shared stories about their life at sea and on the islands — Chef Lenny, from the island Nevis, admitted although he cooks and lives on a ship for a living, he doesn’t know how to swim and doesn’t even like the water. LOL!

 

Quirky Cruise is the small ship cruise expert. Whether you’re a veteran on the water or exploring the idea of becoming a seafaring fellow you won’t want to miss out on your chance for your own personal adventure! Your own small ship sailing adventure is a click away. Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com HERE for monthly updates! 

 

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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review of Star Clippers

Star Clippers offers the perfect marriage of adventure, romance and comfort, not to mention the thrill of sailing on a gorgeous replica of a 19th-century Clipper Ship. The company’s trio of swashbucklers feels like they belong in the Caribbean,  Mediterranean and Far East, bucking through the surf and wind like ships are meant to. Watching sunsets melt behind the rigging or a port come into focus from a front row perch at the rails, a Star Clippers cruise is best spent on deck — that is whenever you’re not relaxing in the cozy nautical cabins or having a tasty meal in the dining room.

Owner and company founder Mikael Krafft, a Swedish-born industrialist and real estate developer, spared no detail or expense to design and build his fleet of three square-rigged clippers in the likeness of their speedy predecessors — Krafft and his team referred to the original drawings and specifications of Scottish-born Donald McKay, a leading naval architect of 19th-century clipper-ship technology.

The newest and largest of the three (until the new 300-passenger FLYING CLIPPER launches), the 227-passenger five-masted ROYAL CLIPPER, was modeled on the famed Preussen, a 1902-built German clipper. She is the largest square-rigged in service with 5,202 square meters of sail, hence she holds the honorary title Queen of the Seas. All three sport towering masts, sails, rigging, wooden decks and chunky ventilators. Facing forward on the top deck, if you didn’t hear the murmur of the engines much of the time (and could ignore the small pool and all those people in 21st century clothes), it’s not a leap to imagine being a crew member cranking winches on a three-month run to England with a cargo of tea and opium from China.

The Star Clippers’ ships typically rely on sails alone about 25% to 50% of the time; otherwise, the sails are used with the engines to maintain speeds of about 9 to 14 knots for the comfort of passengers — though occasionally in strong winds they clock speeds in the neighborhood of 15 knots. Hold on!

Sunset through the sails

Sunset through the sails. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Of course the beauty of a Star Clippers cruise is you feel like you’re on a real working ship without having to doing any work. While you can help pull in the sails a few times throughout the week or climb the masts (with a harness) at designated times, most passengers choose to be voyeurs, gazing out at the sea and distant landscape through the lens of the ships’ masts and lines. Sunrise and sunset through the sails, lines and masts are magical.

Fans were thrilled to learn that Star Clippers would be building a fourth ship, the FLYING CLIPPER, a much anticipated and complex construction project that has been an ongoing saga due to two years of shipyard delays. Now completed there is a dispute between Star Clippers and the shipyard, and it is unclear what will transpire. The FLYING CLIPPER’s details are 300 passengers and measures 8,770 tons. It is powered by more than 6,350 square meters of sails.  Technically a five-masted, square-rigged barque, it’s a near-replica of the FRANCE II, commissioned in 1911 and the largest square rigger ever built.

Just as the original FRANCE II eclipsed PREUSSEN (which the line’s ROYAL CLIPPER is modeled on) more than a century ago as the world’s largest square rigger, the newbuild will replace the ROYAL CLIPPER, as the largest ship of its kind afloat today. The vessel has have generous deck space, three pools, and a watersports platform in the stern. One restaurant will accommodate all guests and cabin choices include 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner’s suites. Like those of the Star Clippers’ fleet, there will also be a library and an al fresco Tropical Bar. The ship will likely start out sailing in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Stayed tuned to when all this begins to happen!

Ship, Year Delivered & Passenger Count 

STAR FLYER (built 1991 & 172 passengers); STAR CLIPPER (b. 1992 & 172 p); ROYAL CLIPPER (b. 2000 & 227 p); and FLYING CLIPPER (2019 & 300p)

Star Clippers Passenger Profile

A mix of mostly Europeans, British and Americans in their 50s on up, plus a fair number of families with children aboard in summer and holiday weeks. In our opinion, it’s best for children to be at least 10 years old. Many passengers own their boats and just love to sail, with a huge number of repeat passengers who keep coming back for more. Repeaters get a 3% discount, not a lot yet a nod to their loyalty. Some passengers would never consider a standard cruise ship. Note: Announcements are made in English, German, and French.

Passenger Decks

4: No elevators.

Price

$$  Expensive

Included Features

Watersports, weather and conditions permitting.

Star Clippers Itineraries
  • Generally, all three ships  (only two in 2019)  summer in the Mediterranean between late April and October doing mostly one-week itineraries, plus a handful of longer 10- and 11-night sailings. ROYAL CLIPPER is based in the Western Mediterranean calling at ports in Spain, France and Italy and the islands: Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the Balearics. STAR FLYER undertakes some cruises in the Western Medit. to then position in the Adriatic along the Croatian coast, Greek islands and the Turkish coast but not Istanbul, for mostly 7 nights but a few 10 and 11. To reposition between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean in the spring and fall, longer trans-oceanic positioning voyages are the target for those who wants days under sail between ports with perhaps calls in the Canaries or Azores, and of course, one may begin or finish the voyage  with a string of Western Mediterranean ports calls. These voyages may be as short as 15 nights or as long as 28.
  • Two ships winter in Caribbean on mostly 7-night sailings (November-March), ROYAL CLIPPER offers varied 7-night itineraries from Barbados, longer 14-nighters through the islands and along the coast of Colombia to Panama including a canal transit.  STAR FLYER makes 7-night cruises from St. Maarten and longer 14-nighters along the coast and amongst the island to Panama including canal transit.
  • Through 2019, the STAR CLIPPER is in Asia spending half the year doing Andaman Sea mostly 7-night cruises off the coast of southwestern Thailand (October-April) and 7-, 10- & 11-night itineraries in the Indonesian archipelago the other half of the year. New 10- and 11-night itineraries will sail from Singapore to ports along the Malaysian coast and to the island of Borneo, including Kota Kinabalu and Brunei.
Approaching lovely Monemvassia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Approaching lovely Monemvassia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Why Go?

For the great mix of adventure and comfort, you can feel like an old salt soaking in the sailing scene without giving up the luxury of nice cabins, good dining and even massages.

When to Go?

