In the race to build bigger and bigger ships, Windstar Cruises
maintains a course that’s 180 degrees opposite. The Seattle-based
company is all about providing an intimate experience, both at sea
and in port. Its three motor sailing yachts which carry from 148 to
312 passengers have always functioned more like private yachts than
cruise ships. That’s especially true now, as the three vessels
undergo a series of upgrades as part of the line’s Degrees of
Last December, the Wind Surf came out of drydock to debut
practically as a new ship. I was lucky to be onboard for a
Caribbean sailing a short time thereafter, eager to experience the
much- heralded new upgrades. Foremost among them are the two new
Bridge Suites, which feature a living room, bedroom, walk-in closet
and a marble bathroom with a whirlpool tub, separate shower and two
porcelain sinks embedded in a marble countertop. The suites also
feature two 42-inch flat-panel TVs that provide the finishing
touches on the suites’ new “yacht-like” ambience.
The Bridge Suites aren’t the only thing new on Wind Surf. All of
the existing staterooms were fitted with flat-panel TVs and DVD/CD
players, as well as Bose SoundDocks for use with iPod Nanos, which
come fully loaded with a selection of music and may be checked out
for the entire week at no charge. Bedding is now downright decadent
featuring Sealy Posturepedic Premium Plush Euro-Top mattresses,
luxurious cotton bed linens and duvets. The remodeled stateroom
bathrooms are much more contemporary looking, with new fixtures,
open glass shelves, new cabinets, granite countertops, porcelain
sinks and a magnifying mirror.
One of the biggest additions to Wind Surf doesn’t involve
staterooms, however. It’s an entirely new space, called the Yacht
Club, which quickly became the social hub of our cruise. An
espresso bar/library/lounge all wrapped up in one attractive room,
The Yacht Club features comfortable seating, as well as iPod
listening stations. Books, DVDs and CDs are displayed and available
for check out, and a large flat-panel TV attracted passengers
interested in watching the latest news, movie or sporting event.
Wireless Internet access has been extended throughout the ship.
And, the Yacht Club features eight computers for e-mail and
Internet browsing, for those who didn’t bring their laptops along
The Degrees of Difference initiative has improved the onboard
dining experience, as well. Wind Surf features three dining venues:
The Restaurant, Degrees and The Veranda. Degrees serves a
steakhouse menu four nights a week and offers rotating menus from
Northern Italy, France and Indonesia other nights.
There is no charge to dine at Degrees, but reservations are
required. The Veranda, which serves breakfast and lunch, received
expanded covered outdoor seating with new awnings. The awnings are
a big improvement over the prior arrangement tables covered only by
umbrellas that weren’t always able to block the strong Caribbean
sun. The new awnings are breathable, so that they don’t flap in the
gentle winds, and they make the sunlight tolerable.
Situated aft, moving up from Deck 2, is the Pool Bar, serving light
snacks; and the Compass Rose, serving continental breakfast,
afternoon tea and evening appetizers (also available in the main
lounge). Room service, which is complimentary and features
excellent choices, is offered 24 hours.
Of course, one of the advantages of a Windstar sailing is the
ability to sail into quieter harbors the mega-ships simply cannot
access. And, late-night departures allow time to go into town for
dining. On the evening we were to depart Marigot (a destination
renowned for its cuisine), several people either went ashore for
dinner or for after-dinner drinks, returning just in time for the
For those who don’t mind going where the wind blows them, Wind Surf
offers an idyllic cruise experience under the sails. That’s
especially true now, after her most recent upgrades.
In April, Windstar Cruises is set to transfer from Holland America
Line to new owners, Ambassadors International. What changes can be
expected? Not many. David Giersdorf, president of Ambassador’s
cruise group, says the company will continue to operate Windstar as
it exists today, including its published itineraries. Moreover,
Ambassadors plans to retain the existing Windstar crew.