Windstar Cruises offers a small-ship experience in some of the world’s most exotic places.
The line sails in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Tahiti, Alaska, Arabia, Costa Rica and Panama, visiting almost 60 nations. Its six-vessel fleet consists of three motorized sailing ships (with masts and sails) and three cruising yachts. The ships only carry between 148 and 310 passengers, and I recently sailed on the largest, Wind Surf, with about 300 fellow travelers on a voyage in Morocco and the Canary Islands.
I discovered a few things you should know about sailing with Windstar Cruises during days ashore exploring these interesting lands and late afternoons watching the sleek white sails catch the breezes as we pulled away from port:
Wind Surf features large public spaces—The Lounge and Yacht Club—for mingling with fellow passengers, as well as the Pool Bar and Compass Rose, which offers live music every day.
The best places, however, are the outdoor areas, where you can stroll the teak decks and catch the fresh sea air. A small pool and two hot tubs at the stern (back of the ship) are ideal gathering spots for sailaways and watching the sunsets. There is also a well-equipped fitness center on the top deck, and the ship offers yoga and Pilates classes for free.
Windstar Cruises has an open bridge policy, and it’s enlightening to visit with the captain and crew. Capt. Pedro Pinto eagerly showed me the navigation process for Wind Surf. Thus, the small casino on the ship got little action during my cruise.
The ships in the Windstar Cruises fleet are tiny compared with the industry’s mega ships, so you can reach smaller ports where you’ll often find you are the only passengers visiting for the day.
We enjoyed Agadir, Morocco, plus La Gomera and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands as the only ship in port, which meant the towns and tours were not at all crowded during our visits.
The vibe is relaxed and the dress code is “luxury casual” as you sail with well-traveled and fairly well-off passengers who would rather have a good glass of wine and conversation than participate in a belly-flop contest.
Most people spend the sailing hours reading or playing cards and backgammon. After-dinner time is for enjoying a little dancing to the house band, which expertly plays classic hits from the 1950s up to present day.
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Standard staterooms have a couple portholes through which you can peep waves or sweet sunsets. I loved all the drawer and storage space, and the beds are comfy, too. You get a daily fresh-fruit plate, and a mini-fridge is stocked with your favorite beverages—sodas and water are complimentary; wines, beers and other alcohol are charged to your folio.
Cabin stewards get to know you quickly and insist you give them a shout if you need anything at all. Rooms have DVD players and a library of movies—the Yacht Club has hundreds of titles for you to sign out.
Here is where Windstar really won me over.
Its “Destination Discovery Event” served us a traditional Moroccan meal of tagine chicken, salads and a sweet flaky dessert, under tents and along the gorgeous coastal beach area in Agadir. This was a highlight, and the line includes one of these complimentary excursions on each sailing.
On the ship, we had two barbecues—one during lunchtime and the other an epic Deck Barbecue dinner. The entire top deck was filled with food stations, plus busy chefs and servers putting together the elements of a fantastic feast. We had chicken, flank steak, whole pigs, grouper, shrimp towers, lobster, fruits, salads, vegetables and cookies, cakes and other desserts.
You also can eat under the stars at Candles, the excellent steakhouse. The ship additionally has a restaurant focusing on French cuisine: Stella’s Bistro. These are all fantastic complements to the nice array of meals at the main dining room, Amphora, and The Veranda, which is the ship’s breakfast and lunch buffet option. Room service is also available at no extra charge.
Windstar ships feature a marina—or sports deck—at the back of the ships. This is where passengers can take part in fun activities such as standup paddleboarding, kayaking and banana boat rides. Or you might just want to lay out on a floating mat. The ships can open the marina when they anchor at a port and the weather cooperates. They even launch water skiing and snorkeling excursions from there.
Before you set sail, take note:
—The Motion of the Ocean: Because these are smaller sailing yachts, you will feel the movement of the seas. If you are at all prone to seasickness, make sure you are prepared and bring your treatments. Or seek out itineraries in calmer waters to be safest.
—These Cost Extra: While much is included in your fare, you will have to pay for your alcoholic drinks, excursions and spa treatments.
—Lazy Days: Ship life is quiet—sometimes really quiet—on sea days. If you don’t like much down time, pick an itinerary that hits a port each day.