Two generally winter in the Caribbean and Central America and this pair then spends the summer in various parts of the Mediterranean with spring and fall transats to connect the two seasons.. The third is based in Southeast Asia and the Indonesian islands for the foreseeable future.

Star Clippers Cabins

Cabins are nautical, with wood-paneling, navy blue fabrics and brass details. The ROYAL CLIPPER’s standard cabins measure 148 square feet, while the CLIPPER’s and FLYER’s are a bit smaller at 120 to 130 square feet. The vast majority of cabins on all three ships are outside rooms with portholes (some with a pull down third birth); a handful is smaller inside cabins without portholes.

Each of the trio has a handful of suites, including six on the CLIPPER and FLYER, plus one large oddly configured owners’ suite. The 14 Deluxe Suites on ROYAL CLIPPER’s Main Deck measure 255 square feet and have private balconies, sitting areas, minibars, whirlpool tubs and 24-hour butler service; the two Owner’s Suites measure 355 square feet and have two marble bathrooms, though no balcony.

All cabins have TVs with DVD players, private bathrooms with showers, hair dryers, small vanity table with stool, and surprisingly ample storage space unless you’re a major clothes horse.

Consider that the lowest deck cabins near the stern will be close to the rumbling engines, and the cabins bordering the entrance to the dining room get residual noise and traffic and meal time.

A triple cabin, room 206.

A triple cabin, room 206. When not in use, the upper berth will be folded up and away.* Photo: Heidi Sarna

Star Clippers Public Rooms

On all three ships, the open air Tropical Bar is the hub of activity. Passengers gather around the chunky wooden bar for drinks and daily afternoon canapés are served there, and sometimes special theme lunch bunches as well. It’s the spot for evening entertainment (local talent that often comes aboard while the ship is at anchor) and informal briefings about the day’s schedules.

Adjacent is an indoor wood-paneled Edwardian-style library and card room, and also an indoor piano lounge mainly used for people who want a quiet place to read during the day. Each of the trio has one restaurant; the ROYAL CLIPPER’s fussier and multi-level. The ROYAL CLIPPER also has a small gym and spa and health club on a lower deck below the waterline with portholes to look out into the deep.

Star Clippers Dining

Each ship has one restaurant with open seating and tables for mostly six or eight, encouraging passengers to meet and mingle. The dress code is casual, though some guests enjoy wearing jackets on the captain’s gala night. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, with made-to-order omelet and pasta stations, respectively, while dinner is served a la carte. The FLYER and CLIPPER’s restaurant is one story, while the frillier dining room on the ROYAL CLIPPER is multi-level with a vaguely 19th-century Mississippi steamboat look.

The continental cuisine is simple and delicately spiced, with several options for dinner entrees, plus soup, salad and appetisers. To please the mainly European clientele, there are plenty of cheeses and marinated meats and fish at breakfast and lunch, and at dinner there are always pasta and fish dishes, plus choices like eggplant Parmesan and broiled lobster.

The staff is happy to accommodate special orders and second helpings, and several theme nights per cruise see them donning Italian garb or other fun costumes. A 24-hour coffee and tea station is set up on the bar, and each afternoon a complimentary snack is offered at the Tropical Bar, from waffles with chocolate sauce to fried plantains and salsa. About 11:30pm each night, a cheese board, fruit, or another snack is set out by the piano bar for late-night noshing.

Passengers are free to climb on the bowsprit mast. Weeeeee! Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

Passengers are free to climb on the bowsprit mast. Weeeeee! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Star Clippers Activities & Entertainment

There is rarely more than one sea day on a Star Clippers cruise, though the ships are usually on the move before dinner and early mornings so guests get plenty of time to enjoy the ships at sea. When weather conditions cooperate, the sails are put up and the engines are turned off; otherwise engines power the ship as well as a few sails up for show. The cruise director or captain does at least one talk a day about the ships or the destination, and passengers are welcome to crawl into the bowsprit netting at the front of the ships for an exciting stint sunbathing above the crashing surf.

When in port several times per cruise, you can climb a mast in a harness and stand on the crow’s next 55 feet up for sweeping views. Passengers are free to stroll into the chart house to chat with the captain or officer on duty, and occasionally there are engine room tours, excursions via tender to photograph the ships under sail, and exercise classes on deck. The ROYAL CLIPPER has a small gym and “spa,” while STAR CLIPPER and FLYER offer massages from a tent-like room up on deck within earshot of the crashing surf.

In port, if you don’t go off on a guided excursion or a walkabout on your own, there is free watersports equipment including paddle boards, windsurfers and snorkeling gear which are hauled to a nearby beach (passengers are shuttled back and forth on one of the ships’ pair of zodiac boats, which also offer water skiing) or used right next to the ship if anchored in an appropriate spot, inviting passengers to hop right into the sea. Some itineraries offer scuba diving opportunities for certified divers, including equipment (for an extra charge).

photo safari

The beloved “photo safari” when passengers can take photos of the ship from tenders. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Evenings, it’s drinks before and after dinner at the Tropical Bar, when a key board player is often on had to serenade passengers with evergreens. After dinner, there’s an hour or so of entertainment offered, from a local folk dance troupe when in port late (ie steel drummers in the Caribbean to whirling dervishes in Turkey) to a crew talent show, trivia contest or dress-up dance party. Once in a while a movie may be shown on deck, projected onto a sail. Things rarely howl on too late.

Along the Same Lines

Windstar’s sailing ships are the closest, and Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II are in the ballpark too.

Star Clippers Contact Info

Star Clipper Palace, 4, rue de la Turbie, 98000 Monaco; www.starclippers.com; (377) 97-97-84-00.    

— HMS/TWS

PollyPurple8 copy

 

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Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

By Elysa Matsen Leonard.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

If you want to know what an Island Windjammers Caribbean adventure cruise is all about, think adult summer camp, contagious laughter and completely checking out for a week. I entered the special Island Windjammer world recently when I sailed on a 6-night cruise aboard the 26-passenger Vela round-trip from Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. Along the way, we visited the islands of Dominica, Iles des Saintes, Marie Galante and Martinique. It was the next best thing to chartering your own private sailing ship; and a heck of a lot cheaper.  (Read Part 2 HERE.)

Meeting My Shipmates

The meeting point for embarking passengers was the Hurricane Hole restaurant and bar in Marigot Bay, a short water taxi ride from the hotel where I stayed for three nights before the cruise. Like that first day of summer camp, I felt a bit nervous. Would I be the only single or would there be other solo passengers? Would I like them? Would they like me? My mind was racing with questions.

