I’ll be perfectly honest. Cruises are not my thing. I find the thought of traveling on one of those megalithic floating-food-and-entertainment vacation machines a little less than appealing, to put it lightly.
But the rising popularity of smaller-scale alternatives got me wondering whether there might be a variation of water-based travel out there to suit those looking for something more personal. I found it in the Exumas aboard The Moorings 5800 Legacy, a luxuriously appointed chartered catamaran.
Explore islands less travelled
The Exumas are a relatively lesser travelled and more spread out collection of cays in the Bahamas, largely inaccessible to big cruise ships. A Caribbean sailing yacht charter takes you beyond the crowded ports of call to more remote islands, footprint-free sandy beaches and breathtaking natural wonders you often have all to yourself.
With an intimate crew of two and just four other passengers, I was able to feel that genuine sense of unplugging fully. The catamaran has a perfect balance of indoor and outdoor common areas and private spaces, with plenty of options for sunbathing or shade. Rooms were bright and comfortable with a surprising amount of closet space. Best of all, they each had private ensuite bathrooms!
Scope movie-worthy snorkelling spots
Whether you want to go snorkelling, kayaking or paddleboarding, all the gear is provided onboard. So you can hop into the water whenever the mood strikes.
Just off the coast of Norman’s Cay, an island reputedly used as a drug-smuggling pit stop between Colombia and the United States in the 1970s, are the remains of a WWII era C-46 cargo plane. When the tide is low you can see the protruding shards of metal, its half-submerged body now home to plentiful shoals of fish. Many rumours surround this fascinating wreckage, so ask your captain to regale you with the stories before you strap on your snorkel gear. An underwater camera is highly recommended.
Not one but two James Bond movies were filmed at Thunderball Grotto on Staniel Cay. Swim through a narrow entranceway into this amphitheatre-like cave. Make hand signals at your fellow travellers underwater, pretending you too are a secret agent on an important mission to save the world.
Get (really) close to unique wildlife
Feed the famous swimming pigs (and get all your obligatory Instagram shots) on Staniel Cay, a famed Caribbean sailing spot. Once bred for food on a neighbouring cay, the pigs were shipped to empty Staniel Cay when they started to bother residents. They’ve since taken a liking to their own private island and today they roam wild and free, enjoying a varied diet of whatever their human visitors didn’t finish at lunch.
Throughout the waters of the Exumas you will spot the so-called gentle nurse shark. They come to feed and socialize at marinas in places like Highbourne Cay and Staniel Cay. If you can bring yourself to stretch out a hand in the presence of these majestic creatures, they really enjoy getting their noses rubbed. They will jostle for the privilege as you try to resist the urge to flee in the opposite direction.
On Allen’s Cay you’ll find endangered northern Bahamian rock iguanas that are endemic to the Exumas. They’re partial to cilantro but don’t care much for radishes.
Sandy Cay is a small and totally deserted stretch of sand and palm trees with the remnants of a shelter now in ruins. The only residents here are tiny hermit crabs that scuttle busily this way and that.
This is a good spot to end the day. Make sure you stay for the sunset to get some idyllic photos that won’t need editing afterwards.
Enjoy bespoke itineraries and private chef dinners
Your captain is at your service. Together you can create a custom itinerary based on exactly where you want to go and what you want to do. Change your mind halfway through? No problem. The Moorings’ captains know their waters like the back of their hands and will serve as your expert guides throughout.
Hire a chef for your journey and you’ll get to enjoy freshly cooked meals with local ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Often served al fresco on the back deck.
If you’re lucky and your captain is into fishing, he may catch you some lobsters or mahi mahi en route. They can impressively accommodate even the most specific of dietary restrictions for each individual traveller.
A Caribbean sailing adventure to remember
But one of the things I loved most about our journey through the Exumas were the lasting human connections I made aboard. Our delightful and down-to-earth captain and chef, Will and Nicole, felt like old friends by the time we docked back in Nassau. It seemed as if we’d shared a lifetime of stories and experiences with each other in just one week on the water. That personal touch left me feeling deeply nourished both physically and mentally.
This wasn’t just another warm-weather cruise. It was an adventure I’ll never forget.
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