Strong currents mean a detour to Gustavia, St. Barts

ABOARD THE SEADREAM II-We were supposed to stop at Saba, Dutch Caribbean this morning, but the currents were too strong, so we proceeded instead to Gustavia, St. Barts. No one seemed terribly disappointed to have an extra day at this most glamorous of Caribbean destinations. St. Barts brings to life SeaDream’s slogan, “It’s yachting, not cruising.”

As we couldn’t dock at Saba and traveled instead to Barts, we have SeaDream I as a neighbor.

All around us are moored some of the most beautiful and fabulous vessels in the world. Since we’re here ahead of schedule, one of our neighbors is the SeaDream I. Also nearby is the Rising Sun, originally purchased by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation — and currently owned by Hollywood’s David Geffen. The yacht, which cost over $200 million to build is the 10th largest in the world, with a length of almost 453 feet. But it is dwarfed by the yacht that created the most buzz: the Eclipse, owned by Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who also owns London’s Chelsea Football Club.

Another neighbor is the Eclipse, the world’s largest and most expensive yacht, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Built at a cost of $1 billion, the Eclipse is the world’s largest (557 feet long) and most expensive yacht. It has two helicopter pads), two swimming pools, several hot tubs, a disco hall, three launch boats and a mini-submarine capable of submerging up to 165ft. The mega yacht reportedly has intruder detection alarms installed, as well as an advanced missile defense system and bulletproof glass.

So – when the water toys aboard SeaDream II came out for us to play with, we were warned not to get within 100 meters of the Eclipse – or else. Or else what? “They’ll shoot you down,” someone warned. No one really believed that, but still the jet skiers, the kayakers and others gave the Eclipse a wide berth. (Mr. Abramovich, we were told, spends a fair amount of time here and has recently built himself a nice  “cottage” on St. Barts – at a cost of many, many millions.)

Prices like that are not hard to believe; St. Barts has been a favored playground among the rich and famous (and infamous) for many years. Even “The Real Housewives of New York City” filmed a few (steamy) episodes here.  Small wonder, then, that an upscale rental during the winter holiday season can cost as much as $27,000 – a day!

When the water toys come out, our jet skiers are warned not to get too close to the Eclipse — or else.

After the water toys were put away, we took the tender into St. Barts — and oh, my, it is not like any other Caribbean island. Gorgeous shops displaying Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari — if it’s expensive, you’ll find it here. Whether buying or just looking, a walk around the harbor was just the thing to do as the sun was setting. The breeze was refreshing, the lights bathed the place in a romantic glow — and now and then, some Christmas decorations reminded us of the holiday season.

An unexpected surprise: I learned today that one of my fellow passengers was someone I’ve long admired: Douglas Ward, who writes the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships. Doug’s books have been described as the cruise industry’s version of the Oscars and Emmys rolled into one. Doug was about to transfer to the SeaDream I, but we chatted long enough to agree that a SeaDream holiday is very, very nice.

Photos by Lillian Africano

December 5, 2012

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