Author's Note: The Arabella is no longer sailing the Caribbean. However, those who love sailing ships can find alternatives in this Directory of Sailing Ships.
Sailing the Caribbean on a tall ship like the Arabella, with the sails billowing in the wind overhead, is one of life's most pleasant experiences. I love large cruise ships too, but many travelers who do not like crowds or glitz would love a week on the Arabella. It's a wonderful, relaxing Caribbean vacation, filled with blue seas and sky, breezy days, and beautiful sunsets. In addition to the lovely ship, the Arabella's ports of call are small, fascinating islands, not visited by mega-ships. The ship combined with the islands guarantee some marvelous memories.
The Arabella is a 160-foot, 40-person tall ship with three masts and an interesting history. The Arabella is a schooner with motorized sails, and it's a thrill to see them zipping up the masts and catching the wind. Her top speed under sail is about 7.5 knots.
My husband Ronnie and I sailed on the Arabella for six days in May in the British Virgin Islands. The sailing ship had 32 passengers and 8 crew onboard. Most passengers on our cruise were couples ages 40 on up, and all were active -- enjoying swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking when ashore.
The 20 cabins on the Arabella have either queen or bunk beds. They are tiny and might take some getting used to for those who have never been on a sailing ship. The good news is that you really are in the cabin just to sleep, clean up, or watch TV, and the open deck is just a few steps away.
Dining on the Arabella
Breakfast and lunch are served onboard the Arabella. Our Chef, Jon, did an excellent job of preparing delicious, varied foods in his tiny galley. We had one dinner onboard; the rest were in restaurants ashore. Each day, after our early evening happy hour (with snacks and the drink of the day), we went ashore for dinner in a shore side restaurant. We usually had a choice of fish, chicken, or barbecue. We were all hungry after an afternoon of snorkeling or swimming, and each meal was delicious.
Arabella Common Areas
Meals are served in the Salon, and some guests enjoyed sitting in the Salon to read their books or chat. Many of the guests gathered outside under the covered cabana while we were sailing. Others sat on the sun deck or aft next to the hot tub. We usually sailed for a couple of hours or so after breakfast, anchoring at our next island in time for lunch.
On our 6-day Caribbean cruise, the Arabella atmosphere was not as rowdy as I saw on our three Windjammer Barefoot cruises, but I think anyone who enjoyed those old ships will love the Arabella. (We might just have had a more mature, subdued group on our Arabella cruise, too!) It's a smaller ship, but much nicer and with better food. The wonderful 8-person crew is friendly and helpful, and the ambiance is casual and cozy. Several of our fellow sailors had also cruised with Windjammer Barefoot cruises, and they all seemed to agree with my assessment.
Join me on the Arabella as we sail the British Virgin Islands. The next nine pages are my cruise travel journal.
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