Categories
Travel

Our Caribbean voyage on a five-mast sailing ship

From Martinique to the Grenadines, via Saint Lucia and Grenada, join us for a week of exploring, swimming, and lazing in the shade on the world’s largest five-mast sail ship. We wake up in a new location every morning, with a new tropical paradise to visit. Here’s a look back on our trip across the Caribbean onboard the Club Med 2.

Departure

The cold has taken hold in mainland France – the trees and rooftops back in Strasbourg have been dusted with a layer of fluffy snow that resembles icing sugar when we fly off to Fort-de-France in Martinique.

After 9 hours, the massive temperature difference is a shock to the system: from -12ºC when we left Strasbourg, to +28°C upon our arrival in Fort-de-France.

Day 1: Saint Lucia

We disembark in the north of Saint Lucia, on Pigeon Island, a national park brimming with lush vegetation. On one side, you’ll the find tranquil, sheltered beaches of the Caribbean Sea, and on the other, the impetuous Atlantic.

On the Atlantic side, the wind rustles though the palm leaves of the many coconut trees lining the edge of the park.

Out in the water, a large rock stands at the mercy of the elements.

The ocean, in hues of blue, navy, indigo and turquoise, crashes towards the shore in rich, milky scrolls. A surfer’s paradise.

As we leave Pigeon Island, the Club Med 2 glides along the coast, all 7 sails aloft, towards Pitons Bay. Several rain showers streak the recently renovated teak decks with puddles.

Two spectacular rocky peaks slowly appear side by side on the horizon.

These two peaks are covered in dense, dark green vegetation, towering majestically at over 700 meters above sea level. They are like two brothers with different personalities: one is pointed and sharp like a canine, while the other is more rounded and softer around the edges.

A bank of clouds is stuck on the top of mountain at the far end of the bay, and when the downpour starts, a double rainbow stretches over the full width of this breathtaking landscape, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The sun sets in shades of orange that light up the entire horizon, before sinking into the sea.

Day 2: Barbados

Barbados is a sedimentary coral rock island, whereas its neighboring islands are volcanic. Despite its softer, hilly terrain, several tourist sites like Farley Hill National Park and the cemetery behind St John’s Parish Church are perched high enough to offer spectacular views of the Atlantic. From these panoramic viewpoints, we can watch the to and fro of frothy white waves rolling in on the beaches far below.

Barbados is an island of contrasts: from the bustling capital Bridgetown to the wild northern coast. From white, sandy beaches to sugar cane fields. From humble, wooden maisonnettes to luxurious villas, like the one owned by Rihanna, which is estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars (the singer is originally from Barbados).

The great rocks at Bathsheba beach seem to have been placed there by a giant, then smoothed by the wind and ocean swell. The beach is lined with coconut trees and swept by the waters of the Atlantic, which leaves a carpet of brown, brackish-scented sargassum seaweed on the sand.

At dusk, the sun is suspended above the horizon like a tiny, golden marble. The turtle-shaped, grey silhouette of a cloud appears surreptitiously, just long enough to pose for a photo.

We stand at the bow of the ship for a long time after dinner to watch the stars. The cloudless, moonless, ink-black sky is covered in hundreds of glittering sequins. Stéphanie has never seen so many stars before. We stop counting at 800. Jérôme thinks he’s spotted a shooting star. Was it real, or did he just imagine it? Regardless, it’s time to make a wish.

 

Day 3: Bequia

Bequia (pronounced Beckway) is the largest island of the Grenadines. The bay of Port Elizabeth reveals a row of bumpy islets, like turtle shells covered in greenery. Half-hidden, multihued villas along the hillside make a colorful palette for the eyes, and the handful of sail boats anchored off the coast, softly bobbing around in the calm sea, only add to the idyllic landscape.

The town of Port Elizabeth is lively and full of color, and the people there are laid-back and welcoming. They often like to strike up conversation with passing tourists in their lilting Creole accent. Jérôme has a chat with several of them while seeking shelter under a tree during a massive rain shower. We stroll along the seaside, admiring the whirling aerial ballet of frigatebirds and brown boobies, two local bird species, diving into the water. 

Later that afternoon, Stéphanie is off to get pampered at the on-board spa: a Japanese-inspired scrub and massage by Sothys, with lotus flower and cherry blossom. A relaxing moment of luxurious self-care.

As the sun sets behind three islets in the distance, the surrounding clouds are lined with a ribbon of cotton-candy pink light.

