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Squeezed between hefty liners in St. Maarten’s port, easyCruise
looks like a minnow among whales. We sit in our modest hot tub,
sipping cocktails, while hulls of other ships tower above us and,
from their cabins, the liners’ passengers peer down upon us like
bees from hives.
The budget cruise brand, founded by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the
upstart patron of European low-cost carrier easyJet and a recent
convert to the importance of travel agents (the company now offers
agent commission), is in its second Caribbean season, and it sticks
a thumb in the eye of an industry stampeding toward luxury and
insularity. It’s probably easiest to think of the concept as a
cross between a taxi and a floating hotel: Over seven days,
easyCruiseOne, our 86-cabin vessel (in another life, it was
Renaissance Cruises’ Renaissance II) does a six-island Caribbean
circuit, calling on St. Maarten on Friday and Monday, along with
St. Barts, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis and Antigua.
The vessel motors a few hours each night to the next port, while
most aboard are asleep. Passengers can hop on and off wherever they
want, with a two-night minimum. And, if prices were any lower, the
boat would have oars: from $33.75 per night per twin cabin, and
rising to about twice that with demand. Split between two, that’s
$17 a night. In St. Barts, your lunch alone will cost more.
The trade-off, of course, is a truncated list of amenities. Cabins
are Spartan and sleek. Not quite seven feet wide, doubles are
impeccably clean and, on first sight, shockingly basic twin beds on
a low graphite-colored pedestal, a shelf, a few coat hangers and a
glass cubicle that contains a shower, push-button toilet, and a
stylish elliptical sink. No phone, no TV, no closet, not a stick of
furniture. There is barely enough room at the foot of the bed to
slide a piece of carry-on rollaway luggage. Even housekeeping
services are an additional $10 per use.
My fellow passengers range from college-age to gray, and all have
one thing in common: a desire to dig into the destinations. Most
days, no one has to be back onboard until around two in the
One of the unexpected pleasures of easyCruise takes place around
dinnertime at the larger ports. That’s when the mighty cruise ships
lumber off, leaving us alone to enjoy the panorama and, after dark,
savor the true flavor of the islands without hordes of tourists. We
eat like locals and feel like yachties.
At night, an onboard party promoter spins at the outdoor Sun and
Moon Cafe on deck 5, but most of us arrive back onboard exhausted
by days of hiking, snorkeling and sun bathing, and can muster just
a few minutes of soaking in the tub before retiring.
During the day, easyCruise goes mostly empty, not that there’s
much to do onboard anyway. The two bars, a tiny gym, sun deck,
sauna, extra-fee Web terminals and hot tub remain open but they’re
mostly for rainy days. There is an onboard restaurant, “Fusion on
4,” that offers moderately priced a la carte dishes.
The ship’s cruise director offers excursions (priced around $15 to
$35), but most passengers are only interested in arranging
transportation. For them, easyCruise is a means to reach places
previously beyond their reach or budget; if they had wanted
convenience and service, they’d be wearing a tuxedo on one of those
giants, somewhere at sea.
EasyCruiseOne offers its Caribbean itinerary based around
Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, through April 12. From May to October,
it will embark on a two-week circuit of the Greek Islands and