Admiring from the outside, it is understandable to look at a cruise ship such as Windstar Cruises’ Wind Surf (pictured) and thinking your holiday may be more work than play as you could be expected to pitch in and help hoist sails and guide the ship through the winds. Few statements could be further from the truth.
In fact, while the masts may hint the ship is a grossly oversized version of a vessel which may undertake the annual Sydney to Hobart race and will rely on weather patterns to guide it to its next destination, again this is incorrect. The masts certainly do play a role in how the ship moves about, however they are largely aesthetic and environmental, with the ship also under the control of diesel engines fitted beneath the hull. But going deeper, it is what lies within the ship itself which largely defines the Windstar Cruises experience.
Windstar Cruises operates a fleet of three masted yachts – its largest being the six-deck, 310-passenger Wind Surf and two slightly smaller sister ships Wind Spirit and Wind Star which both cater to 148 passengers across four guest decks. The line has also taken delivery in recent years of three other, more conventional and non-masted power yachts in Star Pride, Star Breeze and Star Legend (all of which offer space for 212 guests per sailing).
Within the hull, the line’s premium offering aims to straddle the divide between a traditional sailing yacht and a luxury cruiser. While at sea, these sails are actually self-furling and computer operated, so little to no human interaction is required, however the crew are fully trained to manually operate them if any rare situations arise. Under the power of both the engines and the sails, the ship can achieve a top speed of up to 15 knots. Guests keen to indulge any sailing passions can visit the Bridge at any time, where the Captain and officers can share details of sea charts and planned routes with passengers.
Onboard Wind Surf, guests will be spread across 122 staterooms and 33 suites, two of which are located on the highest enclosed Bridge Deck. What you will notice at the rear of the ship, unlike many of its much larger ocean counterparts is the absence of a large swimming pool, which actually exists further along this deck. In its place guests can relax on loungers or hop into one of two whirlpools instead.
Dining options onboard are varied but are ultimately casual in nature while retaining a level of decorum and elegance. Menus are designed and crafted each evening based on seasonal produce sourced in many of the ports visited. Guests can dine wherever they like during the opening hours of each restaurant, seated wherever they like and with whomever they wish.
Breakfast and lunch is available at the Veranda Buffet, open until 9:30am, with lunch served at this same venue from noon to 2:30pm. Passengers generally split their evening meals between the indoor Amphora dining room, open from 6:30pm, or Candles, Windstar’s signature a la carte steakhouse with tables positioned right by the railing. On Wind Surf also, guests can also take their evening meal in the ship’s French inspired cafe Stella Bistro. At different points of the cruise, dinner may also take the form of a top deck BBQ for those seeking a casual option. All meals in all venues are included in your cruise fare.
During the day, shore excursion options are two-fold. All six of Windstar’s yachts feature a watersports marina at the rear where guests can take out one of a fleet of kayaks for a day of exploration in a particular port of call. Water skiing or sail boarding is also available.
Wind Surf generally splits its time between Europe & the Caribbean, spending the northern summer sailing one-way voyages in the Mediterranean and Baltic region of Europe before crossing the Atlantic in the winter to sail the Caribbean from the port of Philipsburg, St Maarten. More often than not, you’ll find it possible to secure a stateroom from less than US$2,000 per person twin share.
The line’s other ships Wind Star operate a similar schedule to Wind Surf, cruising between Istanbul, Athens and Rome during the northern summer in Europe before moving across to Bridgetown, Barbados in the winter. Closer to home though, you can experience a masted yacht cruise in French Polynesia onboard Wind Star, which spends its entire year in Tahiti, cruising round-trip from Papeete. These week-long cruises visit Moorea, Bora Bora & some of the other idyllic islands of the region, including an occasional venture to the Tuamotu Islands.