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
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
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.
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.
They consist in large part of snorkeling, diving, beach parties, barbecues, and
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.