SeaDream’s small but perfectly formed yachts offer the ideal way to explore the delights and diversities of the Caribbean in superior style
At the Port of Gustavia in chic St Barth, one of Roman Abramovich’s luxury yachts is docked on the quayside. At 187ft, it carries up to 12 guests, has a crew of 16 and is packed full of tenders and toys including Zodiacs, jet skis, towable inflatables and snorkeling equipment.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But standing beside this billionaire’s plaything, I feel strangely smug as I glance back at my own mode of transport. Anchored a little way off shore, the 344ft SeaDream I gleams blue and white in the Caribbean sun. Home to 95 members of crew, it is able to accommodate 110 guests – although on my trip there are only 68 passengers, so that beats Abramovich already.
But the impeccable level of service on board SeaDream I is just the start. It has all the toys any mega yacht could wish for – guests can jet ski, banana boat, sail, kayak, snorkel and more right off the back of the yacht – yet it is small enough that you feel immediately at home. We boarded in Barbados, flustered after a long flight and a dash to the ship from the airport, and the second we arrived we were greeted by name by smiling staff, handed champagne, and directed quickly to our stateroom.
For the seasoned cruiser who thrives on the hectic activity of the giant ships, be aware that SeaDream offers something very different. A holiday on one of their two identical yachts offers a haven of relaxation and you can, if you wish, simply while away the days lazing in the pool or Jacuzzi or taking it easy on the Balinese beds on deck. Friendly crewmembers will bring you cocktails or canapés and surreptitiously clean your sunglasses and plump your cushions.
You can fall into the slow pace of life on board surprisingly easily, and once you taste the outstanding food and Pablo the sommelier learns what you like to drink, it can be very hard to leave indeed. But I was also keen to explore the range of islands we visited on our Eastern Caribbean itinerary, from Bequia in the Grenadines to Antigua in the West Indies, and we made it ashore every day but our jetlagged first.
Shore excursions (or land adventures as SeaDream call them) are varied and smoothly run, but with so few guests often only one or two get the go-ahead each day. It’s easy to explore on your own though, and the on-board concierge has extensive knowledge of every destination we visit.
You can choose not to stray far from the ship as we did in Martinique where we hopped off to enjoy an afternoon on a pretty beach within sight of SeaDream I, lazing under canopies of palm fronds and strolling into the bath-warm clear Caribbean water for regular swims. We also had a great time taking out the ship’s mountain bikes and setting off to travel around each day. In Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe we cycled to the beautiful Pompierre Beach, where rows of palm trees and thatch umbrellas march along a sweeping bay. On the way, we passed some of the many wild goats and iguanas that saunter around this pretty, colourful island, and a pelican put on a splashy show as it dived for fish offshore.
In Dominica, the Caribbean’s ‘nature island’, we opted for an organised land adventure where we glided gently up the Indian River from the town of Portsmouth in brightly painted rowing boats. The river is named after the settlements of Carib Indians that existed on the upper banks and the distorted buttresses of the Bwa Mang trees create such an otherworldly atmosphere I half expected to see a Carib warrior emerge from the twisted forest. Our guide pointed out a bend in the river that was the setting for Tia Dalma’s house in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the misshapen roots and dense foliage now home to scuttling crabs, large termite nests and flitting birdlife.
Heading further north, quaint fishing villages and vibrant shacks are replaced by the tidy paradise of mountainous Saba (pronounced say-bah) where the island’s homogeneous white-jade-clay architecture perches on sheer cliffs of emerald green. And only 33 nautical miles away, the glamorous St Barthélemy rises out of turquoise water where superstars party on white sand beaches and luxury hotels rest on perfect bays.
SeaDream I stayed overnight in this playground for the rich and famous so we took the opportunity to hire a car for a full day of exploring. We found two sides to St Barth – the quiet community of locals who can trace their ancestry back to rural Brittany or Normandy sits side by side with the international sophistication of glamorous spots such as Nikki Beach on St Jean. Here the international set recline on pristine white beds quaffing champagne and nibbling a delectable range of sushi until the sun goes down, the bonfire is lit and the DJ turns up the music.
There is a smattering of hotels and restaurants at Flamands, a huge stretch of sand fringed with palms, but we also searched out the village of Corossol, verging on a tiny beach that serves the practical purpose of a fishing harbour. Saline Beach can reached with a short hike a over sand dunes and on the charming Shell Beach, walking distance from Gustavia, swathes of pale pink shells shimmer in the late afternoon sun. A distinctly French feel pervades the island, and the relaxed way of life, where you must take care to stop for turtles crossing the road and spend evenings barbecuing fish from the market as the waves lap your feet, has as much to offer as the bling and buzz of the designer shops, private jets and swanky eateries.
Our final stop before the departure port in Antigua is Nevis, where everyone on board was looking forward to SeaDream’s signature Champagne and Caviar Splash party. I opted to go on the horse riding excursion beforehand and when I returned to the beach at Coconut Cove all was a hive of activity as crew members zipped to and from the yacht in Zodiacs readying the beach barbecue. A surfboard laden with caviar was quickly produced, the crew shook up bottles of champagne to spray over hot guests and, after the barbecue and a game of beach volleyball, everyone waded into the waves to cool off.
‘It’s yachting, not cruising’ is SeaDream’s slogan, but this isn’t just a gimmick. A SeaDream holiday is unlike any other cruise, and all the better for it.
Jessica travelled on the Eastern Caribbean cruise courtesy of SeaDream yacht club with flights from British Airways (www.ba.com). To book a similar holiday, visit www.seadream.com or call +47 410 40 122.
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