WIND SURFing The Croatian Coast, Part One

Since my first and only prior sailing with Windstar Cruises aboard the WIND SPIRIT from Istanbul to Piraeus last fall, the line has been sold to new investors who have made a long term commitment towards expanding and improving an already excellent boutique cruise brand. My much-anticipated return to Windstar would be aboard the 14,745 gt, the 312 passenger WIND SURF (ex CLUB MED I) for a seven night trek from Venice to Croatia. The ship is three times the size of her fleetmates WIND SPIRIT and WIND STAR but carries only twice as many passengers, giving her an even greater sense of spaciousness and an impressive PSR (passenger space ratio) of 47.25.

WindStar Cruises website

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

MSY WIND SURF at Venice.

After a typically gruesome 24 hour coach class commute, four airports and a nine hour time zone lapse from the US West Coast, it was so nice to find the brightly lit WIND SURF beckoning us at Venice’s historic San Basileo terminal on the Canale Giudecca.

Cabin 503 sitting area, facing forward.

Our headquarters for the next week would be palatial, 495 square foot Cabin 503 on the forward/starboard side of Bridge Deck, one of the ship’s two Bridge Suites with separate sitting/dining areas, bedroom, walk-in closet and marble top bathroom.

Cabin 503 bedroom, facing aft.

The beds are firm enough to mend travel-weary backs and a pillow menu assures maximum comfort, even for the most restless of “slumberers”.

Cabin 503 bathroom, facing aft.

The bathroom is larger than some cabins I have occupied and comes with a commodious whirlpool tub, separate shower with two massage heads and a plentiful supply of luxus, lemony L’Occitaine amenities.

The Restaurant, facing forward from starboard.

Hand luggage safely stowed, we proceeded to the open seating Restaurant on forward Main Deck for our first meal of the week. The Restaurant can seat 250 guests but since there are multiple dining options — even at peak hours — it never feels crowded. The decor is understated, almost minimal, with a refreshing, yacht-like palate of blue and white with wood toned trim and designer Marc Held’s distinctive arm chairs. We were given a table for two by a window overlooking the quay that was once home to Adriatica Line’s fleet of miniature ocean liners.

Table setting in The Restaurant.

I’m a huge fan of The Restaurant’s table settings with their unique blue glass chargers, starched linens and Riedel stemware.

Chick pea amuse bouche.

Windstar dinner service begins with a nightly amuse bouche. Tonight’s was a rose-textured dollop of hummus. Four delicious courses followed, including: vine-ripened tomato tart tatin; frisée, arugula and roasted pecan salad; roasted eggplant soup; Moroccan chicken breast with toasted almond couscous and Rocky Road ice cream.

And, in case that was not enough, delicious fudge chips awaited at the exit.

Sign of hospitality.

Although we were weary from our travels and it was swelteringly hot and humid outside, we could not resist a short walk along the Canale Giudecca.

Facing forward from starboard flying bridge.
Night passages.

Back on board, we had to have a stroll around the WIND SURF before calling it a night. Even in the darkness, I was impressed by the three tiers of teak-covered, open promenades and an abundance of cherished nooks and crannies that have gone AWOL on most of today’s cruise ships.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Homemade granola with apples, figs, raisins, pecans, dates and apricots.

I’m not a big breakfast fan but Windstar offers a convincing argument to my “I can wait until lunch” rule. Among the offerings in the ship’s buffet style Veranda eatery on Star Deck are fresh fruits, various cold appetizers, excellent smoked salmon (with loads of capers, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes and lemon to embellish it with), yogurts, sausage (chicken and pork), an egg station/omelet grill, fresh squeezed juices, pastries and breads with countless spreads, cheeses, and, my favorite, homemade granola. There is also a menu for ordering daily specials such as crepes, waffles and quiche.

The Lounge, facing aft. Where is everybody?

With the ship mostly empty, I spent an hour or so documenting the public rooms and decks. Throughout the week, I would be amazed to find that the interior of the ship was almost always empty, despite the voyage being a near sell-out. With all that open deck space up top and so much sun to be soaked up, no wonder….

FAVOLOSA off the fantail.

By the time I worked my way back up to the top of the ship, megaships COSTA FAVOLOSA and CARNIVAL MAGIC were entering port, their announcements blaring, balconies inundated and LED screens flashing. Soon, they would be docking alongside the MSC MUSICA at the main cruise terminal. Another 9,000 passengers (who would be enjoying an entirely different type of cruise experience) and a few thousand staff and crew to share an already bustling Venice with…

Adriatica was here.

A few hundred yards from the terminal entrance, we passed the former headquarters for Adriatica. Even though the company no longer exists, its name lives on…

Bridge to the bridge.

I agreed to accompany my companion Mike into the tourist frenzy of the Rialto if he would come with me first to the Guggenheim, which was close to the Accademia Bridge on Canale Grande.

Grand Canal, Guggenheim style.

Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the museum, a 1750-built palazzo which was once Peggy Guggenheim’s Venice home. The famed collector amassed an incredible array of modern art, delightfully incongruous in the baroque surrounds of Venice.  Picasso, Kandinski, Pollock and other luminaries now reside here.

Rialto, this way...

We fueled ourselves with a slice of aromatic pizza and crossed the Accademia, using the “Per Rialto” signs like a strand of Minoan yarn in a labyrinth of colorful stucco piazzas and alleyways.

View from the Rialto.

Even in the chaos of the Rialto’s tourist crush, I could not help being seduced by the beauty of Venice, especially on this picture post card day.

It's all accademia to me.

Fortunately, the return to the Accademia was assisted by a similar network of beacons.

Compass Rose hot and cold sweetness.

We made it back to the WIND SURF with a few moments to spare and found ourselves in the handsome Compass Rose terrace where afternoon snacks included a pan of molten peach melba waiting to be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Gathering for Boat Drill in the Lounge.

An orderly Boat Drill was held in the Lounge at 4:30.

Venice passing.
Sails unfurling...

And then, we were all up on deck to not only watch the sights of Venice drift by but to also behold the unfurling of the WIND SURF’s 7 triangular, bridge-operated Dacron sails, all 26,881 square feet of them, which soar 164 feet to the top of the ship’s five masts.

Full Moon MUSICA.

Once in the Adriatic, we ambled along at a leisurely ten knots as the MSC MUSICA and COSTA FAVOLOSA shuffled past under a Fellini-esque full moon.

Our nightly bread.

At 8:30 PM, we headed to Degrees, the 124 seat Mediterranean eatery on forward Stars Deck. There was no wait for a table for two by the window, where the moon cast a hypnotic glow on the sea and our thoughts paused to reflect on the events ten years prior.

Amuse tapenade.

Amuse bouche in Degrees was a delicious sun dried tomato and olive tapenade atop a slice of toast.

Topped tomatoes.

My first appetizer was a sliced tomato with montasio (Friuli-Venezia cow’s mild cheese) with green cerignola olives and basil.


And then, there was a Spaghetti Tiepido with roasted Roma tomatoes, warm goat cheese, herbs and extra virgin olive oil.


The magical Fish in Crazy Water entrée, a halibut baked with tomato, capers, parsley and extra virgin olive oil, was a bit camera shy but dessert, honey-coated Calmyrna figs and whipped mascarpone in a pistachio tulle, was ready for its close up.

The WIND SURF is only slightly less low key than her smaller siblings and WindStar fans prefer it that way. Unlike most cruise ships, there isn’t a bevy of entertainment options but the ship does have a band and an engaging, electric singer named Andrea Dickinson, who performed a set of songs that included West End/Broadway tunes, a few standards and current pop favorites.

Another day on the WIND SURF had reached an excellent end with a walk around the ship’s beautifully lit decks under a canopy of sails that were being only slightly tugged by a calm breeze.

End Of First Post: Much More to Come…

WIth Special Thanks: Vanessa Bloy, Martin Cox, Henri Lemay

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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