08 Apr Cruising the Caribbean
We’ve got to tell you that we hate the thought of cruises. Travelling with thousands of others on what is not much different to staying in a hotel is not our thing. Sailing with Star Clippers is nothing like that, and possibly the only thing that could be better than 7 days sailing on Star Flyer, would be 8 days sailing on Star Flyer! It’s our third trip with them (previously Thailand, and Mediterranean).
We boarded the Star Flyer from St Maarten (Dutch side of the island of St Maarten/St Martin). The whole of the island has been affected by Cyclone Irma, and the port is no exception. However they’ve worked hard to make it as easy for tourists as possible, and we were welcomed into a marquee and offered drinks and snacks while we were processed and our luggage gathered up, before being carried off to the ship.
On boarding we were immediately welcomed with drinks and snacks and quickly got to know other guests among the 80 on board (and 79 crew). Special mention to Kim and Steve, Jodie, and Laura. The card game “spoons” is our new favourite.
Life on board the ship is awesome, starting with earlybird breakfast and offer of a stretching workout, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner, and late night snacks. You could get very fat on this ship if you wanted to because the food is excellent. Put that together with the unique experience of travelling under sail, the great crew and friendly, informal atmosphere and of course it’s a winner.
The bar was always a friendly place to hang out (library and lounge also available with all-day tea, coffee and snacks). We had our fill of cocktails and learned to make (and taste) a few.
Watching the sails go up each night, champagne in hand, to the strains of “Conquest of Paradise” from Vangelis’ 1492 was a thrill. We still can’t hear that track without getting butterflies. See if you see why, below:
From Philipsburg, St Maarten we set sail at 10 pm for the island of Anguilla, which is in fact quite close to St Maarten (you could see it from our Balcony on the French side). The next day was a relaxing day on the beach at Road Bay with the sports team on hand with a variety of equipment if we wished (stand up paddle boards, canoes, snorkelling gear, zodiacs and skis). We then set sail at 5 pm for Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands.
Spanish Town was very trashed from Irma, but the Baths (ocean caves) were stunning. The sports team was on hand as always for those who preferred the beach. Transfer to and from shore was via tenders (lifeboats), and usually to a pier rather than a wet landing. We overnighted at anchor at Spanish Town and set sail early next morning to The Bight, Norman Island (BVI) arriving 10 am.
The Bight provided beach activities and a very relaxing day. We set sail at 5 pm for a very short trip to Soper’s Hole, Tortola (BVI) and a local steel band came on board that evening to play for us. We overnighted at Soper’s Hole and the next day set sail for a quick trip from Soper’s Hole to White Bay on Jost Van Dyke (BVI), arriving 9.30 am. I think it was at Soper’s Hole that we took off in one of the tenders to a nice snorkling location and saw some great fish and an underwater cave. Seeing whole schools of beautiful angel fish, and bright blue something else fish was a thrill.
On Jost Van Dyke (also very trashed from Irma) we had a wet landing to the beautiful beach and apart from a couple of dips and water activities, basically spent the day on beach chairs under umbrellas going back and forward to the world-famous Soggy Dollar Bar. This has an enormous collection of badges from police and fire departments all around the world. JJ is the owner and host, and he makes a killer “Painkiller”, which is a rum-based cocktail. You keep the cup, which has the recipe printed on the side.
At 4 pm we set sail for St Kits. The crew declared that night “Pirate Night” and we managed to make eye-patches out of a black bra, and dressed all in black, to attend dinner. Apart from the crew, I think we made the best effort. I (Christine) flaked soon after dinner, but John stayed up to represent us as the sole competitor against the hot favourite, Jim, in the pirate competition. Valiant effort, but went down fighting. Jim, as a veteran of more than a dozen trips, knew most of the answers. We might look more like burglars than pirates, but at least we had a go.
We sailed through the night to arrive at around 10 am, the longest sailing leg of the journey and in much more open sea. We rolled around in bed a bit (wave action, just to clarify) and people on high beds were provided with rails to stop them rolling out.
On St Kits we elected to do the bus tour of the island (instead of the train trip) and are very glad we did. The bus driver/tour guide was very informative and fun. Apart from being beautiful, the history of St Kits was very interesting, and the batik factory and store, set in beautiful grounds, was a great visit.
At 5.30 pm we set sail for St Barts, playground of celebrities, rock stars and Russian oligarchs. That evening was Talent Night, and we were treated to great performances by crew and guests. Santos did a really good martial arts kata, the crew sang and played, and guests sang and played guitar. Really enjoyed it.
We sailed through the night and arrived 10 am at St Barts.
On St Barts we did our own walking tour and ended up at Shell Beach. The window shopping was awesome, consisting of exclusive brands and prices rarely displayed. I guess if you had to ask you couldn’t afford it. A very pretty, luxurious island.
From St Barts we set sail at 10 pm back to Philipsburg, St Maarten, sailing through the night and arriving around 6 am. We had our luggage outside our door before bed and all was delivered to the pick up point for easy collection the next day. We made some lovely friends whom we look forward to keeping in touch with.