While I wish we could have stayed, we have returned to reality! Our March 1 cruise on the Wind Surf was amazing and converted my husband to small ship cruising (as I had hoped!). We flew to St. Maarten a day early and flew through immigration. I had read stories about horrors at the airport, but we experienced none of it. Soon-to-be friends (we met on the ship) did have issues arriving Saturday. Their plane arrived in plenty of time, but they were held on the tarmac waiting for a gate. I think they were the last to board, and it was quite close to sailing time. If at all possible I recommend heading down a day early. It also allowed us to get in vacation-mode before sailing.
We stayed at the Pasanggrahan Hotel in Phillipsburg, and took a quick cab ride over to the dock on Saturday afternoon. We dropped our luggage and headed to the ship. What a difference.....it all felt so personal and friendly. We boarded about 1:30pm (being greeted at the gangway by the Hotel Manager and one of the First Officers) and were dropping our carry-ons in our cabin 30 minutes later. We grabbed lunch, enjoyed the sun and headed out to the deck to experience our first sail-away to the sounds of 1492. It was everything all experienced Windstar sailors promised!
We enjoyed the dining options, especially the opportunity to eat by ourselves or join new friends. The food was good bordering on great. We second others' recommendation that you try and book Candles on a night in port. The winds while sailing seemed like they would be an impediment to enjoying the atmosphere on deck. The ports on the Yachtsman's Caribbean itinerary are built for pure relaxation. The only excursion we did was to the Baths and we booked that because it was just easier, transportation-wise, and it deposited us directly at the beach barbeque! On all the other islands we headed to a beach and relaxed. The deck barbeque and the beach barbeque were outstanding...both created environments that felt intimate and special, though not at all contrived.
Beaches were plentiful and easy to access. I can't even remember the names, but all were beautiful and cabs were readily available at all the docks. On Jost Van Dyke, a lot of people headed to Foxy's the night we arrived but we had lunch there the next day after enjoying Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar on the beach. If we were to do the same itinerary someday, I'd check out the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda. We never made it off the ship in the evening because we were exhausted, in a good way, every day.
On the ship, I used the gym (small but very well-appointed), lounged (my husband loved getting coffee every morning at the Compass Rose and just sitting on deck), and relaxed. One of the things that drew us to Windstar was its reputation for attracting friendly, open passengers. From day one that was obvious. We met great people from all over and even became good friends with a few. There were just a couple of younger, single people on our cruise, but they seemed to find each other and have a great time. By younger, I mean 20-25 or so. The crew was AMAZING, and so friendly. It was nice to have our cabin steward greet us by first names in the hallways.
As for the cabin, I was concerned about the size and lack of balcony, but it was wonderful. We were on deck three mid-ship and I'd say it was perfect for us. Yes, the cabins are small, but so well-appointed and designed that it didn't feel claustrophobic at all. The mini bar was replenished (without asking) with soda as my husband drank it (!) and the bottled water was used everyday - the choice of still or sparkling was a nice touch. And, on the advice of many on this board, we took the laundry package. What a great convenience. Next time I'll pack 1/2 as much.
Departing the ship on Saturday was a breeze. We put our bags out the night before, woke up and had breakfast before departing around 8:45am. We grabbed a group cab at the dock and headed to the airport to check our bags. We then walked over to the Sunset Bar at the end of the runway and met our friends from the ship to watch planes dive bomb the beach on approach to landing! After enjoying a few last drinks we walked back for our 2:25pm flight to NY. The airport was a ZOO. Thank goodness it was close to on-time. On arriving in NY customs/immigration were a breeze and we headed out into the freezing day (by Caribbean standards!) where snow still covered the landscape.
There will definitely be a next time. We loved the Windstar experience and look forward to trying the smaller ships or even the new motor yachts. Now to find time to head off again.