Wind Surf - Eastern Caribbean: Wind Surf Cruise Review by Rick Talcott
Overall Member Rating
Wind Surf - Eastern Caribbean
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
I guess the most important question is, What is it like to sail on the Wind Surf? Nancy and I have very different answers to that question. Mine is that it was very nice, but it wasnt at all what they said it was, and that a 7 day trip was quite enough. I didnt have any wishes for a longer voyage. Going to smaller ports on a smaller ship left me feeling like the out of the way, back woods ports were pretty much the same. If you have seen 4, you have seen them all. Yes, they have differences, but the differences dont matter so much in the grand scheme of things.
Windstar, the company that owns the 3 sail cruise ships, is owned by Holland America, which is owned by Carnival. All of the descriptions of the cruise experience from the Windstar web site describe each of the ships as small, luxury sail/motor ships:
Sailing under the banner of its appropriate tag line "180º From Ordinary," Windstar was created in the mid-1980's with the vision to More offer an alternative to the typical cruise or resort vacation. The Windstar passenger sees the world from a romantic sailing ship with luxurious accommodations, a casual yet elegant atmosphere, and exquisite service and cuisine.
The Wind Surf, at 308 passengers, is twice the size of the other two ships. I havent been on the smaller ships, but from what I have heard, they are different in feel (i.e. better) than the Wind Surf.
The bottom line for me is that the Wind Surfs dEcor was utilitarian: nice, but utilitarian. The food ranged from good to very good, the service from the staff was very good, while the service from management was poor. What the Wind Surf has to offer is small, out of the way ports that the big ships cant get into. Can you imagine 3,200 passengers storming the beach at Mayreau (population 212)? Instead, our 308 passengers fit in just fine. Moreover, with so few passengers, we saw the same people day after day, and that was a delightful experience.
I dont think I would take Wind Surf again unless it were going to a destination that was absolutely compelling, that no one else was going to, and (a big and) the price was more in line with what I was actually receiving.
So, lets start at the beginning:
The Wind Surf is a 5 masted sailing cruise ship. Like all sailboats, the design of everything is subordinated to making room for the masts, lines, supports etc. It is hard to take a picture without running afoul of sailing apparatus.
In the Wind Surfs case, that makes for a long skinny ship; so rather than your typical cruise ship configuration of two outside corridors with lounges in the middle, you often have only one corridor and an L shaped room, like the 1960s combination living/dining rooms of a suburban ranch house. None of that is bad, and in fact, it is downright pleasant. Or, it would be if the ship actually functioned as a sailboat. There were two lengthy periods when the motor was disconnected (not, shut off), and the ship proceeded under sail power. The idea was that it was a sailing experience, but the reality was that the motor was needed for electrical power, and I could still hear it vibrating away. The ship never heeled over into the wind. In short, the Wind Surf struck me as a motorized cruise ship with a gimmick. True enough, a nice gimmick, but my body wasnt fooled even for a moment.
As for luxury, forget it: thats my opinion, anyway. The cabin and elsewhere was nicely utilitarian, but both Celebrity (nouveau upscale) and Holland American (pretend old money, i.e. quieter upscale) were far, far, far more luxurious. Wind Surf claims to be a 5 star ship like Celebrity and Holland American, but the reality is closer to a very pleasant 3 or 4 stars but for the much smaller number of passengers.
This year, Holland American costs about $120 per person per day in the Caribbean, and Celebrity checks in at $142, while Wind Surf averages $264. What you have to do is decide if the smaller number of passengers and the unusual ports are worth paying the extra money. It probably is worth it once or twice, but dont spend the money thinking you are getting luxury in your surroundings. You arent.
Breakfast and lunch on the Wind Surf are in the Veranda Cafe, which is an indoor-outdoor buffet experience.
I found both to be great, but Nancy fought with the menu. Breakfast included real granola, fruit, European cold cuts, smoked salmon, a rotating exhibit of eggs on English muffins, i.e. Benedict, Florentine, etc., an omelet / scrambled egg station no powdered eggs, which most other cruise lines try to palm off on passengers too old to remember being at camp, and a pancake / waffle station.
Lunch consisted of more buffets than you could ever imagine: Mexican day, Indonesian day etc. Also there was a carving station, sandwich creation ingredients etc. Nancy kept wanting some of the breakfast ingredients like mozzarella cheese to put on her lunch salad. She was happiest the day she ordered room service and got a Caesar salad and a piece of plain grilled salmon. Of course, she would have been even happier if our room had had a table that she could have eaten it from.
There were two locations for dinner: the main dining room called The Restaurant and the Bistro cafe.
The Bistro did not seem to be thought of (by the passengers, anyway) as a gourmet location as compared to The Restaurant. Rather, it was simply an alternative venue. Consequently, reservations were fairly easy to come by. Both the Restaurant and the Bistro featured open seating from 7:30 to 9:30. We always told the headwaiter that we wanted company and were seated at tables for 4 or 6. It was a nice way to meet folks.
Before dinner, a live band played in the lounge, appetizers were served, and at 7:15, the cruise director would give a short talk about the next days port. All in all, it was quite civilized. I must compliment Wind Surf on providing more port information than any other cruise line I have been on to help the non-excursion passengers plan their day.
