I arrive into Lisbon one day prior to setting sail on Wind Surf. As I walk along the waterfront I look out to lots of sailing masts in the harbour and realise tomorrow that will be me!
I can’t quite contain my excitement as somewhere deep inside me is a destined sailor….all be it a sailor on a 5 star luxury sailing ship, and all that is required of me is to sit back relax and enjoy myself!
Day 1 Lisbon
First impressions when boarding is how intimate, friendly and relaxed the ship feels. I still manage to get lost though as I make my way to the Compass Rose, the main bar onboard! This is a great location at the aft of the ship and although the breeze is nippy, it’s a great place to start our cruise with a nice glass of Prosecco with the sun streaming down on us….I’m immediately relaxed! We have decided to do the drinks package at $58 per day; the great thing with Windstar is that you can pick and choose what bests suits your needs.
Our fist dining experience is in Amphora the main dining room, and as soon as we walk in we know this is going to be a good experience, and we were not disappointed! The food is incredible, there goes my diet! I love fish and there is plenty to offer from Lobster to Sole, served with a nice glass of chilled Sauvignon, divine! After dinner lots of us head out on deck as the ship has to pass under a rather large bridge to leave Lisbon, who knew travelling under a bridge could be so exciting!! I felt myself literally hold my breath as we went under….this is what “Small Ship Cruising” is all about.
We leave Lisbon and there is a strong breeze blowing in from the Atlantic to head us off on our 8 night cruise to Barcelona.
Day 2 At Sea
I love waking up to the lure of the ship as it rocks gently from side to side and the ever so subtle noise of the ship creaking as the she moves with the ocean. I want to drift back to sleep but my alarm clock has other ideas. This morning I am meeting the Hotel Manager for breakfast, Nick Burger. Nick is as charming as you would expect a Hotel Manager to be, from Holland he spends 4 months on the ship and 2 months off. His day typically starts at 6am, (there was me thinking 7.30am was early to meet for breakfast!) he has a rest in the afternoon before working again until 10/11pm that night. He explains how every cruise is different, dependent on the passengers on board and the destination. His favourite destination in Europe is the Greek Islands and Turkey; this is really where travelling on Windstar sets precedence above all other cruise ships. Windstar are able to hug the coast line and enter into the tiny bays that the big ships can only look at from afar, whilst Windstar customers use the marina off the back of the ship to swim and kayak. Unfortunately it is too cold in April for the med but we have been advised as we head out of the Atlantic winds into the sheltered Mediterranean the weather will warm up, and indeed it does!
It’s great to have a day at sea so we can get acquainted to our new home. The good thing about being up early for breakfast was that we feasted upon Eggs Benedict whilst watching the most amazing sunrise! The rest of my day consisted of more delicious food, and an hour in the (surprisingly big) gym to counter act the delicious food, followed by getting burnt from the Atlantic wind whilst snoozing up on deck! The ship has a generous amount of outside space, which again all adds to the Yacht experience. The staff and service are incredible and I am beginning to feel like the cat that got the cream!
Day 3 Cadiz
Cadiz is charming; it makes for a great first port of call. On arrival into the port a very helpful tourist information provide a map, and advise us to follow the purple line. I didn’t realise quite literally a purple line runs throughout the whole city, guiding you past beautiful cathedrals and cobbles stone back streets!!
We only spend a couple of hours in Cadiz centre, as this afternoon we are being treated by Windstar to complementary trip out to Jerez. I’m super excited as we are going to see the famous dancing horses, as a keen rider in my youth and a fan of dressage, I have absolute admiration. They do not disappoint, quite beautiful. As this is exclusive for just Windstar guests we are able to take photos, something as a paying guest you would not be able to do. We also visited a Sherry distillery, I’m not a fan of sherry but I did enjoy the tasting and the tapas plates (probably the latter more if I’m honest!) What was really special as we returned from a fantastic afternoon was to see all the staff were lined up along the port to greet us back. It’s the little touches that always make the biggest impact.
Dinner tonight topped of a really amazing day, tonight we ate in the French “Bistro”. Having been lucky enough to have travelled on other six star cruise lines I wasn’t sure if to expect the same standard of food on Windstar but I have to say it surpasses all my expectations. The food is most probably one of the highlights of this trip and tonight was no different. I dined on Escargot, poached scallops and crème brulee. Good job I remembered to pack the Rennes!
Day 4 – Malaga
Malaga have spent a lot of money sprucing up this busy port over the years; it has wonderful restaurants, great shopping and a buzzy feel to it. For me this day was extra special as my parents live here so they met me for a quick tour of the ship before taking me out for a typical Spanish lunch. Over lunch we chatted about my trip and the ship, interestingly enough my dad whom has never had the wish to cruise was really taken by Windstar’s casual charm. My mum may just get him on a cruise yet! Windstar is the perfect combination of luxury elegance but it feels relaxed, especially when the sails are at full mast it makes for a quite beautiful spectacle. We have witnessed the sails going up every evening and it really does add to an extra excitement at sail away, it’s just stunning to see them up, quite magical.