The first people I met were a lovely 50-something couple from the San Francisco Bay area, Kathy and John, who were celebrating a milestone anniversary. And there was Joanne, a wickedly funny single woman from Boston cruising for her 60th birthday. Another single traveler from Wisconsin, Kristen loved the freedom of solo travel and was an experienced Island Windjammer. She loved this type of cruise even though she was prone to sea sickness — she wore the patch and sailed on. To my surprise, there was a couple from Annapolis, near my home in Ashburn, Virginia. Bryan and Beth were both 50-ish with busy corporate jobs. They lived by the sea and loved small ships. I spent lots of time laughing with them and talking about our next adventures.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

The whole gang! * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

We were also joined by a family of nine from the west coast, with a spunky 90-year-old patriarch Eric. His son Greg had arranged the trip as a tribute to a sailing they had made as a family into Marigot Bay some 50 years back. I can’t lie, I was a bit concerned about how he would fare on this trip. Turns out the spry nonagenarian more than held his own; he was clearly born with sea legs and took it all in stride. Eric was a retired engineer who had at one point years ago left his job, bought a boat similar to Vela, and took his family on a Caribbean sailing adventure. The tall strong man with a sweet demeanor shared stories with anyone who would listen.

The crew said it happens every week. No matter their differences, passengers seem to magically come together, and for the most part, the differences fade away fast as the shared experience of sailing together on a quirky schooner in the Caribbean takes hold. The ups and downs, literally bring people together — the crew as well as the passengers.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

Chef Lenny. * Photo Joanne Hutchinson

The Vela Backstory

Before Island Windjammer passengers ever entered the picture, Vela had a story of her own. The three-mast, 156-foot-long sailing schooner had been a medical-support vessel sailing around the Marshall Islands. She was named Tole Mour, which means “gift of life.” She then became part of the Catalina Island Marine Institute and offered sailing training, oceanography and marine biology education for hundreds of school-aged kids. She was purchased by Island Windjammers in 2014 after the ship was discovered in California by Captain Nervo Cortez, the line’s fleet captain and a man who radiates a humble confidence in all he does. He was onboard my cruise along with Captain Alexis. Nervo Cortez sailed the ship 4,500 nautical miles from California through the waters of five countries and through the Panama Canal, to St. Vincent and then Grenada, where the ship was refurbished before her first sailing out of St. Lucia.  It was renamed after the constellation, Vela, which also means “sail” in Italian and Spanish. Today it’s the largest of the line’s trio of ships.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

The Vela and the dinghy launch. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Day One: Velacoladas & Mal de Mer

The cruise started and ended in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia and we visited at least one new place each day, sometimes two. Our Uber for the week was a dinghy. Dinghies got us between the ship and shore with some dry and also some wet landings right on to the beach. We easily adapted to this mode of transportation, donning our life vests and hopping aboard; even our 90-year-old passenger seemed to master this with ease. Our dinghy trips were one of many sources of humor; though it didn’t take much to get us all giggling.

Our first day was spent in St. Lucia, and we traveled from Marigot Bay to Soufriere where we did a late afternoon snorkel at the Anse Chastanet Resort Marine National Park. The water was a bit choppy and we were slowly losing daylight, but we saw several black and white spotted drum fish, iridescent blue chromis, several species of grunts, and some stoplight parrot fish. It was just a glimpse of the amazing snorkeling to come.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

Snorkeling in Soufriere and spotting blue chromis. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

At sunset each day was happy hour, with snacks and the signature drink, the Velacolada, a delicious concoction of rum, pineapple and coconut — not too sweet or too strong. I still crave this drink at about 6pm every day, even weeks after I’ve returned home. There was also a refrigerator filled with soda, beer and wine for consumption 24/7, as well as ice-cold water and iced tea. Beer and wine are included in the fare as well as mixers for other types of drinks; passengers are free to bring their own spirits on board.

the author aboard the cruise ship deck with new friends

Elysa with new friends Beth & Bryan. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

Meal time that first evening was inside, as it was a bit too windy to eat out on deck. Our favorite dinners and happy hours over the course of the week were outside on the deck at several tables set up under a shady tarp. Some perfectly timed rainbows and sunsets were the icing on the cake. In this intimate setting, it didn’t take long for 16 passengers and 10 crew members to become fast friends — one big shippy family.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

Vela’s indoor dining saloon. Outdoor dining was also offered, weather permitting. * Photo: Island Windjammers

During the week we had some excellent meals served by the ship’s stewards, Bernard and Stephen. If someone requested seconds or a special order, they always responded with a smile and a “no worries.” Favorites included pork tenderloin with a compote of apples and red onions, local fish, barbecued ribs and chicken, and eggs benedict for breakfast. With each meal there was a Caribbean twist. For instance, the “cheeseburger in paradise” was accompanied by coleslaw and fries, but these fries were made of breadfruit, not potatoes, and they were delicious. The tuna salad one day was really delish, and when I asked Chef Lenny why it was so tasty, he answered:  “I added some island secrets.” The desserts were show stoppers too, especially a soursop fruit sorbet and to-die-for cheesecake drizzled with caramel that was so good passengers begged for seconds.

eggs benedict at breakfast on board cruise ship Vela

Chef Lenny’s Eggs Benedict. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

Rockabye Baby

The ship began to sail after dinner, traveling at night so we could spend our days on shore. Sailing between islands, as opposed to the calmer seas along the coast, meant open seas and some choppy waters.

I was one of the luckier ones. I love the churn of the ocean and have never been seasick on the many small boats I’ve been on. My Vela cruise confirmed this. However, many other passengers quickly found out the first night that they were not so lucky. The “mom gene” kicked in, and I spent the night handing out Ginger ale. Anyone prone to motion sickness and for those who don’t know if they are: definitely bring sea sickness meds (like Dramamine and/or a prescription patch) and use them before things get rocky.

