Flying Cloud, 1998
British Virgin Islands – March 15, 1998
Rick & Debbie Ball
We departed Cleveland early Friday morning, 3/13/98, as we planned a pre-cruise hotel package in St. Thomas. Our flight to Atlanta was uneventful. After a one-hour delay in Atlanta while they brought in a new plane, we finally arrived in St. Thomas at 3:30pm. It sure was warm albeit a bit cloudy as it had rained earlier. Took a taxi to the Windward Passage hotel at a cost of $4 per person. This hotel is nothing fancy and is not on the beach, but it has the advantage of being only five minutes from the main shopping area and quite near the airport. While waiting for the taxi, we met Tom, an attorney from Houston, another FC shipmate who turned out to have much in common with Rick. After checking in at the hotel, we walked a few blocks to the Greenhouse for drinks and to watch the foo-foo ships leave the harbor in the rain. We were tired from the day’s travels, so we headed back to the hotel by 10:30pm.
Saturday, 3/14/98 – St. Thomas
Walked to the Greenhouse again for breakfast. Spent the day shopping in St. Thomas ducking in and out of stores during intermittent rain showers. The bargains were good, as the foo-foo-ship passengers didn’t want to come all the way into town because of the rain. After “happy hour” at Fat Tuesdays, we had dinner with Tom in Frenchtown at a restaurant called Craig & Sally’s. Excellent food and atmosphere! I (Deb) was tired so I headed back to the hotel while Rick and Tom went to the bar at Hard Rock Café.
Sunday, 3/15/98 – Tortola
After breakfast at the Greenhouse again (nice waterfront views from this place!), we collected our bags at the hotel and walked across the street to the ferry. We were met by Pam from WJ who sold us our ferry tickets ($42 round trip per person) and instructed us in filling out the BVI immigration card. The Native Son ferry departed at 11:15am with a nearly empty boat and headed to West End on Tortola (we had thought we would be headed to Roadtown where the FC was anchored, but this 11:15 ferry went to West End instead, requiring a taxi ride back to Roadtown). The ferry ride lasted perhaps a little over an hour and afforded some great views of St. John and into the BVIs. At the BVI Customs, the agent asked me “Why haven’t you been to the BVIs before?” to which I replied “Because we’re stupid.” He then waved us through with a smile.
The taxi ride from West End on Tortola to Roadtown was maybe 15 minutes and gave us an opportunity to see more of Tortola. Nice island! At the Roadtown dock, we gave our bags over to some of the crew from the FC as they ran launches back out to the ship anchored in the harbor. Our first view of the Flying Cloud and she looked great! Since passengers cannot embark until 5:00pm, we headed to Pussers for drinks (those “painkillers” are great!) and lunch. Also searched around the small town for camera batteries (which we foolishly forgot to check before leaving home), to no avail as most places were closed on Sunday. Close to 5:00, we headed to the dock to await the FC launch and met several of our shipmates there.
Took the launch out to the FC and were met with rum swizzles and introduced to Allison, Kris, and Amy (activities director, purser, and “in-training” respectively). It felt GREAT to be aboard a WJ ship again!! We were shown to our cabin, threw down our carry-ons, took off the shoes, and headed topside for drinks, buffet dinner, and dancing to a steel drum band. That night we mingled and met many of our shipmates exchanging the “where are you from?” and “have you sailed WJ before?” phrases many times. This was the “stowaway night” and I think most WJ passengers elect to do this the night before the cruise departs. The Flying Cloud is very similar in size to the Yankee Clipper (our first previous WJ cruise), but I think the FC has a much nicer top deck with plenty of seating areas. With 59 passengers aboard, we were not quite full (capacity is 66 with a crew of 28).
Monday, 3/16/98 – Tortola
Capt. Adrian’s first “story time” introduced us to his dry wit. He is just great and keeps you laughing. We also met Icis, the ship’s cat, which had a certain fondness for sleeping right in front of our cabin door all week (since we’re animal lovers, we didn’t mind at all). Today we were offered the option of either the island tour or hiking tour, but we decided to simply take the launch back to the Roadtown dock and get our needed camera batteries. This didn’t take long as we were able to find an electronics store right in the dock area. Took the launch back to the ship and spent some time sunning on the top deck. Lunch consisted of baked potatoes with chili and cole slaw.
