Day 1: Arrival
I am so excited to be travelling to the West Indies to board Crystal Esprit. What a year it has been for me. It’s safe to say I love my job!
We board our flight via New York to St Martin (we have a night in New York but the weather was torrential rain and we were both shattered and we had an early flight the next day to connect to St Martin, so we stayed in the hotel.) Feeling rested we arrived at St Martin and straight away the warm breeze of the Caribbean hits you as you step off the plane. The airport was hit by Hurricane Urma 18 months ago and is still not fully recovered, however I feel like it added to the charm. They have erected a temporary marquee and there was lots of staff to help you with your luggage, and of course the Crystal rep was ready and waiting….and from that moment onwards it began…being totally and utterly spoilt! Not having to lift a finger, not having to think about anything and this was just the beginning.
Our driver was waiting for us and we had him to ourselves as he enthusiastically told us the history of the island on our way to meet our yacht – our home for the next 7 nights.
Finally Esprit came into view, the staff were there to greet us and with champagne in hand we were escorted to our suite where we met our butler, our house keeper, and a member of crew from the water sports platform… Not all at the same time, but still it was obvious we were going to be looked after….and this is the key to the success and amazing experience you will receive if you travel on Crystal Esprit….the crew are AMAZING!
It helps that onboard there are actually more crew than guests and it’s almost as if they know what you need before you even realised you need it! It’s very impressive to get service like this, where every detail is personal, without the feeling like it’s too much. Hats of to the entire team of Crystal Esprit, I have never received service like this in my life.
Once checked in via our in-suite iPad we explored… Starting with our suite – it’s a great size (280 sq ft). Our butler had opened our champagne and we had chocolates to greet us too! There is lots of wardrobe space, and a flatscreen TV with endless up-to-date movies. The bathroom has a fab walk in shower and two vanity sinks – so again, plenty of room. The one thing that you don’t have on Crystal Esprit is a balcony as she is too small, but that is what makes her so special as we discovered once we went off too explore.
We headed straight up towards the SUN!! Crystal Esprit has a lovely sun deck with lots of comfy snugs and lounge areas, in the shade and in the sun options a plenty. We especially liked all the day beds along one side of the ship. This is what makes yacht cruising so special – unlike our Ocean ships you can lie down, relax and sip your cocktail whilst being so close to the waves and wildlife, quite incredible.
We ordered lunch, and although up on the sun deck it’s casual dining, there is nothing casual about any of the food onboard this ship. It is the best I have ever experienced in my life and when I spoke to other guests they all agreed. In fact, many were repeat guests as we found out when we all met for pre dinner cocktails in the yacht club.
Day 2: Anguilla
After an amazing nights sleep in our luxurious beds we are excited to see what today has in store for us, the first real day of our holiday.
Esprit’s shore excursions team ease us in gently with a beach day in Anguilla. Every day the team provide complimentary shore excursions, as well as optional pre paid excursions which you can either pre book before you leave or onboard via your in suite iPad. Today we have access to one of the local hotel’s private beach and and pool facilities. In fact, we could have used their spa, golf course and water sports… but we were still recovering from jet lag so a day catching rays in the beach sun loungers was for us!!
After a while, as usual, I got restless – it was time for a dip in the sea! It’s the 26th Nov and I’m surrounded by white stunning sands, clear blue seas and unlimited sunshine. Needless to say I’m very happy ! The sea is beautiful and this coast has lots of coral so I make full use of the complimentary snorkelling gear, whilst my travelling companion makes the most of the free cocktails! After my dip, we go for a stroll along the beach and it’s not long before we catch a glimpse of the after effect of the hurricane. Anguilla is still rebuilding itself and it’s great that Crystal Esprit supports this beautiful island as they rely so much on tourism to get them back up and running. We head aback to the hotel which is newly built and has the most spectacular pool and the largest swan lilo’s you have ever seen!!!!!!!!!!!!
We head back to the ship totally zenned out and feeling refreshed after our vitamin D injection. Some of the other guests decide to swim off the back of the ship and some are using the submersible. This is an added extra cost at $599pp on all her varied itineraries, although there is of course not so much use for it in European waters…it’s all about the tropics and the visibility of the fish and the coral. Despite a late brunch, we are feeling peckish so we head up to pool deck to have a light lunch and enjoy watching the submersible disappear under the ocean.