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

A cozy Vela Staysail cabin. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Day Two: Sea Legs Return

As people got their sea legs back on day two, the fun resumed. There were rainbows, lots of sunshine, crystal blue waters in shades I’ll never forget, amazing snorkeling, diving and relaxation. Snorkeling equipment is complimentary as are several paddle boards and floating mats, plus dinghy trips to and from the islands for walks and hiking etc. The idea on an Island Windjammers Caribbean adventure cruise is to reeeeeelax so days are not heavily scheduled and sometimes passengers choose to just chill on deck.

view of Dominica from the small ship cruise line Island Windjammers

Serenity approaching Dominica. * Photo: Elysa Matsen Leonard

Day two was the island of Dominica. They were hard hit by Hurricane Maria last September, and are still recovering — we saw downed trees, closed bridges and roofless buildings everywhere. A few excursions are offered in most ports, and in Dominica, we had the choice of an island tour or just a walk around the beach and town. I chose the island tour for $40. Our driver, Winston, was a proud man and told us of their progress and setbacks throughout the tour. He gave us a mental picture of a green lush Dominica that was known for exporting fruits and vegetables before this category 5 storm wrecked its havoc. At the end of the tour, despite the destruction, we would learn the secrets of chocolate making. (See my follow-up article for more on that!) That night we left Dominica for Iles des Saintes, where I would spend a gorgeous morning scuba diving. More on that later as well!

PART 2 COMING SOON …. 👏🏼👏🏼

 

Island Windjammers Caribbean Adventure

Elysa and her new friend Eric.

Quirky Cruise is the small ship cruise expert so first-time cruisers needn’t worry! Read our answers to questions about small-ship cruising on our FAQ’s page and then learn more here about the differences between big ships and small ships besides their size. 

☞ ☞Read Part 2 HERE.

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Katie Lobe from Canada

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Vela

Destination

Caribbean

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Ports

January 2018 from Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, to St Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating:  5

-Cabin Rating:  5

-Service/Crew Rating:  5

-Itinerary Rating:  5

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

I have been on 3 small ship cruises.

Review

Wow, What an Adventure!

As the Medical Officers on Amazing Grace of the previous Windjammer Barefoot Cruises fleet 20 years ago, my husband and I were able to visit the tall ships of that fleet as well as many of the Caribbean slands visited by the Grace from Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago for a month long sail at a time.

We have recently arrived home from our first Island Windjammer sail on Vela, a surprise celebration for my husband’s 50th birthday.  We went into the adventure with high expectations and have returned home absolutely impressed!

Our group of 9 Canadian adventurers appreciated the focus by the Crew on all aspects of safety, which allowed everyone to relax, knowing we were in good hands.  A little note: be properly prepared to deal with seasickness as this is the real deal — navigating the Caribbean sea on a sailboat is not for the faint of heart!

The trip felt very familiar as the owners have captured the original Windjammer experience: sailing to see small islands the congested, large ships can’t get to, exceptional and well-trained staff (from booking to disembarkation) who go above and beyond to make sure your experience is what you want it to be, day trips, snorkeling and diving trips and even 5 o’clock swizzles and snacks!

The tour of the engine room is a must, as Frederick demonstrated the inner workings and the many talents demanded of him to keep the Vela operational at all times.  Chef Robert produced exceptional meals daily with the option available at times to purchase local meals ashore.  Great adventures ashore and on the water!  Accessibility to the Captain, Officers and Crew with whom you can take the time to share and learn about the sailing experience and each other’s cultures if you want to, while relaxing on the fantail or on the deck, leaves you knowing you have had an authentic experience.

We continued the Barefoot tradition of leaving clothing behind in our cabin for the crew at the end of our journey, knowing they will be able to share it with someone who needs it more than we do — thank you Island Windjammers for the wonderful memories!

 

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews HERE, honest feedback from real passengers!!

© 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 Cuba Cruise

Photo-Feature by Cele & Lynn Seldon.

There may be no better way to immerse oneself in the enigmatic culture and people of Cuba than on small ship Cuba cruises with International Expeditions aboard the intimate 46-passenger Panorama. Here’s Part 2 of our 8-night voyage, which sailed from Havana to Cienfuegos.

small ship Cuba cruise

Editor’s Note: International Expeditions’ current itineraries are land only as US citizens and most residents of the US are not permitted to cruise to Cuba. The cruise itinerary described here is no longer offered.

Click here to read “A Small Ship Cuba Cruise with International Expeditions (Part 1),” which covers historic and colorful Havana. 

Part 2: This half of the story picks up after departing Havana…
Guanahacabibbes National Park

The next day was our first taste of the rest of our small ship Cuba cruise as we visited the Guanahacabibbes Peninsula and the Maria la Gorda beach resort. Located on the westernmost tip of the main island, the peninsula is home to several remote villages, as well as a local school in little El Valle. The uniformed school children were highly inquisitive, asking as many questions of us as we did of them. It was an eye-opening glimpse into how the Cuban rural school system operates and the importance that the Cuban people place on education.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Children in class at an elementary school in El Valle, a small rural town on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

We also stopped at Guanahacabibbes National Park. Cuba’s first protected and preserved region after the revolution, the area became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1987 (one of six in all of Cuba) and a National Park in 2001. A major eco-tourism attraction, the National Park consists of about 125,000 acres, with more than 170 species of birds and tropical fauna, flora, and marine life.

The afternoon was spent at the dive resort of Maria la Gorda. Although a far cry from typical Caribbean resorts, the beach featured fine white sand, calm crystal-blue waters, and a chance to swim, snorkel, and lounge on the beach. A traditional Cuban barbecue lunch was served on the beach.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Swimming at Villa Maria la Gorda Hotel & International Diving Center, Maria la Gorda, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Isla de la Juventud

The next stop was Isla de la Juventud, or the Isle of Youth, the largest of the 350 islets of Cuba, with a population of about 100,000. Our day was filled with people-to-people activities, including: a visit to the local maternity house, where we met with doctors, nurses, and several expectant women; Museo Municipal (City Museum) and its history of this remote island; the island’s capital city of Nueva Gerona; and a visit to Presidio Modelo, the massive jail that once held more than 5,000 varied prisoners, including Fidel Castro and his comrades, in the mid-1950s. Today, the shell of Presidio Modelo houses a museum that offers a glimpse into the grueling penal system.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Presidio Modelo, the jail where Fidel Castro was held prisoner, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Trinidad

After another day at sea, with more lectures, movies, and free time, we docked in the coastal colonial town of Trinidad in early-evening. A UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its pastel-colored 18th– and 19th-century houses, cobblestoned streets, palaces, and plazas, Trinidad was easily explored on foot with a group sightseeing tour and dinner at local a paladar.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Shopping for local artwork and handicrafts in the street market along the cobblestoned streets, Trinidad, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink

