It’s only my first day on a Windstar cruise in the Caribbean and already things are not going to plan. Arriving in St. Maarten and boarding the Wind Surf ship, I reach for my phone to capture the beauty of the island in the background, only to discover that it’s broken. Realizing that the next seven days of fun times and stunning views will not be shared on social media with envious friends and colleagues is heartbreaking. If it’s not on Instagram, am I even here?
I walk to the bridge deck, no phone in hand, watching as the sun glistens and bounces off the blue water, with St. Maarten’s colourful homes as backdrop. I take a deep breath, inhaling the sweet scent of Caribbean flowers, and exhale into the warm breeze. Perhaps this is a good thing, I think to myself. I will experience life in the moment: quite literally, #nofilter.
But an unplanned digital detox was not going to be easy, especially travelling solo on a cruise. I would be visiting six new countries over seven days—Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts and St. Barthélemy (St. Barth)—could I switch off enough to stop fretting over what I might be missing online, and be satisfied, I wonder, with my own thoughts and feelings?
Dinner is at Stella Bistro, one of three restaurants on board. With my cabernet sauvignon from Washington’s Totem Wines, I enjoy a refreshing watermelon and ricotta salad garnished with mint and olive oil before savouring a creamy linguini with truffle oil and chives. There’s certainly something romantic about sailing off into the dead of night. I look out through the window and sink my spoon into a heavenly dessert—a banana crème brûlée. Returning to my suite full and happy, I climb into bed and continue to stare out at the ocean swishing softly under the moon. It’s my new oasis.
Without my social media routine to distract me, mornings become a time of reflection as I sip frothy cappuccinos and breakfast on fresh fruits, made-to-order omelettes, and chicken sausages all served al fresco. I grab the daily newspaper and sift through nautical books in the library, taking the time to chat to fellow guests, some of them “repeaters” (loyal Windstar customers who return again and again to try itineraries that include more than 60 countries). While at sea, I spend my days relaxing on one of the six decks, rousing myself only to be pampered at the Windspa with a manicure and Swedish massage. It’s a hard life.
As we arrive in Roseau, capital city of Dominica, fog is lingering on the impressive mountains (there are nine active volcanoes here) and the rainbow-coloured ridge of Morne Bruce perches on the shoreline. On a tour through the island’s rainforest, we take a lush drive up to Titou Gorge (“small throat hole” in Creole) where we walk under a rock wall canopy and out into the rushing Trafalgar Falls, famous for its star turn in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. I turn my hands to face the sky, welcome the mist that sprays my skin and, like the chatty Germans touring with me, imagine what it would be like to call this island home.
Though it took a huge hit from Hurricane Maria in 2017, Dominica is working hard to rebuild its reputation as a holiday destination.
“Our country is the most beautiful country in the world,” insists our tour guide, pointing out—somewhat cheekily—that the geographic outline of the island resembles a shapely female body. “She’s got curves!” With that, she passes around cups of spiced lime rum punch, an island tradition that leaves a warming cinnamon note lingering on my tongue.
In St. Lucia, it’s time for the signature Windstar beach BBQ. Royal blue beach umbrellas and chairs are set up along the buttery shores of Pigeon Island. Across the bay, the volcanic Pitons stand tall. I fill my plate with jerk chicken and mango salad and listen to the steel drums. The beats echo through my head. The homes are cotton-candy coloured in Guadeloupe’s Les Saintes, where stray orange cats walk on cobblestone streets, and the French influence can be found in wonderful crusty baguettes. Later in the week, we arrive just as the annual St. Barth Bucket Regatta is about to get underway, lavish international superyachts filling the marina. But my hair is fuzzy and my skin feels hot, so I head east to Nikki Beach, flopping down on a towel and muting the surrounding spring breakers making party plans. The only thing on my mind is a nap.
We disembark back at St. Maarten, where I have time to kill before my flight departs. I make my way to Sunset Beach, famous for its up close and personal view of flights coming in to land. Safely ensconced at the beach bar, I hold onto my trusty sun hat as planes descend at what feels like mere meters above my head. A man in front of me is craning his neck, attempting to catch the perfect Instagram-worthy shot.
“I missed it,” he says, shaking his head and letting out a sigh.
Me? I caught the whole thing.
Read more from our Summer 2019 issue here.