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After years of cruising the high seas on cruise ships loaded with amenities, we thought it was high time to try a sailing vacation. We chose Festiva Sailing Vacations and we couldn't have been more impressed with the operation or the experience.

Specializing in crewed stateroom charter vacations, Festiva Sailing Vacations raises the bar on a cruise experience. From the comfortable and cozy Lagoon four-berth catamarans, to the professionalism of the crew, to the bevy of adventurous (and not-so-adventurous) activities and excursions, to the creative cocktails, delicious snacks and hor d'ourves and the gourmet meals cooked onboard, to the idyllic islands and lagoons we visited, we're hooked.

Our particular itinerary sailed out of Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of St. Maarten and explored all the nooks and crannies of the island, along with a visit to Marigot and Grand Case on the French side. It also had a day on Prickly Pear Island off the coast of Anguilla and an overnight in luxurious Gustavia, St. Barts. They also offer itineraries in the British Virgin Islands, The Abacos in the Bahamas, St. John and the USVI, Cancun and the Yucatan, and Greece.

The relaxing days were filled with sailing to the next amazing destination, snorkeling, kayaking and swimming off the boat, scuba diving with an island dive operator, excursions to deserted beaches and local towns, sunbathing, reading in the trampoline or in the indoor or outdoor salons, and enjoying amazing meals prepared with fresh and local ingredients. And each evening included a creative cocktail hour and a spectacular sunset.

Although you can charter the entire boat for a group, we made new lifelong friends with our sailing mates and look forward to a reunion sail in the coming years.