The next morning featured more exploration, including stops at the Museum of Architecture, the Romantic Museum, the many palaces and churches surrounding Plaza Mayor, a visit to a scale model of the city, and people-to-people exchanges with local wood-working artist Lazaro Niebla and potter Chichi Santandar in their studios.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Lazaro Nieble in front of some of his wood carving portraits, Trinidad, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink

Cienfuegos

From there, we rode about 90 minutes northwest to the town of Cienfuegos. This colonial town was initially settled by French immigrants and retains a French feel, with 19th-century buildings, a congenial street life, and a lovely waterfront that opens to the Caribbean Sea. An outdoor spit-roasted lunch was served at Los Laureles in Hotel Jagua, with stunning panoramic bay views from the rooftop.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Traditional pig roast and lunch at Dos Laureles in the Hotel Jagua, Cienfuegos, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral along Parque Jose Marti, Cienfuegos, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink

After lunch, we were treated to an array of the city’s charms including: a festive and interactive children’s musical performance of “La Cucarachita Martina” at the Julio Antonio Mella Cultural Center; a walking tour of central José Marti Park, with its Arch of Triumph, Tomas Terry Theatre, and the Cienfuegos Cathedral; an inspiring and elegant choral performance by the Cienfuegos Choir; a visit to a graphic artist studio; and free time to shop along Paseo El Prado.

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

People-to-people children’s musical performance of Cucarachita Martina at the Julio Antonio Mella Cultural Center, Cienfuegos, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink

After our last dinner and evening onboard Panorama, we packed our bags and set out early the next morning by bus to Santa Clara for our flight back to Miami. Girded for a reprise of our rather chaotic arrival in Cuba at Havana Airport, we were pleasantly surprised when our final people-to-people experience was met with few crowds, a serene calm, and an on-time departure.

Statue of Jose Marti in Parque Jose Marti, Cienfuegos, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Click here to read “A Small Ship Cuba Cruise with International Expeditions (Part 1),” which covers historic and colorful Havana. 

International Expeditions sets sail for Cuba with seven Cuba Voyages in 2018, sailing from Cienfuegos to Havana. The 9-night 2018 itineraries include 7 nights on board, one night in Miami pre-cruise, and an overnight stay in the Viñales Valley, allowing passengers fewer sea days and the opportunity to experience the stunning mountain vistas. With all cruises, but especially cruises involving Cuba, itineraries are subject to change.

N.B. Because of recent US Government regulations, U.S. citizens and most permanent resident are no longer permitted to cruise to Cuba. As the Editor’s Note says below, you may get updates by clicking on the link.

For more information about International Expeditions, go to ietravel.com or call 800-633-4734.

Editor’s Note: As with any travel, we would recommend staying on top of the Cuba travel policy changes in your resident country, as well as following International Expeditions notifications at https://www.ietravel.com/blog/what-people-people-cuba-travel.

© 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.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

N.B. Please be advised that due to recent U.S. Government regulations, U.S. citizens and most non-U.S. residents are no longer permitted to cruise to Cuba, hence I.E. is currently only offering land tours. We have decided to save this report as it gives good information about what travelers will find on land.

G Adventures, a Canadian firm, operates three cruises itineraries of 6, 8 and 13 days aboard a small catamaran taking 16 passengers with pairs of double cabins sharing the shower and toilet facilities. Fares are very reasonable. The website makes it quite clear that the firm will not accept U.S. and foreign U.S. residents on Cuba cruises.

Also, Variety Cruises, a Greek-based cruise line operates the more upscale 46-passenger Panorama on 8-day cruise circuits, the same vessel that is described in the article below.

More lines will be added to the site as they become known.

By Cele & Lynn Seldon.

Travel to Cuba is hotter than a July day in the Caribbean. It’s not surprising when you think that visiting Cuba just a short three years ago wasn’t even a possibility for most Americans. But, along with Obama’s 2014 restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the subsequent easing of restrictions, and with airlines, hotels, tour operators, and cruise lines getting into the action, exploring Cuba by sea is easier than ever.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Classic car parade, Havana, Cuba

Many cruise lines have added stops in Cuba to their Caribbean itineraries, offering a day or overnight in Havana. Plus, some smaller lines stop in other Cuban cities, like Cienfuegos or Santa Clara, as a port call. However, there may be no better way to immerse oneself in the enigmatic culture and people of Cuba than with a Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions aboard the intimate 46-passenger Panorama.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

The intimate 46-passenger Panorama. * Photo: International Expeditions

Known as a pioneer in ecotourism and conservation, International Expeditions was first able to take Americans to Cuba in 2003, and in 2012, introduced their land-based Complete Cuba itinerary. Interacting with the Cuban people and exploring the largest Caribbean island as a true ambassador through their “people-to-people” program, International Expeditions offers a schedule of immersive and interactive activities and events with the movers, shakers, entrepreneurs, and artists of this colorful nation.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

People-to-people children’s musical performance of Cucarachita Martina at the Julio Antonio Mella Cultural Center, Cienfuegos, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

These same activities and personal interactions are the cornerstones of their 9-night Cuba Voyage itinerary. Led by three guides—a U.S.-based Cuba expert who is available through the entire trip, a ship guide who acts as a hotel director once onboard, and a Cuba-based tour guide for the day-to-day travel—who address every detail, this small group experience is best suited for travelers who have a sense of adventure and deal well with travel curveballs.

Cuba is still new to tourism—especially by American standards—and the one constant is that things will not always go as planned. An open mind, patience, and spontaneity will enhance exploration of this magical island and prepare expedition participants for the uncertainties that make travel to new horizons transformative opportunities.

Our 8-night Cuba Voyage started in Miami with a welcome reception, briefing, and overnight in a nearby airport hotel. This gave us the opportunity to meet our fellow travelers, ask questions, and complete the required paperwork. Cuba requires a VISA for all U.S. citizens and, although International Expeditions did much of the legwork ahead of time, there are still some final forms that need to be completed, as well as detailed information about the flight and arrival in Cuba.

Editor’s Note: International Expeditions’ 2018 itineraries are slightly different, sailing from Cienfuegos to Havana with 7 nights on board, plus the one night in a Miami hotel and one night in a hotel in Vinales during the middle of the cruise to explore the lush Sierra de los Organos mountains and the Viñales Valley of western Cuba. Otherwise, the ports and experiences in the Seldons’ story are exactly what you’d get on the current itinerary.

Rise & Shine

The next morning came very early with a 3:00 a.m. departure for the airport and our 6:00 a.m. Eastern Airlines chartered flight. Our Washington State-based guide, Brian, was on-hand every step of the way to help guests with their luggage, security, and to answer any questions. After the short 45-minute flight—complete with flight attendants in retro Eastern Airline uniforms—Brian guided us through passport control, immigration, and the somewhat chaotic baggage claim area. The long luggage wait time also gave everyone a chance to change their U.S. dollars into the tourist-based currency of Cuban Convertible Pesos (known as CUCs). Once outside the airport, we were met by the International Expeditions cruise director and our Cuba-based national guide.

Our first stop was to board our home-away-from-home for the week, the Panorama. Owned and operated by Greek Variety Cruises (and chartered to International Expeditions), the Panorama is a three-masted yacht built in 1993 and refurbished in 2014. It houses cabins on three decks, as well as an indoor reception area, library, dining area, and outdoor seating on the main deck. There’s also a separate inside lounge and bar, aft outdoor seating, and a sun deck on the upper deck. Although a bit smaller and less luxurious than traditional ocean liner vessels, all cabins featured individually controlled air conditioning, televisions (although there was no programming available on our sailing), hairdryers, mini-refrigerators, and bathrooms. Upper and main deck cabins feature windows, while cabins on the lower deck have portholes.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

A twin cabin on the Panorama. * Photo: International Expeditions

Three Days in Havana

On the way to the Panorama, we made a brief stop at Havana’s iconic Plaza De La Revolucion. Home to the many political rallies that happen in Havana and the 31st largest square in the world, Revolution Square is dominated by the José Martí Memorial, a 358-foot tower and 59-foot statue of this national hero. Highlights include the National Library, many government ministries, and the Palace of the Revolution, which houses the seat of the Cuban government and Communist party, and oversized iron outlines of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. A classic Havana photo opportunity also awaited us in the square, with dozens of brightly colored retro automobiles that enterprising Cubans will allow visitors to sit or ride in for a pre-negotiated fee.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Revolution Square, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

After a short briefing onboard, we headed out as a group into the sensory-overloaded cobblestoned pedestrian streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) for a lobster lunch at the state-owned La Imprenta restaurant, plus a walking tour.  While we gawked at the colorful sights and music- leaden sounds of Old Town, our guide pointed out many of the architectural wonders of the city, including: Casa de Gobierno y Palacid Municipal on the Plaza des Armas; the star-shaped Castillo de la Real Fureza, which now houses a maritime museum; the imposing Cathedral of the Virgin Mary; Hotel Ambos Mundos, a residence of Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s; the Museum of Natural History; shopping in Plaza Vieja and on many side streets; and watering holes cum tourist destinations made famous by Hemingway, including La Bodeguita de Media (where the Mojito was reputedly invented) and La Floridita (known for their daiquiris).

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Floridita Restaurant, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Once back onboard the Panorama, we enjoyed a cocktail hour and an international meal in the dining area. Dinner every evening was a festive experience, with salad, soup, a choice of two entrées, and dessert, all served by the small staff who did double-duty as bartenders and cabin stewards. Cocktails and wines from a varied list were available for purchase. After dinner, we were free to head back into town—the port is conveniently located across the street from Old Town.

The Panorama’s lounge. * Photo: International Expeditions

Havana’s Fusterlandia, Finca la Vigia & More…

After a breakfast buffet the next morning, we boarded a bus and made our way to Fusterlandia. Located in the modest district of Jaimanitas, Fusterlandia is a mirage-like masterpiece of intricate and whimsical tilework and created by Cuban artist, José Fuster. The home—and much of the surrounding neighborhood—has been transformed into an extravaganza of Gaudi meets Picasso street art, with colorful sculptures, figurines, kaleidoscopes, mosaics, free-flowing fountains, and other objects d’art that attack the senses.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Fusterlandia, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

From there, we explored the literary world of Havana at Finca la Vigia, the home of Ernest Hemingway from 1939 to 1960 and where he penned most of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Today, it serves as a museum and monument to the legendary American novelist. Although visitors can’t go into the house, they can peer in from the many doors and windows, as well as explore the outdoor pool and his 38-foot fishing boat, Pilar.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Finca Vigia, home of Ernest Hemingway, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

The next stop was the Nostalgic Car Garage. Owned by the son of a former GM engineer, owner Julio Alvarez has turned the retro car craze of Cuba into a successful business of automobile tours and taxi services.

After another lobster lunch (Cuba has plenty of lobsters and they seem to save them all for tourists), we set out on our own classic car parade. With a dozen Chevys, Fords, Fairlanes, and more, we were treated to a tour of the city in our very own brightly colored convertibles and felt like royalty as we paraded along the streets of Havana.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Classic car parade, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

The rest of the afternoon was ours to explore Old Town on our own. We wandered through the narrow streets, explored the street markets, took photos with enterprising cigar-smoking Cuban women who’d pose for a CUC, shopped for cigars and rum, and checked our email at one of the relatively few (and slow) wi-fi hotspots in Havana.

Since that night was New Year’s Eve, several of our group made a sojourn to the infamous Tropicana Club for dinner and a show that didn’t disappoint. Over-the-top costumes, risqué dances, and the pulsating beat of Cuban music complemented our three-course dinner and unending Havana Club rum, served with bottles of Coke.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Dancers performing at the Tropicana, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Havana’s Museum of the Revolution, Hotel Nacional & More…

The Museum of the Revolution was our first stop the next morning. Housed in a former Presidential Palace, it’s filled with photos, artifacts, and exhibitions. The grounds surrounding feature tanks, planes, and boats—including Granma, the boat that transported Castro back to Cuba from his Mexican exile in 1959.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

Revolution Museum, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

The afternoon was spent exploring the famed Hotel Nacional—Havana’s grand dame; the unique Merger’s Art Studio, where we chatted with Sandra Borges, the artist responsible for the contemporary combination of art and mechanical engineering; and a visit to Eastern Havana, with stunning views of Havana from across the water.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

La Nacional Hotel, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

Lunch (and dinner) were in thriving paladars—the new wave of privately-owned restaurants housed in homes that have been popping up throughout Havana as governmental restrictions have eased. After dinner, we were treated to the pulsating salsa music of the Buena Vista Social Club at Café Taberna.

And to set the mood, press play to listen to Camila Cabello’s addictive award-winning song Havana!