That afternoon was the first sailing. It was great to hear “Amazing Grace” played again while raising the sails! Enjoyed the afternoon sail while listening to my very favorite music by Enya (this must be a WJ tradition – great sailing music!) Capt. Adrian anchored the FC off of Salt Island followed by a very intensive lifejacket/lifeboat drill. This was one of the most thorough explanations we’ve ever received re. What to do in case of an emergency aboard ship, and I compliment Capt. Adrian on his thoroughness! This was followed by an opportunity to swim off the side of the ship and finally followed by “swizzle time” (yeah!) with pizza and fruit. Beautiful sunset this evening!
Dinner this evening was either blackened mahi-mahi or roast lamb followed by ice cream on the top deck. Allison, the activities director, then organized the passengers into four teams of 8 and we played “Naughty Nautical” (use your imagination – it defies explanation!) That night, several shipmates slept on deck with the blue mats despite the weather being a bit cloudy and breezy.
Tuesday, 3/17/98 – Mountain Point, Virgin Gorda
Breakfast consisted of pancakes and sausage. This morning the FC sailed to Mountain Point on Virgin Gorda. 14 divers departed the ship to do some scuba diving elsewhere. At Storytime, Capt. Adrian explained about the strong sun and some minor points of snorkeling for those that hadn’t tried it before (“If your legs get sunburned on top, you ain’t doin’ it right!”) Many passengers took the launch to the beach (wet landing in the sand) where we mostly had the beach to ourselves and enjoyed our first snorkeling of the trip. A pretty decent reef for snorkeling here! Lunch was on the beach with sub sandwiches and pasta salad. Allison then organized two co-ed teams for the “Wacky Olympics” (I won’t explain it – just remember that it consists of assorted fruit and a short swim.)
Tonight was the “PPPP” party where everyone (passengers AND crew!) is encouraged to dress up as assorted pirates, prostitutes, pimps, and the like. I managed to make it into the finals as a “profusely pregnant passenger in purple” thanks to the pillow borrowed from our top bunk. But Matt from AZ and Doug from BC were the definite “beauties” in their lovely prostitute attire. And Randy, the steward, is a real “looker” in a black evening gown! Dinner was buffet-style on the top deck with choice of flank steak, chicken, and fish, followed by dancing under the stars!
Wednesday, 3/18/98 – Spanishtown, Virgin Gorda
Today’s breakfast was scrambled eggs, ham, and biscuits while we were sailing to Spanishtown on the other side of Virgin Gorda. At Storytime, a private yacht sailed close by the side of the FC to which Capt. Adrian yelled over “Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?” When they didn’t reply, he said “Guess they don’t have any sense of humor either.” Most everyone spied the WJ sister ship – Legacy – in the harbor, but we were told that we couldn’t go aboard for a view of her as they were sailing early that day. Legacy looks nice, but I don’t see the wood on her that adds to the “character” and ambiance of the FC.
Rick and I elected to take the $14/pp Island tour of Virgin Gorda along with many other shipmates. We were fortunate to get seated in the cab with the driver; that was nice as we could hear and understand his explanations of things, whereas those in the back of the safari-bus couldn’t hear him too well. But the tour is a great way to see the best views of Virgin Gorda, definitely one of the prettiest islands in the Caribbean! Great views of Savannah Bay and distance views of many of the other islands in the BVIs, a stop at Little Dix Bay, the Copper Mine, and ended at the top of the hill near the Baths. Had lunch with many shipmates again at Mad Dogs (check out those…uh…”interesting” restrooms!). then took the rather rocky trail down to the beach. There is some snorkeling here, but the water was a bit stirred up with many “yachtie-types” coming in with their dinghies. Due to my history of knee problems and recent knee surgery, I chose not to take the hike to the rock formations (some crawling, some wading, some ladders) instead leaving Rick to do that and bring back pictures so I could see it later. Virgin Gorda is famous for these rock formations known as “The Baths” and Vogue Magazine was there doing a photo shoot! After the hike back to the top and a quick drink in a bar there with a nice view, we took a taxi with three shipmates back to the marina to catch the launch back to the ship.
This afternoon was the Wine N’ Cheese party where WJ supplies the cheese, fruit, and bread and passengers are encouraged to purchase a bottle of wine at the shops in Spanishtown. You can purchase a variety of decent wines at the shops in the marina for $10 to $15, and I thought this was a nice variation from the usual swizzle time.
