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Published Jan/Feb 2007

Carribbean Breezes Kiss Pampered Passangers on the Intimate Wind Spirit.
By Robert N. Jenkins

here’s trouble in paradise. Barely half an hour into the barbecue on the pool deck, while there are lobster tails on the grill and meat left on the roast pig, it has begun to rain on the passengers aboard the cruise ship Wind Spirit.

Not to worry. Waiters quickly offer beach towels to those diners who feel threatened by the shower blowing across St. Barthelemy, the Caribbean island escape of the super-rich. And this day, lushly green St. Bart also has been the escape for 148 passengers aboard this four-masted ship, which is part of the Windstar Cruises’ fleet.

Rising above even the elements, passengers soon join in a line dance aboard the romantic Wind Spirit. It’s easy for couples to consider this cozy, 18-year-old ship their private yacht.

Because Wind Spirit, at 440 feet, is less than half the length of the typical mass-market ship, it calls on ports those larger vessels can only motor past. That means no crowds in port or at the beach, adding to the charm of the voyage.

Actually, Wind Spirit delivers more than the big ships in many ways. The crew is attentive, learning passengers’ names so they can address them personally by the second day of the cruise. Continental-themed lunch and dinner menus, designed by noted chefs, list at least four entrees, three appetizers, two salads and two soups.

Cabins–called staterooms–are slightly larger than the standard on most big ships, and they are exceptionally well-appointed. Each has an LCD flat-panel television, DVD and CD player, small refrigerator, a hair dryer, plus voluminous closet and drawer space.

Extra service is shown to passengers when a bowl of fruit in the cabin is freshened daily, or the ice bucket is refilled twice a day. Bud vases at each dining room table and in the cabins hold cut flowers.

Other upscale touches include an extravagant tea by the pool. Hot and cold hors d’oeuvres are served nightly in the lounge during a cocktail hour before dinner.

There is no assigned seating for the two-hour dinner in the formal restaurant. Nor is there specified seating at breakfast and lunch, which are served in the casual pool-deck dining room.

SETTING SAIL MEANS JUST THAT

One of the other notable differences between Wind Spirit and most cruise ships is that the only announcements over the public address and cabin speakers are made by the captain when he needs to announce departure–or to say when he will set the sails.

And that is a special time on what Windstar calls its fleet of sailing yachts. Computer-directed motors set the six sails to the position selected by the captain. Then the vessel moves–as sailors have moved for more than a thousand years–to the dictates of the wind.

Passengers who have not been relaxing on one of the four teak decks often come up top to watch the sails fill. Other than shore excursions or meals, it is the only time all of the passengers might actually come together.

That’s because Wind Spirit offers no stage shows, no bingo, no art auctions, no lectures, and no poolside games. Instead, this is a voyage for adults who enjoy each other’s company.

“On the big ships, you’ve got a casino, musical shows, organized activities and games,” said Dave Moreland, a vice president for Merrill Lynch who, with his wife, Mary, recently sailed with Windstar. “But on this ship, if you want somebody to entertain you, it ain’t going to happen.”

An added plus for passengers is the complimentary use of the ship’s gear to water-ski, windsurf, kayak, sail and snorkel. Windstar, in its 20th year of operation, has been successful in an industry studded with giant ships by pampering its passengers. The pampering is why your waiter won’t let you even think of getting up from your table to get a bagel, and why the 24-hour room-service menu includes every item on the dining room menu.

If you’d like to increase the intimacy with an in-cabin meal, your room-service waiter will serve each course separately.

And he’ll address you by name when he does.•

Robert N. Jenkins is a new contributor from St. Petersburg, Fla.



Above: Windstar Cruises visit romantic destinations like the Caribbean, calling at such ports as St. John, St. Martin and St. Bart. These intimate sailing yachts pamper up to 148 passengers on each cruise. Windstar Cruises photos

Before You Go
Wind Spirit is one of the three ships in the Windstar fleet. From January through mid-March, Wind Spirit sails seven-day roundtrips, leaving on Saturday afternoons from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and calling at neighboring St. John, then docking in the French West Indies, first at St. Martin, then St. Barthelemy, before sailing on to the British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda).
Wind Spirit will undergo renovations to its guest areas and cabins in spring 2007. For more information, contact your AAA travel agent. View a list of offices.


Are you and Windstar a Match Made in Heaven?
By Robert N. Jenkins

If Wind Spirit is so different from mass-market ships, is it for you? That depends on what you want in a vacation.

According to Windstar, the average age of passengers in 2005 was 51, with average household incomes of $175,000.

Wind Spirit has 73 nearly identical cabins measuring 188 square-feet and one owner’s cabin of 220 square-feet. The ship has no balcony cabins.

Current winter season rates are about $2,100 per person, based on double occupancy. AAA members receive fare discounts and a $100 per person shipboard credit on selected sailings in 2007. Government fees and taxes are additional. Airfare is not included.

However, for many passengers, the small-ship intimacy of Wind Spirit and its sister ship, the 308-passenger Wind Surf, is well-worth the cost. An unplanned pace and seldom–if any–lines for anything on board are additional perks to the trip.

“You know the staff, and they know you,” said Ed Erickson, a retired executive for Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing. He and his wife, Nancy, were taking their seventh Windstar cruise.


Will the relaxed, intimate pace on board a Windstar sailing yacht and upscale touches, like a tea by the pool, tempt you to try this cruise? Windstar Cruises photo

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