Cruising into a new port every morning is an adventure that harks back to a more graceful time when travel took longer – and the journey itself was the destination.
After a day’s memorable sightseeing in Rome, I’ve joined Windstar Cruises’ flagship, the Wind Surf, at Civitavecchia port on the Tyrrhenian Sea. A swift check in and I’m already on the yacht’s Star Deck enjoying a delicious buffet lunch at the Veranda restaurant. Officially the world’s largest sailing yacht, Wind Surf is gleaming white against a blue-blue sky in the hot Italian sunshine. Her streamlined yachting outline and masts reminiscent of a golden age in seafaring. She’s spacious with plenty of room for her 310 guests in 154 staterooms: 31 ocean view suites, two bridge suites and 123 deluxe ocean view staterooms.
My own spacious accommodation – suite 501 on the bridge deck – is at the front of the yacht with its own private hallway and entrance off the deck. Picture windows, a fabulously comfy Queen bed, generous lounge area with sofa and two chairs, large widescreen TV/DVD player, iPhone-Pod dock, l’Occitane toiletries, masses of storage space and even a full-size Jacuzzi bath. Plus separate shower and loo. And the Wi-Fi works. I am in heaven.
Suites 502 and 503 are even larger – perfect if you want to travel with your partner but also enjoy his and hers bathrooms. You can also opt for the expansive option of two lead-in staterooms joined together with the middle wall removed, to give you your very own ‘his and hers’ bathrooms, lots of storage space and a large lounge.
Fresh flowers, fruit, a news bulletin – plus a daily cruise program – and pillow chocolates are delivered daily, and my steward Toar Sahelangi cleans my room beautifully, delighting the child in me with his array of towel animals. I’m situated almost under the ship’s funnels but the engine vibration is strangely comforting and never interrupts my deep sleep. And thanks to stabilizers and mostly calm seas I never feel ill or discombobulated.
As we assemble after lunch for our first lifeboat muster drill, I notice, to my relief that there are no children on board. The Wind Surf isn’t equipped with play areas for kids anyway, leaving adults to relax in the spacious lounge areas and on the upper decks. A popular hangout was the Compass Rose bar area with its two Jacuzzis and a small pool.
The dramatic sail away from each port is accompanied by an unfurling of the massive canopies, to the accompaniment of the Vangelis-penned theme from the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise. A stirring soundtrack that sent shivers through me the first time I heard it.
Food, glorious food
You can dine at any time of day or night in your suite, but I chose to mingle with other guests at all three of the ship’s restaurants during the 8-day cruise: Candles on the Star Deck, Amphora (more formal) and Stella Bistro (French influence). Breakfast, served on the Star Deck at the Veranda was a mix of buffet and à la carte options, including omelettes, tacos, waffles, cheeses and cold cuts. All non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price but you’ll pay extra for alcohol. There’s an optional $54-a-day wine tab but unless you’re a heavy drinker, I recommend buying by the glass.
The weather was so gorgeous I enjoyed lunch every day at the al fresco Veranda restaurant on the top deck – keen to take advantage of the sunshine and amazing views. Again buffet and à la carte options were available with burgers, grilled chicken and meats, salads and desserts. And a great wine list. The cooking station served daily offerings of roast pork, salmon, lamb and desserts, including ice cream and bread pudding. Too tempting to ignore, my increased food consumption meant regular morning workouts at the gym on the Star Deck. Very well equipped with Technogym stations, it has wall-to-ceiling glass walls so you can watch the Adriatic pass by as you work off the superb cuisine.
Fresh seasonal ingredients are sourced at local ports daily. I especially enjoyed the scallops from Split where Exec Chef Eddie took us on a tour of the markets, as well a galley tour. He shared his bargaining at the tough fish markets ladies
“You can always tell a fish is fresh by its clear eyes, and it must be pink inside the mouth”.
I dined one evening with our charming Captain Ricardo Pinzon and his officers – Wilhelm Steinbrunner (Hotel Manager) and Anthony Lapertosa (Guest Services Manager). The standard of service and attention to detail was appreciated by every guest I spoke to, who all spoke highly of the friendly and very professional care we all received from officers and crew alike.