Sailing in a
Text and photos by Robert W. Bone
Aboard SeaDream II, in the Caribbean—When is a cruise ship
not a cruise ship? The answer: when it is a “megayacht.”
That’s the term loyalists apply to this small but snazzy
ship. It’s one of a set of twins that make up not your
average cruise line. This is the SeaDream Yacht Club, if you
please. Each of these vessels boasts a modest maximum of
only 50 staterooms. Ergo, those of us who might be listed as
merely passengers elsewhere are automatically enrolled as
club members at SeaDream.
Seated in one of the ship’s two – count ’em – restaurants
(one indoor; one outdoor), I mentioned to my wife that I
thought I might miss the lectures, classes, and large choice
of programs we have experienced on some of the grand
leviathans sailing the world’s oceans.
“Not me,” Sara said. “I really like getting to know
She was right. On our one-week voyage in March, we become
closely acquainted with most of the 82 passengers aboard –
what they did, where they lived, and something about the
lives of their parents, children, and grandchildren. We also
came to know many of the crew, who numbered more than the
passengers, eventually promising them to write and, of
course, exchange pictures. This was also a crew that seemed
happy to serve, even though they are not supposed to be
tipped at the end of the voyage. Most memorized our names
from day one.
In the most important ways, our megayacht measured up in
luxury amenities to its larger cousins, plus adding a few
special touches of its own. The cabin included a shower with
three nozzles, and on the first night at sea we received
pajamas with our names embroidered on the breast.
The ship has a
handsome library, stocked with popular best-sellers and DVD
movies for the more sedentary guests. There is internet
access in the library, which is a service also available for
laptops in the individual staterooms.
But the SeaDream II is an especially active ship for folks
who want to be active. For those who go ashore on port
calls, there is usually a new town to explore every day. The
organized shore excursions mostly emphasize vigorous
adventure. When the passengers are not riding ATVs on dirt
roads and sand dunes, they’re sliding along zip lines,
diving, snorkeling, or swimming off pristine deserted
On days when you don’t leave the ship, you can check out the
on-board water sports opportunities. When ocean conditions
allow, the special marina down at the deck just above sea
level is opened up to all members for aquatic fun, including
riding water skis, jet skis, or the hilariously unstable
banana boat. Falling off the banana seems to be the standard
way of disembarking from it.
One day, we saw a grinning Captain Erik Anderssen, 58,
hot-dogging around his ship astride a jet ski and generally
having a good time along with the passengers. Some members
of the crew also participated. That fellow we saw on a
speedboat towing the water skiers turned out to be “Bobby,”
who entertains at the piano bar or in the lounge during the
Captain Anderssen, like many of his fellow cruise ship
masters, is a good-natured Norwegian sailor. He has never
commanded a large ship, and says he has no desire to do so.
There was also a time he never intended to do anything but
crew on freighters.
“I wouldn’t have anything to do with cruise ships. I was a
Popeye the sailor man!” he laughed. He likes to tell the
story that when he was first given a job on a cruise ship,
in 1985, he was embarrassed because he couldn’t read the
menu – a document that typically described foods in rather
Captain Erik Anderssen, master of SeaDream II, on
“I knew what
soup was, but I had never heard of a consommé,” he said. “I
knew what pancakes were, but not crêpes.” Now he heads one
of the most luxurious vessels afloat, whose meals are
generally acknowledged to be of gourmet quality and the
evening’s selected wines are included for no extra charge.
Now the captain often dines with the passengers,
entertaining his table with tales of his sea experiences.
Anderssen says he likes captaining the SeaDream II because
he often runs into the same cruisers. SeaDream claims that
28 percent of its passengers… er, members… are repeaters.
Experienced cruisers also may have known Anderssen when he
captained ships of the Seabourn Cruise line, a fleet of
vessels that are somewhat larger than the two SeaDream
craft. We discovered that we had traveled together on the
Seabourn Spirit back in 1992, and agreed that we probably
didn’t recognize each other because in the interim I had
grown a beard and he had shaved one off.
Anderssen is proud of his small ship and has every
confidence she can weather everything a larger one can.
Pressed for an example, he recalled sailing through a
hurricane off Nova Scotia in 1996. The ship was headed at
full speed for Halifax. But then Halifax suddenly radioed
that the port was closed. So there was nothing to do but to
ride it out at sea.
During the worst of the wind and waves, throughout an
evening and most of the early morning, no food was served –
only soft drinks, he said. The pitching and rolling was so
strong, that he spoke to the passengers every five minutes
assuring them that the ship was doing fine, and giving them
the latest information on the storm. Many had donned life
jackets – not because they were ordered to do so, but just
because they felt more secure for it. In any case, both ship
and all on board came through the experience unscathed.
SeaDream megayachts, SeaDream I & SeaDream
II sail seasonally both in the Caribbean and in
the Mediterranean/Aegean. Fares for one-week cruises
on either of the two ships usually begin at around
$3,000 and run up to around $7,000 per person,
depending on dates and itineraries. More
information, including detailed itineraries, is
available from the company’s web site at
We had no such
difficult experience on our own week-long Caribbean voyage,
although normal winds and waves sometimes forced a change in
where the ship could anchor. Partly for this reason our
itinerary along the Yucatan peninsula is being changed next
winter for a different one in the Caribbean, sailing mainly
out of St. Thomas to other islands of the Lower Antilles.
Anderssen explained that when the ship travels through the
islands, instead of along a coastline, it is much easier to
find a shoreline providing a comfortable anchorage.
a certain amount of adventure in sailing on a smaller ship.
Anderssen recalls that on another Caribbean voyage he joked
during his introductory talk to the passengers that he just
might call in at the island of St. Maarten, which was not on
the itinerary. “Just to get a smile out of the passengers, I
told them that I had a girlfriend there,” he said.
But as luck would have it, indeed the ship did need to stop
at St. Maarten, but only because of some unusual sea
conditions. Most passengers were happy with the unexpected
stop. But later, when the captain read the end-of-cruise
comment cards, he saw one from a passenger criticizing him
for including the island “just so he could see his girl
Anderssen, who is a long-time married man, with two sons,
and two grandchildren, said he loved that comment.
“I had the card framed and now it’s up on my wall!” he said.
writer Robert W. Bone has been writing about cruise ships
and cruising since 1982.