My 9 year old son and I had a fabulous experience aboard the Vela in the British Virgin Islands. We are "adventure travelers" and were looking for something a bit outside the norm. We prefer small, personalized, unique experiences filled with culture and charm. We got our fill of all of the above aboard Island Windjammers Vela!
I had traveled to the British Virgin Islands before and knew that is not an easy journey (no commercial flights into the BVIs).....but so worth it! We flew into St. Thomas, USVI the day before the Vela sailed and stayed at a B&B. The day of the cruise, we ferried over to Tortola, BVI. Be aware that the ferry experience is often unreliable and stressful. Allow for cancellations of scheduled ferries and give yourself plenty of time to make your cruise.
As to be expected aboard a sailboat, cabins are small but charming. We stayed in a deluxe cabin with a full size bunk on the bottom and a twin size bunk on the top. The bathroom had a small but separate shower. There were 9 hooks on the cabin walls for clothing, bags, etc, and a small compartment under the bottom bunk that would house a couple backpacks or a duffel bag. There is no more storage----no closet or drawers. Island Windjammers prepares you properly by explaining you should pack minimal necessities for a barefoot cruise and pack in soft-sided luggage. The cabins are very nicely appointed with teak and tile and the beds are quite comfortable.
Dining is typically on the deck of the schooner for lunch and dinner and in the ship's saloon for breakfast. Each meal was superbly prepared and rivaled the best restaurants in my hometown. The chef kindly accommodated any guest's dietary restrictions or special requests. We were amazed at what divine culinary creations could be prepared in a sailboat's kitchen! The chef even surprised a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a heart shaped cake one evening.
Activities in the BVIs are relaxed. Each evening the ship's operations/activities director will make you aware of what is available to do on the island you'll be visiting the next day. We typically sailed between 6 and 9 AM and anchored offshore a small island for the day. A dinghy would run us back and forth from the island on the hour at our leisure for snorkeling, hiking, paddle boarding, sunning, or small boutique shopping.
The crew and service aboard the Vela was second to none. We left feeling as if we had made 11 new friends. My son learned magic tricks and card tricks from them, they showed him how to lower the anchor and raise the dinghy, and to his delight, they showed him how to swing off the rope swing on the side of the boat. The crew was kind and caring and took a personal interest in our comfort and well being.
Our experience aboard the Vela was truly one we will never forget. Beautiful water, islands and people; delicious food and drink; fine service and accommodations; a one of a kind experience. Just Go!!!