Almost eight years after making the inaugural voyage of the motor sailing cruise ship Club Med 1, we found ourselves back on the same ship, now called the Wind Surf, in mid-June in the Mediterranean. But now, instead of that unique Club Med team of amateur cheerleader/entertainers called GO's (for gentils organisateurs), who always seemed to be having more fun than the passengers, we are being served by a professional staff from Windstar Cruises, new owners of the ship.
Back when Windstar Cruises first introduced plans in the early 1980s to build a fleet of motorized sailing cruise vessels, the idea had been to build five, but eventually the fleet stopped at three--the Wind Star, which debuted in 1986, the Wind Song in 1987 and the Wind Spirit in 1988. Wind Surf was to have been the name of the fourth ship.
In the meantime, in 1990, the vacation phenomenon called Club Med decided to go into the cruise business and commissioned two sailing cruise vessels, Club Med 1 and Club Med 2, from the shipyard that built the Windstar ships.
Both companies sailed on in a quasi-competitive mode, with Windstar a bigger name in North America and Club Med drawing a larger European clientele, until internal disagreements inside the Club Med organization led to the sale of the Club Med 1 to Windstar in 1997.
Veteran cruisers familiar with the three Windstar vessels will be struck by how much larger the Wind Surf is, carrying 312 passengers instead of 148, while previous Club Med passengers will marvel at how much more luxurious the vessel has become. Renovations included turning 62 cabins into 31 suites, each with living room, bedroom and two bathrooms, plus the addition of a 10,000-square-foot spa operated by Steiner of London.
Two swimming pools and two new whirlpool spas on deck, plus a water sports marina that can be extended from the stern of the ship when at anchor, maximize the sports opportunities aboard. Aerobics, yoga, aqua-aerobics, step-aerobics and a full fitness center offer indoor workouts, while sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and diving are options from the marina.
Menus have been designed and dishes created by two well-known Californians. Joachim Splichal of Los Angeles' Patina and Pinot Bistro has created the line's gourmet cuisine, including special dinner menus in the alternative Bistro restaurant, patterned after the Pinot Bistro. Health and nutrition expert Jeanne Jones complements the WindSpa program with healthful and vegetarian menus.
Three separate restaurantsare on board--the casual indoor and outdoor Veranda Cafe, where breakfasts and lunches are served; the Restaurant, where passengers may sit where and with whom they please and arrive any time between 7:30 and 9 p.m.; and the more intimate Bistro, where tables are available by advance reservation but with no additional surcharge.
The Wind Surf at present is cruising the French and Italian Rivieras from Nice on seven-day itineraries calling in Portofino, Portoferraio (Elba), Portovenere, Monte Carlo, Cannes and St. Tropez at published brochure fares of $4,565 per person, double occupancy, including port charges and taxes, for an outside double cabin with two lower beds. It costs $6,763 per person, double occupancy, for a suite. Discounts are offered for early bookings.
The ship will spend this winter in the Caribbean, making seven-day sailings from Barbados beginning Dec. 20. After the Christmas holidays, alternate northbound and southbound itineraries are scheduled. Ports of call on the northbound program include Nevis, St. Martin, St. Barts, Iles des Saintes and Bequia, and on the southbound program Tobago and Tobago Cays, Bequia, Fort-de-France and St. Lucia's Pigeon Island. Published brochure fares are $3,655 per person, double occupancy, for a standard stateroom; $5,403 per person, double occupancy, for a suite. Prices include port charges and taxes. Early bookings qualify for discounted prices on a first-come, first-served basis, with ASAP (Advance Savings Advantage Program) fares as low as $2,257 per person, double occupancy, while holiday sailings prices are slightly higher.
To get a free color brochure, call Windstar Cruises at (800) 626-9900.
Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears twice a month.