I'm so pleased that Cruise Critic is now allowing Arabella passengers to submit reviews about this wonderful ship that offers the perfect sailing cruise yacht experience.
We sailed Arabella for the first time in Sept/Oct 2010, for a New England cruise, and again in Feb 2011 for what the Arabella team calls "the Spanish Virgin Islands," out of St. Thomas.
The ship herself is gorgeous, with beautiful woods throughout, a comfortable lounge area with a beautiful polished wood bar and tables, plus large picture windows, while on the deck are many places to go to enjoy the sailing experience, by yourself or with your new friends (both passengers and crew).
Arabella has what you'd call "cozy" cabins. While they are small, they're not too small if you heed the request to pack lightly. Those sailing on Arabella don't spend much time in the cabin anyway! You're either out on deck, savoring the experience, sharing time with new friends, even learning some sailing techniques and lore, or you're enjoying the crystal clear waters or exploring the smaller ports not available to the large cruise lines. Arabella's A and B cabins (the only ones I have experience with) are designed very well, with four large and deep drawers beneath the large (and comfortable) beds (queen sized in A cabins), a rack that holds a few hanging clothes (but who needs something that must hang?), and a bathroom with shower and toilet, with the sink just outside the bathroom, in your cabin. This actually is an excellent arrangement, so that while one in the couple is showering, the other can be using the sink/mirror comfortably.
You really only need casual clothes: swimwear, shorts, tees, tank tops, lightweight pants and maybe a casual jacket and/or sweatshirt. On board, most, including the crew, go barefoot. But I suggest you bring a pair of sandals and/or water shoes, as well as a pair of walking shoes for exploring in port.
Arabella focuses on the sailing and water experiences. She sails each morning, and drops anchor mid-day. When she is underway, her sails are up unless there just simply is no wind. After lunch on board, tenders run into/from port every hour, usually until midnight. Kayaking, snorkeling, beaching, exploring the port, sampling the local brews and cuisine are what most everyone will be doing, or maybe just continuing to relax onboard. An amazing New England lobster bake on the beach is included on that cruise! An abundance of lobster, chicken, corn, potatos, shrimp....yum!
Food on board is plentiful, varied, enticing and delicious! Served buffet style and all-you-can-eat. It's amazing what Chef John can do out of a small galley. That small galley is why most of Arabella's dinners are on shore. On the New England cruise, your cruise fee includes one dinner, the lobster bake. You're on your own for the rest, but that's because the Arabella crew discovered that most passengers wanted to sample the cuisine of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, etc. For Caribbean itineraries, all but one dinner is included...and those dinners are in port, where the crew has made arrangements with restaurants or at popular local beach all-you-can-eat buffet barbecues. The restaurants were excellent with great options, and the barbecues were bountiful and delicious, with passengers and crew enjoying them together.
Arabella's crew is fantastic: both the onshore and onboard crew members! Personable, professional, attentive, knowledgeable, helpful, fun! We had Captn Sandy for our NE cruise and Captn John for our Caribbean sailing. You couldn't do better than these two! Especially loved Captn Sandy's salty tales!
Fellow passengers: on both of our cruises, they ranged in age from 30s to 80s...all active folks who love sailing and exploring...and enjoying meeting new people. Age was of no matter...everyone just had a great time together. We were all new friends within the first 30 minutes of boarding, as we shared rum punch plentifully provided by our crew.
Those who want entertainers, climbing walls, swimming pools, multiple restaurants offering assorted cuisines, extensive shore excursions, crew members in white jackets, luxury cabins and don't enjoy mingling probably won't enjoy this type of cruise/ship. My husband and I are the opposite: small, well-appointed intimate ships with sails (and preferably wooden hulls) is what we look for. We've sailed Windstar, Star Clipper and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises and discovered Arabella when Windjammer went outta biz. We especially loved "barefoot sailing" on the Windjammers and once in awhile enjoy sailing the more upscale and little larger Windstar and Star Clipper ships. But Arabella's size, yachting experience and itineraries suit us best....we've booked her again for Feb. 2012!