This was the first cruise I have ever been on where I actually gained weight (a pound and a half, thank you), and I attribute that to the fact that the desserts were tasty rather than consisting of imitation 3-Musketeer-fluff sandwiched in between allegedly choco-like substances. If you are a dark chocolate fan like me, the flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut puree accompanied by pistachio brittle was worth holding back on the green beans in order to save room. On the other hand, on French night in the Bistro, I doubt that a real French person would have recognized the meal: the strawberry tart, for example, had chocolate pudding underneath the strawberries. French night wasnt very French, but Indonesian night had the best lobster Ive ever been served. Since there were no assigned tables, the dining staff (all male) had to work harder to keep everybody serviced. They were the same folks who ran the tables in the breakfast & lunch buffets, and with 308 passengers, it wasnt too hard to keep track of the passengers foibles. Nevertheless, it was still surprising to have a waiter come all the way across the room to bring me an ice tea because he knew I liked iced tea, and my waiter for that night hadnt learned my preferences yet.
Susan, one of the wine stewards, once bought (not, brought, but bought as in paid for) me a coke because she had noticed that I didnt drink alcohol. I never had that happen before.
One day, I asked for blueberries the next day at breakfast. Requests like that are usually routine on the larger cruise ships. On the Wind Surf, the response was, We will have to see what is on the menu.
There are really only three public rooms of any consequence: the library, the lounge, and the Compass Rose bar.
The library has some reference and travel books plus several bookcases of left-behind books that, fortunately, had reading material worth reading. It also had tables and chairs plus two non-internet computers. Every afternoon, I would discover a plate of cookies and a couple of pitchers of juice had been set out for bookworms like me.
It rained 5 out of 7 days on our cruise, and we discovered that one of the shortcomings of the Wind Surf is that there are few, if any, comfortable indoor reading locations. The best seats are the couches in the hallway near the library. Other than those, you are pretty much on your own.
We didnt use the lounge nearly as much as we thought we would. It is the main assembly room, the entertainment room, and it contained one of the bars that was used for the two cocktail parties that the ship hosted to make us feel better about the broken air conditioning. They never did figure out a way to make us feel better about the fact that our cabin had no cold water in our shower for 2 and a half days. It was so hot in our cabin that the sweat was just pouring off us, and we couldnt even shower due to the scalding water. Grrrr. Anyway, here is a picture of the lounge:
We came here most nights about 7:00 to hear the lecture before dinner about the next days port. In addition, we could sample the appetizers that were served to tide us over until dinner at 7:30 and listen to the music played by a 4 person group that we had heard on a previous cruise with another cruise line in one of their small, out of the way, secondary lounges. In other words, the live music was okay, but barely that. We never came back after dinner for a night of dancing, but we did come for the crews talent night which was very enjoyable.
The Compass Rose Bar is the main bar, if you happen to need a stool to hang out on. If you dont need a stool, then the extended Compass Rose is still the place to be since the tables spill out onto the deck. If you wake up too early to eat breakfast, there is always a continental bite to eat in the Compass before moving on to pancakes, waffles etc.
In addition to the main public rooms, there is also the Terrace Bar on the next deck up that was touted as the cigar spot. There was quite a bit of sympathy expressed by the cruise director for the cigar smokers who never had a spot for themselves. Windstars solution was to use the Terrace Bar to create that spot. Unfortunately, they never enforced their own rules about smoking elsewhere. The net result was that the three rear decks were overrun by smokers. Basically, the smoking rules were unworkable in the first place. The idea was that half of each of the three decks was for smoking. Even if that had been followed, it never would have worked because the decks were so small that the wind blew the smoke everywhere. In short, it was like the bad old days where there was a smoking section in each restaurant (or airplane) that never isolated the smoke in the first place.
That was the theory. The reality was worse. There was no enforcement, and the smokers smoked everywhere, although I must admit that there wasnt much smoking inside. I put on my California hat and tried to complain. They just couldnt get it. It never was their responsibility any more than it would have been in a restaurant in 1954.
Fitness and Recreation:
The Wind Surf positively excelled in the fitness department. The gym is on the top deck with views all around and more than enough machines for the number of passengers. It never felt crowded.
Some of the fitness classes were free, including the one that I went to where I was the only one there. It was like having a fitness trainer for free rather than paying $75 per hour. In addition to the gym and the aerobics room, the Wind Surf also had a water sports platform that dropped down from the rear of the ship. We picked the largest of the three ships for our cruise because it had a larger sports platform with more toys.
The sports platform can only be used in ports where the ship tenders rather than docks and when the waters are calm enough. On the Wind Surf (as opposed to the 2 smaller ships), you cannot swim off of the platform since the platform floats on the water rather than being above the surface. The net result is that the water sports platform is best for kayaking, sailing and not much else. They did hand out (free) snorkeling gear at the start of the cruise that we used for our excursions. There were about 35 divers out of the 308 passengers plus numerous snorkelers and water people. If you go, you are in the midst of an active crowd.
There is one swimming pool on the top deck that I never saw occupied, even once. The one on the rear deck did get some use, although the hot tubs were vastly more popular.
There is also a spa for those who like to spend double the price of a land massage. We tried it with the on-board credit that went along with our tickets. My favorite part was the questionnaire that they wanted us to fill out in the beginning. The whole purpose of the questionnaire was to set them up to offer us products to buy at the end of the massage. One part of the questionnaire asked: What home cleansing routine do you follow? I answered that I vacuumed weekly. Less
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