Have you ever dreamed of chartering an all-inclusive, crewed luxury yacht with your friends or family, and sailing along the Caribbean’s stunning coastline for a week? Who hasn’t, right?!
I’ve been invited to experience it in Belize in the past, but I could never fit several days of sailing into my busy guidebook writer schedule. Besides, even then I’d be traveling with strangers. So when Chrissann, the founder of Women Who Live on Rocks, invited me to join her and five fellow Caribbean content creators to sail the US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands for four days on a crewed, all inclusive luxury charter catamaran, it was a no brainer.
From our fully-equipped, fully-stocked, environmentally-friendly yacht and cozy cabins on The Viramar to the chef-prepared meals we had on board and offshore, the scenery along the Virgin Islands, and the fun we had on the water at our various stops – I’m convinced there’s little that compares to a charter sailing trip across the Caribbean.
But here’s the catch: not all boats are created equal. As I’m about to show you in this post and in images, you won’t find one as loved, cared for, as green, and as equipped for fun as The Viramar. Here’s why.
I. The crew: Erika & Tyler Boruff
Chartering the most luxurious of yachts and sailing across paradise won’t mean anything unless you have the right crew.
It all starts and ends with them.
We were beyond lucky to have this multitalented couple lead us for four days and make us feel right at home on this yacht they love so much and live on year round.
Captain Tyler and his wife and first mate/Chef Erika are an incredible pair on and off duty – and that’s what makes The Viramar stand out from the pack.
They’re accommodating, patient, hard working, and fun. They live, breathe, and love the Caribbean Sea, sailing, and living surrounded by nature.
They care for the yacht the way one cares for their home – it is their home for now. The owners even gave the couple carte blanche to customize and decorate the yacht. You can see and feel it’s been done with love.
They were also super attentive and making sure we were having a great time, making full use of all the water toys, hydrated, and fed.
Besides being talented in their respective trades, they’re also scuba diving instructors.
I’d travel with them again in a heartbeat – feel free to invite me when you charter the boat, ha!
II. The Viramar is a green yacht: No greenwashing here
It’s an issue we come across today frequently: businesses claiming to be “eco friendly” or supportive of the community just to sound good on paper. The Viramar’s owners and crew, on the other hand, walk the talk. After emailing each guest a Green Guide PDF before the trip, filled with tips on what to pack or not pack so as not to harm the environment, and explaining their sustainability ethos – explaining why they source products locally – I decided I’d pay close attention to their practices once on the boat.
It was obvious from the start of our trip, during our departure briefing, that the crew is committed to green living, protecting the oceans and showing others how to do better. The Viramar is a member of Project Green Flag, a recent initiative in the charter industry in the USVI and BVIs. Charter boats, restaurants, and other businesses in the region can apply for membership and qualify if they abide by a number of green rules set by Project Green Flag’s founders.
There is indeed zero plastic on board The Viramar. Reusable metal cups are available, each with a different color band on them so you can remember which one was yours. Similarly , we were each given a water thermos – with color bands so you can refill the same one throughout the trip from the cold water filter tap. Once the trip is over, you get to take it home. I’ve been using mine regularly here in the Dominican Republic and it keeps the water so cold – it’s ideal for hot weather destinations. The only thing we threw in a metal trash collector were cans, which are recyclable.
But The Viramar goes beyond eliminating plastic cups and straws. During the day, solar panels are used to supply power to the boat while everyone is outside, or on the decks enjoying the weather and the sea. The generator only runs in the evening hours for the air-conditioning and water pumps.
All products used for laundry and for cleaning the boat are free of harsh chemicals. Each guest cabin is stocked with environmentally friendly products: activated charcoal toothpaste tablets (no plastic tubes), wooden toothbrushes, and refillable shower gels, shampoo and conditioner. Reef-safe sunscreen is provided – harmful sunscreens are now legally banned in the Virgin islands, by the way – as well as bug spray made from essential oils, from a local company. I have to admit, I’d never seen nor used toothpaste tablets before – it took some getting used to, but I learned something new I could apply back home.
