I just finished a six-night cruise on Vela and I had an amazing time. The trip was one of the peak experiences of my life. Some of the credit for that belongs to the Vela; she’s a sweet ship. Mostly, however, it is due to the crew’s hard work and dedication to the passenger’s happiness.
I traveled solo as a share of a Deluxe Cabin, which means that you sign up to share the cabin with a stranger, if one should book. I was fortunate, probably, that no one booked the other half of the cabin.
We embarked at Marigot Bay on St. Lucia, and, in addition to St. Lucia, visited the islands of Isles des Saintes and Marie-Gallant (both off the coast of Guadeloupe), Dominica, and with a brief stop in Martinique. There were long stops at Isles des Saintes, where we visited a very pretty, very French, village and a Napoleonic fort; at Marie-Gallant for swimming, snorkeling, paddle-boarding, and lunch; and at two separate stops in Dominica, where we were offered a choice of several activities such as tours of the island, beach time or river tubing. The captain was careful to time our arrivals and departures so that we had as much time as possible during daylight hours at each stop. Brandon, our operations manager, started each day listing the schedule and the available activities. He worked hard to accommodate any out of the ordinary requests, and was helpful arranging post-cruise taxis and restaurant reservations.
Vela is a true sailing ship, and, for my money, she shined when the engines were off and the sails were raised. Captain Delyan Radev is a veteran sailor and captain (he’s not as young as he looks), and that showed in the way he navigated and sailed the ship. It was remarkable to witness the competence he brought to the exercise, and the very apparent joy he took in the sailing. Passengers were encouraged to help raise sails, and captain and deck crew were very willing to answer questions about the ship or sailing in general. Much of the sailing was done at night or early in the morning and mostly in the lee of the islands, and was therefore relatively calm; crossing between islands where there were Atlantic swells and winds could be a good deal rougher. Some of the passengers had trouble sleeping during the rougher passages, but others found the motion relaxing and slept well. I spent as much of the sailing time as I could on deck. We sailed during a full moon, and the night sailing was spectacular.
Life on the ship was pretty chill. The cabins are small, and that bothered some. For me and most of the guests, however, the size of the cabins was understood as being a part of a true sailing ship. Most of us spent little time in our cabins. The deck lounging areas are spacious. There is one in the bow of the ship, and one in the stern. The passengers where pretty well divided half and half between those who preferred quiet and those who wanted music. Captain Delyan spent an hour early one morning rewiring the sound system so we could have music in one section and quiet in the other. The other common area is the dining room/lounge where passengers eat, play board games, or just hang out of the sun.
The crew of about 12, including captain, first mate, and operations manager, were very clearly working hard to make sure the passengers had a good time; the few complaints were dealt with quickly. Chef Robert and his assistant Philbert produced gourmet Caribbean-influenced meals. I don’t remember anyone choosing to eat off the ship when they could eat Robert’s food. At least one passenger who reported on a meal at an expensive island restaurant post-cruise, compared her meal unfavorably with Robert’s.
The passengers on my cruise ranged from their mid-thirties to mid-sixties and were a very congenial lot, pretty laid-back and easy going. Most were couples, but there were three other solos like me; at no time did I feel isolated or excluded. I wouldn’t hesitate to go solo again.
I recommend a cruise on this ship highly. I think most passengers will have a wonderful time, as long as they keep their expectations in line with the reality of traveling on a 156-foot sailing vessel.