DAY 1: Embarkation – Civitavecchia (Rome)
You absolutely know you are on the right maritime track when your transfer brings you into port and your vessel sticks out from the cruise crowd in the same way that Michaelangelo differs from The Beano.
Yes, there were other ships already docked in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, but the likes of the Norwegian Epic, the Superman-painted Tirrenia ferry, and even the more subdued shape of the Viking Star were positive carbuncles alongside the distinctive, sleek outline of the Wind Surf in Italy’s prime harbour.
It was that ‘Wow’ moment, a glimpse of something genuinely thrilling and different. Where the other vessels all trumpeted their own quality in garish hues of sea-going braggadocio, the Windstar Cruises ship simply simpered at her berth, displaying a level of self-confidence and innate style the others could only dream of achieving.
Yes, Wind Surf pretty much aces the visual first impression, but the close-up is even better than the initial look, revealing a genuine sense of nautical tradition to go with that classic sailing profile.
Just consider, there are portholes – real, honest-to-goodness portholes! – along the full length of the vessel, a testament to her 1989 vintage but, more importantly, a statement of sheer good breeding, a thoroughbred alongside a motley collection of nags.
Dark teak floors, plenty of wooden cabinetry and the timeless elegance that only comes from proper maritime conventions were all quickly in evidence as soon as we crossed the gangway into the cool interior on an uncomfortably warm Italian afternoon.
Our transfer from Rome’s Fumicino airport had gone quickly and smoothly, depositing us in a hangar-sized marquee with hardly a soul to be seen, and ushering us into the heart of Wind Surf with barely any fuss or formality. As an introduction to this rare kind of vessel, it could not have been more impressive.
A buffet lunch very quickly ensued and then we were off to get our bearings around this latter-day paragon, enjoying the nods to yesteryear while maintaining a thoroughly modern feel in areas like the coffee lounge, the video library and the rather chic reception desk.
The sail-cruise aspect of the ship is, of course, the major selling point, providing an utterly matchless meaning to “setting sail” from our boarding point. Civitavecchia is a pretty no-nonsense, down-to-earth type port, but you had the sense that the whole operation stopped to observe as our captain turned the vessel around inside the breakwater and headed out to sea, with the computer-driven sails slowly unfurling to the sound of Vangelis and 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Stirring stuff indeed.
And that is just the beginning. This will be a full in-depth 7-day exploration of what makes Windstar special, and what you can expect if you decide to book with one of the most original cruise lines in the world.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for Day Two – we’ll be in Portoferraio on the island of Elba, and there will be a LOT more to discover….!
Simon & Susan