We’ve been on cruises before, but never a cruise quite like this one. It’s January and we were ready for a winter getaway, something extraordinary…the Caribbean was calling.
We found that 180 degrees difference on Windstar Cruises. Ready for luxury cruising on a small ship where you can enjoy spacious decks under tall white sails, and feel like you are on your own private yacht?
“Windstar Ships are large enough to pamper and entertain you, yet small enough to tuck into delightful tiny harbors and hidden coves others can’t reach,” notes Amanda Graham, PR Manager for Windstar Cruises.
While on the Wind Surf “Flavors of the Caribbean” cruise, we compiled our Top 10 Reasons to sail with Windstar.
Top 10 Reasons to Cruise Windstar
1. Sail on Your Own Private Yacht: Well, almost your own…at least you feel like you’re the only one on the ship. With less than 300 guests, the ship never felt crowded. At times, we had the open decks to ourselves, lounge areas, and even the jacuzzi and pool. It was easy to go out on the ship’s deck, find a private corner to relax and read or nap.
2. Close Access to Ports: Visit premier destinations and less traveled ports where only small ships can enter. It was easy to walk off the ship or take a quick boat tender ride to the port, and walk into the port towns. We had several close up and personal onshore experiences with the local people. We never felt we were traveling with a large group, and each excursion was one-of-a-kind.
3. Casual Elegance: There aren’t any schedules or formal nights to worry about. Windstar calls this “casual elegance” where carefree days happen in luxury surroundings. Guests are free to choose what their cruise experience will be like. Every day is unique and relaxing.
4. Personalized Service: “My Wish”…this is what staff says when they hear “thank you”! We felt pampered throughout the cruise by the crew who knew our name, and delighted in serving and surprising us in discrete ways.
5. Watersports Platform Onboard: The Wind Surf has a water park on the aft of the yacht. This aquamarine playground has everything guests need for tropical water fun – diving, board sailing, water-skiing, snorkeling, kayaking, blow-up slide and trampoline, or floating on giant mats.
6. Magical Moments: We had many magical moments – watching the giant sails unfurl, dining and dancing under the stars, enjoying the festivities on the deck and at beach BBQ’s, meeting the local people and other guests on the ship, seeing rainbows appear, dramatic sunsets unfold, and getting goose bumps when we heard the signature sail away music as our yacht left each port – the Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis from the movie 1492.
7. The Captain & Crew: We had a fantastic lineup with Captain Peter Harris, Hotel Manager Jeffrey Jack, Officers, Crew & Staff on the Windstar Fleet! On this Windstar Cruise, guests had access to the Bridge, where the Captain and Officers navigate the ship.
8. Close to Your Room, Close to Everything Onboard: Because it’s a small ship, we had close access to our room, so if we ever forgot anything in our room, it wasn’t a long trek to go back and get what we needed. Our room felt close to everything and it was easy to get around on our yacht.
9. Best Value for Small Ship Luxury Cruise: Windstar Cruises offer one of the best value luxury cruises for small ships.
10. Low Carbon Footprint: Our ship’s sails were up 28% of the time, and we were cruising without engines. Both the sails and engines were on 57% of the time, and only the engines were going for just 15% of the time. This is what we call “pure cruising”!
Along with our Top 10 reasons, here are some images and notes about our experiences, excursions, and Wind Surf.
There are many destinations and itineraries to choose from, and our “Flavors of the Caribbean” cruise showed us the diverse heritage of the Caribbean through its flavors, cultures, and colors!. It turned out to be so colorful; we even had rainbows following us every day.
All our senses were awakened from the scent of tropical flowers, the taste of spicy Creole cuisine, the feel of powdery white sand, the sights of the lush green tropical forests, white waterfalls, turquoise beach waters, the sounds of local Calypso music, and the overall joie de vivre felt throughout the Caribbean islands.
Here are some of the popular highlights that Windstar calls out from this cruise:
- Anchor alongside the pristine beaches of Pigeon Island’s 40-acre National Park
- Discover St. Lucia’s twin Pitons, rising majestically from the turquoise sea
- Savor the distinctive French charm of enchanting Les Saintes
- Embrace the island life on St. Kitt’s one-of-a-kind Shipwreck Beach
- Let yourself go – at Windstar’s signature Beach Barbecue, the Caribbean’s best party
Accommodations: The Wind Surf staterooms and suites are private oasis for guests with newly finished and furnished rooms designed with seascape colors, queen beds with fine count Egyptian cotton linens, and the bathrooms have teak floors and granite counters stocked with L’Occitane bath amenities.
Felt divine to wrap up in a waffle weave robe and step into slippers while enjoying grapes from the bowl of fruit. Kicking back in our suite, and gazing out of the ocean view windows, while listening to tunes in the privacy of our room. Our room had it all, a flat-screen TV, DVD player and Bose SoundDock speakers for Apple iPods.
Good to note: Windstar’s Wind Surf suites include an extra bath and TV along with sitting area and his-and-her bathrooms. The bridge suites offer the additional luxury of a spacious private living room and relaxing whirlpool spa.