A few moments later, the sky is ablaze with purples and golds, and the first planets are already visible.

Day 4: Grenada

A trip to the Caribbean is usually synonymous with lazing in the sun, but some islands are meant to be explored. Grenada is one of them.

The Spice Isle owes its nickname to the local farming of nutmeg, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon. The nutmeg, which can be seen on the Grenadian flag, is considered the country’s the national treasure. Our driver takes us across the island along steep and winding roads, from the Caribbean to the Atlantic coast, through lively villages and sleepy hamlets. 

Two young divers jump expertly from the top of Concord falls in exchange for a few Caribbean dollars in tips. 

On our visit to The Diamond Chocolate Factory in Victoria, we breathe in the heady scent of cocoa. We learn about the different stages of chocolate manufacturing, from harvesting the cacao pods to the final product. We get to taste several kinds of chocolate made at the factory, arranged by percentage of cocoa solids (60%, 70%, 74%, 100%). The 70% with nutmeg is Stéphanie’s favorite. 

In addition to cacao, there is nutmeg, black pepper, lemongrass, and bitter orange growing in the factory gardens, where a thick layer of nutmeg shells cracks with every step we take. A lizard basks in the sun on the trunk of a cacao tree.

We open a fresh nutmeg. The scent is intoxicating.

We drive through typically Grenadian towns with yellow, green, or red (the colors of Grenada) wooden houses on stilts. Dogs, chickens, goats, and sheep roam freely around the different properties. A little further on, we hear reggae streaming from the bars in Gouyave. A group of men seated around a table greet us as we pass, with wide grins on their faces and each of them holding a beer. Smiling children wave at us from the side of the road. Grenadians are cheerful, welcoming, and very fond of their island.

The narrow road snakes its way through the lush vegetation, with nutmeg, cacao, banana, and coconut trees all around. In some places, the tropical forest is so dense that we feel like we’re in the middle of the jungle.

In several villages, we are hit with the mouthwatering scent of meat and fish being grilled on barbecues made from old propane tanks.

That evening, the Club Med 2 sets sail just after sunset, towards the next port of call. The soundtrack to our daily departure is taken from the score of the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise, which was composed by Vangelis. 

As we cruise along on the water, we are soothed by the frothy sound of the ship speeding through the waves, and the mesmerizing sight of sea foam caressing the hull in a fine mist.

The lights on the coast of Grenada glide further and further away, slowly turning into a string of jewels along the island’s mountainous outline. To the port side, the last glow of the sunset reminds us of the dying embers of a fire.

Day 5: Tobago Cays

The flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines flutters in the wind. 

Off the coast, a leaning sailboat skirts around shoals and tiny reefs, sailing on crystalline waters in shades of aquamarine, azure, and teal, and making sure to circumvent the coral reef that’s scattering a lacework of sea foam across the surface.

On shore, our surroundings are idyllic – a white, sandy beach, shaded with softly rustling coconut trees, the lovely feeling of our bare feet sinking into the warm sand, and the relaxing sound of the Caribbean Sea lapping over the shoreline. 

The water temperature is close to 30°C, which is perfect for a swim. Jérôme goes snorkeling and comes across 2 spotted eagle rays gliding through the sandy shallows with slow, languid movements. He is also joined by colorful little fish, as well as a school of forty or so gray angelfish. The bottom is littered with dozens of conch shells and seaweed swaying with the swell.

Back on the ship, we dig into a delicious lunch of fresh fish grilled à la plancha, before grabbing a deck chair to lounge in the shade. A sunny afternoon like this is the perfect excuse to relax while enjoying a glass of fresh juice or a cocktail while the warmth of the trade winds caresses our skin.

That evening, the golden sun dons a mantle of silvery clouds just before nightfall. It retires for the night, leaving a gradient of yellow and orange to purple in its wake.

Day 6: Mayreau

Whereas Bequia is the largest inhabited island of the Grenadines, Mayreau is the smallest. The tender drops us off at Saline Bay, a gorgeous beach with powdery white sand and groves of coconut trees.

A single road runs through Mayreau’s only village, weaving its way between the colorful houses and up to the highest point on the island, where you’ll find a Catholic church.

The atmosphere in Old Wall is festive – everyone we meet is very friendly. A little boy gives us a high five. A young girl smiles and greets us as our paths cross. We bump fists and chat for a few minutes with Phillip with two L’s, a local djembe player.

