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As we strolled the streets of Gustavia, the Caribbean capital of St. Barts, we could see no hint of the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Shops bustled, gleaming mega-yachts filled the harbor, and the beach club on pretty Shell Beach at the edge of town hopped with swimsuit-clad vacationers downing bubbly and beer.
There’s no question that St. Barts is back in business. The destination is now a port of call for Star Clippers’ Star Flyer on its new Leeward Islands itinerary based out of St. Maarten.
The sailing ship, which finished a series of winter cruises in March, will repeat the weeklong itinerary again starting in December and continuing to spring 2020, then repeating in 2021.
The island of St. Maarten is also on the rebound. In addition to showing support for the island’s recovery, Mirell Reyes, president of Star Clippers Americas, says the line chose to sail roundtrip from the destination “to educate travelers that these islands are open and ready to receive visitors.”
Star Clippers is encouraged by the reports that St. Maarten, and so many of the islands affected by the 2017 hurricane season, are well on the road to recovery, Reyes adds.
Our favorite port was Terre de Haut, one of eight tiny islands that make up Iles des Saintes near Guadeloupe. Charming, with seaside cafes for whiling away time, the island felt like a tropical, laid-back version of France. We huffed our way up to the mid-1800s Fort Napoleon and its botanical gardens, and we were amused by the passing ATV-style buggies that islanders use to navigate the steep, narrow roads.
Another itinerary highlight was a beach barbecue in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. Climbing down a ladder from the tender at the water’s edge, we sloshed our way onto Pigeon Point Beach. Antigua is known for its 365 beaches and shallow, calm waters, but we felt that Pigeon Point must be one of the best as we helped ourselves to burgers, fish and salads. We then ate on the sand — plates balanced on our laps — while shaded by sea grape trees. And, as with all of Star Flyer’s beach stops, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and sailing dinghies were available for our complimentary use.
In addition to embarking and disembarking on St. Maarten, the cruise also calls on the islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe and Nevis. But instead of accessing the places where large ships dock, the vessel anchors off smaller ports, introducing guests to less frequented spots.
Star Flyer is ideally suited to this route, which is blessed by steady trade winds — the four-masted ship has 36,000 square feet of sails and is actually using them most of the time. Guests can also experience activities unique to the line, such as reclining in the widow’s net at the bow. But, while a true sailing ship, Star Flyer’s amenities — including an Edwardian-style library, two pools and live piano music during three-course dinners — would make Captain Jack Sparrow jealous.
For clients itching for more, there’s good news: Flying Clipper, the line’s first newbuild in 19 years, is currently under construction.
The Details Star Clipperswww.starclippers.com