My dad treated the family to a vacation in the Virgin Islands last month. It was certainly a unique experience and my first time to the Caribbean. (Second time, actually, if you count one night at an airport hotel in San Juan.) But it also has zero to do with points and miles. Absolutely zero.
So just enjoy the read unless you have a million Barclaycard Arrival miles to redeem for a statement credit. Maybe two million. 😉 If you’re interested in booking the same ship, you can check out the website for Drumbeat I or book through Yates Yachts.
When chartering a boat, there are two main decision: crewed or uncrewed; and sailboat or catamaran? My dad chose a crewed sailboat, which I think was the right call. It was great to have people who knew the area, cleaned up after us, made us meals, and helped out with the actual sailing of the boat. We’re not unfamiliar around water, but these are not hassles we would want to deal with on vacation.
Captain Vince took care of piloting and SCUBA; his wife, Linda, handled meals; and their assistant, Kirk, did anything and everything — cleaning up the rooms twice a day, prepping SCUBA gear, serving drinks, etc. They did a great job. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Drumbeat I, which has an experienced crew (Vince and Linda bought the boat after working for the original owner) and was designed specifically for charters.
As for why a sailboat is better? My impression is that they have more space. Quarters in a catamaran are in the two hulls on either side while a sailboat has the entire ship. Things were cozy but never cramped. And there was plenty of space above deck.
We arrived in the early afternoon in Charlotte Amalie and grabbed a taxi to a private marina for a few bucks. The Caribbean is definitely not as formal as Hawaii (“Seat belts? This isn’t the mainland!”), but I was much happier once we got to the boat. My dad was waiting for us, and soon Kirk pulled up in his dinghy to take us out to the sailboat.
There were four guest quarters, each with a queen bed and en suite bath, so it was not as bad as I expected. But space was at a premium. A small closet could hold maybe a dozen shirts, but if you have that much then you probably shouldn’t be spending a week on the water in a tropical climate. There’s more space in some drawers underneath the bed. Keep in mind you need to leave space somewhere to store your bag, so bring a duffle.
I was quite pleased with the accommodations. It got a bit stuffy and humid below deck, but opening the hatches helped a lot, especially at night. (There were two big ceiling hatches in each room you can’t see in these photos.) My dad insisted on turning on the air conditioning the second night, though after realizing just how much noise it makes he eventually decided the breeze was enough. This only became challenging when there were brief showers at night. We’d close them for 30 minutes and listen to the rain before opening them again.
Food on board was delicious, and Linda went out of her way to find some particular wines that my dad’s girlfriend, Marsha, had requested as well as to accommodate her lactose intolerance. Each morning there was coffee waiting downstairs, the fruits and vegetables were at their peak freshness, and no dish was served twice (although we wish some were!). A day’s sample menu: French toast with homemade bread for breakfast, a Chinese chicken salad for lunch, conch fritters for appetizers, and then a dinner of filet mignon. The few meals we had on shore weren’t nearly as good.
The hardest part was getting used to sending food back when there was more than enough — it’s not a problem at a restaurant, but it’s more difficult when you and the chef are under the same roof. Linda said it was the most common complaint, which sounds like a good problem to have.
We had a great time, but I’ll cover some of the activities in two later posts: one specific to our adventures on the boat and a second specific to our day on Virgin Gorda, near the eastern edge of the British Virgin Islands.