March 13, 2013

Cruising the Caribbean on the Wind Star

We never thought we would go on a cruise. We had never been on one- our families are not cruisers, and there just little appeal to being trapped on a ship in close quarters with thousands of tourists. We prefer adventure, freedom, firm ground.

Sometimes, though, you just need an easy vacation. We were burnt out. I saw a ridiculously cheap deal on Rue La La for a seven-night Caribbean cruise with Windstar Cruises. With only 148 guests and an itinerary comprised of small ports of call that the big cruise lines can't get near, such as Tortuga, Virgin Gorda and St. Barth's, it seemed like just the kind of vacation we needed.

So we flew to St. Maarten and boarded the Wind Star. Observing our fellow cruisers, it was obvious who the other Rue La La buyers were- a handful of couples in their 30s like us. The Wind Star itself is a huge motor yacht with wood decks, two restaurants (one is a tiny cafe really) and 74 little staterooms. It's a small boat- you can walk from one end to the other in about three minutes. After a couple of days we knew every passenger. Yet, the boat never feels crowded and there are many moments to admire the views in solitude.

The Wind Star
Other passengers told us about cruising with the big lines. About constant announcements on the PA system and photo opps. Life on the Wind Star wasn't like that at all. It's casual, almost hippy, and no kids are allowed. The only gimmicky thing about the Wind Star is the dramatic Wagner music played during the rising of the sails.

On the deck of the Wind Star

The Caribbean itinerary was great: St. Maarten, St. Kitt, Jost Van Dyke, Tortuga, Virgin Gorda, and St. Barthelemy.

St. Kitt's

Because the Wind Star is so much smaller than traditional cruise ships we were able to access barely populated islands like Jost Van Dyke. Once we went near a big cruise ship and seriously, the Wind Star is a tiny little sailboat by comparison.

Tender with Wind Star in background
Jost Van Dyke

Did you know Michaelthinks is a snorkel maniac? He totally is.

My favorite port was Saint Barth's, or St. Barthelemy. It's a rich French fantasy land with stunning beaches. We rented a 4-wheel drive and circled the island, exploring the coast, indulging in the delicious food, and observing one of the most stunning sunsets of all time.

Our rental car in St. Barth's

St. Barth's
St. Barth's
Tan feet

Sunset in St. Barth's
Sunset in St. Barth's

Overall, the good: The Wind Star has a platform extending from the bottom of the boat directly on the water where you can jump right into the ocean. They have noodles and big rafts. It's pretty awesome. The staff are lovely, and the ports of call have character.

The less good: You have to be back on the boat early, so you don't have time to eat dinner in the ports. That's a bummer, especially in places like St. Barths. The food on the boat is entirely brought from the States and it's only ok. It would be nice if they were able to include local produce and dishes.

In the end, the cruise was just what we needed. A relaxing, no worries, week away in the sun. I'm not sure we would do it again, but Windstar does have some tempting itineraries!

The Wind Star

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