Caribbean Cruising: Artemis vs Cruise Ship

Ah, a Caribbean cruise. Just thinking about it makes me feel all relaxed and happy. Days spent lounging by the pool or relaxing on your private balcony, tropical drink in hand. Evenings spent at the onboard shows, or in the various lounges and clubs. Wandering to the casino to spend a little time (and money), hoping for lady luck to grace you with her presence. Imagine taking that very same voyage over 200 years ago. It might give you some different feelings; huh?

Despite all of the dangers, including fear of pirates, shipwrecks, etc., Jamie and Claire set out on their sea voyage aboard the Artemis, determined to get Young Ian back and return him home to Jenny and Ian. Given the chance, I feel that they would have much preferred a more comfortable option. Here are a few of the stark differences between 18th century sea travel and modern day cruising.


Artemis: Cramped, airless compartments that varied in size based upon your status of travel. Unless you had the funds to pay for a private cabin, most likely there were bunks or hammocks to fill every bit of floor space available. It was much worse for the crew below decks, they were likely in hammocks stacked on top of each other. An added concern would be the knowledge that various ship’s vermin might be crawling all over you while you get what little sleep you can on a tossing and turning vessel.

Cruise Ship: Various cabin sizes ranging from tiny inside cabins with no windows or balconies to huge, luxurious suites with wrap-around balconies. Regardless, any size cabin will have all of the modern conveniences to make your cruise a comfortable one. You will also have your very own team of cabin stewards to keep things clean and ship-shape.


Artemis: Whatever had not spoiled yet, and hopefully would not kill you with food poisoning. Water shortages were common, and what water to be had was of questionable quality. Rum would have been added to hopefully make it potable. Very little chance of any fresh vegetables or produce after the first few days onboard made scurvy a prevalent onboard disease. The great possibility of having to remove weevils or the like from your food, prior to consuming it.


Cruise Ship: Barbeques on deck. Formal and informal dining rooms, room service, and an abundance of food at all hours. Never really feeling hungry while you are onboard. Enjoying watching my husband eat his favorite meal, which I call “second breakfast”, or “pre-lunch”. Going to eat just because it’s dinnertime even though you may not be hungry. Delicious, high quality food that is cooked to perfection. All of it appearing on the table in front of you, with no effort whatsoever on your part, by waiters who anticipate your every want or need.


Artemis: Poor Jamie. So seasick. It’s a shame that he was not able to go to the Ship’s Doctor (Claire) and get a shot in his backside, like my sister did when she went on her first cruise with me. So much less fun to suffer for days with nausea and vomiting. Dehydration was a real worry, and the ship’s water supply was questionable, at best. Even Claire’s ginger tea did not ease his suffering. Thank goodness for Mr. Willoughby’s application of acupuncture to ease his suffering.

Cruise Ship: Anti-nausea medication is available everywhere and dispensed like candy. The ship’s Doctor is available to administer anti-nausea injections for more severe cases of seasickness. The crew is always there to offer a green apple; they swear that it is the best cure for seasickness.

Although it is exciting to think of the possibility of a sea voyage in the 18th Century on a ship similar to the Artemis, the very real dangers that would have been constant companions on the voyage make me very glad that today I can pack my bags and go onboard a cruise ship knowing that the risk of facing real peril is very low. 

I am sure that given the opportunity, Jamie and Claire would have preferred to travel with more conveniences, less danger, and in more comfort than their own problem-wracked voyage aboard the Artemis. I am fortunate that I can travel in relative luxury with my modern day Jamie, who helps me evoke the romance of 18th century sea travel, without all of the dangers!

If you are interested in finding out more about life aboard 18th century sailing vessels, here are some great resources to check out:

BBC - History - British History in depth: Life at Sea in the Royal Navy of the 18th Century

Captain Cook and the Scourge of Scurvy

Colonial Quills: Weevils Anyone?

Eat Like a Pirate

Press Gangs

A Summary of Reproducing the 18th Century English Sea Biscuit

Written by: Pamela


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