Excursions: The Ports of Call on our cruise included: Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Roseau, Dominica, Pigeon Island, St. Lucia, Les Saintes, F.W.I., Charlestown, Nevis, Basseterre, and St. Kitts.
Excursion planners and guides are available to help guests plan unique on-shore experiences with small-group excursions, or on your own. We enjoyed one of the ship’s excursions and sailed on a catamaran to see the seven islands of Les Saintes with our guide Philippe, and then snorkeled along one of the largest island’s beaches. While visiting Dominica, our guide Shane from www.khatts.com took us to Champagne Reef where we snorkeled through the volcanic bubbles, swam through the narrow gorge of Ti Tou to a waterfall, and visited Trafalgar Falls where we dipped into some hot springs. Another day we kayaked from the ship’s watersports platform and explored the bay of St. Kitts.
You can be as active as you want to be on this cruise. Some guests zip lined, cycled, hiked island trails, and others tried out some Creole recipes in cooking classes. Everyone found time to relax to private areas on the ship and read a book, take a nap, and enjoy the vistas.
WindSpa & Wellness Center: The ship has a spa that offers a variety of treatments for face, body, hair, beauty. There’s also a Wellness Center with fitness classes – yoga, pilates, body sculpt boot camp, and programs like personal training, body composition analysis, and nutritional consultation. One of the most popular treatments we heard about was the “Top to Toe” that included a frangipani scalp massage, hot stones or bamboo full body massage, foot and ankle massage, and a hydrating facial. Whenever we saw guests leave the spa, they looked revitalized, refreshed, and reinvigorated!
Wind Surf Library: If you need to find a book, game or DVD, there are many selections to choose from at the ship’s library. Or if you need the internet, there’s Wi-Fi, so you can log online to check emails and surf the web.
Dining: Wind Surf offers a range of culinary venues from the Compass Rose, Stella Bistro, Candles, The Veranda, Terrace Bar, and AmphorA.
We dined at each of the ship’s restaurants, and really loved dining under the stars on ship’s deck at the Candles restaurant. Dining alfresco at the Veranda for breakfast and lunch was another favorite where you can enjoy the ocean breezes and sunlight at your table. Another evening, we watched a movie in our room and room service delivered a bucket of popcorn.
Entertainment: There’s a nice balance of entertainment on board from singing artists, to small bands, and even a casino for those who want to try their luck. We enjoyed the music and dancing whenever we visited the entertainment lounge.
Awards Galore! We learned that Windstar is a market leader in small ship cruising with 300 or fewer passengers. They are known for the private yacht style cruising that brings guests closer to the world, their beautifully appointed yachts, spectacular embarkation events, luxurious accommodations, delectable cuisine, inventive itineraries, and romantic ambiance on their ships.
How to Book a Reservation with Windstar? Click here to view more itineraries, destinations, and select a cruise that offers luxury, relaxation, VIP service and magical experiences on Windstar Cruises!
Information on Windstar Cruises: Windstar Cruises operates a fleet of award-winning sailing yachts that offer luxury small ship cruises to 100 ports throughout Europe, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and Central America.
A Windstar Voyage Includes:
- All meals in all venues at all times, including 24-hour room service
- All non-alcoholic beverages, including cappuccino, espresso, and non-alcoholic drinks
- Welcome cocktails at reception
- All onboard entertainment
- Unlimited use of Fitness Center
- Unlimited use of all water sports equipment
- Informative port lectures and destination briefings
Wind Surf Facts:
CAPACITY: 310 Guests
STATEROOMS: 123 deluxe ocean view staterooms
SUITES: 31 deluxe ocean view suites
BRIDGE DECK SUITES: 2 deluxe ocean view bridge suites
DECKS: 7 decks with a total of 22,090 square feet
CREW: 191 international staff
SHIP’S REGISTRY: Bahamas
LENGTH: 535 feet (162 meters) at waterline; 617 feet (187meters) including bowsprit
DRAFT: 16.5 feet (5 meters)
TONNAGE: 14,745 gross registered tons (grt)
BEAM: 66 feet (20 meters)
SAILS: 7 triangular, self-furling, computer-operated sails with 26,881 square feet (or 2,600 square meters) of Dacron surface area
MASTS: 5 at 221 feet (67 meters)
ENGINES:. 4 diesel electric generating sets, 2 electrical propulsion motor
SPEED: 10 to 12 knots with engines only; up to 15 knots wind and engine assisted
How to Get There? JetBlue! We flew JetBlue www.JetBlue.com from Seattle to NYC/JFK, and then from JFK to St. Maarten.. Within ~ 12 hours we found ourselves under blue skies in the Caribbean! JetBlue offers flights to 80+ destinations with free inflight entertainment, healthy snack options, seats with lots of leg space, and award-winning service.
By Patricia Stone, a travel writer and consultant
Photo Credits: Patricia Stone and some photos provided by Windstar Cruises
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Windstar Cruises and JetBlue for hosting us on this trip. Also, we want to thank Ken’s Hinterland Adventure Tours for hosting our excursions to Champagne Reef, Ti Tou Gorge, the waterfalls, and hot springs on Dominica (www.khattstours.com)