Sail Away to Romantic Enchantment
Aboard the STAR PRIDE, San Juan, Puerto Rico…
If you have ever celebrated life through nature, this is the zenith of that experience. Azure waters, majestic clouds and palm-lined beaches are part of the overall ambiance. Your perspective is from the ship, which is one of Mother Nature’s jewels.
Imagine the combination of a gracious vessel and the bare-bones beauty of Mother Nature … billowing white sails etched in the horizon against a panorama of rugged shoreline and gentle palm trees. If you ever dreamed of sailing away in luxury while still having an opportunity to explore remote and pristine countries, this is your unique and romantic getaway. Combine a pioneer in casual cruising with the worlds’ most diverse locales and you have an unbeatable hybrid experience.
Ecotourism, or environmentally responsible tourism, gives the environment equal status with the traveler. The commitment is to a global environment, which puts nature, flora and fauna on an equal footing with the tourist, with a spirit of compromise and nurturing co-existence. Windstar Cruises and reputable tour agencies are emerging with a total dedication to environmentally-responsible and sensitive operations.
The Windward Surf and Sunset experience showcases a leisurely cruise up and down the Windward Islands of the Caribbean, following embarkation in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ports-of-call include St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, Bequia and St Vincent, Grenada and St Lucia. I’m already dreaming of swimming with sea turtles, snorkeling above dazzling coral reefs and spotting rainbow parfait colorful exotic birds in St Lucia’s rainforest. The intimate and charming coves and inlets conjure up the days of yore when pirate folklore dominated the idyllic and pristine beaches. Before boarding in scenic San Juan, I joyfully strolled through the stunning citadel of El Morro castle and photographed the quaint architecture in Puerto Rico’s bustling port.
WINDSTAR: A Daydream and a Pioneer
Sailing under the banner of its appropriate catch phrase “180 degrees from ordinary”, Windstar was created with the vision to offer an alternative to the typical cruise or resort vacation. The Windstar passenger sees the world from a romantic ship with unique itineraries, luxurious accommodations, upscale ambiance, and five-star service and cuisine. The fleet has masted schooners as well as yachts under power.
The intimacy of the 148-308 passengers aboard is enhanced by the yacht-like atmosphere and amenities. Fellow sailors bond readily, forging long-term friendships in an unregimented environment. Relaxed yet luxurious, gourmet dining makes a “museum piece” of ties and formal wear. Early morning sojourners can greet the day with a peek at a pale pink sunrise as they sip coffee on the upper deck, or take a trip to the bridge, where the captain will gladly chat about the vessels’ unique rigging. The silence is broken only by the gentle lap of a wave or the snap of a sail in the breeze. You are a part of the canvas. While the most intricate artwork is off the deck (Mother Nature), Windstar sports its own original sculptures, oils and extensive teakwood.
The Executive Chefs’ artistic cuisine is a rich tapestry of variety from gourmet to vegetarian. Portobello mushroom salad, gazpacho, crème brulee and other delights are part of the weeks’ remarkably diverse menu.
SAIL WITH A CHEF AND SOMMELIER
But when it comes to gastronomy, this was a multisensory extravaganza! This was one of Windstar’s James Beard Foundation culinary-themed cruises. It’s not just about the food and wine, but also getting to know these epicurean experts on a personal level. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to taste dishes from some of the most sought after James Beard Foundation chefs and sommeliers. Each theme cruise features:
Hosted dinner with a James Beard Foundation chef and beverage expert.
Demos by the chef of some of the recipes.
Shopping at local markets with the chef.
Chef Jose Mendin
Chef/restaurateur Jose Mendin, co-founded and created the Pubbelly Boys restaurant group and the Comma Hospitality Group (FCHG) with notable Miami restaurants such as Habitat, Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi, Baja Bao and PB Ysla, in Mendin’s hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mendin brings his ability to revitalize and re-imagine ancient and traditional recipes by maintaining the integrity of a dish’s roots while infusing it with modern touches. He earned James Beard Foundation nominations for “Best Chef: South” from 2012 to 2016. Sabor!
A couple of my favorite ports-of-call follow from my travel diary:
Guadeloupe is a Caribbean island with tropical rainforests and a volcano. Guadeloupe is also a department of France, 4306 miles away from Paris, but sharing the language, culture and cuisine of the continent. It is an archipelago in the Caribbean sea comprising several distinct islands. Guadeloupe proper is made up of two islands, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, separated by a sea water channel, the Riviere Salee. The other islands are Marie Galante, La Desirade and Les Saintes which lie offshore and St Martin and St Bathelemy some 125 miles north. The butterfly shaped island of Guadeloupe has a land area of 530 square miles. The western wing, Basse-Terre is 312 miles square and the eastern wing, Grande-Terre is 218 miles square. Approximately 386,600 people live on Guadeloupe, with about 50% of the population under 20 years of age. That figure comprises all residents of Guadeloupe’s offshore islands as well as French St Martin and St Barts. Guadeloupe has an economy based on agriculture and not tourism. Everything that you experience in Guadeloupe will be authentic.
Saint Maarten is one of the most unique destinations in the Caribbean. Since 1648 the island has been divided between the French and the Dutch with both sides maintaining their very distinct personality and heritage. The French side, St Martin is quiet and refined with gorgeous white beaches, French cuisine and sophisticated resorts.
The Dutch side of Saint Maarten has a more obvious Caribbean flavor, with its brightly colored buildings and tropical flair. St. Maarten’s capital is Philipsburg, which bustles with duty-free shopping, quality dining and an active nightlife. Practically the entire islands’ economy is based on tourism, with nearly 70% of the population working in the tourism sector. Being duty-free only enhances its attractiveness for tourists. Both the French and Dutch sides of the island benefit from the sandy beaches and coves which create an ideal environment for swimming, snorkeling and water sports.
The WINDSTAR tours are some of the best I’ve experienced. The one I took in Bequia visited a panoramic fort and a scenic turtle (release) farm. Great adventures! While the vibrant, diverse and enchanting ports-of-call are showcasing some of the planets’ most beautiful views, there are bountiful opportunities onboard as well. The full service WINDSPA offers pampering from head to toe with complete luxurious amenities. The state of the art gym has high octane classes and yoga. There’s always live music daily. For those who like less activity, there’s passive entertainment like bridge and stimulating evening port talks on new itineraries. On some cruises there’s a weekly authentic steel band from a nearby island and a weekly beach BBQ you’ll long remember. The staff is immensely hospitable, efficient and focused on your every whim, making a rich cruise experience abundant in every way. I have memory insurance for years to come and am already planning my next WINDSTAR adventure.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
1-800-258-7245 Windstar Cruises