ABOARD THE SEADREAM II-Shopping. Beaches. Those were the watchwords for the day.
But first, what had become a favorite meal: breakfast. At least nine or ten varieties of fresh fruit, freshly baked breads and pastries, freshly squeezed juices (including some healthy vegetable blends the chef makes every day), pancakes, French toasts, eggs that taste like eggs — and on and on.
Joining fellow passengers, we boarded the shuttle to Charlotte Amalie, where we encountered shopping mania on all sides. Turned out there were SEVEN ships here, including Royal Caribbean’s mammoth Oasis of the Seas. After mingling with the crowds at Little Switzerland and other shops, where we browsed and admired the jewelry, but didn’t buy,we headed back to the ship for lunch.
Yes, we happily consumed another meal at the Topside restaurant, where the ocean breezes cooled us off while we dined in style. When I say “in style,” I mean that nothing aboard our yacht is served on paper or plastic, but always on fine china, with nicely weighted silverware — and the beverages, were always poured into substantial glasses. (In our suite, we have crystal glasses, tucked away behind cabinet doors to keep them from breaking.)
More than sufficient calories consumed, we took the tender to Honeymoon Beach; I think there are “Honeymoon Beaches” all over the Caribbean, which simply means small, relatively uncrowded beaches where couples (or anyone else) can enjoy a protected swim in peace. Despite the fact that this beach is a popular day-trip excursion option for many cruise ships, it didn’t feel over-run. Again, the water was just cool enough to be refreshing, the sand was silky white, and shade was offered by beach berry trees. Nearby were two refreshment stands, where we could buy beer, water or tropical drinks. Beyond the roped-off swimming area, at least a dozen sailboats were anchored; one “pirate ship” was flying an American flag and a skull-and-crossbones.
Among the fellow swimmers, we encountered a group of Oasis passengers from Asbury Park, the city that neighbors our town at the Jersey Shore. We swapped Hurricane Sandy stories — and then we heard how the Oasis had encountered choppy waters as it sailed from the Bahamas. (So far, so good for us — no chop yet.)
When we tendered back to our yacht, the captain was getting ready to re-position the SeaDream II,taking her closer to Honeymoon Beach — for what turned out to be one of the day’s highlights: a sunset swim! Since we’d be swimming off the yacht rather than on the beach, we had to sign waivers and get identifying wristbands. But safety precautions were being taken — a crew member in a zodiac would monitor the swim and make rescues if necessary — so no one was really worried. The current was strong, but there were ropes and flotation devices to cling to. What fun it was to bob around in the Caribbean, hanging on to noodles or floating on the water trampoline! Could anything be better?
Well, yes. As it turned out, Executive Chef Gilles de Cambourg was preparing an eight-course tasting dinner. We gasped at the prospect of so much food, but we were assured that the portions were “elegantly sized.” Chef Gilles’ creations were all sublime, from the caviar amuse-bouche, served with creme fraiche and egg inside an eggshell to the white chocolate souffle for dessert. This was the kind of experience that would cost at least a couple of hundred dollars in a fine restaurant. As always, the very good wines that accompanied our meals were complimentary — though the oenophiles had the option of choosing a pairing of premium wines at $100.
And so ended (as we were too tired to do anything else) another fine day in paradise.