Today we have totally found our holiday groove and we have found Millie…we secretly nicknamed her the “feeder”! As I mentioned the crew are amazing and although they are all fantastic, Millie really took the time to get to know us and insisted we keep trying different cocktails, nibbles and indeed too much food in the main dining room – we love her!
Being over our jetlag and now showing a hint of tan….ok burnt..we head up on to the top deck to watch the sunset (with a cocktail!) The white chairs are such a serene place to chill out….one thing I can’t get over is that there is so much space compared to the amount of guests (I know it’s Crystal and that’s what they do best….but still it’s a pleasant surprise how deceivingly large this yacht is!) There are plenty of places for those romantic moments you just want to cherish…..ok not for me and my friend Jen but still we are loving the relaxed pace of this ship and it’s crew and guests alike!
Dinner once again is amazing – I love the open kitchen watching Adam and his team at work preparing yet another stunning dining experience, really it is quite incredible. There are two menu options; the classic/local tastes and the modern. I like this about Crystal Esprit, it’s much more immersive and you get to sample Caribbean curry and other local delights….however, throughout the cruise I am continually drawn back to the modern menu as, quite simply, it’s a taste sensation!!
Tonight, feeling more lively, we have a few drinks in the bar and get chatting to other guests and enjoy an array of cocktails…though not too many as we have a big hike tomorrow first thing!!
Day 3: Saba
We wisely ordered room service for breakfast as we had an early start as today’s hike has been named “strenuous”!
I told Jen who was feeling a little groggy, it won’t be that hard, they have to say things like that to cover themselves. Ooooops, it was actually quite…..”strenuous”!!!! BUT, fantastic and anyone who is fit and healthy should do this trek.
We arrived at the pier and were taken by two (mini) mini buses up into the rain forest. I can see why we had two very small vehicles – the roads are tiny and steep. Straight away we love the pace and feel of Saba, lovely blue Caribbean homes nestled into the rain forest, and this the beauty of cruising. Saba has no beaches, so normally as an English-sun-worshipping tourist you may give this island a miss, but all the guests we met felt the same – it has a very special feel about it. The people we met were also lovely and our guide on the hike was brilliant.
So back to the hike! Yes it was hot, even in the early morning sun, and yes it was steep in places, but it was worth every second. Being in the heart of the rainforest listening to the birds and hearing about all the plants, and then with the view at the TOP and Crystal Esprit peeking through, a tiny dot in the distance. I looked at Jenny and yep we both looked equally sweaty as did all the other guests, but we were all smiling….well almost all of us!!! Coming down is often the biggest challenge, however we were greeted at the end of the hike by the most charming hotel, where they had laid on fresh water (the guides had kept us supplied) and of course the staple drink…rum punch! We also had some lovely Caribbean tapas and relaxed in their cosy snug area enjoying the tunes and the view.
Once we got back on the ship we headed to the buffet lunch (yes you are allowed two lunches if you have just done a “strenuous” hike!) which is held in the Yacht Club. This is the first time we have had lunch here and whilst you can enjoy sitting outside under the canopy for shade we opted for the cool air con as we were feeling rather hot! The food is of course amazing, such a choice from healthy to very naughty. We get chatting to lots of other guests whom have been on the submersible, dives and also those that did the scenic drive and wanted to know how hard the hike was! Again, today seems like an epic place for the submersible due to all the rock/coral formation that surrounds Saba and has created it’s beauty.
After lunch I do what any sensible person does…I jump off the back of the ship, wow amazing and exhilarating! After changing, we head up on deck as the ship is sailing away earlier today and we get to enjoy the beauty of Saba up on deck as we sail away….I just love sail away on Crystal it’s so special, listening to music and a cocktail in hand – I am beaming from ear to ear!
After an afternoon snoozing up on deck there is excitement on the ship among the guest as tonight we are overnighting in St Barts, that’s the great thing about cruising on Esprit, it’s so immersive you are often in ports overnight or until late in the evening so you really get the chance to explore.
WOW St Barts – get your Credit Cards out! Full of designer shops and trendy restaurants, there is Nikki Beach here, which is great fun but reminds you the value of a Crystal all inclusive cruise! We love St Barts and with our new travel companions we find some great bars tucked away in cobbled ally-ways, I can almost imagine I’m going to bump into Jack Sparrow, or maybe that’s the cocktails! We end up getting one of the last tenders back to the Yacht around midnight after a great night!
…and that’s it for Part 1 – stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon…