Travel Weekly managing editor Donna Tunney cruised aboard Windstar
Cruises' Wind Surf roundtrip from Nice, France, to the Italian
Riviera. Her report follows:
ABOARD THE WIND SURF -- As far as I could tell, few things
delighted passengers aboard this five-masted ship more than its
Time and again, people stopped what they were doing to watch
21,000 square feet of Dacron unfurl and reach skyward, giving added
speed to this elegant vessel.
I was intrigued by the 312-passenger sailing cruise ship -- it
operates under a self-styled brand of motorsailing, with the sail
technology controlled from the bridge.
That was fine with me. As the wife of an avid sailor, it was
gratifying to know I would not be called upon to climb forward to
raise the jib or adjust the mainsheet. (Sailor types know what I
mean, and, landlubbers -- well, you get the drift.)
The Wind Surf recently emerged from a comprehensive refit.
Windstar Cruises bought the former Club Med I earlier this year for
$25 million. An $8 million refurbishment, which was completed in
late April, brought the ship up to Windstar standards.
All of the public areas were redone, the cabins were refurbished
and a 10,000-square-foot spa was added. By removing walls between
cabins, the line turned 62 standard cabins into 31 suites -- each a
spacious 376 square feet with two bathrooms.
Wind Surf is the first Windstar vessel to offer suites. As with
Windstar's other ships, this one sports a casual but luxurious
According to the cruise line -- and my own observations -- here
is a blueprint for the ideal Wind Surf passenger list:They are between 40 and 60.Their household income is $120,000 or better.They are inclined toward soft-adventure excursions.They prefer not to pack fancy clothes.They shy away from the standard, overproduced cruise ship
shows.They don't bring the kids.
Although children are welcome on the ship, there is a distinct
lack of kids' activities, which speaks for itself.
The main show lounge features a trio that entertains for a few
hours each night, then moves on to one of the bars. No Las Vegas
feather costumes here.
On my cruise, all 31 of the suites had been booked by one travel
agent -- Charlene Carter, who is an independent contractor
affiliated with Preferred Travel Services in Las Vegas. In an
interview after the cruise, Carter, who was on board escorting her
group of 55 people, gave the ship high marks.
"I loved it. It's been beautifully redone -- I would definitely
recommend it," she said.
Carter said her upscale clientele -- who prefer suite
accommodations -- had heard about the ship and wanted to see it.
"The men especially liked not having to pack tuxedos, and everyone
loved having his-and-hers bathrooms," she said.
Even standard cabins on the ship are adequately sized, and all
offer ocean views. Standard amenities include a television and VCR;
CD player; personal safe; minibar and refrigerator; hair dryer, and
Our cruise took us to six ports on the French and Italian
Rivieras, where we saw small fishing villages, cosmopolitan cities
and ancient walled towns. There was a wide selection of shore
excursions, such as wine tastings, small-boat rides into coastal
inlets and motorcoach and walking trips.
The passengers seemed happy with the choice of excursions, with
one major exception: Embarking and disembarking proved difficult
for many. The Wind Surf has a very steep, 41-step gangway. High
winds and a rolling sea made transferring from the tenders to the
gangway a dangerous procedure on several occasions.
Carter said two clients in her group had an especially hard
time: One elderly person who used a cane had to forego some
excursions, and another client who suffered from multiple sclerosis
had difficulty handling the stairs.
The agent suggested adapting the sports platform at the stern of
the ship into a water-level entry. Cruise line officials who were
on board told reporters that an alternative embarkation route was
"something the line would look at."
The Wind Surf has two main dining spots: the Restaurant and the
Bistro. Both are single seating. The Restaurant is open for three
meals a day, the Bistro just for dinner.
Menu choices are similar in the two locations, except that the
Bistro claims to be more experimental with its dishes. I dined in
both and saw little difference except for the decor of the room,
with the Bistro being cozier and more colorful.
The food in both venues was generally good. Dining companions
said their favorites were the beef, lamb and duck entrees.
Breakfast and lunch are served in the Terrace, an indoor/outdoor
dining area just outside the Bistro. The big draw for breakfast
there is the made-to-order omelette, which passengers seemed to
For lunch, a wide range of salads, fruits, cheeses and specialty
dishes were available. One day, as an alternative, a barbeque
featured lobster tails, chicken and steaks.
A continental breakfast for early risers is served in the
Compass Rose bar starting at 6 a.m., and individual pizzas are
available at the pool bar daily from noon to 2 p.m.
The ship was six weeks out of its refit when I sailed in
mid-June, and the artwork for the restaurant had not yet arrived.
Covering the bare walls might make all the difference.
Aside from the gangway, Carter cited one other problem on the
Wind Surf -- too few crew members. Carter said she told the line
that there was not enough staff for 312 passengers. The line
agreed, she said, and was in the process of redoing the crews'
quarters to accommodate more staff.
I was oblivious of any shortage of crew, but then I wasn't
looking after 55 clients.
As Carter said, "The ship was just brought out, so there are
going to be some kinks." The kinks, however, did not stop the
travel agent -- or me -- from giving Wind Surf two thumbs up.
* * *
Ship: Wind Surf.
Size: 14,745 tons.
Length: 617 feet.
Itineraries: The ship sails through September from Nice, France,
and visits Cannes and St.-Tropez, France; Monte Carlo, and
Portofino, Portoferraio and Portovenere, Italy.
The ship will spend its winter season in the Caribbean,
operating seven-day cruises from Barbados. Port calls will be made
at Nevis, St. Martin, St. Barts, Grenada and St. Lucia.
Next spring, the vessel will take up an expanded European
itinerary that can be sold as a 14-day cruise or in seven-day
Added will be Rome, Sorrento, Taormina and Venice, Italy; Corfu,
Greece, and Dubrovnik and Losinj, Croatia. Starting May 22, the
Cannes port call will be replaced with Bonifacio, Italy.
Rates: Brochure prices for the seven-night French & Italian
Riviera Cruise are from $4,565 for a stateroom and from $6,763 for
a suite. Next year's rates were not available.
Reservations: (800) 258-7245.