ABOARD SEADREAM II-During my first full day on this yacht, I kept thinking of the Italian concept of La Dolce Far Niente, the sweetness of doing nothing. There are no loud announcements inviting you to play bingo, buy the cocktail of the day or visit the spa. On the yachts of SeaDream you can do as you please, even if that means doing nothing.
But since we were visiting an island of uncommon unspoiled beauty, I did do something: I joined Club Director John for a hike to Honeymoon Beach and Caneel Bay. One of the many wonderful features of this yachting trip is that crew members (and sometimes even the captain) will organize an informal activity – like hiking or mountain biking – as a way to explore a destination without a strict itinerary or schedule. (If my fellow passengers were any indication of the demographic, I’d say that yacht passengers tend to be younger, fitter and more active than those on other ships.)
Wearing comfortable shoes and toting a towel, sunscreen, bottles of cold water and a swimsuit, our little group boarded a tender for a short trip to the dock.Our hike took us through Virgin Islands National Park, which makes up more than two-thirds of the island – thanks to the generosity and efforts of Laurance Rockefeller, who loved the natural beauty of St. John.
Purchased from Denmark by President Woodrow Wilson for $25 million (in gold) St. John was one of the great real estate bargains of the 20th century. (Today the villas in prime locations can run upwards of $2 million, with some costing four times that number.) The hike through the rugged grandeur of the park took about 40 minutes. Along the way, we spotted a couple of frisky donkeys, lots of termites and a large and extraordinarily pretty caterpillar.
And when we arrived at the beach at Caneel Bay, we were more than ready for a swim. This place is everything a Caribbean beach should be: safe, uncrowded, with fine white sand and clean, clear, bluer-than-blue water that was just cool enough to refresh. After a while, the bar at the nearby Caneel Bay resort beckoned; it was the perfect place to get a cold drink and a brief sports fix via ESPN. As the resort was built by Rockefeller, it is un-flashy, inconspicuous and blends with the natural surroundings.
Since our hike was informal, we could stay at the beach as long as we liked — providing we made the last tender back to the yacht, where there would be time enough for a complimentary sauna/aromatherapy treat. All I had to do was give the spa manager 15-minutes’ notice to fire up the sauna and then I was there, inhaling the relaxing fragrance of lavender while the heat soothed my tired muscles.
As the library is exceptionally well-stocked with several of my favorite authors, I picked up a couple of books for bed-time reading. Didn’t need to get a movie from the concierge because there would be a showing of “The Artist” in the Main Salon after dinner. (Other evening choices: a sing-along in the piano bar, a little blackjack in the tiny casino — or some shopping at the Yacht Boutique.) No Vegas-style shows on this yacht — another reason to love it.
Tonight was the official Welcome Dinner, so the food was, in a word, superb. Grilled Lobster was my main course followed by a sumptuous dessert of Chocolate Fondant adorned with 14K Gold. The meal was a feast for the senses, the eyes as well as the taste buds. Unlike the dining experience on big ships, meals here are unhurried and uncrowded and relatively quiet; the atmosphere resembles that in a small five-star restaurant. The menu features dishes for every dietary need and preference: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. What also makes fine dining here different is that there is no need to dress up – ever. During the day T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are fine. During the evening, nice dresses or trousers and stylish tops are fine for women, while trousers and shirts work well for men. As one happy male passengers said to me: “I never have to wear stiff shoes that pinch on SeaDream.”
With only 84 passengers this trip and a crew of 92 (from 17 countries)the level of service is truly refined and personal. Within a few hours of boarding, the crew members will know your name and some of your preferences. This may explain why quite a few of the passengers were repeaters, as per their SeaDream T-shirts. And why, even those passengers wearing the logos of other luxury ships picked SeaDream this time.
Photos by Lillian Africano