Small Ship Cuba Cruise

Departing Havana the next morning gave everyone an opportunity to enjoy a day at sea on the Panorama. We all caught up on sleep, enjoyed a lecture on 500 years of Cuban history, relaxed and read on the sundeck, watched a movie about Hemingway, and enjoyed delicious meals in the dining room.

Cuba Voyage with International Expeditions

On deck aboard Panorama. * Photo: Michael Gomez/International Expeditions


Here’s Part 2 of the Seldon’s Cuba voyage ….

For more info, visit ietravel.com or call 800-633-4734

International Expeditions sets sail for Cuba with seven Cuba Voyages in 2018. The voyages alternate between Havana to Cienfuegos and reverse. The 2018 itineraries also add in an overnight stay in the Viñales Valley, allowing passengers less sea days and the opportunity to experience the stunning mountain vistas. With all cruises, but especially cruises involving Cuba, itineraries are subject to change.

Editor’s Note: As with any travel, we would recommend staying on top of the Cuba travel policy changes in your resident country, as well as following International Expeditions guidelines.

© 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.

QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Shelly Davis from the USA

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Sagitta

Destination

Caribbean: St. Kitts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Montserrat

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Port of Embarkation

December 2017 — St. Kitts

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating:  5.

-Cabin Rating:  5.

-Service/Crew Rating:  5.

-Itinerary Rating:  5.

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

I’ve been on 1 small ship cruise.

Review

A great trip with kids!

My favorite part of this cruise was the ability to bring my kids along in a safe environment and let them experience travel the way I believe travel was intended. At 7 and 9, we finally felt this was the right time to let them experience a more adult trip. I was able to show them the real world and we explored it. They got to see an active volcano. They got to tour the engine room of the ship and watch intently as the crew members put the sails up and down . They experienced language barriers and learned about different currencies and cultures. The ship size allows for you to visit ports not typically covered over with huge cruise ships and volumes of oblivious tourists. We didn’t have every minute filled with electronics or events catering just to them. They even used their imaginations and performed a puppet show! I adored bringing my kids along on their very first adventure trip. We did a Disney cruise in February and it was lovely! Nothing against Disney at all. There is a time and place for everything. But this was more my speed and more what I want my kids to understand travel to be.

My second favorite part was the service. I cannot tell you how pleasant it was to be waited on nonstop. Even when I was quite capable and ready to pour my own cup of coffee, I wasn’t allowed. 🙂 They worked hard to satisfy every passenger on board. They would play a Ring Toss game with the kids and you could tell they genuinely enjoyed it. It wasn’t an act or chore! Some of my best memories were being the first passenger awake and the lovely conversations I had with the crew members who knew me by name and I knew them. The Operations Manager (Andrew) was on point at all times. He was patient with those of us who were chatty and eager to find on shore activities to please each of us. And there was always a suggestion that catered to the kids. I additionally appreciated his wit and humor he was able to include while remaining professional.

My third favorite part of this cruise was the food. OMG the food! I like good food, whether it be street food or prepared by a James Beard award winning chef. The food did not disappoint. I was repeatedly pleasantly surprised by how good each meal was. Even down to the appetizers. And you would eat it all trying not to miss out on a wonderful new flavor and then they’d come around and offer seconds!! No way! I’m saving room for dessert! Then I mentioned my husband’s birthday was occurring while we were at sea and I never thought about it again. But after dinner on his birthday a red velvet cake was brought out. The crew tried diligently (humorously so) to keep a single candle lit as they brought it out, but it was not going to happen.

Other notable and awesome things about Island Windjammers: 1) The passenger capacity. We made friends with everyone on our cruise. I am getting Christmas cards from these new friends and we have a Facebook group set up to share pictures and memories. 2) The rope swing and night swimming: How cool is it that they let passengers do that? When I realized there were no more opportunities for the rope swing, I got so sad!  3) I missed this National Geographic moment, but my husband got to witness a Needlefish become a Barracuda’s dinner one evening while looking over the side if the ship into the lit waters.

This whole trip was just wonderful. I genuinely hope we can make it back on board one of IWJ’s vessels. I would gladly do it again.

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews HERE, honest feedback from real passengers!!

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

David Harrell from the USA

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Vela

Destination

Caribbean

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Ports

September 2017, from Grenada to the Windward Islands

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars      (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Cabin Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Service/Crew Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

-Itinerary Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

No, this was my first.

Review

First Windjammer style cruise and it was Awesome!

My wife and I just completed a week cruise with Island Windjammers aboard the Vela. We have wanted to take a Windjammer style cruise for years and after researching options we chose Island Windjammers Pirate Week as our first adventure. I have to say this was by far one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. After a brief time meeting the other ‘Pirates’, I knew this was going to be a fun trip. It was a diverse group of folks but we all had that Pirate mentality and were ready for a special week.

If you like lounging around a pool, spending time in the casino, going to shows, etc. This is not that type of cruise.

However… If you are adventurous and enjoy meeting people and seeing places you’ll never see while on a large cruise ship, then you’ll love this. We sailed into small coves with great snorkeling, beaches, hiking and dropping into local bars in very, very small villages.

The crew members were awesome. Leah and Andrew laid out each day’s activities, providing tips on the best snorkeling spots, hiking, shops and food options. Chef Robert along with Panchoo prepared some amazing meals. You will not go hungry while sailing Island Windjammers. Something I had not given much thought to was our ability to get to know the crew. Something you can’t do on a large cruise ship. I especially enjoyed sitting with Captain Patricio and talking about his life fishing and sailing.

I definitely will be sailing again and I hope our photos and stories will inspire our friends to join us. However, we established what I hope will be long friendships with our fellow Pirates.

Overall it was an amazing experience.

See more QuirkyCruise Reader Reviews HERE, honest feedback from real passengers !!

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Sea Cloud Cruises

Germany-based Sea Cloud Cruises operates two (three beginning August 2020) of the poshest old-world sailing ships you can find. The four-masted SEA CLOUD was commissioned by super rich Wall Street tycoon E. F. Hutton in 1931 and decorated by his extravagant heiress and businesswoman wife Marjorie Merriweather Post, who spared no expense outfitting the ship in the finest marble, gold-trim and mahogany.

The ship has changed hands several times over the years (including a stint as a floating weather station for the US Navy during WWII) and, after being virtually abandoned in the 1960s, was purchased in 1978 by the present owners and restored to its glorious beginnings.

Fleetmate SEA CLOUD II was built in a somewhat similar style in 2001, albeit a bit larger and with less wood paneling in the cabins and public rooms. Both attract travelers who appreciate tradition and elegance, along with good food and well-traveled shipmates.

