Menu
Menu
Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

Caribbean Scuba Diving + Island Windjammers Cruise.

By Elysa Leonard.

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

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

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

Scuba diving in St. Lucia

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

Confessions of a Scuba Dive Junkie

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

Dive 1: In the “Real” Ocean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My dive gear. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

Dive 2: Like Riding a Bicycle

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

Scuba Diving in St Lucia

Black-Spotted Moray Eel. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

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

Dive 3: A Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Diving from the Vela

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

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

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

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

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

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

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

Channeling Jacques Cousteau

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

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

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

Idyllic Iles des Saintes. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

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

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

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

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

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

Snorkeling with New Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scuba Diving in the French West Indies

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

One More for the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scuba Diving in St Lucia

I’ll be back. * Photo: Elysa Leonard

Top 5 Takeaways for Diving in St. Lucia

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

quirkycruise bird

 

 

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

Scuba Diving in St. Lucia

RIP Philippe

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

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

Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway

QuirkyCruise Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway

Boy do Heidi and Ted  love saying … “And the Winner Is” …

We’re excited to announce the winner of our Island Windjammers Caribbean cruise giveaway is Gail Whitworth from the USA!

Gail and her guest will enjoy a free 6-night Caribbean sailing-ship cruise for 2 with Island Windjammers.

When Gail found out she was the winner of our free Island Windjammers cruise a few weeks ago, chosen at random, she of course was thrilled. She responded to us saying:

“What a wonderful morning surprise! I cannot believe my luck! I am excited beyond words to take this cruise and already contacted and invited my best friend of 60 years, who loves to sail. Sadly, my husband died recently and would have loved to have been soaking it all up. Rest assured, the snorkeling would have been the cherry on top, just as it will be for my friend Sheilagh. Thank you so much for this glorious lift to my day! Gail”

QuirkyCruise Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway

Dream Tobago Cays. * Photo: Island Windjammers

Windward Islands

Gail and her friend look forward to a relaxing week tootling around the Caribbean. She’s chosen a 6-night Windward Islands itinerary aboard the Vela round-trip from gorgeous Grenada and visiting awesome un-touristy Bequia, Carriacou, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, and Union Island. Talk about amazing beaches!!

Watch this space for highlights of her trip once she’s back!

And stay tuned for our next QuirkyCruise “Who Wants to Live the Life of a Travel Writer” free cruise giveaway during the month of March. Our partner for March’s cruise giveaway is “CroisiEurope Cruises” and they’re giving the lucky winner a 7-night Danube River cruise around-trip from Vienna, Austria!! 👏🏼😍👏🏼

Island Windjammers Cruise Giveaway

Island Windjammers is all about island hopping, beach bumming and floating around the deep blue sea. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Island Windjammers is one of our favorite small-ship quirky lines. Here’s our review of them:

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 operates the 72-pax Mandalay, formerly of the Windjammer Barefoot Cruises fleet.) Read the rest of the review here.

 

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

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

Island Windjammers

Articles About Island Windjammers

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

Reader Reviews of Island Windjammers

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

Submit Your Own Review

Visit Our Reader Review Form

 

QuirkyCruise ReviewQuirkyCruise Review of Island Windjammers

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

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

Island Windjammers

Diamant in all her glory. * Photo: Island Windjammers

SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates & special offers!

Ship, Year Delivered & Passenger Count

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

Island Windjammers Passenger Profile

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

Passenger Decks

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

Price

$ Moderate

Included Features

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

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

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

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

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

When to Go?

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

Island Windjammers Cabins

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

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

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

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

Island Windjammers

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

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

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

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

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

Island Windjammers Public Rooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island Windjammers Dining

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

Island Windjammers

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

Island Windjammers Activities & Entertainment

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

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

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

Island Windjammers

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

Along the Same Lines

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

Note

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

Island Windjammers Contact

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

— HMS

 

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

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

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

By Heidi Sarna.

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

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

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

 

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

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

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

VELA, September 29-October 5, 2019

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

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

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

 

Pirates and Mermaids Week

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

VELA, October 6-12, 2019

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

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

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

 

 

Rum Cruise

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

VELA, November 24-30, 2019

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

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

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

 

Island Hops Beer Cruise

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

VELA, October 13-19, 2019

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

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

Island Hops Testing & Tasting. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

The Vela under full sail. * Photo: Island Windjammers

 

Sagitta’s Solo Sojourn

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

Sagitta, December 2-8, 2018

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

 

Quirky Island Windjammers Theme Cruises

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

 

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

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

Vela in the Caribbean Reviewed by Tim B.

