We were shopping in St. Georges, Grenada and headed back to our ship, Windstar’s WindSurf. And what did we find beside us, huge and hulking? We found the passengers of the 2007-built Emerald Princess fascinated by us!
They with their 116,000 tons, 1540 cabins, 3080 passengers, 12 elevators, 12 restaurants, seven bars and five swimming pools, we were the center of their attention. We, with our 1990, French-built, Club Med I ship, 14.7 tons, 123 cabins, 312 passengers, 2 elevators and 2 restaurants requiring only one seating, were in awe.
“What’s it like,” they asked”
“How many passengers?”
“What time do you leave, so we can see??”
Yes. We were, so small in comparison, all of our decks ended at the level of their lifeboats. HOWEVER! We had sails, masts, five of them 225 feet high, not counting our seven, smaller triangular “self-furlers” our computers operated so skillfully. They marveled at us. We gawked at them. And many, indeed, stood by their railings to see our mighty sails as we departed into the distance.
Each of the three Windstar ships is essentially half sailing ship, half cruise ship. We sailed mostly at night arriving in new ports around 8 am each morning. If one is used to spending the evenings concentrating on dressing, dinner, dancing and not going topside, you will miss much of the sailing action. Ours was a seven-day loop, Barbados to Barbados with stops at Bridgetown, Barbados; Mayreau, Grenadines; Roseau, Dominica; Pidgeon Island, St. Lucia; Bequia, Grenadines; St. George’s, Grenada and Charlotteville, Tobago. Except for Grenada, we tied up at obscure parts of quite under-populated Caribbean islands. So, it was with a bit of unexpected pleasure our Captain, Jan Ove Lidal, brought us into civilization, so to speak, parked us next to the “big ‘un,” also enabling us to frolic in the streets, plunder our cash and risk some local eats.
Our captain shared his sailing log with us in each day sheet. For instance, sailing Barbados to Mayreau our time at sea was 9.2 hours, percentage of times sails up, 100%; distance covered: 111.5 miles. The journey from Mayreau to Roseau, Dominica was 12.4 hours, sails up 12.1 hours, percentage 97 percent, distance covered 161 miles. We went from St. Lucia to Bequia in 14.5 hours, sails up 12.2 hours, percentage 84%, distance 95.9 miles. Every night was different.
All cruise passengers have a passing relationship with their ship’s captain. Probably ours was a bit closer, maybe it was the sails. Just south of Bequia around dinner, Captain Lidal announced we were to pass next to our sister ship, one that remained part of the Club Med fleet, as we had not. Another time, at the end of our day on St. Lucia, Captain volunteered to get us to the island’s famed Petons, their twin, signature pointed mountains, just at sunset, a memorable event.
A beachside cocktail party with snacks for a mingle with ship’s officers and crew was a nice touch for a cruise line which prides itself on no high dressing and stuffy events. Passengers, dressed in excursion attire and were very much at ease.
The WindSurf crowd is definitely a population of couples, maybe half in their late 40s, while the remainder is pretty much a retired crowd, yet physically quite active. This is a social group which can entertain themselves. They don’t need two seatings of highly costumed stage entertainment or much casino action. They are instead stimulated by a healthy supplemental library, a vast collection of movies on CD and a well-equipped gymnasium. They appeared to invest heavily in agreeably-priced port tours, nourishing their freshmen and higher studies of history, geography, geology and in local cultures along our route.
There is very little beverage service seen around deck, pool or lounge areas. It is pretty much an evening wine drinking crowd, with no obvious excesses. Mixed drinks, preferred by some, were also available in the dining room. Only a small number used the few smoking areas. The Windstar ships cater to a grown crowd offering no arrangements for entertaining children.
The WindSurf indulges in a minimum number of public announcements from captain or any social directors. However, there are two live music venues every night, and a end-of-journey, fun crew show. The ships attract passengers from ‘round the world, many Canadians, Germans and UK citizens who converged on Barbados for a Windsurf trip of one or two weeks. On alternate weeks the ship loops north out of Barbados.
The West Indian people living out their years on their beautiful Caribbean islands appear to be prospering. Much of this is due to the widespread reach of the University of the West Indies. The University now has three major campuses on Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. These are supplemented by 12 Open Campuses and 30 satellite learning centers. Total enrollment is over 39,000 with approximately 5,800 students graduating annually. Broadest areas of concentration are biotechnology, information technology, tropical medicine and chronic diseases.
Read more about the Windsurf and her smaller sister ships at: