Singled out: Windjammer's itinerary a match for the unattached

Jonathan Siskin sampled a Caribbean singles' cruise aboard Windjammer Barefoot Cruises' Polynesia.

MIAMI BEACH -- Operating the largest cruise fleet of tall ships, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises here has carved a niche in the marketplace by offering a casual, "wind in your hair" experience that captures the romance of sailing on the high seas.

In operation since 1947, when the line was founded by Capt. Mike Burke, Windjammer has six ships, ranging in capacity from 64 to 122 passengers, that sail year-round in the Caribbean on more than 50 itineraries.

Our 238-foot-long, 430-ton, four-masted schooner was built at a Dutch shipyard in 1938 and entered service as the Argus, a Portuguese cod-fishing vessel.

The ship was acquired by Windjammer in 1975, underwent a refurbishment and was rechristened the Polynesia. Its interior features wood paneling, and it has a teak deck.

Rates start at $700 per person for a six-day sailing.

Sleeping on deck proved popular.My cruise sailed roundtrip from Castries, St. Lucia, and visited Marigot Bay, St. Lucia; Dominica; Ile de Saintes, and Martinique.

"Sit back, relax, kick off your smelly shoes and enjoy a rum," read the welcome message scrawled on the Polynesia's time board as passengers embarked; Windjammer's complimentary rum concoctions, a long-time company tradition, are served every evening around sunset.

After meeting several of my fellow singles, it was apparent that some had come aboard seeking a love connection, while others were there to enjoy the fun and sun.

Ages of passengers ranged from 20-something college grads to a few 60-plus retirees. Most were in their mid-30s to mid-40s and included a dot-com executive from Phoenix; a social worker from Kansas City, Mo.; a border patrol agent from Laredo, Texas, and an engineer from Tallahassee, Fla.

Most passengers were Americans, with a smattering of British and Australians.

In order to get to know each other better, passengers were invited to play a matching word game, the first of several singles-oriented events.

The word game was initiated during the boarding process, when each passenger had to pick a word out of a hat -- the men picked words from one hat and the women from a second hat. The object of the game was to locate the member of the opposite sex who had the appropriate matching word.

Windjammer's Polynesia.The reward for finding your match was a free drink.

Other games and events over the course of the cruise included a pajama evening -- passengers wore their sleeping attire to dinner -- a treasure hunt and a masquerade party.

Activities aboard ship included a performance by a troupe of dancers from Dominica, crab races, a wine and cheese party and performances by local bands from St. Lucia.

When sea conditions were right, the captain would signal the crew to begin raising the ship's four giant sails to the melodic sounds of "Amazing Grace" being played over the public address system.

Passengers had the option of helping to hoist the sails.

Breakfast was served daily from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and consisted of melon, cereals, croissants and muffins, eggs, pancakes and French toast.

All meals were open seating at tables of eight. Lunch and dinner were served buffet-style on the top deck.

While not gourmet quality, the food was quite tasty and portions more than sufficient. A typical dinner menu included fish and meat dishes, such as barbecue chicken and ribs, and baked snapper with a mushroom-tomato salad, plus beans and rice, and dessert.

Each day's schedule was posted on the time board by the Polynesia's activities director, who doubled as shore excursion manager and facilitator of evening events.

There were a few scheduled activities during the day, including lectures about the history of the island we would visit that day and recommendations on what to see and do on shore.

Passengers had the option of joining organized excursions or exploring on their own.

I most enjoyed Dominica, where I took a rain forest hike.

The island, which is among the Caribbean's least-developed islands, is home to some amazingly colorful tropical birds, including florescent hummingbirds and purple-breasted imperial parrots.

Of the Polynesia's 57 cabins, 40 are standard (inside) cabins. Each includes an upper and lower berth plus a small bathroom with shower.

There are 12 deck cabins with portholes and two admiral suites with a refrigerator and a porthole. The least expensive accommodations sleep six in dormitory-style rooms.

Windjammer offers a limited number of singles-only sailings each year. Call Windjammer at (800) 327-2601 or visit the company's Web site at www.windjammer.com for a schedule of singles cruises for 2001.

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