Sea days are seen as boring by some, but they were our favorite on our Butterfly Islands trip with Explora Journeys and we had an interesting time at Spanish Town too.
My travel agency earned a complimentary cruise with Explora Journeys but we have also purchased several more tickets because we love the product. This trip report traces that journey taken in late November 2023.
Trip Report Table Of Contents
- Miami: Kimpton Epic
- Explora Journeys
- Key West, Florida
- Sea Days
- Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda)
- St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
- Deshaies, Guadeloupe
- Gustavia, St Barth’s
- Basseterre, St. Kitt’s and Nevis
- Castries, St. Lucia
- Bridgetown, Barbados
Why We Loved Sea Days
Some travelers that cruise loathe sea days. Everything onboard is crowded as no one is coming to and from the shore. However, we had two sea days from Key West to Spanish Town (Virgin Groda, British Virgin Islands) and soaked it all in. In addition to a lazy schedule that felt every bit of a vacation, we got to soak in what the ship had to offer and explore.
Our daughter went to the Nautilus Club and spent most of the next two days there, in fact, every free moment thereafter she was back there when she could be. We were surprised that she enjoyed the kids club as much as she did but it makes sense. There were only about 20 kids onboard, it was staffed by two consistent and lovely attendents, Fatima and Elsa were amazing. But this isn’t a standard kids club. There was a pool table, XBox, PlayStation 5 with VR, karaoke, but also structured activities.
Her favorite was a movie on the pool deck just for the kids that was staffed with servers bringing popcorn, sodas, and cookies with wireless noise cancelling headphones so everyone could listen at their own volume but without making a sound.
Three of the restaurants onboard are smaller and as such, they require reservations: Marble & Co. (steakhouse), Sakura (Asian fusion), and Anthologie (Michelin menu and staff.) Because everyone is onboard during sea days, reservations are hard to come by. However, we spent more time in the Emporium Market during the sea days and really put the menu through the paces.
The ship doesn’t have a buffet onboard, but Emporium is the closest that Explora comes to a buffet given that there’s a variety of cuisines on offer and service is relatively fast. Want a custom pizza? The pizzaiolo (as Italian as they come) will make whatever you want. Couldn’t get into Sakura? A sushi chef is rolling fresh rolls. For breakfast, pancakes, waffles, and crepes are available, but I didn’t see french toast and decided to request it. It was brought out shortly thereafter, just for us.
I really couldn’t have asked for more and it was all high-end restaurant quality.
The spa includes a barber shop and beauty parlor, massage rooms, and a shop. In addition to those services, there is a large hydrotherapy pool, a sauna, a steam room, a salt room, an outdoor spa space, and then a shaved ice dispenser.
Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands)
After two days at sea, we arrived at Virgin Gorda, our first trip to any of the British Virgin Islands. One of the unique aspects of Explora Journeys is that they mostly offer one-way trips. This means that they don’t spend time returning to their departure port and can get farther away.
While it is a smaller ship (capacity of just 900 pasengers across 461 suites), some ports are still too small for any ship to dock and the Explora 1 must deliver passengers by tender. In fact, this was the case for most of the ports on our itinerary. The ship ran three concurrent tenders, and we never waited more than five minutes to join a boat nor to leave a port.
While we arrived at a dock that appeared to have some sort of customs functionality, we were never approached by anyone or asked to show our passports or documentation. We went on our way and hired a truck to take us to The Baths National Park. It was a welcome sight because we often rode a “song tow” or “two bench” under a covered bed of a pickup truck throughout Thailand.
The Baths are a series of large white granite rocks, beach, and caves. It’s a pristene portion of the Caribbean with excellent snorkeling.
We took the song tow to the Top of the Baths restaurant but before descending, it began to rain. We decided we would opt for a nice lunch at the restuarant, take a dip in their pool, and play it by ear. After 90 minutes or so, the weather hadn’t improved and we opted to head back knowing that we would return in February for a second attempt.
There are scant resort options on the island, the Rosewood Little Dix Bay starts at $1,500/nt. A bit farther east near the North Sound Bay is the Bitter End Yacht Club with some 4-star options nearby and about two miles north across the water is Richard Branson’s Necker Island with rates starting just $5,400/nt with a required four-night stay. Some day, Mr. Branson… some day.
Returning to the port via song tow again, there was a refreshment station from Explora standing by. Staff checked our ship room cards before allowing us back on the tender, we returned to the ship and boarded and made it back in time for gelato by the pool.
Our trip on Explora didn’t make the most of our time at Spanish Town but we did love the sea days. We will make a better effort the next time – rain or shine – to see the Baths and enjoy some of this natural paradise. We can’t wait for our February return.
What do you think? Do you enjoy sea days? Have you been to Spanish Town, how was your experience?