Caring for the Caribbean Sea, for Erika and Tyler, is part and parcel of caring for their floating home. It’s also their passion as scuba diving instructors.
As far as eating and sourcing food sustainably, most of the vegetables and fish on board are also sourced locally. But you can read about that below in the food section.
III. Stunning cabins and nooks
If all charter boats had cabins like the ones on The Viramar, I’d be sold on sailing my way through the Caribbean all the time. The Viramar’s complement the outside scenery – you feel immediately relaxed surrounded in these earth tones, not to mention when lying on your bed and looking out at the Caribbean Sea.
The Viramar holds a maximum of eight people, with three queen cabins, plus a twin bunk cabin. This is the master bedroom, above, and the most spacious of all. I had the children’s double bunk room, equipped with an en suite bathroom, hot and cold water in the shower, plus enough space to store my things in the closet and get dressed (hello full length mirror) without feeling trapped.
When the boat was in movement, usually after breakfast and on our way to our next stop, we’d move to the top deck and enjoy the views or to the front of the boat.
There were so many nooks that I’m not sure I got to try them all. Wherever I wandered on the boat, there was a spot calling me to come sit and relax, drink in hand.
Even cute Diego the Island Dog, Chrissann’s furry son, found his favorite corners on The Viramar. It was his first time as well, vacationing on a fancy chartered yacht.
IV. Chef Erika’s gourmet meals
As I like to say, food can make or break a vacation. And wow, did it make ours! From the breakfasts to the occasional lunches and dinners we had on board, the food was fresh, flavorful, and straight out of a culinary guide.
Chef Erika shops for her produce and ingredients in Saint Thomas’ local markets ahead of each trip. She’s passionate about sourcing locally, and nearly everything we consumed came from a farm or supplier in the US Virgin Islands – including the alcohol.
It showed in the dishes we enjoyed – each was a complete surprise.
I started looking forward to seeing what Erika would create every day, including watching her plate like a master chef (well, she is a trained one after all). We had two vegan friends on the boat, and there were substitute options for them.
How enticing is this breakfast fruit plate?
Lunches were equally bursting in natural colors and flavors.
Another highly anticipated event of each day for me: afternoon snack time. I’m a hard core snacker – often I’d rather snack than have a heavy full meal – so I could have died and gone to heaven with the platters of hummus, cheese, and grape leaves (below) that Erika put together so beautifully.
You never go hungry on The Viramar. If anything, you get inspired to recreate Erika’s beautiful, healthy, and tasty dishes at home.
We went offshore for some lunches and dinners, and they were all great spots to hang out and eat, but I’ll be honest: none of the places we went to beat Erika’s organic, tasty meals on board.
Dinners on the boat were outstanding as well. I never felt uncomfortably stuffed.
What about the drinks, you ask? The Viramar was one of the best all-inclusive premium bars I’ve ever had access to on vacation. Make that multiple bars because there were stocked bottles and cans in various key corners of the boat. Name your drink, mixer, or favorite brand, and it’s there.
I’m not a major drinker, but I do love my morning coffee – the machine was set to brew for 5am, and the aroma wafting through my cabin door was my daily alarm – and the occasional glass of mimosa or Spanish cava, or vodka with pineapple juice. Yes, I did enjoy all of the latter.
Cold water is also available of course, right off the filtered tap so we could fill up our reusable water bottles at our leisure.
V. Waking up in scenic coves and cruising breathtaking scenery
You haven’t seen the Caribbean until you’ve had the experience of waking up on the sea and spending all day around it, sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise.
Our itinerary took us from Yacht Haven Grande marina in Saint Thomas to Christmas Cove, then onto St. John, and onto the British Virgin Islands. In the BVI, our stops included Cooper Island, Scrub Island, Trellis Bay and Beef Island, Guana Island, Sandy Spit, and White Bay/Jost Van Dyke.
Every day, all day long, we sailed or docked along breathtaking, secluded scenery. I didn’t want it to end.
After a night in Christmas Cove, where we swam, snorkeled and floated away for a bit before sailing out, we moved on to St. John’s – a breathtaking US Virgin island to view from the water because of its protected green hills.
Look how far down the forested landscape runs on the beach – just spectacular.
We spent the day on Honeymoon Beach, St. John’s, with lunch and drinks at Bikinis On The Beach (there’s more on our food stops later in the post).
Even the views of Road Town, Tortola, were gorgeous – Captain Tyler took care of all our immigration entry paperwork here while we waited comfortably on the boat.
From Road Town, we sailed on to Cooper Island.
All our overnight stops were strategically planned around the best sunset viewing in the Virgin Islands. Below, sunset at Cooper Island.
Approaching Scrub Island, our next overnight stop, we were met with iridescent turquoise waters known for some of the best snorkeling in the BVIs. After docking at Scrub Island Resort‘s marina and touring this Marriott property, we hopped on a safari drive around the rest of the island, up to the summit where you can spot the entire chain of the British Virgin Islands in the distance, as the sun goes down.
The scenery got more spectacular every day as we sailed deeper into the BVIs. Our next stop, Monkey Point at Guana Island, was all about enjoying that perfect Caribbean Sea and splashing around on your favorite water toy until lunchtime – check out the water fun section in this post.
I didn’t think it could get better than that until we reached Sandy Spit, a half-acre ring of sand you see below.
After snapping obligatory “living my best life now” photos, we dragged ourselves back to the boat (what a tough fate, I know). Erika was waiting for us there, with another one of her delicious lunches.
VI. All the water fun: Snorkeling, diving, SUP, tubing, and more
Are you wondering what there is to do on The Viramar, while you’re sailing along this dreamy scenery?
The right question is: what can’t you do from The Viramar?
This yacht is like a floating water sports center. All the equipment you need to have some fun in the Caribbean Sea – the whole point of sailing – is there if you want it, and then some.
You can be as active or as lazy as you want to be.
Above: Dive instructor Captain Tyler with Ryan of Caribbean Castaways, in the water, ready to go underwater.
Want to go diving or learn how to dive? No problem. Both Erika and Captain Tyler are certified, experienced dive masters and instructors. You can do your Discover Scuba while sailing the Caribbean with them. All dive equipment is organized, maintained, and kept safely on board. As an advanced diver, I definitely appreciate that added value.
Friends JetSetSarah and Traveling Island Girl chat and paddle along the striking, rocky landscape hugging Guana Island.
Below, Chrissann practices her yoga-SUP moves, while I float in bliss on the aptly-named Lily Pad.
We did go tubing as well; so much fun that I went twice and don’t have photos to prove it.
Below, Crystal of Caribbean Castaways and Chrissann show off their water toys.
Erika took a break with us to practice her wakeboarding skills.
VII. Offshore adventures: Beaches, bars, and restaurants
Throughout our four-day weekend, we hopped off the boat to dingy our way to shore and sample a number of new or restored bars and restaurants since Hurricane Irma hit the US and British Virgin Islands nearly three years ago.
Here’s where we stopped, swam, ate, and laughed our way around the US and British Virgin Islands.
* Pizza Pi – Christmas Cove, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Pizza Pi was probably the coolest discovery on our sailing trip around the Virgin Islands: a “food truck boat,” anchored in Christmas Cove, off the east end of Saint Thomas. Pull up your dinghy or your speedboat to it – no need to get off – then order your slices of NY style pizza and enjoy on the spot. Or you can call ahead and email to order, like Erika and Tyler did for us, and take your pizzas back to your yacht, or get them delivered.
