Cruising is one thing, but sailing is another. And even though this 312-passenger, five-masted sailing yacht mostly relies on its motors to get from port to port, when the sails are hoisted and the ship slips off into the sunset—to the Andrea Bocelli/Sarah Brightman duet “Time to Say Goodbye”— you’ll feel spiritually one with the sea. Wind Surf’s intimate size and unstuffy vibe also mean it attracts a sociable clientele keen to explore smaller ports, such as Cinque Terre and Corsica in the Mediterranean, and Dominica and Jost Van Dyke in the Caribbean. The ship dates to 1990, but is in the midst of its latest refurbishment (staterooms are complete and now feature leather headboards and linen wall coverings, while common areas will be done by November 2012). If you’ve always wanted to cruise, but feared the big ships may be too over-the-top, this casual luxury ship delivers superb food and service without an iota of neon.
Photo Credit: Windstar Cruises
Here, the stateroom choice is simple: Category A and B Cabins are, at 188 square feet, identical except for location (Bs are on the lowest decks). While compact, they are exceptionally well designed, especially the bathrooms, and feature queen-sized beds and flat-screen TVs. Suites boast separate sleeping and sitting areas and two bathrooms. None have verandas—but you can find many teakdecked spaces with wonderful views to enjoy sail-away time. Two favorites are the aft pool deck and bar with its small pool and two Jacuzzis, and Compass Rose, an indoor/outdoor bar serving up cocktails, conversation, music and panoramic views.
For such a compact ship, dining options abound (all included, but most beverages, with the exception of coffee, tea and iced tea, are extra). Wind Surf has five restaurants including The Veranda, where the breakfast and lunch buffets are divine and The Restaurant, which offers dinner. Reservations-only Degrees serves wonderful Mediterranean cuisine, while two small alfresco specialty venues, Candles and Le Marche, serve steak and seafood, respectively. There’s also a small spa and fitness center, a lounge (with a great cover band belting out hits from five decades) and a watersports platform, from which you can kayak, snorkel, play water polo and yes, windsurf!
Top Itinerary: Wind Surf splits its time between the Mediterranean (April to October) and the Caribbean (December to March). A romantic voyage is the seven-night St. Maarten itinerary. From the capital of Dutch St. Maarten, sail to Antigua (home to 365 beaches and the historic Nelson Dockyards) and then on to the sublime British Virgin Island of Jost Van Dyke, which is famous for its ramshackle beach bars. Then it’s on to Tortola where you can explore picturesque Soper’s Hole harbor. And on Virgin Gorda, there’s snorkeling amid the famous boulders at The Baths. Finally, spend a delightful day on St. Barts, a small slice of Southern France in the Caribbean (cabin rates start at $1,499 per person, for a 7-night sailing and include meals and some activities; windstarcruises.com).