As someone who is very uncomfortable in large crowds, I knew a cruise on a large liner was not ever going to be my cup of tea. On the other hand, sailing with a total of 23 passengers and 10 crew sounded like just the ticket! Add to this the off-the-beaten-path adventure of smaller, or less-visited, islands and ports and I was intrigued to say the least.
Sailing Vessel Vela from Island Windjammers delivered all of this and more!
My friend and I arrived at the Timothy Beach Resort in time to have a drink and admire the Vela lying at anchor a short distance offshore. No massive embarkation crowds here.
Before long the crew arrived via small boat from the ship. As luggage was being loaded, Operations Manager Crystal welcomed us and checked us all in. Then we boarded the boat to go out to Vela. We were all welcomed aboard by Captain John who handled the safety briefing and introductions of the crew.We were sooner setting sail for a short distance down to Nevis where we had dinner on deck while at anchor. With a small passenger list, the feel was cozy and everyone was friendly.
For those not familiar with smaller ships (Vela is 126 feet long), the wave action on our first night took some getting used to. Personally, I enjoyed it immensely. I had gotten up at 0200 when the Captain set sail for Montserrat and Vela was both pitching and rolling once we cleared the lee of Nevis. Some of the passengers had some words about this at breakfast. But this general feeling faded throughout the cruise as everyone found their "sea legs." Anyone subject to motion sickness should address the issue medically prior to boarding. This open water sailing experience would be repeated several times as we made our way through the Southern Leeward islands.
Each day, the ship served breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner. My only possible complaint about this cruise is that I gained a few pounds from the quality and quantity of the food! Our Chef, Robert, was amazing! The only food item that was repeated in a week was fresh fruit. Further, I am something of a picky eater but I found I enjoyed everything that came out of the galley!
Each day found us in a different port of call, usually on a different island. No huge crowds and no delays getting off/on the ship. Just get in the small boat and Bosun Mark would get you there both quickly and safely! Ashore, I felt like I was seeing the "real" islands and not the tourist portions that are haunted by thousands of cruise passengers.
The entire crew was a truly professional team. On our first night, a tube of toothpaste caused a serious problem in the toilet plumbing. These things happen. I was very impressed with how the crew handled the whole episode. As the Engineer (Omar) tackled the problem, passengers were kept informed appropriately and one couple was moved to an alternative cabin until the issue was solved. The problem was solved quickly and all was restored to normal.
We had no children along on this sail. I don't believe I would recommend this for truly young children, but teenagers would probably enjoy it.
I could not be happier with my experience! Simply put, this was exactly what the doctor ordered. I will definitely being sailing with Island Windjammers again. In fact, I plan to sail as often as my schedule permits.
The cabins are small and cozy. It actually took me a part of a day to realize this, as you spend little time in your cabin. Time aboard is generally spent socializing on the main deck or in the salon.