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Windstar: A different kind of luxury cruise

SmarterTravel

I admit I was skeptical about [% 11985 | | Windstar %] at first. The cruise line claims to be a luxury line, but small cabins with no balconies, limited excursion and entertainment options, and a casual onboard atmosphere don’t scream “luxury experience” to me. For a cruise fare of $2,400, I expect a suite, possibly with a walk-in closet and marble bathtub, and all the onboard indulgences a cruise ship can provide.

What I discovered on my seven-night Mediterranean cruise aboard the Wind Surf is that Windstar offers a different kind of luxury. The focus here is on quality, not extravagance. The fleet consists of three motor-sail-yachts (think small cruise ship meets large sailing vessel), so the atmosphere is more like a private yacht than a floating resort. You won’t be blown away by V.I.P. excursions, grandiose spas, or enormous suites. But you will be incredibly impressed by subtle yet first-rate service, delectable cuisine, and comfortable surroundings.

Private and public spaces

At 188 square feet, Windstar’s staterooms are simple, but they’re ingeniously designed to maximize storage area and create a sense of spaciousness. Two portholes provide the only natural light, and even the most expensive suites don’t have balconies. However, the mattresses and bed linens are heavenly soft, and each cabin comes equipped with a flat-screen TV, DVD player, and iPod docking station. A basket of fresh fruit puts the finishing touches on a well-thought-out living space.

The bathroom is of a typical cruise-ship size without much space to turn around, yet the circular shower is surprisingly roomy. The sink area and vanity offer plenty of shelf and counter space for storing toiletries, and the complimentary L’Occitane bath products are a huge hit with the ladies.

The Wind Surf’s public areas also make the most of the ship’s small size. The hub of the 312-passenger vessel is the Main Deck, where you’ll find the small boutique and photo gallery, reception desk, library and Internet center, coffee bar, and the main lounge and dance floor. The sitting areas are inviting, with leather couches and cozy banquettes, and the ship’s extensive collection of books and DVDs offers plenty of options for lazy afternoons or rainy days.

The top three decks provide space for guests to sit or lounge in the fresh sea air. On warm days, you can congregate in and around the pool and two hot tubs on the Main Deck, and the pool on the Star Deck. A few double lounge beds are popular with couples and get snapped up quickly. Afternoon tea and evening cocktails lure guests to the indoor-outdoor Compass Rose lounge on the Bridge Deck. Upstairs, you can choose between the open-air Terrace Bar or the cozy, indoor Cigar Bar.

Unlike most cruise ships, the Wind Surf’s spa and fitness center are not situated side by side. The gym is on the top deck with floor-to-ceiling windows—the views are great, but the cardio machines are practically on top of one another. The spa is at the aft end of Deck Two, and comprises a number of standard cabins that were transformed into treatment rooms. The space isn’t fancy, but the treatments sure feel decadent.

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