I just got off my Island Windjammers cruise on the Diamant – and honestly, I’m feeling a bit bereft.
And it’s not just the unrestored equilibrium in my inner ear that has me off-kilter. The cruise had its high points and its low points (which I’ll detail later), but like any truly memorable travel experience, the best part was the people I met.
On a ship with just 10 passengers, you get to know each other fairly quickly. Quarters were tight and, true to the former Windjammer philosophy, there were very few structured activities. So whole experience was a little bit like summer camp – only it all took place at sea.
When I arrived the first night, I was a little nonplussed by the cruise demographics. The Windjammer reputation had been so centered on partying that I was expecting overgrown frat boys toting bottles of hard alcohol, accompanied by bleach blond, party-hearty Parrotheads (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
What I got was a group of people, with an average age of 63, who were in it more for the experience of sailing on a 101-foot schooner than the booze. The rowdiest conversations took place over Shanghai rummy, not rum (although the latter was well represented at afternoon snacks and swizzles) and with a group of primarily couples and single ladies, snorkeling and sunning were more pervasive than scamming.
And to make matters even better, everyone got along.
As Sally, an ebulliant single mother from Worcester, England – who stayed cheerful even when Virgin Atlantic lost her luggage for most of the trip – put it: “There were no cliques or odd man out. And that’s unusual.”
I promised everyone that I would take a portrait of them during the trip, as a reward for putting up with my ever-present camera. Everyone – especially Capt. Matt – was extremely gracious about my endless questioning.
I loved hearing the dating stories from Ginny and Bob, both thrice-married retirees who met through Match.com. Watching Bob, who builds intricate models of historic ships for the Navy Museum in Annapolis, come alive while interacting with the local boat builders on Bequia was priceless. And I know I’ll pop over to Annapolis sometime to gossip with Ginny.
Experienced Windjammers Ron and Cerise, married 51 years, provided some ballast to the group’s silly antics, even as they themselves were participating.
Too bad Ron’s attempt at hijacking the boat didn’t work; otherwise, we’d be half way to Aruba by now.
Paul, a former Windjammer captain who has sailed the world and back again, seemed most at home staring off on the horizon. The only single man on board, he put up with our teasing with the patience of one of those British Naval captains he was telling me about.
Nurse Janet’s wit and intellect were as apparent as her Southern accent. When she’s not sailing the Caribbean, she’s helping children in Nicaragua as a medical volunteer. I hope to tag along on her mission someday.
Grand dame Pat, the mother of an Island Windjammer principal, delivered devastatingly funny bon mots in a plummy British accent unsullied by her decades in the States.
She arrived with her best friend Gloria, a high-cheekboned widow with one of those energetic personalities that lights up the room with style AND substance. I want to be just like her when I grow up.
As I feel about many of the travelers I meet – the very best ones who seek to expand their horizons on the open road (er, make that sea) – I hope we meet again.