An Eastern Caribbean cruise with SeaDream Yacht Club offers a luxurious way to explore some of the region’s most exquisite islands. Mary Ann Pickford is impressed

Aerial view of the Caribbean Sea © iStock
Aerial view of the Caribbean Sea © iStock

This is as good as it gets. We’re being plied with Russian caviar on blinis, washed down with chilled Jacquart Champagne, all served by waiters wearing tropical palm print shirts, surrounded by the crystal clear, warm sea and golden sand at the ultra-cool Chrishi Beach Club on the tiny island of Nevis.

The Caviar and Champagne Splash is just one of the highlights of our nine-day Eastern Caribbean sailing with SeaDream Yacht Club. Our home is the mega-yacht SeaDream I, which has capacity for just 112 guests, and a staff to guest ratio of almost one-to-one. Everything on board is included, from signature cocktails to Champagne and tips and gratuities. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, the décor cosy and elegant.

SeaDream’s Chef Tomasz and a fellow crew member at the Champagne and Caviar Splash
SeaDream’s Chef Tomasz and a fellow crew member at the Champagne and Caviar Splash

Our stateroom is a good size with a comfortable seating area, and decorated in hues of blue and cream. We have a flatscreen TV with a DVD player and ample closet space for the two of us, plus a safe. A mini-fridge comes fully stocked with water, soft drinks and beer, while a lighted vanity mirror and hair-dryer offer nice touches.

The marble-lined bathroom features a multi-jet shower and luxurious Bvlgari products, while our bed features sumptuous Belgian linen. We’re particularly delighted to find monogrammed cotton pyjamas have been left on our beds for us – an unexpected and welcome treat.

Despite being a small ship, SeaDream I never feels crowded and there is always space to call your own, from the top deck where you can lounge on the comfortable Balinese Dream Beds or enjoy 360-degree views from The Top of the Yacht bar to the Pool Deck, with its Jacuzzi. It feels very much as though you’re sailing on a private yacht, albeit one that has a staff of 95, who are all attentive and genial without ever being obtrusive.

Chocolate torte served on board
Chocolate torte served on board

The kitchen staff are headed by Executive Chef Tomasz, who has been a SeaDream crew member since 2001. His passion for food shows in all the menus he creates, and each day we are tantalised by his delectable creations. Highlights include lobster thermidor, served with thyme mashed potatoes, and Dover sole meunière. There are two dining venues: the elegant indoor Dining Salon on deck 2, or the Topside Restaurant, where you can enjoy casual al fresco meals with beautiful sea views.

There’s also a small but rather lovely spa, where I opt for the Asian Blend signature treatment, which utilises the best of Thai, Shiatsu and deep tissue massage techniques to promote wellbeing. As my friendly therapist, Luck, sets to work, I feel myself melt into bliss, leaving me ready to indulge in everything this cruise has to offer. The highlights are described in the daily briefings, which take place in the Main Salon (over Champagne and canapés, of course).

Our first port of call is the incredibly pretty resort of Gustavia in St Bart’s. Known as a playground for the super rich, it attracts the likes of Leonardo di Caprio, Ellen DeGeneres and Sir Paul McCartney, and it’s easy to see why. It is small and elegant, with charming colonial architecture, and pristine blonde-sand beaches.

The Balinese Dream Beds on board SeaDream I
The Balinese Dream Beds on board SeaDream I

The intimate vibe on board is conducive for getting to know our fellow guests, and as we relax into our cruise, friendships develop quickly. In St Kitts I share a memorable day with Avi and Laurie from San Francisco, taking a taxi to what our driver, who insists we call him Uncle Milly, describes as the best beach on the island: Cockleshell Bay, at the south-eastern tip, which has views towards Nevis, and powdery sand you can sink your toes into. When we arrive the lilting sounds of reggae are permeating the air and there are enticing barefoot bars, including one called Rush Slowly. Which is exactly what we do, settling into an afternoon of chilling and swimming.

While it’s tempting to be very lazy in the Caribbean sun, SeaDream caters well for guests who prefer to be more active, offering a varied programme of shore excursions
and providing complimentary mountain bikes should you wish to explore on shore by yourself. I take full advantage by exploring Anguilla on two wheels, and going for the scenic horse-riding excursion in Nevis.

An iguana on the beach in Guadeloup © iStock
An iguana on the beach in Guadeloup © iStock

The ship also has an impressive collection of water toys including jetskis and stand up paddle boards for guests to use. But if like my 75-year-old mum Mansueta, you prefer to take a more laid-back approach to cruising, no one bats an eye should you decide to stay on board rather than disembarking.

On our fourth day, due to stormy weather, we are rerouted to Saint Martin, which was the hardest hit of all the islands during Hurricane Irma’s battering. We take a bus tour of the island, travelling from the capital of the Dutch side, Philipsburg, to the capital of the French side, Marigot, and back.

Our upbeat tour guide is keen to impress that while the island was essentially flattened during the hurricane, it is being rebuilt, and preparing to reopen its gates to tourism. Despite this, seeing the scenes of destruction first hand is a heartbreaking experience. Yet with reconstruction also apparent and the cheery resilience of the café owners, shop keepers and residents we encounter, we leave full of hope and certain this fascinating island of two nations will soon bounce back.

Hand-painted bottles of rum, Guadeloupe © iStock
Hand-painted bottles of rum, Guadeloupe © iStock

Terre-de-Haut, the main island of Îles des Saintes (Islands of Saints) in Guadeloupe, a French overseas region, is a real delight, boasting rustic charm with its gingerbread houses, whitewashed walls and contrasting shutter windows. Pompierre Beach is the go-to if you fancy snorkelling in the calm water.

We spend the final day of our cruise in Antigua, where after a brief stroll through capital St John’s animated streets and boutique shops, we enjoy coffees in a café, soaking up the atmosphere. Later that afternoon I head for the beach at Dickenson Bay, around 20 minutes’ drive away.

Gingerbread houses in St Kitts
Gingerbread houses in St Kitts

Ana’s is a wonderfully chic little beachside spot to sip rum punches while taking cover from the heat, and if you get weary of the stunning surroundings of floury white-sand beaches, looming palm trees and iridescent water, you can always head a little further along to Coconut Grove, which boasts an idyllic location slightly away from the crowds yet is still vibrant.

For me, this cruise was a valuable lesson in the Caribbean art of rushing slowly. I even managed to finish reading a book, something I never seem to have time to do at home. My mum is already talking about booking another SeaDream Yacht Club cruise (possibly to the Mediterranean) for her next special birthday. Meanwhile we’re both still wearing our monogrammed pyjamas.

GETTING THERE: SeaDream I and SeaDream II will spend autumn/winter 2018/19 exploring the Caribbean and spring/summer 2018 in the Mediterranean visiting small harbours and ports on seven- to 15-day voyages. Seven-night all-inclusive Caribbean sailings start from £2,660pp based on two sharing, cruise only. The two mega-yachts are also available for private charter (0800 783 1373; seadream.com).