Excuse my sunburn; I’ve spent the last week channeling my inner mermaid on a sailing cruise with Island Windjammers on its newest vessel, Sagitta. This is my second trip with the company – read a first-hand account of my Grenadines cruise – and while I love all ships, big and small, there’s something special about sailing windjammer-style.
Here are a few of my favorite quirks:
We’re Where? At 125 feet, Sagitta is small, but sturdy – and the size allows the ship to anchor in bays and marinas where larger cruise ships can’t go. My six-night trip took us to Anguilla, Nevis, St. Barths and St. Kitts. And while the latter two islands do receive larger ships, passengers disembark in major ports such as Basseterre – while we were able to dock directly outside Frigate Bay’s beach bars.
Rocking and Rolling: There’s no getting around it: On a small ship, you do feel the ocean’s motion, and it can take a day or two to adjust, particularly when traversing open water. Bonine kept me seasick-free the first few days, but those with more sensitive stomachs weren’t as lucky. Even the queasiest sailer eventually adjusts, however. By the end, the swells felt soothing – and it took a day or so for my equilibrium to get back to normal.
Some Dexterity Required. If the rolling waves weren’t enough to challenge your balance, the ship’s structure keeps you on your toes. Staircases between the decks are steep and a 16-person dinghy ferries you to shore for a dry or wet landing. The latter can be a bit dicey, even for the fit: an unexpected surge off Anse de Colombier, a marine preserve on the remote side of St. Barths, almost sent us spilling into the surf. That being said, the staff goes out of its way to warn the less-mobile if conditions look less than ideal — and I appreciated the grown-up approach.
Close Quarters. Sagitta carries 24 passengers while Island Windjammers’ other vessel, Diamant has only 12. On both ships, cabins are compact yet cozy, – our mid-ship room contained ample room for me and my 6-foot-5-inch husband (choose your cabin wisely). But staying below deck isn’t the point. Most days, you’re hanging out with your fellow sun-seekers, swapping stories and socializing. While introverts can find time to recharge — we had one morning where we had the ship to ourselves — you will get to know the other passengers, whether you like it or not (luckily, we had no stinkers on our voyage).
Make Your Own Fun. Windjammer cruises are built around beaches — and seeking out snorkeling is of primary concern for most people. Sagitta’s second captain, Simon, led rigorous hikes on some of the islands and one night the ship organized a beach barbecue at St. Kitts’ Shiggidy Shack. But for the most part, there aren’t a lot of official excursions. That was fine with us; my husband and I did our own thing, taking in the tender when we felt like it and snoozing on deck when we didn’t.
No Shoes, No Problem. They are called barefoot cruises for a reason: Passengers are encouraged to drop their shoes on deck and leave them there for the week (get a pedicure before you go). The casual vibe extends throughout the day with swimsuits, cover-ups and T-shirts the norm, with shorts and sundresses sufficing for dinner — which means you really can follow the company’s advice and pack a weeks’ worth of clothes into a duffel.
Rum? Yum! The original Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, which went defunct in 2008, had quite the Bacchanalian reputation, complete with wild costume parties and constant drinking games , While Island Windjammers is decidedly tamer and more relaxed, those who do imbibe will appreciate the always-available cooler full of beer and sodas, sundowner rum punches and free-flowing wine at dinner, all included in the price. Passengers are also allowed to bring their own liquor onboard without restrictions, a welcome contrast to most mainstream lines.
Fresh, not Frozen: For those used to specialty restaurants and endless buffets, the one-option menus on a sailing cruise might seem simple. But I found the food on both Diamant and Sagitta to be well above average and most important, fresh. I especially appreciated how the Caribbean-born chefs incorporated island flavors into the meals. Another bowl of callaloo soup? Yes please.