Degrees of Difference

Windstar’s upgraded Wind Surf makes sailing a breeze

By: Ralph Grizzle

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 Difference initiative.

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 on vacation.

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 after-midnight departure.

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.