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Windjammer Barefoot Cruises

Company Overview
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises started about as humbly as a cruise line can start, when founder Captain Mike Burke agreed to transport a lone passenger aboard his dilapidated 70-foot ketch in 1947. Today, the cruise line sails four vintage tall ships, and commands a popularity with its audience that other cruise lines envy. The company has a loyal and steady following, supported by a web site where passengers can book a cruise and exchange information on the busy message boards. The ships are in basically fine shape, but they do not dock in U.S. ports because of the captain's desire not to have to adhere to strict Coast Guard regulations concerning the use of combustible materials in construction (the exception is the Legacy). So, if you are going aboard, you will do so from a Caribbean island.

Today, the captain's daughter, Susan Burke, is at company helm, and Windjammer today has a well-deserved reputation as non-stop fun party boats where almost anything can, and usually does, happen. The working boats are the Legacy, Mandalay, Polynesia, and Yankee Clipper, all formerly yachts of the rich and famous, and the supply vessel Amazing Grace.

A strict no-smoking policy is rightly enforced below decks.

Windjammer now offers some of cruising's most irresistible bargains year-round in the Caribbean, mostly on six-night cruises to untouristed (that is, unruined) little islands other cruise lines go right past; if you love snorkeling or the idea of a "barefoot" cruise, welcome aboard!

Sailing biweekly, Amazing Grace offers a uniquely casual and relatively cheap way to visit a dozen ports between Grand Bahama Island and Trinidad.

The Windjammer Experience:
No one at sea is more laid back than Windjammer. Passengers may no longer be encouraged to climb the riggings, and there may be curtains in the dining saloon, but nobody � that is, nobody -- "dresses" for dinner. The captain still walks around barefoot, in shorts, and free rum swizzles are still dispensed at cocktail hour � just as Bloody Mary's are at breakfast. The nearest thing to regimentation you'll experience is the Captain's day-starting "Story Time," during which he'll tell you all about the port you'll soon be visiting, provided his whim doesn't send you to another one! Sometimes, it is rumored, everything he tells you is a complete fabrication. Ah, the traditions of Caribbean sailing vessels!

The food's good, and there's plenty of it, but nobody's going to mistake it for gourmet. There are no TVs in the cabins, except the occasional crossdresser. Fancy yourself a mariner? Well, the crew will be more than happy to let you help them hoist sails. There are a toga party and pirate night. But a night of drunken revelry is not needed for an excuse to find passengers sleeping on deck under the stars.

Accommodations are small, a bit spartan, and more likely to remind you of summer camp than a cruise ship, especially the ones with shared shower and bathroom facilities. Leave these accommodation to the youth hostel crowd. For grown-ups, there is a variety of cabins with upper and lower bunks and a shower and toilet. The cheapest rooms have as many as six bunks for those who want to pretend they're sailing under Admiral Nelson. As at summer camp, any booze you bring aboard will be confiscated by the crew. Unlike summer camp, you can buy "Drinker's Doubloons," exchangeable for bar drinks, or just wait until happy hour, when the rum flows free.

In the evenings (most between-ports sailing is at night to maximize the time passengers have to veg out on the beach) you can bet on horseshoe crab races.

Fellow Passengers:
You may find yuppies in designer wire-frame glasses; sailor wannabes, and beach bums, all of whom get along remarkably well after cashing in a few Drinker's Doubloons, but for the most part you're going to hear the word "party" whelped out several times a night. Most cruises have plenty of singles on board batting eyelashes and submitting to the woo of romantic moonlight. Most single passengers are between 25 and 50, but you will see the odd family on Legacy during the summer.

Shore Excursions:
They consist in large part of snorkeling, diving, beach parties, barbecues, and picnics.

Taking The Kids:
Excellent programs for adventurous "Junior Jammers" ages 6-11 and "Teen Jammers" 12-17 are offered on selected sailings from May through August; kids sail free on some when accompanied by both parents in the same cabin. The program is limited to 20 children. Call Windjammer to find out about other restrictions.

Theme Cruises and Special Activities:
Marriage, renewal of vows and honeymoon packages are all offered, as too are a variety of theme cruises. See the CruiseMates theme cruise page for a list.

Tips are at passengers' discretion ($75 per passengers is recommended), and are handed out on the last day, to be shared equally by the entire crew. Do not try to tip the officers; they will be sorely offended.


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Ship Reviews
  • Amazing Grace
  • Legacy
  • Mandalay
  • Polynesia
  • Yankee Clipper


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