From the top of the hill, the view of the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and the lush islets all around Mayreau, is breathtaking. 

On the way back down, a plump dragonfly and a yellow butterfly twirl around each other in the wind. A goat munches on some banana peels underneath a blooming bougainvillea. There is Caribbean soca music blasting at full volume from kiwi- and papaya-colored houses all through town.

Next, we enjoy a picnic lunch with our toes in the sand, to the sound of a live steel drum band. On the menu is a Creole barbecue buffet with a wide array of tropical fruit (rambutan, lady finger bananas, physalis, kumquat, mangosteen, and freshly cut coconut) for dessert. The rest of the day can be spent enjoying a Beach Party, swimming, or relaxing on a sun lounger all afternoon.

We return to the ship, taking in the landscape all around our anchorage. We are surrounded by tiny islands covered in dense vegetation.

Stéphanie gazes at the surface of the water, which looks like the rippling scales of a crocodile. Jérôme follows the trajectory of a sailboat by walking from the stern to the bow along the starboard side. The boat sails slowly away into the distance, towards an island that resembles the outline of a reclining moai. Two brown boobies soar between the cumulus clouds on the horizon.

The Club Med 2 weighs anchor at sundown. The sun’s rays look like apricot-hued projectors around a cloud in the shape of a pirate ship. 

The wind rises and fills our sails. Moments later, the sky is once again aglow with tints running from light yellow to violet, and the crescent moon is smiling at us. With the massive French flag proudly waving at the stern, we sail past an island shrouded in mist. 

The unmistakable smell of rain – a heavy shower darkens the wood of the outside decks. Gusts of wind rush into the gangways, blowing tablecloths and clothing to and fro. 

It’s time for the last cocktail of the trip – one last ti’punch (with local rum, cane syrup, and lime) before flying back. We drop by our stargazing spot at the bow of the ship. There are just as many stars as the first time, but the wind is much stronger, so much that we have trouble standing up.

This must be a sign for us to go pack our suitcases, before enjoying the last evening on board. 

Crossing through open sea on our way back to Martinique, our ship pitches and reels like a spirited horse trying to unseat its rider. It won’t be rid of us that easily!

Day 7: Fort-de-France and the journey home

We return to Fort-de-France, our port of departure, and come full circle. Stéphanie struggles to close her suitcase. It doesn’t seem to want to leave, either. 

We head off for the morning to explore the capital of Martinique: the Schœlcher Library, built in the Art Nouveau style and flanked by two traveller’s palms, the indoor spice market, the cathedral and the Saint-Louis fort, the waterfront, and local street art.

The melancholy hits us as we disembark via the gangway for the last time, leaving behind us a lovely break far from the realities and obligations of everyday life. Along the edge of the dock, a little crab seems to wave its pincer at us, as if it were saying goodbye.We reminisce on the drive to the airport, as dozens of images come back to mind. It’s not easy to leave a corner of paradise and the people we met on board and go back to the cold and grey winter.

Our advice

• Your passport 

Make sure your passport is valid at least 6 months after your return

• Take photos of your bags before you travel

Take pictures of your bags or suitcases before checking in to your first flight. They will help you prove the condition of your bags if they should get damaged or identify them in case they don’t arrive at your destination.

• US dollars  

Outside of European territories, you will need US dollars in small bills to make purchases and payments.

• Jet lag 

You can limit the effects of jet lag by sleeping as much as possible during your flights, especially on overnight flights (the return flight to mainland France from the French Caribbean islands is always at night). As soon as you board, set your watch to the local time at your destination. For example, there is a five-hour time difference between Paris and Fort-de-France in winter, and six hours in summer.

• A change of clothes for your flight

We suggest changing your clothes at the airport once you’ve passed security. Go for long sleeves and loose-fitting clothes on long-haul flights.

• Choosing your cabin

Choose cabins towards the front of the ship rather than the slightly noisier ones at the back, near the elevators or the gangway on deck C.

• Excursions 

If you’re interested in signing up for one (or more) of the excursions organized by the Club Med 2, make sure you book it (or them) before your departure, as it will be more expensive to book once you’re on board.

• Digital detox 

Outside of Europe, take the opportunity to disconnect from your smartphone and/or tablet. You have to pay for wi-fi on board, and the internet connection is pretty patchy.

• Seasickness 

The sea can get rough at times. If you are prone to seasickness, please see your doctor for advice before you leave.