Tonight we all dined in Candles the open air restaurant, however due to it being April they ensured we didn’t get too cold that evening by erecting canvas above and around to keep out the evening chill out. The atmosphere in Candles is even more relaxed! I enjoyed a healthy salad and juicy steak, cooked to perfection.
Day 5 – Almeria
I wasn’t expecting this port to offer anything for a day trip as the main reason for visiting this port is for guests to transfer to see the amazing Alhambra palace in Granada. Having frequented the Alhambra many times with my parents I decided to take a stroll and check out the city. On awaking up in the port I was pleasantly surprised to see a castle atop the town. Perfect, a hike to walk off some of the food and a Moorish castle to explore, which should keep me busy for a couple of hours!
I have lunch on board the ship today, again I just have to reiterate have fabulous the staff are, nothing is too much trouble. They say you are only as good as your staff, so I figure this makes Windstar one of the most desirable ships you can travel on.
Tonight we are back in the main dining room which we are all looking forward to as the food was so good on that first evening, again it does not disappoint.
Day 6 – Cartagena
Another great port destination, Spain really does have so much to offer. The great thing about Windstar is that we are transported right into the pretty port. After an enjoyable breakfast up on deck (we are onto fruit breakfast now to try and save the waistline!) we head out to explore, some of the guests did the city hop on off bus, but to be honest it’s so small and quaint it was easy to explore on foot. It has some great Roman ruins and our day was tipped of as being one of my favourite as we had the most fantastic guide share stories and facts of the old Roman Amphitheatre.
We make it back on board for a late lunch, although we arrive back well after 2pm this doesn’t seem to be a bother for the staff as we all order hot food, enjoying the sun up on deck. An afternoon of sunbathing tops of a perfect day.
Tonight we are eating in Candles again. This would most probably be my favourite restaurant in the heat of the summer; eating out under the stars but again April in Spain was a little nippy so blankets were provided! After dinner we all head off to Compass Road for some more cocktails, I have to say the couple that sing are fantastic, and as the weather seems to be warming up so do the clients. Everyone is getting to know one another now and really enjoying themselves. It makes for a great atmosphere. I was tucked up in bed by midnight but I understand that some partied on until the wee hours!
Day 7 – Valencia
Wow what a city! Myself and several others guest were totally romanced by Valencia. It has beautiful buildings and a rustic feel and unlike say Barcelona you feel that you are mingling more among Spanish as well as tourists. Lots of alleys offering fantastic Tapas full of locals. Great shopping with a wonderful Piazza, fantastic for people watching! It also had the most amazing market full of every food under the sun, well worth a wander! It also has a modern part to the city with stunning architecture however we didn’t get there this time but I plan to go back!
Tonight’s dinning option is slightly different, it’s a BBQ up on deck and tonight the sun is shining – it’s almost as if Windstar arranged it! The food is incredible, I’m not usually one for a buffet as I end up with a rather odd variety on my plate, however the Paella and the Lobster were incredible, and yes I did go back for seconds! Another reason I try to stay away from buffets! Especially one as tempting as this, I can’t stop eating!!! I love the fact they included local cuisine as well as some great BBQ meat and fish….what’s not to love! The ambiance is so relaxed, the staff have been working hard all day to ensure that all guest can be accommodated to sit outside. If you were travelling as a couple I would highly recommend securing one of the intimate tables at the back of the ship, perfect for watching the sun go down.
Day 8 – Palma in Mallorca
It’s our final evening; I can’t believe how quickly this week has gone! We have booked in again to the Bistro. Once again the food is excellent, I noticed the steak on my first outing to the Bistro and was determined to make sure I didn’t leave without trying it. It was delicious!
I have visited Palma several times, and today is cloudy, perhaps as we travel further north away from the warmer weather. So after a quick visit to the port we decide not to head into Palma and make the most of our last day on board, before going back to work tomorrow. It’s so nice to relax, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and hired a DVD to settle down for the afternoon. I am sharing a room with Vicky from our reservations team. Our room was a suite and I have to say ample size, in fact we each had our own bathroom, wardrobes and vanity /dressing area…perfect – just what two ladies need! We also have a generous sitting area. If you are concerned about travelling without a balcony, rest assured these rooms offer lots of light and space. Plus of course there is so much outside deck space to contend yourself with.
So who would I recommend to travel on Windstar? It’s perfect for couples of all ages; we had a couple of young honeymooners on board. It really does offer the extra little bit of romance your clients may be seeking. As mentioned I also feel it’s a great product for those new to cruising, especially if you multi centre a 7 night cruise in the Caribbean with a land stay. Windstar would suit those looking for a relaxed atmosphere, whether it be a group travelling or a solo client. Whilst appearing to be low key and informal they are actually providing a first class experience, no wonder they won the “Best Small Ship” Conde Nast award last year.
Right time to start packing!