Under Full Sail In The Med Wind Surf’s Small Ship Atmosphere Is Made For Relaxing
by Vanessa Lee
I am sailing on a lovely itinerary, dubbed Sicilian Splendours, round-trip Rome in the glorious, sunny Mediterranean. My home since last Wednesday has been the 310 guest sail vessel Wind Surf and I am very much enjoying, what is for me the rare opportunity of a 10 day cruise. We're visiting 3 Sicilian ports, 2 in Malta, the island of Lipari in the Aeolians and then Sorrento and Capri.
The itinerary was a particular draw as I had wanted to see Malta - the 90th country under my belt - and it certainly lived up to its billing. I can see why the city of Valletta has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is truly stunning with its remarkable fortifications, ancient links to the Knights of St. John and incredible limestone buildings everywhere. The St John's Co-Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches I have seen in any of those 90 countries too – just exquisite. So far, Malta is the highlight of this cruise – I will definitely return to spend more time here.
Wind Surf has long been a favourite ship of mine since I sailed her in 1998 when she first joined the Windstar fleet. I like her size, the choice of 3 dining venues and the very popular Compass Rose indoor/outdoor bar. A number of renovations have been undertaken over the years. She has been refurbished, redesigned, redecorated and is in great shape. I also know some of the staff from previous Windstar cruises - always a welcome sign. There are also a number of Windstar alumni guests on the voyage including Jackie McCarten a long-standing friend and business colleague from Vision Travel – Smooth Sailings in Toronto who is escorting a group of Canadians on this journey.
Vanessa with Nick Burger, Wind Surf's Hotel Manager
A sunny evening on the back deck of Wind Surf outside the Compass Rose Lounge
The sail away… sails unfurl and the music plays as we sail into the next adventure.
Most guests are couples with many in their mid-50's to 60's with a scattering of some older and some younger. We're a happy and outgoing band and everyone is mixing and mingling, making new friends and enjoying the open dining concept which really encourages such engagement among guests. Most everyone gathers on deck for the sail-aways which are such magical moments. I never tire of these special onboard experiences. The sails unfurl and Windstar's stirring theme – the music from Vangelis – 1492: Conquest of Paradise begins to play. Everyone's eyes gaze upwards as our magnificent ship sails literally into the sunset. It always gives me goose bumps. And sitting on the aft deck, cocktail in hand, sun beginning to set, contemplating dinner in one of 3 venues – how much better can it be?
Just a few days ago we cruised past the island of Stromboli at that bewitching hour to view its somewhat active volcano and today we are cruising back towards it on our way to the glorious Amalfi Coast – perhaps it will oblige us and send a few sparks into the air!
Small ship cruising is very much my thing simply because I love the fact that the atmosphere is so free and easy as well as the relaxed, casually elegant dress code. Dining outside at Candles on the top deck; enjoying the special theme party and deck barbecue; really getting to know the crew and fellow guests as well as the ease of embarking and disembarking, are all important factors for me on a Windstar cruise. And when you decide to stay onboard while most go off for a tour, you almost feel you have your own private yacht to yourself. The pool deck is empty, soft background music plays and attentive staff cater to every need. It is just a delicious feeling and that is part of the attraction.
In Lipari, with just one other couple, I was able to take the opportunity to enjoy a refreshing swim off the ship's marina platform, sun on a tethered mat and bounce on the water trampoline – great fun!
An added treat now is that the cruise line includes a special private and complimentary event once on every cruise. Ours was to Agrigento in Sicily and the Valley of the Temples. Every guest gave it a big thumbs up and the included, exclusive and typical
Sicilian luncheon set in the grounds of a hotel near the famed ruins was a big hit amplified by all the free-flowing wine!
Windstar has just brought their 2nd and 3rd motor yachts, Star Breeze and Star Legend into their fleet joining sister ship Star Pride which was launched last year. So in just over 12 months they have doubled their overall capacity and have gone from 3 award-winning sail yachts to a fleet of 6 ships with a weekly capacity of just under 1250 guests. This is no mean feat and it has been a momentous task but all is now set, the yachts are in great shape, the food has never been better and there are so many more itineraries to choose from – although this is certainly one of the best I have ever sailed. Well done Windstar!