That evening, Rick and I along with Tom and Scott & Lisa from CA elected to have dinner ashore at a great restaurant, the “Olde Yard Inn”. The steaks were great and the atmosphere very nice! After a taxi ride back to town, we all stopped for drinks at the Bath & Turtle where we ran into Allison, Amy, and Mitra from the ship’s crew, and we all caught the 10:00pm launch back to the ship. Very breezy tonight with some rain showers.
Thursday, 3/19/98 – Jost Van Dyke
We awoke to a very windy morning while sailing to Jost Van Dyke. Breakfast consisted of French toast and sausage. Because the wind was so strong (20 knots and gusting), Capt. Adrian told us at Storytime that he couldn’t take us to White Harbor, the preferred spot for snorkeling as we would have been sandblasted on the beach. Instead, we anchored among several other sailing yachts and catamarans at Great Harbor. Since sailing took most of the morning, we had an early buffet lunch topside (barbecued spare ribs!) and then took the launch to shore.
Jost Van Dyke is really a unique charming island. Not much there, Rudy’s at one end, Foxy’s bar at the other end, with a few T-shirt shops in-between, a small population, and I believe the island fairly recently finally got electricity! It’s a great place and so different from so many of the other Caribbean islands! It was still very windy and the water was too stirred up to snorkel, so we lazed away the afternoon in a hammock near Foxy’s Bar. Took a quick dip in the shallow water, then the launch back to the ship, followed by the Captain’s “Question & Answer Time” after swizzles.
About 40 of us went back ashore that evening for dinner at Rudy’s. Capt. Adrian gets a count at Storytime that morning of those pax wanting to eat at Rudy’s, then Rudy pulls his traps, and for $20 you can get fresh lobster or $15 for fresh catch-of-the-day fish or the famous “three-legged chicken”. This was a great experience and worth the money for a great dinner ashore! After dinner, most of us walked down to Foxy’s bar where there was a band playing. Lots of other “yachtie-types” there enjoying the evening, too.
That night, Rick and I decided to try sleeping on deck under the stars. Grabbed our blankets and each a blue deck mat and headed to the stern of the ship where the wind was least strong. This was something we had longed to try, and it was fun to fall asleep watching the ships mast rocking under the night sky. I lasted till about 2:20am when the rain hitting my face awakened me. Also, the diesel fumes exhausting from the rear mast were blowing my way and had me dreaming of working in a car factory, so I headed back down to the cabin. Rick slept topside until about 5:00am.
Friday, 3/20/98 – Peter Island
For those who keep track, breakfast this morning was corned beef hash and fried eggs. This was a VERY windy morning with very strong 30-knot winds. For most of the morning, the FC spent time trying to fight the strong current in an area known as “The Narrows”. Capt. Adrian explained that it was much like a garden hose squeezed by one’s finger to create a strong current, and that the FC’s small engine had trouble fighting that current. Too windy to put the sails up. Some of us watched the homes on the hillside of one of the islands as we barely moved. Despite the situation, this time offered an opportunity to relax in the sun, read, and nap. Since it was too windy to do a buffet lunch topside, lunch consisted of hamburgers in the dining saloon below deck.
This afternoon, we anchored off of Peter Island and the divers departed (via “Blue Water Divers”, the dive boat company) to dive the wreck of the Rhone. After Storytime and Capt. Adrian’s information regarding departure the next day, we took the launch to the rocky beach and got our last chance at snorkeling. Here we saw a variety of fish, some foot-long squid, and a few even saw some sea turtles! Then back to the ship for swizzle time and closing out shipboard accounts with the purser in the dining saloon. And finally the last raising of the sails to the sounds of “Amazing Grace” and sailing back to the Roadtown harbor at Tortola. It was sad to end the week all too soon in the same harbor where it all began last Monday.
Donned fresh T-shirts for this evening’s Captains Dinner (wahoo fish or prime rib). We were treated to Capt. Adrian eating at our table with us at the late seating, his great stories and humor, and then drinks with him topside at the bar. Dessert was specially created on the top deck by Chief Steward, Sam, preparing the special bananas flambeau. Can’t light THAT anywhere below considering all the wood on this fine ship! Amy, Allison, and Kris organized the crab races, and I was wonderfully surprised by betting on all three winners of the three “heats” knowing I had a sure winner going into the final race. Great fun! Also signed up on the board in the dining saloon for the morning “knock up”.
