Small ship cruising brings the ports to you

By Michelle da Silva Richmond

Wind Surf prepares to set sail from St. Maarten. Photo by Michelle da Silva Richmond.

Sometimes you just have to drop out of life and go somewhere to recharge your soul. I had the opportunity to do that recently when I was invited to sail on Windstar Cruises' elegant Wind Surf through the Caribbean.

I'm a huge fan of cruises and the sea has always served as a balm for my soul, yet I had never sailed on a small vessel before. It proved to be an amazing experience. Sure, the mega ships offer a plethora of non-stop activities, dizzying entertainment and food galore, but if you yearn for a truly tranquil journey, you should "think small" when searching for a cruise.

Windstar ships stop at ports off the beaten cruise tracks.If shouldn't come as a surprise that good things really do come in small packages and anyone who loves the sea should jump onboard this elegant vessel. Especially geared for the seasoned, more "mature" cruiser  (although there were quite a few "younger" passengers onboard) this yacht promises total "R &R" while still providing the activities, entertainment and dining options of the big box cruise lines - only on a smaller, more polished scale.

One of the best "perks" of small ships is that they afford passengers an opportunity to get "up close and personal" with the destinations they visit because of their ability to dock in smaller ports, where larger ships can't venture. They're able to drop anchor in off-the-beaten places such as: Roseau, Dominica; Le Marin, Martinique and Basseterre, St Kitts in the Caribbean or places such as Valencia, Spain; Capri, Italy; Split, Croatia and other dream destinations throughout Europe and elsewhere around the globe.

Along the way, you'll be treated to colorful local lore by the crew, such as the story of Witch Top Mountain in Roseau, Dominica, from which "unfaithful women" were pitched in the 18th century.

You'll also get to bond with fellow passengers because this type of cruise offers a more "intimate" experience. During one such encounter, a fellow cruiser confessed to me (under her breath) that she had been raised in Paris by parents who "worked with the CIA." Obviously, I can't reveal her name - if indeed, it was her real name.

The small bridge is open round the clock and welcomes visitors.

A majority of the time Wind Surf is able to travel "under sail," with no engine and glides through the sea, further enhancing the feeling of total abandon. And, unlike other ships, the bridge is open to passengers 24 hours, adding another fun dimension for sailing enthusiasts.

Deluxe touches

This particular yacht is an excellent choice because with 156 spacious, ocean-view staterooms and suites, it provides a small yacht feel while offering large ship amenities. Staterooms are ample, as are the bathrooms, which happen to be stocked with silky L'Occitane toiletries and soft, fluffy robes. Flat-screen TV with DVD players and a Bose sound-dock for Apple iPods assure entertainment when you feel like snuggling in your stateroom.

Dining choices are exceptionally varied and the cuisine is especially palate pleasing, with menus complementing destinations along the way. Windstar refers it as "destination engagement," with local flavors and entertainment showcasing the ports they visit.

AmphorA serves international fare in an elegant setting punctuated by Rosenthal china, while the petite Stella Bistro focuses on French cuisine. For a casual breakfast and lunch buffet - indoors or on deck -The Veranda dishes up a host of tasty options. For Continental breakfast, fresh bistro-sandwiches, afternoon cookies and refreshments, the Yacht Club Sandwich and Espresso Bar is the place to be. When the sun goes down, intimate poolside, alfresco dining at Candles provides the perfect place for an intimate tète-a-tète.

Water sports abound, thanks to the unusual onboard marina, which opens up a host of refreshing options - simply by jumping off the platform at the back of the ship. Complimentary water-skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, sailing, ski-tubing, wakeboarding and snorkel gear are there for the asking. A small salt water pool, two hot tubs and small gym with ongoing classes offer yet more fitness options.

When day is done, soothing WindSpa houses a full-service salon and spa (for men and women) with massages, body treatments, aromatherapy, facials and a full roster of nail and hair services. 

When the sun goes down, sexy Compass Rose comes to life with live music and frosty drinks, offering the perfect place from which to watch the stars sail by, while the Lounge Bar on the Main Deck offers live nightly shows. For those in search of "games of chance," a small Casino fills the bill.

Our first port-of-call on this voyage was Le Marin, Martinique. Sitting on my deck with the water rippling toward me like a soft caress, I could feel myself start to slowly unwind. The rest, as they say…..is history.

If you go: You’ll find Windstar’s website at www.windstarcruises.com.

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