Caribbean cruising is one of the ultimate winter sun getaways. Crystal clear waters, eating and drinking in absolute luxury and cruising from island to island, turning heads wherever you go. For those inclined to a bit of lux in the sun: does a winter vacation get any better than this?!
Heading out to the Caribbean to spend a week on board a 52-metre superyacht in March, the idea of spending a week at sea in this glittering, epitome of luxury was not quite a dream come true, but almost. Michelin star meals, private day trips to largely inaccessible beaches and coves, Caribbean cocktails and a week of being waited on hand and foot . The perfect escape from the wintery climes of Amsterdam.
Seven days later – seasick, salty and a few KG heavier (sob) – I had a sad realisation. Once the veil of fantasy had been lifted, the superyacht life was not for me.
What’s the fuss with the Caribbean?
Besides general qualms about the yacht life, first things first: the destination. The Caribbean has been a winter favourite for the rich, famous and yacht-endowed since, well, forever. Luxury resorts abound, yachts abound, white parties abound… As a staple of the world’s elite favourite travel destinations, I was expecting something special.
We discovered that the sun shines bright, but the clouds rain heavy. And consistently. We jumped into the yacht’s custom tender and zipped away at 30 knots to private islands and ate barbecued crayfish. We pottered about on empty beaches in private coves. We had a go with the Seabob’s (world’s coolest water toy), but the water was often too choppy… so we bounced around in the pool most afternoons. We took the jet skis out but… there wasn’t much to see. I don’t know if this is just thanks to the fact that we spent most of our time on the boat but, damn. The Caribbean. It’s empty! Disappointment growing, I was left with one burning question: Why do people flock here every winter?!
Of course, just 18 months following the devastation of the 2017 hurricane season, the Caribbean is still recovering from the aftermath of the hurricanes that wiped out a lot of the islands… but St Barths – home to the Eden Rock hotel, Nikki Beach and multiple celebrity holiday homes – has received a hell of a lot of reinvestment. By all accounts, St Barths is pretty much there. (As CNN Travel puts it: St Barths is back). Walking around St Barths, okay, yes, it was a bit more put together than most the other islands, and the views from each coastal street were picture-perfect tropical island views. But the food, the culture, the island itself? Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the treasures of the Mediterranean being on my doorstep, but it seems to me that paradise is attainable much closer to home.
Yachts: It’s not all bad
But it’s not all bad. (Or bad at all, really!). So on to the good: one of the great things about cruising, undeniably, is the ability to travel so much in such a short space of time – and aside from the seasickness (the Caribbean Seas are not as kind as the glittering postcards project), is one of the best ways in the world to travel. In just a few days we had ticked off St Maarten, Anguilla, Guadeloupe, St Kitt’s and then finished up in St Barts – all within the comfort of a big boat which came complete with its own glass-bottom swimming pool, sauna and steam room and huge lounging spaces.
Other highlights? The food, the service, the freedom, the comfort, the facilities – a superyacht holiday really does have everything. But it’s just the money, it’s extortionate. It really is.
Don’t get me wrong: staying on a big ass luxury yacht in the middle of the Caribbean was a unique experience and an awesome privilege. Few people get to taste the forbidden fruits of wild success, and I’m grateful to see how the elusive UHNWI of the world experience life. But the grass is not always greener on the other side, and even if a trip is outrageously expensive and exclusive, it doesn’t make it the best. For some, this is the best holiday you can ever have. But personally? Even if I had a spare €280,000 (YES. A CHARTER HOLIDAY ON THIS YACHT IS MORE THAN A QUARTER OF A MILLION EUROS), a yacht holiday would not be my first, second… or even third choice. #sorrynotsorry