Cool Caraïbes. Relatively new to the catamaran excursion scene, Cool Caraïbes has acquired a 27-passenger cat (three crew). It plies the turquoise waters to both Les Saintes and Marie-Galante, yet not on the same day. For full-day trips, you must be at the dock by 7 am, returning between 5:30 and 6 pm. Coffee and a simple lunch prepared by the crew are served. It is generally crudités, mahimahi with a creole sauce, rice, and tropical fruit for dessert. And yes, there is rum aboard—planters punch. Once on Les Saintes, you are on your own to explore, or you can opt for a mini-bus tour, which is a good choice, especially if you are not one to hike hills or if you have children in tow. There is snorkeling gear and most guests utilize it and swim off the boat. On Marie-Galante, passengers disembark for a 90-minute mini-van tour, which includes a tasting at a rum distillery and a swim and snorkel at a gorgeous white-sand beach. Marina de Bas-du-Fort, Bas du Fort, Grande-Terre, 97190. 0690/70–47–18; www.coolcaraibes.com.
Evasion Tropicale. Evasion Tropicale operates daylong, ecotouristic, whale-watching cruises. With the help of the onboard hydrophone and the skipper's and researchers' 20 years of experience, sperm whales are easy to find all year long and humpback whales from December through March. Food and drinks are served, and when you arrive back in port you follow the leader to the small whale museum, "Balen ka Souflé." There's a 10-person minimum for trips on the 51-foot motor sailor, but every passenger must also buy an annual membership in the Association for Study and Census of Turtles, Marine and Mammals of the Caribbean. Contributing to the conservation of marine life is a good way to discover and learn about the underwater world, especially for children. Evasion Tropicale received the biodiversity Conservation Award Special Mention in 2013. Rue des paletuviers, Pigeon, Bouillante, Basse-Terre, 97125. 0590/92–74–24; 0690/57–19–44; www.evasiontropicale.org. From €65.
Paradoxe Croisieres. A top-of-the-line catamaran, Paradoxe sails to Marie-Galante (anchoring at the idyllic beach Anse Canot) in high season, usually on Thursday, but most days it departs from St. François for Petite-Terre, an uninhabited island that's a nature preserve. This isn't your typical booze cruise. In the morning when it anchors off Petite-Terre, the passengers take guided walking tours, always on the lookout for iguanas. Then it's back to the beach to eat a lunch of grilled fish prepared by the boat's crew. In the afternoon guests can snorkel in the lagoon. The trip to Marie-Galante usually includes a bus tour around the island and a visit to a distillery. The company's marina ticket booth is open 8–noon and 4–7. St-François Marina, St-François, Grande-Terre, 97118. 0590/88–41–73; paradoxe-croisieres.com. From €80.