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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Conclusion and Thoughts

Usually when I go on vacation, the general rule is the cheaper the vacation, the better experience I have. That's because you do more on the cheaper vacations: whether it's sailing or cycling, you control your destiny by controlling your schedule, deciding where to go, when to go, and how to go. This grants you maximum bang for the buck and the S.V. Illusion seemed like one of those cases.

However, I struggle with trying to come up with who would have a good time on the Illusion. Experienced sailors will have a tough time because the boat clearly doesn't sail well. Any sailboat which regularly requires the engine to move with any decent speed doesn't really deserve the moniker. New sailors could potentially find sailing with Norman a good idea: he's a good sailor, and knows his boat inside out. However, he is also impatient, and can be difficult to get along with. More important, however, the boat just doesn't maneuver well enough to really be a good instructional boat. Not once did we come about, or gybe. I shudder to think how the boat would do on a man-overboard figure 8 (though since the engine is usually on anyway, it doesn't matter—you'd just furl the sails and motor to the man overboard).

The really big knock against the Illusion is what Ron said: "It's difficult to trust the man's judgement." I'm not sure I could recommend the experience to novices. Certainly, if I was the first person to run a formal knots lesson on the boat, don't expect your lessons to come other than in the heat of the moment, or if you're driven to learn yourself. A typical sailing certification can be had in 6 days, and will be much more useful to you.

I guess ultimately, the best way to use the Illusion is if you don't particularly care where you go, and are willing to go with whatever Norman wants to do. He's not a snorkeling fan, so don't expect good snorkeling—arrange that yourself. He won't pay to dive, so don't expect good diving, because he won't inconvenience himself by mooring or anchoring at a good dive spot, so expect to arrange that yourself. Make sure you go when the boat has at most 3 other crew on board, so that Norman isn't swamped by the responsibility. If you can meet all these conditions, you have a good chance of having a good time at a very low price. For myself, I expect that I will do my own charters after this, or find something with someone I know. There is such a thing as being too cheap.

There's apparently going to be a reality TV show to be filmed on the Illusion later on this year. This is one reality TV show that I might have to watch.

14 comments:

Unknown said...

Good God, no way should that man be in the hospitality business. He sounds like a horrible fit in an industry that lives and dies by word of mouth and customer service.

Piaw Na said...

To be honest, he's not in the hospitality business. He's in the "shared expenses crew" business. But yeah, his personality is not a match for the income stream he desires.

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh! Got caught in the NY Times (11/15/09) tidal wave that just hit the Illusion.
We just jumped ship on the Illusion...all the comments you had about the captain we found accurate in only 24 hours with him. We are extremely happy to not be sailing with him anywhere. We feel sorry for the crewmates we left behind!

Unknown said...

Thanks! Please link to this page from your blog or any web page you have (or using twitter, etc). It could spare someone a trip.

Unknown said...

We just mutinied off the Illusion in Martinique. Norman was a complete jerk. Rented a 43 foot catamaran with my crew mates from the Illusion. Only two good things about the Illusion are; the people I met and Allison is a saint.

Unknown said...

Given all the negative comments it really seems that people did not read Matt Gross's story well (http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/travel/15sailing.html). I was one of Piaw's crew mates on the S. V. Illusion. I actually had a really great time and got exactly what I expected after reading Matt. I think Matt did an excellent job describing S. V. Illusion. I am really surprised Piaw, that it was not clear you after reading Matt's column that one of the ground rules would be "..best way to use the Illusion is if you don't particularly care where you go, and are willing to go with whatever Norman wants to do." If your motivation is that "doing it cheaper let's you do more than this trip is not for you". If you are laid back and want to meet exciting new people and are not afraid of an adventure than it's an experience of a life time. I would never take my family with me on such a trip but am actually thinking about going back. I am interested in sailing and would love to learn but I was under no illusion that I was getting sailing lessons for $50 a night including meals. Also I did not expect to be on a professionally managed cruise or that I would be learning to dive! I got to meet really interesting people got to sail in the Caribbean and had a great break from my daily life. But than again I am also some one who hates reading on vacation as I think it's best done in quite comfort of a library or your bed and waste of a trip to a new and exciting place.

Piaw Na said...

I don't think anyone expected a professionally managed cruise. Nobody expected sailing lessons (remember, I was giving knots lessons, not Norman). I think no one expected Norman to be as rude as he was, or as unforgiving of mistakes from his crew, especially given his unwillingness to train them.

Finally, as Ron said, his lack of judgement in dangerous sailing situations is disturbing. Leaving your life in his hands turned out to be a really bad idea.

Unknown said...

Hi - I was just on the Illusion and had a great experience. This trip is not for anyone who is high maintenance, nor is it for the faint of heart. This is a true adventure with Norman serving as the central part of it. Without him, the trip would've been much less interesting. It seems that the commentator who mentioned that you would have had to read Matt's article well, was right. If you haven't traveled outside your comfort zone and aren't open to new experiences, this isn't the place for you. Next time, just book a tour and stay at a Marriott, I guarantee you'll have less stress and of course, less adventure, but at least you won't have to ruin it for the rest of us.

Unknown said...

Totally agree with Piaw. We left the Illusion early after suffering Norman's shameless abuse of crew - and worst of all - his girlfriend. No one expected a 'cruise', we just expected to be treated with respect. This is not recommended, unless you enjoy spending endless hours in close quarters with a hostile sociopath.

Unknown said...

My adult children and I spent a week with Norman before jumping ship. He manages to be pleasant enough until he has your money and a signed ironclad non-refundable contract. That's when you begin to see Norman's true colors. He's an impudent, impatient abusive turd. There's a reason why this psychopath sails these waters alone in a battered old tub.

And, no, we did not 'misread' the NYT article. We were prepared for a bare bones sailing experience. The education part of the sail was less than an hour of preparing to set sail and then a half hour of lowering the sails at the end of the day. Some days we moored for lunch which meant another half hour of 'instruction'. Several of the days of 'sailing' were in fact several days of motoring.

The last straw was a near head on collision at night at full speed just before pulling into St. Lucia. Norman's usual display of profane invective was a little more entertaining than usual because for once it was not directed at us.

So, if you don't mind spending two weeks with a tempestuous self centered dork lacking in any social skills and like abuse and humiliation this is the cruise for you.

So, if degradation, humiliation and abuse are your thing save yourself some money and join a S & M club.

Anonymous said...

I too was considering a trip on the Illusion later this summer. With all the negative reviews, are there alternatives you all would recommend?

Piaw Na said...

Depends very much on your budget. I'm a certified sailing skipper, so I'd just bareboat charter. It's not as cheap, but it's a lot more fun, and you get to pick who you hang out with.

martijn en conny said...

We joined the illusion in april 2011 for 25 days and had a great time with Norman, Allison and the rest of the crew. We planned this trip at the end of a year of travelling. After reading the article and the illusion website we were expecting to have a beautiful sailing trip around the caribbean, but we got even more than that...a complete caribbean experience, what it's like to live on a boat.... It's really hard to explain how the trip is, because everybody has his/her own expectations. It's all about what you make of it yourself! We really recommend this trip if you are up for it! So check out their webpage and read it really well. And if this kind of travelling suits you, you will have an amazing experience.

Piaw Na said...

I just looked at this again after running my own BVI trip. Looking back at the comments on this page, I can see that all the negative reviews come from experienced sailors/cruisers, and the positive ones come from people who've never sailed on their own without a bad-tempered skipper yelling at them.