N.B. In late August 2020, a third sailing ship – SEA CLOUD SPIRIT will begin sailing in the Mediterranean. Details to follow.

Sea Cloud under full sail -- WOW! * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Sea Cloud under full sail — WOW! * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

SEA CLOUD (built 1931, 64 p), SEA CLOUD II (b. 2001, 94 p) and SEA CLOUD SPIRIT (b. 2020, 138 p)

Passenger Profile

On Europe cruises expect mostly Germans, plus some other Europeans and a sprinkling of North Americans and others, majority 50+. In the Caribbean, it’s about 30% American passengers, 30% German, 20% British, and the rest from elsewhere in Europe.

Passenger Decks

3 (SEA CLOUD), 4 (SEA CLOUD II); no elevators. (SEA CLOUD SPIRIT) elevator connects five decks.

Price

$$$

Included Features

Wine and beer at lunch and dinner; all soft drinks and coffees throughout cruise; and an English-speaking tour guide on every sailing.

Itineraries
  • Winters see both ships in the Caribbean doing 7- to 26-night itineraries, many from Barbados including a handful that focus on Cuba; and others that go to Costa Rica and other parts of Central America.
  • Summers, both are in the Mediterranean, doing 4- to 19-night cruises from ports including Venice, Valletta, Barcelona and Malaga, plus a handful of cruises in the North Sea and in the Canary Islands.
  • SEA CLOUD SPIRIT will also cruise the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, including the canal, for ports along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
Why Go?

To step back in time on elegant old-world ships that are as much a part of the travel experience, if not more so, than the destinations visited.

When to Go?

The Sea Cloud “grand dames” cruise in different regions of the world at the best time to visit.

Can you imagine?! Sea Cloud's Opulent Merriweather Post Suite #1A * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Can you imagine?! Sea Cloud’s opulent Merriweather Post Suite #1A * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Cabins

Aboard SEA CLOUD the ultimate abode is Post’s own museum-like suite, with its Louis XIV–style bed and nightstands, marble fireplace and bathroom, chandeliers, and intricate moldings. There are a total of 10 original cabins with stunning interiors, plus four former officers’ cabins that appeal to ship buffs, with bunk beds and a door that leads straight out onto the covered section of the promenade deck. CLOUD II also has several opulent suites, one with burled wood paneling and a canopy bed, but they can’t compete with the originals on SEA CLOUD. SEA CLOUD SPIRIT will offer 69 cabins, 25 with private balconies.

Otherwise, the standard cabins on both ships are roomy and very comfortable, but nothing out of the ordinary. Those on SEA CLOUD II have small sitting areas and marble bathrooms, and TV/VCRs (SEA CLOUD cabins do not have TVs). All cabins on both ships have telephones, safes, hair dryers, and bathrobes, and cabins with either a shower or tub.

Not too shabby. Sea Cloud's Category 3B cabin. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Not too shabby. Sea Cloud’s Category 3B cabin. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Public Rooms

Each ship has one restaurant, a bar on the lido deck, and a lounge for reading, board games and surfing the Internet on the resident laptop. Inside and out, SEA CLOUD feels like a floating museum in many ways, with antiques, marble fireplaces and abundant wood decking, paneling and furniture, including an arc of padded mahogany benches at the stern of the Promenade for excellent views of the majestic masts, sails and rigging.

On the larger SEA CLOUD II, the elegant lounge is designed with rich mahogany woodwork, ornate ceiling moldings, leather club couches, and overstuffed bucket chairs; and there’s also a separate library. SEA CLOUD II has a small exercise room with a few machines and free weights, plus there’s a sauna and swim platform at the stern.

Both ships have small medical centers and Wi-Fi access is available for a fee.

The interior lounge aboard Sea Cloud II. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

The interior lounge aboard Sea Cloud II. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Dining

Mealtime is a big part of the Sea Cloud experience and the dining room on each ship accommodates all guests in a single, open seating. Cuisine is continental and wines and beer are complimentary at lunch and dinner. Breakfast and some lunches are provided buffet-style, with lunch served up on deck as often as possible, while the more formal dinners are served on elegant candlelit tables set with white linens, china, and silver.

Expect dishes like a Parmesan cheese soufflé, grilled scallops or lobster, and veal tenderloin. The majority of men wear jackets nightly, and with the addition of ties for the two formal nights on each cruise. Most cruises also feature a barbecue night out on deck.

SEA CLOUD’S lovely dining room, the original owner’s salon, is paneled in oak and set with long elegant tables. Aboard SEA CLOUD II, the dining room has tables for 2, 4, 6 and 8. In both you can sit where you wish.

Dining on deck aboard Sea Cloud. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Dining on deck aboard Sea Cloud. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Activities & Entertainment

The favorite pastime for most is to merely sit on deck to admire the tall ship scene — the sails, masts, winches, ropes and cleats against all that teak — and watch the crew work the riggings. Typically one day on a weeklong cruise is spent at sea. Weather permitting, the bridge is always open and officers are happy to answer questions. Unlike the Star Clipper’s three ships, though, for insurance reasons passengers are not allowed to help handle the sails as the crew does everything by hand.

Throughout the week there are talks by guest lecturers on most cruises as well as daily briefings by the cruise director. Occasionally there are theme cruises featuring noted artists, chefs or vintners who give talks and presentations. The ultimate event aboard SEA CLOUD is the highly popular “open house,” where passengers dress up and enjoy champagne and caviar on the Main Deck and then tour each other’s cabins (with the residents’ permission, of course).

CLOUD II also has a library, a small gym, a sauna, and a swimming platform for use when the ship is anchored in some gorgeous place and conditions permit swimming right then and there. Each ship carries aboard zodiacs to shuttle passengers ashore when anchored or for snorkeling excursions or water-skiing. Evenings a pianist serenades passengers as they mingle over drinks and typically once per cruise local musicians come aboard for an evening. A crewmember choral group is another popular after-dinner diversion.

For many, SEA CLOUD II’s big advantage is her larger size and interior public rooms — she is a cruise ship, while SEA CLOUD is a yacht — which comes in handy, for instance, on rainy days when cruising on the Northern and Baltic seas.

Along the Same Lines

Star Clippers comes close-ish.

Contact

SeaCloud Cruises, An der Alster 9, 20099 Hamburg, Germany; www.seacloud.com; 888/732-2568 and 201/227-9404

— HMS