He said, “Let’s go on a cruise,” and because I loved him and cruising both, I said yes.
I had a few cruises under my belt, so I had visions of a large ship, limitless buffets, lavish stage productions.
He had other ideas.
He showed me the brochure from Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. He pointed to SV Polynesia, a 248-foot schooner that looked, well, small.
Booked it anyway.
We flew from Ohio to Miami, then on to St. Maarten, where we boarded the tall ship along with about 120 other barefoot adventurers. Quarters were close, the cabins didn’t even have locking doors and sleeping arrangements were the always-romantic bunk beds.
It turned out to be one the best cruises I ever took. The beauty of our very small ship:
1. Getting to know almost all of our fellow passengers. I know, that isn’t always a good thing. But we sailed with a ski club from Idaho, and those folks knew how to party.
2. Getting to know most of the crew. They hung out with us in the bar, danced with us under the stars. We helped them hoist the sails. Some of us actually got to sail the ship. (My boyfriend pointed out that I once took the helm of his boat, heading to the Lake Erie islands, and ended up in Canada by mistake.)
3. Visiting ports off the beaten path. Our itinerary included St. Bart’s, St. Eustatius and Anguilla. Not your typical T-shirt selling, diamond-and-emerald hawking ports, at least not when I visited.
4. Communing with nature. I felt a lot closer to the water than I did aboard a big cruise ship, but that’s probably because our cabin was below decks. Still, how many big cruise ships anchor in a port and put out a plank so you can dive right in? And at night, we were welcome to sleep out on deck under a canopy of stars. There is something to be said about lying on the deck of a very small ship bobbing in the vast sea and staring into an even vaster universe.
5. Interesting entertainment. One night, it was hermit crab races. On another, a steel drum band from one of the islands boarded the ship and we danced into the wee hours. And then there was the toga party. Extra sheets were dropped off in each cabin, and we were encouraged to add our own unique twist, so to speak, to our togas. There was a parade, prizes and a lot of unruly behavior. Try that on formal night on some of the mainstream cruise ships!
On the last day of our cruise, I didn’t want to leave.
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises went out of business before I got the chance to sail with them again. But I’ve come across another small ship cruise line promising a similar unique experience for the cruiser.
Island Windjammers offers six-day sailings on the 101-foot Diamant out of Grenada, calling on the Windward Islands of Carriacou, Bequia, Union Island, Tobago Cays and Mayreu. (When was the last time you saw those islands listed in an itinerary?)
The company has just added the 120-foot Sagitta to its fleet, sailing out of St. Maarten on six-day voyages and visiting the Leeward Islands of Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Barts and St. Eustatius.
No crowds aboard these beauties: Diamant accommodates 12 passengers; Sagitta, 24.
Fares are $1,799-$1,999 per person, double occupancy, and include port charges and taxes. Meals, snacks, and beer, wine and rum punch are included in the price. Sagitta also boasts an owner’s suite, for those who might want a little more luxury, for $2,199-$2,399 per person.
Six days at sea not enough? Both ships also offer several extended cruises, and this summer they’ll sail together on a 12-day itinerary.
There are even a couple of themed cruises scheduled.
Like rum? Learn its history, how it’s made and how to concoct the perfect cocktail on a rum-themed cruise July 7 aboard Sagitta, or Dec. 13 on Diamant. Rum expert Dave Russell of www.rumgallery.com will be aboard.
Sagitta’s Solo Sojourn, sailing Nov. 10, promises no couples, no kids — and no silly games. It’s not a singles cruise, but an opportunity for the solo traveler to sail with like-minded adventurers.
By Sy O'Neill, Palm Beach Post