Occupation:small business owner
Number of Cruises: 13
Cruise Line: Windjammer Barefoot
Sailing Date: N/A
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
Ports visited: Carriacou, Union
Island, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Bequia, St Vincent, St Lucia, Martinique, Dominica
and Iles des Saints.
If large luxurious staterooms, gourmet dining, pampered service, big shows and dressing in a tux for diner is your thing read no further as this is not your ship.
If you like to go barefoot, adventure, meeting interesting people, snorkeling, drinking, ribald humor and having a good time read on.
Rule one for this ship is “No Whining” and for good reason. Things do not always go as planned. The showers may be lukewarm, meals a little late and the rooms are small. Best to go with the flow. The drinks are inexpensive and the bar is central to everything. That’s about it for the bad stuff.
One only has to think of trying to get off one of the big cattle car cruise ships with three thousand others going through the same door to disembark to see the big advantage this ship and the others in the Windjammer fleet have. 69 passengers were on this cruise and the Mandalay has a max of 72. On one of the Carnival ships I was on I had to walk eight hundred feet to the stairs leading to the elevator which took me up eleven stories to the buffet area where I waited in line with a herd of others for breakfast. On the Mandalay I opened the cabin door walked three feet across to a short set of stairs leading to the center of the dining area. Two seatings, no waiting and wine included with dinner. Dinner was prefaced from five to six with rum swizzles and excellent snacks. Bloody Mary’s are available before breakfast and have my personal recommendation as both a hangover cure and a nutritional way to start the day.
No experience I have ever had in my life equals raising the sails on a tall ship. Amazing Grace is played over the speaker system as the crew readies the sails. The Chief mate calls out “VOLUNTEERS” and many passengers’ rush forth to the long lines to help pull the sails up. The sails do not rise easily and it takes a steady strong pull to raise them. When fully raised the chief calls out “BIG ONE” then “ONE MORE” as he stresses the line and makes it fast. First go the jibs then the staysails. We follow directions and go from sail to sail hoping to find a spot in the line. It is very emotional and we fight the tears coming to our eyes. Once raised we look skyward to see the massive sails billowing in the sunshine. The ship heals to port and we are underway. I feel as if I am in the middle of an IMAX movie. Whale sounds, then a perfect instrumental comes over the speaker system. In an instant I know why I signed on. It is one of life’s most perfect moments.
A word about the souls on board. On a big cruise ship with as many as 3,000 passengers it is unlikely you will get to know more then a couple of people. You may or may not remember the name of your waiter, bus boy or steward. On a Windjammer ship it is likely at one time or another you will talk with or come in contact with every passenger on board and most of the crew. On this trip as well as the other two Windjammers trips I took the passengers are well traveled, congenial, fun loving and interesting. The age range went from 11 to 90 with the 90 year old (A China Marine 1937) slightly more youthful and spry than the youngster. The average age of passengers I estimate to be about 50. Married couples were prevalent followed by unmarried couples, women traveling alone and the smallest group, men traveling alone. It appeared everyone on this trip was heterosexual. We talked, drank, laughed and danced together in an equality of refreshing proportion. To say we had a good time would be underestimating the situation grossly. Gross might be a good word for some of the activities but it was all taken in good spirit.
Captain Matt is an amazing man, short of middle age, an excellent speaker, fine sailor and a diplomat without equal. It was not unusual to see him wiping a table, serving food, handling lines or doing a variety of other choirs. When bringing the ship in, his commands were clear and well understood. No one doubted his competence or ability to command. Amazingly, he was at the same time very congenial and open to the passenger’s questions. Captain Matt is fortunate to have a most wonderful and very professional crew. No crewmember at any time said a course word or made a rude comment. On the contrary they impressed all the passengers with their professionalism, patience and friendly demeanor.
I will not write much about the ports, that information is available in other recent reports. I would like to add a couple of comments and cautions though. The best tour ever was the speedboat trip to the Falls of Balaine on St Vincent. On Dominica three of us paid about $10 each to a cab driver for a scenic trip for great snorkeling at Scotts Head on the southern end of the island. On Martinique two others and myself took a very worthwhile taxi trip to St. Pierre to see the museum and ruins from the volcano of 1902. $100 split three ways was paid to our excellent and affable guide, John Phillip. Caution: Do not rent a scooter on Iles des Saints. They close for long lunches during the time you likely want to return the thing and get your license back, no helmets are supplied, the roads are narrow with no shoulders, pedestrian traffic is very heavy and I drove mine off into a ditch with my roommate on the back. We were both killed! Well almost!
Odd thing on Antigua! On the pier were two young men who I engaged in conversation and bought a couple of beers. Ted, a good-guy passenger, came down and bought them some more. The turned out to be off duty policeman. In the morning they came back with gift bottles of Antigua Rum for Ted and me. Talk about building good relations! On the same pier another passenger and I had an interesting conversation with the Russian Captain of the former Russian (now English) cruise ship that was alongside.
Give this ship 10 stars for adventure, fun and value.