Insights and Images of the West Indies from Guest Blogger Carolyn Spencer Brown
Recently, the editor of online cruise guide Cruise Critic sailed the stunning islands of the West Indies aboard Crystal Esprit. Today, she takes to the blog to offer her own Crystal Insider insights, as a seasoned cruise expert and savvy traveler.
On board Crystal Esprit, as we cruised around the Eastern Caribbean, it was natural to wonder what to expect. After all, the region in which we were cruising had weathered the brunt of two destructive hurricanes over the past summer. We needn’t have worried. While yes, there is still destruction in some places, particularly on St. Martin, the French side of the two-nation island, and the airport area around the Dutch St. Maarten (though that side has worked hard to get ready to welcome travelers). There was here-and-there repair work going on at St. Barts, but it was hardly noticeable. And the remainder of our ports of call – Saba, Antigua, St. Kitts, and Nevis, hadn’t been affected at all.
It was a wonderful week and I’m happy to share some of the highlights, both on board and ashore. Here are five reasons why this was an absolutely delightful way to experience the West Indies.
- The crew! Certainly, you’d expect that on a ship this intimate the service would be personal and efficient. What I didn’t expect was to see so many lovely familiar faces both from our previous cruise on Crystal Esprit but also from cruises on other Crystal ships. And you didn’t have to be a regular to feel like part of the family – new-to-Crystal travelers felt the same warm-and-fuzzy vibe.
- We were almost always the only ship in port, visiting private islands, docking alongside private resorts or in secluded bays on bigger islands, and even calling at places that don’t normally receive cruise ships at all. The mountainous Saba, a Dutch island, was a stand-out with its top-of-the-mount villages and gorgeously lush terrain. With all civilization (and shops and cafes) located high above sea level, it reminded me of a Caribbean version of Greece’s Santorini.
- Certainly, part of the appeal of an island yachting cruise is the beaches. Still, more than sand and surf, what was so compelling about the itinerary was the opportunity to expand beyond that, too. Our exploring options included hikes, scuba diving, a ride to the bottom of the sea on Crystal’s submersible, cultural forays into the culinary arts, and even embracing our inner hell-raiser by cruising across the Antiguan jungle on a zip line.
- Aboard such an intimate vessel, we loved the variety of dining venues, from beautifully arranged healthful treats (salads, tapas, fruit) to decadent burgers. The highlight each night – and the reason Crystal Esprit ranks as one of the best ships in all of cruising for its culinary program, is its Yacht Club dining room, open just for dinner. We loved how you could sample from the multi-course continentally-themed menu or try local specialties – or a combo of both. Another plus: Courses were small and not-too-heavy.
- Last and by no means least, what gives Crystal Esprit an edge is its onboard Marina. Kitted out with kayaks, windsurfing, stand up paddle boards and a great big float for swimming around the ship itself when its anchored at sea, was just plain fun. (Photo: Marina).
Crystal Esprit sails week-long voyages through the islands of the West Indies through April. Book now and enjoy the Crystal yachting lifestyle in paradise.