Wind Surf: Windstar's flagship yacht provides personalized perfection
Sailing on any of the trio of petite four-masted tall sail ships from Windstar Cruises is like living a fantasy — especially when you cruise in French Polynesia or any other tropical paradise. Wind Surf (310 guests) and its smaller siblings Wind Spirit and Wind Star (both with 148 passengers) are especially popular with active, sophisticated sorts who enjoy being out on the open sea watching the computer-controlled billowy masts blowing in the wind.
Unlike the mega-ships from other cruise lines, the lithe, graceful Wind Surf and her sister ships can slip into hidden coves and tiny harbors. The vibe on board is uncrowded and unhurried, with a dash of intimacy, making guests feel as if they're sailing on their own personal yacht. The flagship Wind Surf's wide-open teak decks, highly unusual for a small ship, provide large amounts of open-deck space for guests to find concealed nooks and have private moments.
With the purchase of three more traditional motorized ships from Seabourn, the Seattle-based company now has a fleet of six. But it's the three stylish, sleek sailing yachts that truly set Windstar apart.
Who will like sailing on Wind Surf
Looking to lose the crowd? Wind Surf docks in smaller ports, appealing to cruise passengers hoping for a more personal cruise experience on board and off. Young, middle-age and young-at-heart couples, singles and adventure travelers who like charming port cities, cultural immersion and off-the-beaten-path excursions will especially like Wind Surf.
Wind Surf is not really suited for families with small children.
Where Wind Surf sails
Wind Surf sails in and around the Caribbean, Europe and the Mediterranean on seven- to 14-day excursions. Top destinations this yacht visits include St. Barts, Italy, Norway and Ireland. The Classic Italy and Dalmation Coast cruise takes passengers to visit a family-run winery, where they will feast on traditional Sicilian fare.
Here's a fun 90-second time-lapse video of Wind Surf in the Port of Cartagena, Colombia.
Where I sailed and what I loved
I have sailed all three of Windstar's original ships, twice to French Polynesia as well as the Med and the Caribbean, and each voyage was as memorable as the last. The three sailing ships also do Panama Canal cruises, Costa Rica itineraries, the Greek Isles and Turkey — take your pick. If you're a Windstar kind of cruiser, you'll love them all. As a Pisces I love the water and the ability to dive into it whenever the captain anchors off shore or sails into a pristine beach or cove.
Highlight of a Wind Surf cruise
The main attraction of Wind Surf is the ease and availability of water sports from the retractable marina when the captain anchors the ship or in the small coves and inlets where the ships can pull up to the shores or send people off on Zodiacs.
The showcase moment, though, is the “sail around” while passengers are in port. We saw this in the Med and Caribbean, and it was amazing to watch Wind Surf sail by in all her white, billowing masts glory.
Food, glorious food!
Dining on Wind Spirit is open seating and the food is often excellent. AmphorA offers gourmet, course-by-course cuisine in the evenings, and its dishes are served on beautifully set tables with Rosenthal china with Riedel stemware. Light and vegetarian cuisine are available on request. My favorite restaurant on board is Stella Bistro, which serves fresh fare with a French twist. I also loved the open air dining areas on the top deck, where you can take in water views, exquisite sunsets and stars while dining al fresco.
Guests can also make a reservation for Candles, a poolside grill with seating for 30 that serves steaks and grilled skewers. The Veranda Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, while continental breakfast and afternoon tea are served on the Pool Deck. Lunch buffets are a cut above many offered at sea, always attractively presented and usually eagerly attacked by passengers hungry after active mornings.
Activities on board
The main focal points of a Wind Surf cruise are the daytime water activities and shore excursions, so don't expect the kind of stage productions or onboard games you'll find on larger ships. On the upper deck, take a dip in the outdoor pool, stretch out in the sun or come back at night to linger in the whirlpool. On the whole the nautical scene rules on these ships by day. After dinner most passengers either hit the bar or go to bed.
Watersports: Passengers can swim in a tranquil cove or reef or get more active. Just head aft to the open-air sports platform, where you can find sailboats, paddleboards, water skis, kayaks and snorkeling and scuba gear.
On shore: When the crew drops anchor, the reefs and caves are yours to explore. You can also go ashore and shop, join an excursion into a rainforest or wander a medieval city.
Bar & lounge: The ship has three bars and lounges. Socializing at the bar on Wind Surf is a popular pastime, while the main lounge plays its part as a stage for singers or musicians and occasional shows put on by locals in port.
Spa: The ship's WindSpa doles out top-quality treatments. My first mate Richard and I had aromatherapy massages that were reinvigorating, and I indulged in facials, manicures and pedicures that were quite good.
Casino: Yes, there's also a casino on board.
Guest rooms on board include 31 spacious suites, two Bridge Suites and 122 deluxe staterooms. Most oceanview staterooms have a refrigerator. Suite have an additional spacious sitting area.
All staterooms and suites have ocean views and luxury Egyptian cotton linens on the queen bed (which can be separated into twins if you prefer). The spacious bath features granite countertops, ample storage and a roomy shower. Rooms come with an LCD flat-screen TV, DVD/CD players, personal safe, mini-bar with complimentary soft drinks, international direct-dial phone, wireless Internet (for a fee), Bose SoundDock speakers, toiletries by L’Occitane, hair dryer, vanity desk with chair, magnifying mirrors, Euro-Top mattresses, private safe, waffle-weave robes, slippers and alarm clock. You’ll find fresh fruit and flowers always waiting for you after a day of sun or sightseeing.
During your sailing you're also free to check out and use laptop computers, DVDs, CDs, iPod Nanos, games and books.
How about you? Have you sailed on the new Wind Surf? We'd love to hear about your experience or see your photos!
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Top highlights on this ship
- Gaming in the onboard casino
- Spa treatments in the WindSpa
- Complimentary water sports equipment for snorkeling and other excursions
- All suites and staterooms feature ocean views