Winding Our Way Round The Windward Islands

5th April 2019

Vicky and Jane, two members of the experienced Star Clippers team, spent an unforgettable week on one of our Caribbean cruises in the Windward Islands. Here is Vicky’s take on the trip, revealing what you can expect if you follow in her footsteps.

Day One – Travel To Barbados

Royal Clipper

‘I look up at the sky and I see the clouds. I look down to the ground and I see the rain go down the drain. Fly away on Coconut Airways, fly me high, Barbados sky…. Woah, I’m going to Barbados!’ - Typically Tropical

After an early take-off from Gatwick (I kid you not, 20 minutes early!) and a very smooth and enjoyable flight with Virgin Airlines, we touched down at Grantley Adams Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Jane and I had already sought out the unmissable five masts at the cruise terminal as we circled above the island, the excitement of being back on board already building. That palpable anticipation of meeting up with an old friend; our Lady of the Seas, the Royal Clipper.

I always enjoy earwigging fellow passenger’s comments as they see one of Mikael Krafft’s awesome beauties for the first time: “Wow, it’s bigger than I thought”, “Oh my, she’s just beautiful”, “I cannot wait to get on board!” etc etc. And when passengers get on board? The Captain greets everyone at the top of the stairs and then colourful cocktails and a full buffet are set out in the Tropical Bar for everyone’s enjoyment and a first chance to mingle.

Check-in complete, Arvi, our cabin steward, showed us to our quarters, where we found our luggage had already been delivered, but sadly not unpacked. Once unpacked, all passengers are called back to the Tropical Bar for the ‘muster’ and advice on safety procedures, so important for any seagoing vessel. Many passengers moan about or laugh and chat their way through this, not realising it could save their lives one day. Muster over, we just had time to shower and change before going down for dinner.

Dinner was fun, as our table gradually filled with other ladies. It was a 50/50 split of women from the UK and the US and all were interesting characters. Partway through, Captain Sergey announced that sailaway would be half an hour earlier at 21:30, most acceptable news as the majority of us had endured a long day of travel.

“So what happens at sailaway?” asked Suzie, our new friend from Grand Cayman. If you have cruised with other lines and had the foredeck disco with barbecue and dancing, sorry, you won’t get that on a Star Clipper cruise. What you will get is a sky full of stars, great sails unfurling to the sounds of ropes being wound and tightened and then being subtly lit up in pastel colours as Vangelis’ 1492 Conquest of Paradise begins to boom through the speakers. It is just awe-inspiring.

I have seen grown men stemming tears at the sheer majesty of a stunning, tall sail-ship, sails billowing, the night, the music, the company of a loved one….. There is no experience like a Star Clippers sailaway – especially at full sail. After agreeing this fact with our newfound friends, Jane and I went to bed.

‘Beautiful, beautiful Barbados, Gem of the Caribbean Sea. Come back to my island Barbados…’ - The Merrymen

Day Two – St Lucia

Pigeon Island St Lucia

‘The coast shudders with every surge. The beach admits a beaten heron. Filth and foam. There is a belt of emerald light, a sail plunges and lifts between the crests of reef….’ - Derek Walcott

The Grand Old Dame of the Sea,
Riding the waves through the dawn.
I spy a couple just as he
Kisses his lady in the early morn:
Another couple are watching the waves,
Weathered sailors adoring the ocean.
The Royal Clipper begins another day
Sharing her magic love potion.
Like any girl, you can fall for her;
Her majesty, her grandiose…
The sea holds such a call for her,
As the Caribbean wind blows
And fills her sails, driving us on
To new destinations, new places to be,
Stresses left behind, worries are gone,
It’s just the Royal, the ocean and me…. Vicky

The waves were pretty high during the night, lots of up and down, side to side movement, but not so bad that people couldn’t sleep. We arrived into Rodney Bay still at full sail around noon, following a second Emergency Drill and Captain Sergey introducing us to his fabulous crew. It was lovely to see Sergey again; he will keep passengers enthralled with his tales for ages given the chance. He does a story-telling hour during the cruise, which is so worth going along to, especially for the ‘Dolphin Tale’!

The Bridge operates an open-door policy 24/7, so anyone can visit and see how the ship is steered and run. Apparently, sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit and Captain Sergey will ensure you capture the best photographs. It was also great to see Charles again, now heading up the Sports Team on board. He was aboard on family holidays as a teenager and loved the experience so much he applied to work for Star Clippers.

After lunch, the tender boats began the run to and from the beach, so Jane and Suzie headed down to the Marina Deck to collect snorkelling equipment. I grabbed a towel and sun cream and headed up to the soon-to-be deserted sundeck! It was a fairly cloudy afternoon and having spent a day on a previous cruise kayaking to Pigeon Island and visiting the town I felt some quality R & R was just fine. Travelling with Star Clippers, you make your own rules.

‘When the sails go up, mountains fade away; stars come out, I’m finally free. It’s only the ocean and me….’ - Jack Johnson

Day Three – Dominica

Dominica

‘Hark now hear the sailors’ cry, smell the sea and feel the sky; Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic….’ - Van Morrison

It seemed like every passenger was up early for breakfast today, so as not to miss the meeting of our Great Lady with her little sister the Star Flyer. I shouldn’t have been surprised as it’s such a rare occurrence on the Star Clipper itineraries for two of the fleet to meet at sea and sail into port side by side. Jane and I were enjoying breakfast when a tiny white dot appeared on the horizon; was it a lone yacht? As we ate and chatted with fellow passengers, the tiny blob became a familiar silhouette, like some ghostly mirage from Pirates of the Caribbean, the stunning Star Flyer in full sail. I had a wonderful family holiday on board her three years ago and memories came flooding back…

We finished breakfast and, along with everyone else, vacated the restaurant to secure a spot on the deck to watch the ship approaching on this possibly once-in-a-lifetime meet. We arrived upstairs to find the front sundeck already full. Passengers were standing on the wooden box seats, on the edge of the pool (!), anywhere to get a better view. Zoom lenses were already focussed, fingers clicking, making memories.

Star Flyer From Royal Clipper

Our sails were unfurling, 1492 was blasting out and everyone was just so excited. As Star Flyer tacked ever closer, we could just make out her equally excited passengers waving their arms, their cheers carrying on the wind. Brave crewmembers were sitting on the horizontal mast above the bowsprit – I say brave because it was such a windy day! The two ships sailed side by side, a proud oceanic mother and daughter, for 30-40 minutes, until the Star Flyer tacked around the front of the Royal Clipper and headed off in a different direction, allowing the ships to enter their anchoring point one after the other. It’s incredible how hungry all that sea air and excitement make you. We headed down to lunch

After lunch, three of us headed over to the tiny marina to find a taxi. We found Rowan and he gave us such a memorable afternoon. While we didn’t get to the waterfalls, which were on the opposite side of the island, he took us all round the western and northern coasts, up, up and further up to the highest point where we took some fabulous photographs. The two ships were mere specks on the ocean to our left.

The sheer decimation of the island was clear. Having been pounded by two hurricanes within weeks, trees were literally thrown aside in the forests, skeletal houses remained untouched (including his own – Rowan pointed it out as we passed) and locals are trying to rebuild their business premises. I was in awe of Rowan’s knowledge of all the local plant life. He pointed out trees, shrubs and flowers, all of which the locals use to cure one ill or another. He was surprised at our astonishment stating that this information is passed down the generations and is “just part of our heritage”. He pointed out one shrub with pink flowers telling us about its dual use as a flavouring for the local rum and a headache cure. “Useful”, I said. “No hangovers.” Rowan fell about laughing claiming he’d never thought about that. Maybe he was just being nice or maybe I found a new marketing ploy?!

As we began our descent towards promised sulphur springs, we were able to enjoy more of this beautiful, verdant island while holding on for dear life as the road was so steep… Our tour ended at Sandra’s Shack, a cross between a local corner shop and an off-licence. We enjoyed ice-cold beers and spoke to Sandra and Rowan about life on Dominica. Sandra is a whole bag of fun, yet her business was completely lost in the hurricane. Locals, including Rowan, helped her rebuild and restock as she was such an important link for the local community.

Rowan told us how the whole population had to come together to rebuild the roads, reconnect communications, repair schools and just try and get life back to some kind of normality. All of this is still going on in the background yet these resilient people smile and invite us into their lives like old friends. We had only paid Rowan for a couple of hours but we ended up sitting there enthralled by the company until we had to leave for the last tender boat back. Needless to say, we paid him for his time – he has a house to rebuild! I love afternoons like this – getting to see local life and listen to real people’s stories. Yes, the ship excursions are well-planned and interesting but, if nothing piques your interest, take a taxi and just ask the driver where to go, you could have the best day ever and make some great new friends.

‘Our memories of the ocean will linger long after our footprints in the sand are gone’ - Anon

Day 4 – Antigua

Antigua

‘White caped waves in the curl of the sea, smell of the ocean air on the white sandy beach. Colours of the sky, roaring of the sea, walking in the wet sand with my hair blowing in the breeze…..’ - Sherry Little

Today was all about the beach which, when you consider that Antigua has one for every day of the year, is not surprising. Everyone decamped from the ship: the Sports Team, the Galley… literally everyone. The Zodiac is loaded up with paddleboards, kayaks and snorkelling equipment and it all goes to the beach for the passengers to have fun with.