REVIEWER

Tim B. from the USA.

CRUISE LINE

Island Windjammers.

SHIP

Vela.

DESTINATION

The Caribbean from St. Lucia to Grenada.

# OF NIGHTS

6.

DEPARTURE DATE & PORTS

Aug 2018, from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.

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

HOW MANY SMALL-SHIP CRUISES HAVE YOU BEEN ON?

1.

REVIEW

It has been a many-decades long dream of mine to sail the Caribbean. I never quite got around to it when I was young enough to captain my own sailboat. As we are all aware, such fantasies are rarely matched by the reality of the eventual trip.

So as a 70 year old, reasonably fit traveler, off I went, and I can report that this trip, in all ways, exceeded my long held tropical sail dream.

Some opinions on a few important general items:

—This is not a cruise ship, and will likely not appeal to those who love the big cruise ship experience. The crowds and lines and glitz and glimmer of large ships have never appealed to me, so this was really my cup of tea (or glass of rum).

—This is a sailing vessel. There is considerable rocking and rolling during transit. The weather and seas were fairly tame as open-water sailing goes. Four of the 16 guests  developed mild seasickness early in the voyage. None had to miss any meals or activities. Do bring sea sickness meds that you have tried out before the trip if you think you might be prone, and plan on exercising some caution as you walk about the ship during transit, especially for the first day or two.  The captain always anchors the ship in protected harbors or leeward locations, so most of the time things are pretty calm and stable.

—As an older somewhat overweight guy with 2 knee replacements, I had no difficulties with any of the activities. You do need a degree of flexibility and fitness to navigate the fairly steep stairway down to your cabin, to get on and off the dingy (excellent assistance from the crew with this maneuver), and to enjoy the hikes and snorkeling.

—I loved the activities on this trip, but other reviewers seem to have expected more of a cruise ship experience. Expect time on gorgeous beaches, time swimming and snorkeling in amazingly clear and warm water, lounging on deck, and visiting small towns at your various island anchorages. The only “optional tour” on our passage was an island tour of Bequia, where we rode in the covered back bed of a small truck and visited small local attractions (model ship builder, turtle sanctuary, whaling museum. Our driver and guide was one of the last members of an extant whaling family, and his whaling history talk was fascinating). At $30, this was a great experience and a great value.  The other notable activity was the optional after dinner dingy rides ashore to visit local bars.  These trips were as much about the local culture as about drinking, and quite a rich experience.  Just don’t expect casinos, floor shows, spas, and tour busses.

As others have noted, you will likely become good friends with your fellow passengers, and the crowd that chooses this kind of vacation tends to be a pretty unique and interesting group. That being said, we had a couple of passengers who preferred to spend more alone time, and there was plenty of space and support for that experience also.

Some reviewers have mentioned the small cabins. Having sailed before on a smaller boat, I found my solo cabin to be quite adequate and comfortable. It was actually charming and cozy.  The bathroom with combined sink/toilet/shower was very functional. Pack everything in a soft-sided carry-on and you will be fine.

As others have mentioned, the food is remarkable for such a small ship.  Portion sizes are just right, and you are always offered seconds.  In addition to the three meals, excellent appetizers and rum punch were served every afternoon during “cocktail hour.” The vinophiles on our trip described the house wine as fairly decent, and there were opportunities to buy premium wines along the route of sail. I’m a beer snob, and found the local lager (Piton), stocked on the ship, to be excellent. On one occasion, the crew prepared and delivered an excellent “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” feast to the beach where we were spending the day. When anchored, dinner on deck was a real treat.

One of the keys to this cruise being so outstanding is the crew. We had 16 passengers and 10 crew. Each crew member was always busy tending to their duties, which often centered around the comfort and enjoyment of the passengers. They were personable, fun, yet professional. Our activities director was great, and gave us full briefings of the day’s activities.  She also accompanied us on most of our onshore adventures.

I have never done a mega-cruise, and have only heard of the hassles on embarkation and disembarkation days. Getting on and off Vela was quick, simple, and well organized.

