My recent one-week cruise in the Caribbean was the perfect warm and sunny escape from the cold and dreary weather here in New England. Tim and I cruised on the Windstar Star Pride, a small cruise ship with about 200 passengers and 150 crew. We were the newbies on the cruise, but our sea legs kicked in right away as we sailed our way from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, St. Barths, Montserrat, St. Maarten, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda.
All aboard! View of our ship from the shore of Josh Van Dyke.
Tim and I booked a suite with a balcony, so it was comfy and spacious. In reality, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the room, because we were busy socializing on the upper deck, in the dining room and of course, on shore. I loved the food, the new friends we made, and the endless, soothing views of blue-green water and the sunny skies.
This photo of a random bench on a beach in Montserrat summed up our vacation 🙂
Whether you’ve been on a cruise before or not, I think you’ll enjoy reading about my favorite on board and island-hopping experiences.
Let’s start with the food. On the Star Pride, all of our meals were included, which meant there was a lot of food to choose from. Tim and I decided to eat a “no food waste” diet throughout the week. In other words, we choose small portions, went up for seconds at the breakfast and lunch buffets only when we were still hungry, and to stuck to our usual breakfast of yogurt, fruit, cereal and nuts. I was happy to see reasonable portions at dinner along with plenty of lovely vegetables too. The food was fresh, flavorful, and every night, the ship offered a special appetizer, main course, and dessert option from a James Beard Foundation chef. This partnership is something Windstar is known for.
I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Chef Darin Epp from the Star Pride where I got to tour the galley and observe first hand how he runs a “tight ship.” Chef Epp is seriously talented; I don’t know how he produces so many high-quality meals and snacks every day for the passengers and crew, but he makes it happen over and over and over again.
Chef Epp hails from Canada. He’s been with Windstar for seven years and is truly the captain of his kitchen!
I splurge on escargots (AKA snails) about once every 10 years. This dish of Escargots a la Bourguignonne was worth the splurge.
One of my favorite dinners: Seared Sea Scallops with smoked bacon wrapped potato confit, sauce vierge, and fire roasted red bell pepper coulis.
Milk Chocolate Mousse with caramelized almonds and mango sauce: Recipe created by James Beard chef, Emily Luchetti of San Francisco.
On our last day, the crew hosted a beach party on Virgin Gorda. You can see the Star Pride way in the distance.
Tim and I worked hard to make this a healthy holiday. We hit the gym most mornings, took advantage of the beautiful fruits and vegetables on the ship and the shore, and made a conscious effort to eat small, satisfying portions and keep our food waste to as close to zero as possible.
Every day, we had an opportunity to visit a different island. St. Barths was the most elegant and breathtaking; Jost Van Dyke with it’ Bubbly Pool and various beach bars was the funnest; and Montserrat was perhaps the most important island to see given its tragic encounter with hurricanes and volcanos.
Plymouth was the capital of Montserrat for more than 300 hundred years until it was destroyed and buried by a volcanic eruption in 1995. Today, Plymouth lies in ruins, and the remaining islanders have relocated north to the lush and safer part of the island. The locals are warm and friendly and working hard to bring tourists and business back to their beloved island.
If you want to learn more, check out the Montserrat Buried City page.
For fans of rock music, you may remember Air Studio Montserrat, where Sir George Martin recorded over 70 record albums including Synchronicity by The Police and Too Low for Zero by Elton John. Hurricane Hugo destroyed the studio in 1989.
In sharp contrast is St. Barths, a French-speaking island known for it’s white sand beaches, aqua waters, yachts, and upscale shops. Tim and I enjoyed a beach day on St. Barths and a lovely lunch at the Sand Bar at the Eden Rock hotel. (You can see the hotel in the background.)
We started the meal with a sangria …
… and we shared an appetizer board with three lovely dips including green chickpea hummus, Thai basil pine nut and harissa, and smoky eggplant with tomato chutney and yogurt.
This Kale & Broccoli Salad with soft boiled egg and Parmesan was perhaps one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten!
Gorgeous ocean view at The Baths National Park in Virgin Gorda. (Note to travelers: Grab a cab and head to The Baths early. It gets very crowded.)
We shared drinks with new acquaintances on the upper deck most nights while listening to live music.
It was a relaxing, carefree vacation, and we enjoyed the cruise experience. I’m already thinking about our next cruise, which might just be in Morocco. Stay tuned for that (but it won’t be until 2021 so please do NOT hold your breath)!
I need to give a shout out to O:LV Fifty Five, the hotel we stayed at the night before we embarked on the Star Pride. O:LV is sleek and sophisticated, and the food in their RAYA restaurant is a beautiful blend of Caribbean and Asian cuisines. Puerto Rico is a 4-hour direct flight from Boston. The weather this time of year is warm and sunny and the water is that same beautiful blue that we saw in other parts of the Caribbean. We really enjoyed it and want to go back.
And FINALLY, I just had to share this tuna poke bowl with puffed rice and avocado chili drops that we had at RAYA, located in the lobby of O:LV. As tasty as it was pretty.
Have you been on a cruise or visited the Caribbean? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
For other travel posts, check out some of my favorite destinations: