During our cruise on Wind Surf, one of the top highlights during the weeklong sun-splashed Classic Caribbean itinerary turned out to be the water sports activities. All six of Windstar Cruises' intimate ships come with a water sports platform and a bevy of toys that can be deployed from the back of the ship or launched from a tropical beach.
On one morning and afternoon on Pigeon Island in St. Lucia, the beachfront became a water sports paradise with a collection of watercraft for active travelers who love the water.
On Pigeon Island, my Cruiseable colleague Janet Fullwood and I took to a two-person kayak to explore nearby Sandals, while other passengers made use of solo kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, wakeboards, windsurfing boards, Hobie Cats (small sailboats), waterskis and snorkel equipment.
On other afternoons, while the ship was anchored in a bay, guests headed to the marina platform at the back of the ship to revel in the warm-water playground. Enjoying these activities from the comfort of the ship turns an average afternoon into an exciting, energizing experience.
A nice side benefit: It's all included in your cruise fare and you can leave your own mask, snorkel and fins at home.
Putting down the platform depends on weather conditions (we had clear skies every day) as well as on each port's policy, so we enjoyed the marina platform while the ship was at anchor in Guadeloupe and St. Barts but not St. Kitts.
In St. Barts, Cat drove me around the ship in a speedboat, while others headed out to the giant water trampoline — a large rubber-foam flotation island that lets guests jump or lounge on it.
For divers, the water sports platform serves as the base for PADI-certified diving in the Caribbean, Central America and French Polynesia. If you'll be sailing on the smaller Wind Spirit to Tahiti, the water sports platform rolls out (weather permitting) in the French Polynesia ports of Cook's Bay, Taha'a, Vaitape and Fare.
Besides Windstar, only a handful of other cruise lines offer water sports platforms: Paul Gauguin Cruises, Seabourn and SeaDream. In each case, the water activities often turn out to be an unexpected highlight of the cruise, prompting guests to vow to return.
There's nothing else quite like it.