Grab a drink while you’re waiting for your grub – customers are not normally authorized inside the boat and galley where all the pizza making magic takes place. But lucky us, we got a chance to glance at the inside to see how the business operates. Custom refrigerator, a pizza oven, and two chefs busy down below making pizzas from scratch to the sound of their favorite beats. Pizza Pi VI is now in its sixth season.
Above, left: Harry Miami, JetSetSarah’s better half, doesn’t look like he’s ready to leave Pizza Pi!
We took our pizza dinner back to our lovely yacht to enjoy with a side of Caribbean sunset.
* Bikinis On The Beach Bar & Grill – Honeymoon Beach, St. John, US Virgin Islands
The perfect beach bar blends in with its surroundings, and lies less than 50 steps to the water. That’s Bikinis On The Beach, serving all your favorite beachside cocktails and bites right on St. John’s dreamy Honeymoon Beach.
The same owner runs the adjacent Virgin Islands Ecotours, where you can rent all your favorite water toys – paddle boards, kayaks, and beach chairs.
It’s the perfect spot to hop off the boat and spend the day limin’ on the beach.
* The Rum Bar at Cooper Island Beach Club, British Virgin Islands
What’s a trip to the Caribbean without rum? It was awesome to finally see Cooper Island’s Rum Bar, stocked with the best rums from around the world. From the Dominican Republic’s Leyenda to Bologne rhum from Guadeloupe, you can get your rum fix here. Ask for a rum flight, paired with house chocolate truffles.
* Jeremy’s Kitchen, Trellis Bay, Beef Island, Tortola
Jeremy’s Kitchen was full of local vibes. While enjoying my mimosa, I had the chance to talk to the co-owner, who has lived in these parts for nearly 30 years. She shared a bit of what life’s been like since Irma hit this area, and how things are now back on track.
* Scrub Island Resort & Marina
We had a fabulous dinner at the Caribbean cuisine-focused Cardamom &Co Restaurant on Scrub Island Resort before tiptoeing our way back to our yacht, docked in the marina just a few steps away.
* Hendo’s Hideout – White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
My favorite hangout spot was Hendo’s Hideout on popular Jost Van Dyke, known for its lively bars. From the beach to the cocktails, the music – soca, Afrobeats – the food, the service, and the fact that this is a locally-owned family business, Hendo’s was #winning for our last full day of sailing.
You’d never know Maria hit here two years ago. Hendo’s opened in 2016, a year before the hurricane hit.
By December 2017, they’d reopened with just grills and a cooler. It’s amazing to see how Hendo’s has since bounced back. They’re also working on adding a 12-cottage hotel.
We stuffed our faces with ceviche, sushi, seafood burgers, crab cakes, and ribeye.
Hendo’s is also conscious of the environment since the storm. There are zero plastic straws and use paper ones instead. These reusable metal cups you see below are yours to take home when you order a cocktail. I have mine right here on my office table and use it daily; the perfect souvenir.
VIII. The definition of “a lifetime trip”
My first-ever luxury yacht charter has set the bar so high, I’m not sure any boat other than The Viramar will ever do. If you’re planning and saving for that trip of a lifetime – celebrating a milestone while sailing the Caribbean – folks, this is the one.
What say you, isn’t The Viramar worthy of your next milestone family/friends reunion trip?! 🌴⛱
The rate for a weeklong fully crewed, fully inclusive charter of The Viramar with eight passengers during the 2020-2021 season, is US $28,000 (that’s $3,5k per person in your group). For more information, including booking contact and a quote for smaller groups, please visit this website. You can also follow The Viramar on Facebook and Instagram.
Sincere thanks to Chrissann of Women Who Live On Rocks for inviting me on this epic experience in my favorite region, and to The Viramar’s crew for their amazing hospitality. My charter sail was sponsored by The Viramar; roundtrip flights from Santo Domingo to Saint Thomas and a two-day transit hotel stay were at my own expense. As always, my opinions are my own.