This was our second trip with an Island Windjammers ship. In December 2014 we enjoyed our time on the Sagitta so much that we signed up for a January 2016 week on the Vela without hesitation. The Vela has been newly refitted and we were aboard her on her third week of carrying passengers. One can see the dedication that has gone into making her a worthy addition to the Island Windjammers fleet.
Itinerary: Initially the Vela was supposed to sail to the French West Indies, but due to the prevailing high winds the itinerary had to be changed to St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands. We appreciated having advance warning about this change, but also knew from past experience that island visits need to be flexible and one doesn't always know in advance. We were skeptical but as we hadn't had our hearts set on a particular destination we were open to this new option and we definitely did not regret exploring this area. For a detailed description of this itinerary check out the reviews for the Diamant, as she regularly sails this section of the Caribbean and I would only be duplicating the well-written and thorough review of the unspoiled Grenadines I read there.
The snorkeling, empty beaches, the water, the rough hills, the small towns - these are all things that we had not seen in our previous visits to the Caribbean and we highly recommend this area. The crew of the Vela made sure we had daily excursions and were brought by dinghy to island towns, beaches and snorkeling areas which most of the passengers took advantage of. The passengers who stayed on board tended to be those who were a little more limited physically. One does need some flexibility to climb up and down the gangway and aboard the dinghies, but one certainly doesn't need to be a teenager to do so. We were permitted to jump from the sides of the ship to our hearts' delight, and Captain Nervo even put up a rope swing for all to enjoy. The Vela would usually anchor at night, we did not dock at any piers while on this cruise.
Cabins: The Vela is a sailing ship and this means that she is not very wide which means, in turn, that cabins are smaller in the bow area (where we were) and somewhat broader in the stern. Our 20 year old son stayed in cabin 1 which is for one person with an 'all-in-one' ensuite bathroom. My husband and I had cabin 3 which was slightly larger than cabin 1, but not by much. There is enough room for one person to stand and get dressed. The other would have to stay in bed or wait outside! However, we were onboard for the outdoor fun and we quickly adjusted to the limitations of our cabin. The bunks (a single bunk on top with the porthole and a slightly wider one at regular bed height below) were comfortable and cozy with lovely beach-themed accent pillows. Luckily we had packed light and plenty of hooks were provided for hanging clothing and other necessities. I understand that in the mean time other storage options have been installed. I had been skeptical about the "all-in-one" shower situation which means one showers over the toilet and sink but it actually worked out quite well. One draws a shower curtain across the bathroom door and it's like one is in a shower cubicle. Towels hang on the door on hooks behind the curtain and they didn't get wet. Shampoo and soap are provided in dispensers attached to the wall and I was glad to see that the waste of single bottles had been eliminated. The cabin's cooling unit kept it from feeling stuffy or hot. The beds were made without fail and the cabins kept clean by the daily visit by the stewards. Bath towels are provided, as well as hand towels.