Many people reject the Caribbean as a cruise destination because they have an image of what it is going to be like, and that image is not inviting. But trust me, the magical beauty of the Caribbean still exists, as we discovered on board SeaDream I in December.
Whilst the large ships sailing from Florida call at the big ports on standard 'milk run' Western and Eastern, and sometime even Southern, Caribbean itineraries, as a result of which certain islands are overwhelmed with cruise passengers on certain days of the week, there are plenty of smaller ships operating more unusual itineraries to remote ports and harbours way away from the crowds. Here your welcome is relaxed and laid-back, and your experience one of deserted beaches, tiny bustling village streets, and casual seafront restaurants where you can while away a couple of hours, enjoying the day's catch and watching the world go by.
We flew into Antigua and stayed for a couple of nights at one of our favourite little hotels, the low key Siboney Beach, conveniently located just a short hop from the airport on its own tiny beach. From there we flew to St Martin - a charter was cost effective for eight of us, rather than entrusting ourselves to the vagaries of Liat - to join our little SeaDream yacht, visiting Anguilla, Saba, St Barths, Antigua, Iles des Saintes, and Nevis.
Saba stood out for us, rising steeply from the ocean with just one landing stage, where we joined a rickety bus to climb the S-bend road to the main town (The Bottom) with gingerbread houses and neatly tended gardens, before continuing to Windwardside and a bird's eye view of the alarming runway of Juancho E. Yrausquin airport - a 12 minute ride from St Maarten, but a lifetime away! Such an inaccessible island is magical - the pace of life easy, the locals welcoming, and the mountain trails challenging but beautiful.
From our lovely SeaDream yacht we swam in dreamy bays, snorkelled in the shallows with turtles and rainbow coloured fish, and enjoyed a warm welcome every time we came back on board. The easy pace of life on SeaDream means that nothing is timetabled, and you can drift from the lovely Balinese sunbeds overlooking the ocean, to a freshly prepared al fresco lunch, to a dip in the pool, and sundowners at the Top of the Yacht bar. We were blessed with fine weather which meant we could dine under the stars every night, choosing instead the stylish restaurant to enjoy a memorable tasting menu with well chosen wine pairings.
SeaDream's Caribbean programme also includes Barbados departures, of particular appeal to the British guest with such an easy eight hour flight, so it is well worth looking out for these attractive Grenadines itineraries within easy reach of Barbados. Don't delay, because these book up early - they are on sale through to the end of 2017.
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