Debbie Belcher, The Cruise Line’s Marketing Manager, recently enjoyed a week aboard Windstar Cruises, Wind Surf, as she took in some of the highlights of the Mediterranean on a voyage from Civitavecchia to Barcelona.
Upon arriving in Rome we were met by a Windstar Cruises representative and whisked immediately to the awaiting taxi for our transfer to the port of Civitavecchia, where we embarked the elegant Wind Surf and were escorted to our suite, number 339.
I was certainly ready to begin my ‘Glitter and Glam’ riviera voyage with Windstar Cruises!
Our steward, Dani from Bali, quickly introduced himself and showed us the Suites facilities, which consisted of two separate bathrooms, a large sitting area and two flat screen TV’s with DVD players, and a lovely Egyptian cotton linen Queen sized bed. The bottle of champagne, and fresh fruit and flowers were a lovely touch as was the well supplied mini bar which was replenished daily!
As we were part of a special travel agent familiarisation trip we were invited to a private Sail Away party which was located at the pool bar. Here we met fellow travel agents from both the UK and USA who were all onboard to experience Windstar Cruises first hand. The setting couldn’t have been better, the sun was going down, champagne was in hand and the sail away began with the sails slowly going up to the music of Vangelis – 1492 Conquest of Paradise. This was a perfect start to what would prove to be an experience never to be forgotten.
After a brief introduction from our host, Dan Chapelle, we moved into The Lounge for the welcome chat and introduction led by the Captain, John Clark, a fellow Brit who introduced us to the key crew members. Everyone was extremely amicable and seemed a great team led by a charismatic and very funny British Captain.
We dined in the main restaurant, AmaphorA which was beautifully decorated and deceptively spacious with tables for two to ten available. Casually elegant is the rule with no set dining times and not being one to dress up for dinner we certainly didn’t feel out of place in any of the three restaurants available throughout the whole cruise. The food was well presented, very tasty and there was a great choice of starters, mains and deserts which changed each evening.
After dinner we made our way to the Compass Rose bar, located above the pool bar where we met and chatted to fellow guests plus listened to ‘Rain Duo’, a fantastic English couple who sang and played great guitar ballads. This became our favourite place for pre and post-dinner drinks.
After a leisurely lie in we ventured to The Yacht Club Espresso & Sandwich Bar for a quick bite to eat before we left the ship to explore our first port of call, Portoferraio, Elba.
This was a lovely quaint port with beautiful views and beaches. We walked around the town and up to the old town and then in the afternoon we took a walk to the beach and watched the crew members swim in the warm water. For the really active type, bikes were available from the ship to explore the shoreline, but we thought we would leave those for another time.
Eventually we headed back to the ship where we relaxed by the pool bar and hit the Jacuzzi – this would turn out to be a ritual throughout the week.
Later that evening storms were forecast, the Captain announced that the itinerary was changing and that we would no longer be calling at Portofino but heading to Monte Carlo instead to avoid the worst of the weather.
Although it was raining we decided to venture ashore and wander up to the famous Casino and walk part of the famous Grand Prix route. It wasn’t long though before the weather took a turn for the worst and we decided to head back to the ship for lunch in The Veranda – a buffet restaurant which is open for breakfast and lunch both inside and out on the open deck.
In the afternoon we decided to choose a DVD from the large library and order popcorn and tea as room service before hitting the gym. I took part in the daily afternoon Pilates class which lasted half an hour.
Before dinner we meet in the main Lounge and Travis, the Destination Manager did a quick talk on the port for the next day and the excursions available. This was followed each evening by a delightful band, ‘Summer Wind’, playing throughout the evening.
We dined in the AmaphorA restaurant and after another delicious meal we headed up to the Compass Rose bar for a few more drinks. By this time the weather had cleared, so a few of us decided to jump into the Jacuzzi and finish the night admiring the beautiful backdrop that was Monte Carlo.
The following evening, after another day of exploring ashore, we were invited to eat at the Stella Bistro, one of the speciality restaurants onboard which has a French twist. We had a lovely table for eight and very attentive waiters. The choice of menu was fantastic, I went for onion soup and onion tart whilst my husband went for the escargot and steak. It was a superb meal.
We grabbed a quick breakfast from The Veranda and then arranged to meet up with Chef Rohit for a tour to the local Cannes market so he could select some authentic fresh food for dinner that evening. He explained that although most of the food comes on in bulk he likes to buy local fresh food around 3 times a week to give the menu a more authentic feeling and create new dishes. He bought Sea Bass, local cheese and vegetables, which we sampled later that night.
We wandered back through the little alley ways of Cannes to catch the tender back to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon we went on an organised shore excursion to Antibes. After the tender back ashore we were welcomed by two English tour guides and ushered to the coach for a short journey to our destination. Here we were split into two groups where we had a short guided walking tour of Antibes and then lead into a cosy little bar for Absinthe tasting! It certainly isn’t for the faint hearted and is definitely an acquired taste!
The tender back to the ship was an experience. Captain John had launched the sails and the lights were shining on them. Wind Surf looked stunning and I felt proud to say that she was my home for the week. It was another of those moments which will never be forgotten!
That evening one of our party was celebrating his birthday. We ate in the other speciality restaurant – Candles. This is perfect to celebrate a special occasion and if the weather is good you dine outside by the poolside grill. We ate inside, being November! And the food certainly didn’t disappoint. There was so much choice, we all ordered our main dishes and then sampled every side dish and the Chef even brought us a plate of the local Sea Bass which he had bought earlier that day. It was a great evening finished by the waiters singing happy birthday to Rob and presenting him with his favourite cake – banana cake!
The rest of the evening was spent in the Compass Rose with our ever increasing group of new friends. The Captain had said on his welcome speech that often you start off with a table for 2 and by the end of the cruise you want a table for 312 – I certainly knew what he meant now!
The sun was finally shining as I woke up and Marseille looked stunning through the window of my suite. We had been told by Travis the previous night that there was a ‘Petit Train’ which we could catch that would give us a tour. After a 10 minute walk we found the train stop and hopped on for the tour of Marseille. I was bowled over, such a beautiful city and port. After the tour I had a walk around the town and found a little café where I drank café au lait and people watched – perfect.
After a while I made my back to the ship for a sandwich from the Yacht Club Bar, then grabbed a sun bed by the Jacuzzi and relaxed.
Dinner was a BBQ on deck. The crew had arranged a fabulous selection of food, from giant suckling pig, ribs, paella, lobster and an amazing variety of desserts. It was quite a chilly night and blankets were available to enjoy the BBQ and lovely back drop of Marseille before we ended our evening in the Compass Rose Bar with great music and good company.
After a leisurely breakfast a few of us decided to take a chance on the weather and took the tender to explore Port Vendres. It was quite a choppy tender but we arrived safe and sound, and decided to take the local petit train for a tour of the local area. This proved to be the best petit train ride of the week. We were stunned by the views as we rode through the next town and started travelling up into the countryside towards the old fort, the views were amazing.
Our final dinner was in AmaphorA with my new friends. As always the food and service was exemplary yet tinged with a little sadness as it was our last night!
Final goodbye drinks were had in the Compass Rose, where we all vowed to stay in touch and meet up for a reunion cruise on Windstar Cruises next year!
Barcelona – Disembarkation day
As I had an early flight home I kept my luggage in my cabin and had a quick breakfast before saying farewell to the amazing staff and the new friends I had made.
Windstar Cruises proved to be the best cruise experience I have ever had. The staff and crew were incredible, food was amazing and friends were made for life. What more can I say!
For more information on voyages with Windstar Cruises, please call one of our Cruise Experts on 0800 008 6677.