Saturday, 3/21/98 – Depart FC and on to St.Thomas
We awoke all too soon to the requested 6:30am “knock up” (WJ’s version of a wake up call). It was sad to say goodbye to all our newfound friends at the 7:00am buffet breakfast. We were fortunate that we didn’t have to race to get off for the early flight out as we had arranged a post-cruise hotel package again in St. Thomas. Grabbed our luggage and took the launch on a very rocky trip across the harbor to the ferry dock (out of all the launch rides that week, THIS last one was the one where we got soaked by a wave!) Caught the 8:45am Native Son ferry for the trip back to St. Thomas and slept most of the way back. Then walked across the street again to the Windward Passage hotel, checked in at 10:30am, and were off soon thereafter to take a cab to Sapphire Beach (taxi cost $11.00 for the two of us).
Sapphire Beach is on the far end of St. Thomas and offers beautiful views of the BVIs in the distance as well as the most gorgeous turquoise and aqua water I think I’ve ever seen! We were pleasantly surprised to find that Sapphire Beach was not just any old public beach, but rather a resort hotel on the grounds, so we managed to get some lounge chairs in the shade to park our stuff and headed out to the water for our last snorkeling. We were also SO fortunate that the weather was absolutely gorgeous today!! The snorkeling was quite good here; we went in twice stopping for lunch in-between at the Sapphire Resort’s poolside café. By 4:00pm, we took a cab back to the Windward Passage hotel, showered etc., then headed back to Fat Tuesdays again for happy hour and to watch those foo-foo ships leaving the harbor (I just loved doing this!)
Had 7:30 reservations again at Craig & Sally’s restaurant in Frenchtown. It was so good the first time a week ago, we just had to go back for the great steak with portabello mushrooms, Pastiche wine, and the BEST EVER dessert of a parfait combination of fudge brownie, Bailey’s, and cream. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Sunday, 3/22/98 – Departing St. Thomas
Our last vacation day, so to make the most of it, we got up early, did the complimentary continental breakfast at the hotel, then headed into town for some last minute shopping as most stores are open from 9:00 until 1:00 on Sundays. Got caught in a few rain showers again as we ducked in and out of various stores doing some jewelry shopping, etc. Finally stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Café, walked back to the hotel to check out by 1:00pm, and then caught a cab to the airport (cab ticket was provided by WJ in the cost of the ferry trip we had paid earlier).
All tourists are encouraged to arrive at the STT airport at least two hours prior to departure in order to clear customs, etc. We arrived by 1:30 for a planned 3:40pm departure, but when we arrived at the airport, we were informed that all planes were delayed. It seems outgoing flights out of NYC were delayed due to snowstorms and flights in and out of Miami were delayed due to thunderstorms. So we never actually got off the ground from STT until almost 5:30pm. This worked to our advantage as we originally were supposed to have had a two-hour layover in the Miami airport, and as it was we were able to spend that two hours in the outdoor sun in St. Thomas.
Nevertheless, once we landed in Miami, we had six minutes to run, change concourses, and catch our return flight to Cleveland. But we managed, and after a fun-filled week, we finally arrived home dead tired around 11:30pm.
This was almost a perfect vacation for us! Maybe it’s just that we needed it so much, but we were really able to relax and enjoy things despite any potential inconveniences. We met some really great people on this trip, and very much enjoyed the Flying Cloud! This ship is beautiful and her great crew adds so much to the ambiance. If we have any disappointment, it might be that we weren’t able to help with the raising of the sails and enjoying “Amazing Grace” (as much as we did on the Yankee Clipper) since most of this is done early in the morning as FC most always sails early in the day. Also, we would have enjoyed more snorkeling time, but this is certainly no fault of WJ as the weather surely contributed to our not being able to get into the choicest snorkeling spots. All in all, we had a GREAT trip on the Flying Cloud and will surely sail the BVIs with WJ again. We are also looking forward to another WJ trip perhaps early 1999! These casual, barefoot cruises suit our tastes just fine!! It would also be great to have some of our shipmate friends sail with us again!!