Oh, and did I mention that this truly is a barefoot cruise? Except for the one island tour, I did not wear shoes from the time I boarded Vela until the time I got ready to leave for the airport.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

reader reviews logo hi resContribute to our pool of honest reviews by real passengers. QuirkyCruise wants to hear about your latest small ship cruise for our Reader Reviews, a growing reservoir of opinions by small ship cruise lovers around the world. We don’t edit or sugarcoat, we just present QuirkyCruise reader reviews straight from travelers to you.

Click here to fill out a QuirkyCruise Reader Review FORM.

And here’s an INDEX of ALL our Reader Reviews. Have a look at what fellow travelers have to say and see what floats your boat.

 

 

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

 

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

Island Windjammers' 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

QuirkyCruise ReviewQuirkyCruise ReviewQuirkyCruise Review

 

 

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! 

 

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

Island Windjammers 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.

 

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

 

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

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.

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!!

© 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

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 !!

© 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

Wendy from the USA

Cruise Line

Island Windjammers

Ship

Sagitta

Destination

Caribbean

# of Nights

6

Departure Date & Ports

August 2017, from Marigot Bay, St. Lucia to Dominica, Martinique, and Isle de Saintes

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?

I’ve been on 1 small ship cruise.

Review

Best Vacation Ever

Like most of my vacations I put a lot of time and effort beforehand researching the how and why of whatever we are planning to do. I knew we wanted to sail and I knew we wanted a small boat and the Caribbean. I did my research and Island Windjammers consistently seemed to get great reviews. We were not disappointed. I will start by saying everything from purchasing passage aboard Sagitta to disembarking went smoothly (saying goodbye to fellow shipmates and the crew, however, was not easy). Once you have bought your ticket to sail, Island Windjammers gives you access to a message board to chat with other would-be sailors so gearing up to go is extra fun. You can find very helpful posts, get answers to questions and chat with your soon to be shipmates! We buddied up with a couple of other travelers on our boat to share cab rides to and from the ship this way.

Island Windjammers’ Sagitta is a 120 ft motorsailer. For our sail we had 20 passengers and 11 crew. There isn’t a set itinerary, per say, but the days were very organized. Yes, you may do as much or as little as you like. The general course of events were — breakfast at 8, story time to follow (this is when you learn about your days options/activities), first dinghy usually left for shore around 9:30 (back and forth to the ship hourly), lunch at noon, snacks and “Sagitta-ritas” (delicious) at 5 and dinner at 7. All meals were delicious. George and Philbert prepared amazing food in that small galley. Standouts to me were the beef Burgundy, the trio of salads we had one day for lunch, the cheese burgers, all the breakfasts and all the varieties of juices offered. Our cabin was perfect. Clean with an amazing amount of storage (definitely try to pack light, I’m a notorious over packer.) We had our own bathroom, also perfect and surprisingly spacious.

There were plenty of things to do (or not do!) The crew made sure paddle boards were out and available as well as floats and my favorite — the noodle. We swam off the side of Sagitta using these and also took them to a couple of beaches. Snorkel equipment was also available. I believe we snorkeled in at least 3 different locations. There was also a rope swing off of the ship which received plenty of use. There were optional excursions offered as well. Almost everyone on our ship took the all day tour of Dominica. In the evening I believe several passengers played dominos and dice games. I was not up this early but I do know one morning dolphins were spotted traveling along with the ship by the Captain and a couple passengers.

The crew were all amazing. Always smiling, always helpful. They seemed to be having as good of time as we were just doing their jobs. Safety was taken very seriously. Sagitta’s Captain Patricio was serious about his job and confident which made me feel very safe. Jermaine was always pleasant to see on deck first thing in thing in the morning making sure coffee was available (beer wine and rum were also not in short supply, but only after coffee for me, ha.)

This is the best vacation we have ever taken. We plan on sailing with Island Windjammers again very soon. This time we would like to try the Vela or Diamanté just for variety sake.

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.

QuirkyCruise reader review

Reviewer: Adrea Tidwell from the USA.

Cruise Line: Island Windjammers.

Ship: Diamant.

Destination: Caribbean.

# of Nights: 6.

Departure Date & Ports: May, 2017, round-trip from Port Louis, Grenada to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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: 4 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? I’ve been on 2 small ship cruises.

Review:  Turquoise Waters

I had an amazing trip on board the DIAMANT. The Crew were SO helpful, nice, AND fun to be around. The TRIP took us to several islands in the Grenadines, which have the most beautiful colored water I’ve EVER seen. During the trip you can do adventurous things, relax, OR both. The food was AMAZING and plentiful! I highly recommend this TRIP!

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.