• Medication 

If you are on medication, do make you bring enough for your trip and a few extra days, just in case. There is a doctor and a nurse on board for emergencies.

• Flip flops 

Bring a pair of rubber flip flops for the beach, or in case in rains.

• Bringing back alcohol  

If you want to bring a few bottles of local booze (like French Caribbean rum) home with you, we recommend buying it at the duty-free shop at the airport just before the return flight. It will be much less expensive, and you won’t risk having a bottle breaking open in your suitcase. Check with your local customs authorities about the quantities you are allowed to bring back.

About the Club Med 2

With its 187 meters in length, 67.5 meters in height, and 7 sails, the Club Med 2 is the largest five-mast sailing ship in the world. It mostly sails in the evening and through the night to arrive in a new destination every morning. Its shallow draft allows it to go where larger cruise ships are not able to. This grand sailing cruise ship is still on a human scale and has a capacity of 320 passengers, and almost as many crew members. 

The team on board does its utmost to make sure every passenger fully enjoys their stay. Every effort is made to create a refined and welcoming atmosphere.

The all-inclusive package for all passengers includes room and board, drinks, snacks, and sports (fitness classes and water sports). There are activities and events on board every day: shows, yoga classes, cocktail and cooking classes, tea-time, live music, DJ sets…

The passenger and crew cabins are located on the lower decks (B, C, and D). There are also several suites on decks D and F. 

The cabins on deck D are spacious and comfortable. They are very well laid out, with lots of storage space. All passengers have exterior cabins with two portholes or windows, and a steward takes care of the upkeep of the cabins twice daily.

The upper decks (E, F, G) are where you’ll find the lounges, 2 restaurants (at the bow), 3 bars (at the stern), 2 small swimming pools, and the exterior decks.

Major renovations in 2022

Several spaces on board underwent renovations in 2022: the lobby, the main lounge, and the show lounge (Yacht Club Lounge). One of the restaurants (the Monte-Carlo) and the bars (the Saint-Barth and the Cannes) have been entirely redesigned as well. 

All the teak decks (2700 m²) have been renovated, while the 7 sails and all the furniture have been replaced. 

New cardio equipment has been added to the gym, and the water sports center (hall nautique) now offers wing foiling and paddle board in addition to the usual snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing.

For daily mealsthe Saint-Tropez is very functional, offering a generous buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is something for everyone: the dishes are varied, tasty, and well-balanced. For lunch and dinner, fresh fish (red snapper, marlin, salmon, tuna…) can be grilled to order on a plancha. 

The Monte-Carlo is open for afternoon snacks and dinner. The atmosphere is intimate, cozy, and luminous, thanks to its full redesign in 2022. The interior of the restaurant includes many nautical references, such as a lighthouse lens, ropes, sextants, and bookcases full of books about ships, regattas, and the ocean. The chosen color palette combines deep yellows, greens and petroleum blue with a teal and cream-colored carpet, hardwood floors and light wood details. The bistronomy menu developed by the famous Ferrandi culinary school is composed of 2 starters, 3 mains (meat, fish, or vegetarian) and 2 desserts every evening. 

Please note, French is the main language spoken on board, although daily announcements are also made in English and most crew members are bilingual

This article is a reflection of our personal opinion and has not been subject to any financial compensation.

25 replies on “Our Caribbean voyage on a five-mast sailing ship”

Madly envious! I have a very big birthday in November this year and would love to do something like this. I’ve seen the boat in a couple of harbours and feel the cost would be madly prohibitive, but I can dream 😁💗

Liked by 1 person

If cost of this boat is too much, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a lovely Caribbean holiday! We really enjoyed Barbados for instance, and Grenada is a super cool island to explore.

Like

St. Lucia is our cover photo! Very beautiful as well, the most incredible sunsets and beautiful beaches. We would have loved to stay longer to explore. Excellent choice!

Liked by 1 person

What an idyllic holiday and a fantastic piece of writing. You must have had a truly welcome break- how can you bear to soak in the ever-pervading grey of Alsace at the moment! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. It is truly a beautiful part of the world!

Liked by 1 person

Thank you so much Gaenor! It truly was an escape, and a very welcome one at that. It does give us some solace even now in the cold and grey weather, just to think back on the trip and look at the photos ☺️

Liked by 1 person

That’s so cool, Filipa! We weren’t big fans of the idea of large-scale cruises, but this was just perfect 🤩
Thank you for your comment, we’re so glad you enjoyed the article.

Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s