Today there is also a beach barbecue provided by the kitchen staff, so no need to even catch a tender back or find a local café for lunch. We had everything on-hand for a fabulous day in the sun. Then, to finish the day, a Steel Band came on board to entertain us for the evening, before a late sailaway under the stars.

‘May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand in your toes…’ - Caribbean quote

Day 5 – St. Kitts

St. Kitts

‘Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! - John Newton

John Newton was an English poet who became an Anglican Clergyman after being conscripted into the Royal Navy and then becoming involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade. The hymn was written during his time on St. Kitts as realisation that ‘his time in the slave trade was his wretchedness’. St Kitts still has a number of Anglican churches and around 50% of the population practice Christianity.

We had a fabulous morning seeing a number of these churches and most of the island as we took the St. Kitts Scenic Railway in order to get the best views of this pretty island. The railway was built between 1912 & 1926 to move cane sugar from the plantations to the large sugar mill in Basseterre. Since 2003, the railway has been a massive tourist attraction, its slogan being ‘Last Railway in the West Indies’, demonstrating its objective to preserve this fabulous link to the past.

With Elizabeth, our Tour Guide, and her endless knowledge of the island, history was brought to life as she pointed out areas of interest. We even enjoyed music from the SKSR choir, three local girls with powerful voices singing a variety of Caribbean-inspired songs. Daiquiris and rum punch were flowing (and included in the ticket price) and everyone had an enjoyable morning. Endless photos were taken, questions asked and answered and it was quite sad when the train trundled back into the station for us to catch our buses back to the port.

The afternoon was another beach stop, so more sunbathing and looking forward to the company of our newfound friends over dinner.

The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.’ - Wyland

Day 6 – Iles Des Saintes

Il des Santes

‘…if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity… Oh, the canvas can do miracles just you wait and see. Believe me.’ - Christopher Cross

Serenity was the order of the day. A leisurely and delicious breakfast, onto the tender boat to another beach stop. We took the tender back for lunch and then relaxed on board to carry on reading and dozing in the shade with our new girlfriends.

‘I must down to the sea again, to the vagrant gipsy life, to the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s a whetted knife. And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover and quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.’ - John Masefield

Day 7 – Martinique

Jane Bowsprit Nets

‘Before following the winds that captured me then, like a pirate in search of treasure – Beyond the horizon where the sun sets and rises uncharted, untethered, unmeasured…’ - Terrell Martin

Our last day was another beach day, so pretty much as yesterday. Breakfast, tender boat, beautiful sea, back for lunch and more relaxation on board. Today the new girlfriends decided that the bowsprit nets had to be done. It is possible to climb onto them at the front of the ship just for fun or to sunbathe for a while directly over the waves.

I have to admit to being the official photographer for the afternoon as the braver ones in the party hopped over the rail and relaxed on the netting. The Captain also invited passengers to help raise the mainsail today as it was the last morning of this amazing cruise with an early afternoon sailaway. We enjoyed this last poignant sailaway with all of our new friends; our last chance to feel the adoration for this beautiful vessel and fabulous destination. Everyone was on deck taking last photos of the great sails, new friends and just enjoying these last special moments.

Jane Heaving Ropes

Then it was back to the cabin for a sombre hour of packing. No one wants to leave!

Dinner was a time of goodbyes, swapping email addresses, promises of swapping photos and invitations to ‘come and stay’. On the second night on board, we had a gentleman join our table for dinner and he soon became ‘King George’ and we his harem of eight ladies. Other American men on the cruise had asked, “How do you do it George?” doing so much good for his self-esteem! He kindly treated us to a bottle of Champagne with dinner and we wished him well on the second week of his back-to-back cruise and hoped he would be able to replace his ladies with more fun guests.

Another superb cruise comes to an end and, in the words of our new friend Arlene, “Who would have guessed when I stepped onto the ship a week ago that I would be sitting here tonight with a whole table full of new friends?” And that for me totally sums up a Star Clippers cruise.

‘For her the ocean was more than a dream, it was a place she needed to visit to find herself. And when she returned to the city, you could see the sun in her eyes, the wind in her hair and taste the infinite salt on her lips…' - Jose Chaves


If you would like to experience an amazing sailing like the one Vicky and Jane enjoyed, call our team on 0845 200 6145. Alternatively, you can chat to an advisor through the website.

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