Looking for that perfect getaway to de-stress, relax and revitalize? And would you like to be pampered like royalty and sleep like a baby on your trip? Are you intrigued by the fast growing world of luxury yacht cruising?
Then I have the perfect recommendation … take an intimate Windstar cruise where the ratio of staff to passengers is close to 1:1 and where the majority of your fellow passengers are loyal repeat customers. We did just that recently, taking a one week Caribbean cruise called “Yachtsman’s Caribbean“, on the impressive Windstar Wind Surf sailing cruise ship. We cruised from St Maarten to Antigua, through the British Virgin Islands to St Bart’s and then back to St Maarten.
Interestingly, everybody I spoke to on that glorious Caribbean cruise told me that Windstar Cruises was their “favorite” cruise line. Why their “favorite”? … Many reported how warm, welcoming and eager to please the staff was, most of whom know the passengers’ names by the second day of the cruise. In fact, you could say that the staff of Windstar strive to make service a true art. Passengers also raved that, thanks to the small number of passengers (310 or less), there are virtually no lines on a Windstar cruise, and the amenities are easily accessible — from the specialty restaurants and the tenders to the fun-in-the-sun equipment of the Marina at the ship’s well-equipped Watersports Platform. Plus, thanks to the small size of Windstar yachts, they sail into ports where larger ships cannot.
Passengers also explained how much they enjoyed the elegant, low-keyed ambiance on board ship as well as being with the kind of people who enjoy a Windstar cruise. To put it simply, smiles and friendliness greet you wherever go and and the staff takes great pride in catering to your every need … almost as if you were on your own private yacht.
Windstar’s fleet includes six small ships, including three sailing yachts. We had the pleasure of sailing on the Wind Surf, billed as “the world’s largest sailing yacht”. Built in France, this superb ship was recently refurbished with an elegant contemporary flair and offers a main restaurant and two specialty restaurants — one featuring French cuisine and the other serving grilled fish and meats outside by candle light.
A coffee and tea bar with sandwiches and pastries is also open from early am through afternoon tea, and various indoor and outdoor cocktail bars are available throughout the ship where passengers can enjoy drinking and socializing.
Both breakfast and lunch are served on the top deck with indoor and outdoor seating that famously comes with fabulous views. At both these meals, an à la carte menu which changes daily is offered as well as a buffet with a wide range of offerings, including plenty of fresh fruits at both meals and a sizable salad buffet at lunch. At breakfast, there is also an omelette and pancake station, and at breakfast and lunch there is an outdoor grill making everything from Eggs Benedict and French Toast in the am to Hamburgers and Reuben sandwiches in the pm. Whatever you do, make sure to order some of the light, crispy French fries from the grill guys! Vegetarian and gluten-fee options are also offered at all meals.
The quality of the food matches the variety and was only topped by the awesome service offered by the abundant staff who greeted us regularly by name and quickly learned what our preferences were. For example, the day after I mentioned to the restaurant manager that I was interested in grilled fresh fish, he came up to me as soon as I arrived for lunch to say my “fresh fish” was ready to be grilled. And then there was the waiter who brought me my mint tea just as I was about to order it and also presented me with an extra carrot cake cupcake just because he knew it was my favorite! What more can you ask? In all three of the ship’s restaurants open for dinner, the Windstar philosophy is to do what it takes to please the passenger. While we truly enjoyed the food, wine and service at every dinner we had on board ship, our favorite meal was the Windstar traditional deck dinner barbecue which was absolutely magical … see our upcoming posting on Dining under the Stars.
We also ate our hearts out at the Windstar Island Experience. Windstar is justifiably proud of their “Private Experience” offerings, and in the Caribbean, the experience is a phenomenal midday barbecue on a private beach reserved for the Windstar Experience which includes sea and land sports as well as the barbecue. On our cruise, the event was orchestrated on the beach of the uninhabited Prickly Pear Island just opposite Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
From chaise lounges under shaded canopies and other creature comforts to a fabulous Island band, this Windstar “experience” offered it all. And clearly, once again, the ship’s crew made a phenomenal effort to provide the passengers with a memorable and fun-filled experience.
Since there is more to life than eating and drinking (!), Wind Surf also offers a large and well-equipped fitness room with an ocean view, a spa with an impressive list of services staffed by estheticians well-trained in London, a small outdoor pool and hot tub, and a large lounge where many daily activities are held including cocktail hour briefings orchestrated by the very personable Activities Director. Plus, there is a Casino, an Internet center, a boutique and the dynamic Marina and Watersports center where you can choose from a myriad of water activities.
Naturally, we felt the need to test out some of these offerings. So our second day onboard ship we treated ourselves to his and her spa services. An hour and a half of treatment later, we returned to our cabin totally refreshed and utterly relaxed. Our treatments were top-notch, on a par with the best we’ve had in world-class spas. The following day, we experienced the joy of jumping into the Caribbean off the back of the Marina. Then we swam over to the water trampoline and discovered our inner child as we exercised our balancing skills jumping on the trampoline and then right off into the water. Sheer joy for water-lovers!
Accommodations on board the Wind Surf are very comfy and very well-serviced. There are 154 staterooms in total, including 31 Oceanview Suites with his and her bathrooms, 2 Bridge Suites, and 123 Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms. Updated and designed for maximum comfort and storage, each cabin offers luxurious linens and amenities with items such as a flatscreen TV, hairdryer, and reading lights each strategically placed for ease of usage. Besides the ocean view and our thoughtful stateroom attendant, one of my favorite features of the cabin is the bathroom with its perfect lighting, wide mirror, ample storage and powerful shower. But my absolute favorite feature is the bed where I was gently rocked to sleep every night as we cruised from port to port under the magnificent sails of our sailing ship.
Adding to the super friendly ambiance on board ship is the open door policy of the Bridge which you can visit whenever the ship is not in port. Ask away when you arrive, as the Captain and his staff are pleased to visit with you and answers all your questions.
After a week of pampering by the crew, sleeping soundly under sail and enjoying fabulous meals and glorious vistas with charming excursions, I can definitely understand why Windstar has won many accolades in the travel industry, including recently being voted “world’s best small ship cruise line” by Condé Nast Travelers. The small size of the ship and the ambiance provided by the crew seem to slow the pace of life down to where stress dissipates and relaxation is just a way of life. For more information, please visit windstarcruises.com
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!