"There she blows!" the lookout shouted, pointing to a distant puff of white rising from the dark-blue ocean. Eight seconds later, the sperm whale spouted again, and we could tell which direction it was headed.
Our catamaran picked up speed and in just a few minutes, we were sailing alongside one of the world's most amazing and powerful creatures.
I snapped a few photos with my DSLR before switching to taking videos with my iPhone, grateful to our guides for spotting this beauty and to nature for moments like this. The videos were better than the photos at capturing the moment and are included in today's slideshow.
Whales are drawn to the deep waters around Dominica year round because of an abundance of giant squid, a favorite food. They search for their prey in blackness, 2,000-5,000 feet deep, in dives lasting about 45 minutes. They surface to breathe and glide along the surface for about 10 minutes before diving again.
These whales grow up to 60 feet long and may weigh more than 45 tons. Giant squid grow up to 40 feet in length and are carnivores as well, using their eight "arms" and two tentacles (all covered with suction cups) to snare fish and other squid and pull them to their beaks, where they are sliced into bite-sized pieces.
We saw a total of four whales but only got close to two as the others dove before we could reach them.
While whales are graceful and mellow as they recover on the surface, you have to wonder what things look like 5,000 feet down when a 60-foot whale attacks a 40-foot squid with eyes the size of dinner plates.
I am checking in today from my office in Houston, my cruise on Regent's Seven Seas Splendor just ended. If you missed the first installment about my trip, you can read it by clicking here.
After my successful whale-watching adventure, just a short distance off the coast of Dominica, I returned to the ship as my fellow passengers who had taken other excursions also arrived.
Dominica is the only port on this itinerary that is currently requiring cruise passengers to stay "in a bubble", a Covid-era term meaning passengers must travel in a group when onshore and cannot wander independently around the island.
With 15 different shore excursion options ranging from river tubing to train rides and from soaking in hot springs to jeep safaris, there were more than enough options to satisfy everyone.
Later that evening, as we sailed from Dominica in calm seas, I made my way to the Compass Rose restaurant for the first time. The Compass Rose is the Splendor's largest restaurant and features exquisite chandeliers and Versace dinnerware. Dinner options include a wide assortment of proteins and the ability to customize your meal with a tempting selection of sauces and spices.
The next morning we docked at the colorful town of St. John's in Antigua, which is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. I would have opted for some white sand and clear blue water but I was a bit sunburned from five hours of whale-watching so I did a walking tour of St. John's with my camera.
Other passengers selected from planned options that included swimming with sting rays, snorkeling, photographic tours, cooking school and a champagne and lobster catamaran cruise.
That evening, I headed back to Splendor's French restaurant, Chartreuse, for a second excellent dinner, and caught another entertaining show in the Constellation Theater.
The charming, French-speaking island of St. Barts is one of the crown jewels of the Caribbean and was our last scheduled port of call. I had planned to explore the shops, restaurants and bars of the waterfront street of Quai de la Republique in Gustavia and spend some time at one of the white-sand beaches.
Unfortunately, cruise ships must anchor and tender to the pier in Gustavia and the seas were too rough to operate the tenders when we arrived. We had a sea day instead and I consoled myself with a workout in the fitness center and a last-minute trip to the spa. Ahhhhh.
Over the course of my cruise, I had many opportunities to marvel at the spectacular art and amenities and public spaces on the Seven Seas Splendor. I set aside an afternoon of one of the days-at-sea just to wander the ship and take in the incredible paintings, sculptures and chandeliers.
All accommodations on this opulent vessel are suites with private balconies, and with 542 crew members and a maximum of only 750 passengers, she's small enough to call on islands and cities that cannot accommodate large ships.
The Splendor is immaculate, maintenance and restoration is continuous and every detail is attended to. On my way to the Pool Grill for lunch one day, I passed crew members polishing brass handrails and hardwoods in an elevator lobby and walked out on the pool deck to find all the handrails freshly varnished and a smiling crew of window washers on the other side of the glass, 11 decks up.
Even more impressive, perhaps, is the service and professionalism of everyone I met. The crew is unfailingly friendly and attentive and well-trained.
As I look back at my first cruise since Covid arrived, my biggest takeaway is that the hardest-hit industry in the entire world has done an unbelievable job of weathering the storm and is emerging better than ever on the other side.
In my opinion, and this is confirmed by passenger satisfaction surveys across the industry, the onboard experience is fully back to where it was before governments shut the cruise industry down for 15 months.
Crews of the world's cruise ships, once scattered all over the Earth to ride out the pandemic at home, are happy to be back at work and delivering a level of service that is as good as ever.
Now the hard part comes, adjusting to everyday life after 10 days of pampering and perfection on Regent Seven Seas Cruises' newest, six-star masterpiece.
To see a complete list of future cruises on the Seven Seas Splendor, with discounts up to 65%, please click here.
Keep in mind that the fare includes unlimited specialty restaurants, shore excursions, gratuities, Wi-Fi, beverages including fine wines and premium spirits, in-suite minibars and 24-hour room service.
To read more about Regent Seven Seas Cruises, please click here.
To see a slideshow of photos from this cruise, please click here.
Click to see videos of the whales close up and from farther away.
Vacations To Go
Regent's New Seven Seas Splendor, Part 1: Cliff Jumping in Puerto Plata