Tropical adventure and near-perfect weather have lured seafarers and landlubbers to the Virgin Islands for centuries. Even the Gods were seduced … for they blessed this region with zephyr winds that keep Legacy’s sails billowing. From bow to stern, emerald islands, rocky outcrops and pretty yachts dot the panoramic seascape. There’s good reason why the Virgins are called the water sports capital of the Caribbean: the sailing, windsurfing and swimming are first rate. Beach-accessible coral reefs and calm lagoons make for excellent snorkeling and scuba diving. There’s good shopping and sightseeing in the Leewards, while the British isles offer healthy doses of barefoot R & R. This is a perfect introductory cruise for Caribbean newcomers.
Okay, here's what we were expecting to do:
St. Maarten • Anguilla • Jost Van Dyke • Norman Island • Tortola • Virgin Gorda
What we ended up doing was substituting St Barths for Anguilla for some reason, and then that put us farther away from our next stop, which turned out to be Tortola to take on extra water, so we motored all night. Then after Tortola, we went to Virgin Gorda, Norman Island, and Jost Van Dyke. It was all mixed up and screwed up but we had a good time.
I'm still trying to work out what the deal was with some of the people on the boat – one fellow named Frank seemed to be an employee, as he did a little of everything, but it turns out he and his wife were the ship's VIPs – they had taken at least 25 or more trips with Windjammer and were shown on the crew photo board as "Best Friends." David and I wondered if they basically lived aboard as much as possible, because they seemed to be doing several cruises back-to-back. They sat with the captain at dinner and acted as judges of the wacky games night activities (which included several of the men in drag, which was oddly compelling and also funny). During the crew introductions on the first morning, Frank put on a different shirt for every crew division and joined them – deck crew, stewards, engine room, officers, the lot. He helped the one guy run the hoist for the Zodiac – used for dive excursions mostly. He also held line for other guys when they were doing other tasks that weren't specifically "all shipmates lend a hand" type activities. There was also a young woman who seemed to be a bit VIP ish – we called her the "new hotness" because she seemed to have a pretty high opinion of herself and the way she pranced around in wide belts instead of skirts was pretty eye-catching. She seemed to be pretty chummy with all the good looking young officers, and it turned out she was someone from the Miami reservations office.
We were okay with the cabin not being quite what we had envisioned based on the descriptions on the website, and the paint and decor of the rest of the ship was sometimes a little tired looking (particularly the carved wood mermaid in the quarterdeck area, whose body seemed to be unconnected to the wooden tail that was stuck up on the counter between the purser's office and the activities desk. Some of the nicer cabins did look much fresher and newer than what we were in.
I do want to say very strongly that I was not happy at ALL with the situation as regards to smoking versus non-smoking areas of the ship. The cabins were all non-smoking. The smoking area was supposed to be on the top deck, which is shaded by a large awning near the bar and is where everyone gathered for Captain's Story Time. Problem was, the smokers would dot theselves all around the area, and no matter where you went in the shady area, you were downwind of a smoker. And Frank and his consort and their friend all smoked like chimneys, and so did the new hotness and a few other people, so you could never escape it unless you went forward of the bar into the sunny areas, and depending on which way we were going or whether the crew needed to rope an area off to do mooring or anchoring tasks, you'd be asked to move if you did find a shady spot.
I really, really had a problem with the air quality due to the smoking, and also the diesel exhaust is pretty noticeable depending on where you are and which way the wind was blowing. I'll be saying something about that on my passenger comment card.
We hope to stay in touch with a few people, like Barbara and her god-daughter Wendy and a few others. There's definitely potential in taking more trips with Windjammer, but you have to pay to get a nice cabin in the forward area, or your trip might not be as enjoyable as it could be. We're chalking our first voyage up to experience.
One caveat: Do not bring large amounts of cash. Bring lots of travelers' checks. Tips are settled at the end of the cruise by putting cash or travelers' checks in the tip box, and the captain and the purser go through the box and split up all the cash equally amongst the crew that is not "licensed" (ie. officers) or salaried (ie. the purser and activities mate). Thus the engine guys and the deck crew, the most hard-working men I've ever seen, share equally in the tips. Travelers' checks are left unaddressed but signed, so that they can be written over to various vendors; an equivalent amount of cash is paid in to the tips kitty for distribution. It was kind of an interesting way of doing it.
The thing about cash is that no matter where you hide it, it can be found. Two couples reported that they had lost a lot of cash, and the one woman said she had put it in a little wallet stuck in a jewelry case the night before, checked it later, and found it missing. She said it was as much as $500.00 – and was remarkably philosophical about the loss later! For a while, I thought I'd lost a little cash too, but found it stuffed in my day bag. It was a bit of a downer at the end of the week but everyone seemed to shrug it off.
Yeah. There will be a next time for sure, but we'll know better how to go about it.