Last updated: 05:36 PM ET, Sun March 29 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | March 29, 2015 5:36 PM ET

    St. Vincent and the Grenadines are in the Small Ship Spotlight

    St. Vincent and the Grenadines are in the Small Ship Spotlight

    Photo courtesy of Island Windjammers

    St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Windward Islands) have been attracting smaller cruise lines that offer the destination as an alternative to the highly-trafficked ports of call for mega cruise ships. With a recent increase in passengers visiting the 32-island chain and a new style of carefree cruising developing in the area, the Grenadines are in the cruise spotlight.

    In 2014, the number of cruise passengers visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines rose to 85,170 – up from 80,185 in 2013. Although the numbers are lower than previous years, there has been a steady increase the last three years. The islands even dedicated the entire month of November as “Tourism Month,” with plenty of entertainment and events. Local artisans and vendors also went through training with the Ministry of Tourism to aid them in bettering their products.

    Recently, P&O Cruises’ Adonia, the smallest ship in the fleet (710 passengers) called on Bequia – marking a first for the U.K.-based company. In addition, Princess Cruises’ 680-passenger Ocean Princess will include St. Vincent on a rare holiday voyage this December.

    On shore, passengers are treated to a rainforest environment ripe with eco-adventures, stunning beaches, and historic towns like St. Vincent – dotted with cobblestone streets. The waters are perfect for snorkeling and diving, and around Easter, the island of Bequia continues its maritime tradition with the annual sailing regatta.

    The area is extremely popular for sailing charters, and in recent years two new windjammer cruises have attracted a strong following of passengers seeking a different style of cruising. These tall ship cruises offer a relaxed pace and a chance to “unplug” from technology. Regularly-scheduled, seven-night voyages are available from Grenada to a Bequia, Carriacou, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, and Union Island, among others.

    In November 2009, Island Windjammers’ 12-passenger Diamant set sail for the first time to fill the void left by the much loved cruise line, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises when it ceased operations. They quickly gained a following after earning rave reviews, and in 2013, a second ship, Sagitta (24 passenger capacity) joined the fleet, continuing the free-spirited nature of the cruise. The company knows how to have fun, with rum and pirate-themed cruises, a blog documenting the adventures, and an annual cruise sale they call “booty call.”

    In 2012, another tall sailing ship company, Sail Windjammers, debuted, marking a return of a favorite vessel, the historic MV Mandalay, a 58-passenger vessel that sailed under Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Cruises include three meals a day, Bloody Marys and pastries in the morning, and rum swizzle cocktails in the evening.

    Other cruise lines with small ships call on the area (although are not based here year round), including Windstar, Star Clippers, Ponant, and Sea Cloud – but are geared more toward luxury travelers.

    When cruising to the Grenadines, many of these ships embark from the nearby nation of Grenada, which has also had an increase in cruise performance (up 19 percent from 2013), and saw 11 inaugural calls in 2014.                 

    Despite increasing numbers, the Windward Islands remain a refreshing alternative to the “tourist traps,” found where large vessels dock (like Nassau, Grand Cayman, and St.Maarten). With many small-ship options coming in and out of the area, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are an ideal place to fall in love with the sea all over again.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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