Windstar Atlantic Cruise: From Bridgetown, Barbados to Lisbon, Portugal
Sailing eastward nearly 4,000 nautical miles, Nick Constance joins a Windstar Power Yacht crossing the Atlantic.
We set out from Bridgetown, Barbados at 7pm, heading out into the Atlantic for Lisbon, Portugal.
The thought of crossing one of the largest oceans on earth with nothing but waves, hot sunshine and the occasional bedraggled seabird for company was as fascinating as it was difficult to grasp.
Admittedly this wasn’t a 6-man sailing dingy, but 14 days of non-stop seafaring was going to be interesting, to say the least.
Windstar is like being on a private yacht with a number of good friends. The crew were attentive, efficient and fun and our shipmates were a mix of first-timers and experienced cruisers. One fellow passenger – an ex-pilot with Air Canada – told me he has crossed the Atlantic 30 times on Windstar. Says it all, really.
Our cruise director Jason Parker kept everything ship shape and Captain Belinda Bennett was a complete rock star of the sea. Not only was ‘BB’ the first female captain with Windstar Cruises, she was also the first black female Captain in the cruise industry. She also has a wonderful sense of humour. Pretty neat for a girl, huh?
Meanwhile, our Guest Services Manager Maggie is a ball of smiley energy, whilst unflappable Maitre D’, Abdul, keeps the restaurants ticking over nicely. Let’s not forget Chef Danilo, he’s pretty serious about his food and so are we. I was impressed that – even during a non-stop Ocean Crossing – almost everything is made from scratch.
There are two open-seat restaurants and 24-hour room service is available at no extra charge.
The main Amphora restaurant is a classic dining room with chandeliers and tables of assorted shapes and sizes, the menu is á la carte. The informal Veranda restaurant operates a mix of à la carte and buffet for lunch and breakfast, with wicker chairs and tables available outside on the deck for milder weather. The joy of taking breakfast and lunch on deck each day never waned.
Dining is also available at Candles, an al fresco pop-up restaurant on Deck 4. Watch the stars twinkle as you savour dishes such as Tuna tartare, Filet mignon, Rack of lamb, chocolate gluten-free cake and Crème brûlée.
Dining on Windstar is open seating, so you can pick your tablemates and eat when and where you choose during dining hours.
On day 6 we had a bit of starboard drama, as we watched a whale breaching and diving and doing its whale thing about 80 metres from the ship. So far, so fabulous.
Life by now had become a set of simple choices: when to sleep, what to eat, whether to workout. Everybody falls into his or her own quiet routine: engage in conversation, paint with watercolours, pootle about on deck, do yoga, choose a sunbed, listen to music and sip some wine.
You get the idea Windstar isn’t a bells and whistles experience.It is, on the other hand, ‘petite’, sexy and glamorously old-school.
It might be larger than a billionaire’s super-yacht but it’s a little nipper compared to the boxy mega-ships being built these days.I would probably describe the mid-ship reception lobby as understated, rather than blingy.
Our fellow passengers seemed to be a mix of loved-up couples, plucky singletons, adventurous retirees and people celebrating milestone birthdays or anniversaries. There was a distinct lack of noisy exhibitionists.
There’s really no such a thing as an average Windstar guest, but it probably suits those looking for a customisable experience. i.e. there are drink and Wellness packages to suit your pocket and lifestyle.
Talking of Wellness, today I soaked up some serious deep-tissue action in the WindSpa, on Deck 3.” You’ll feel every last care gently melt away,” claims the brochure. To be honest, at this stage I didn’t have many cares, but if there were any lurking worries my 60-minute massage definitely blitzed them.
This is always a difficult area for small ships carrying cultured passengers, but the ‘Wake Up’ house duo – playing accented cover songs in the lounge each evening – kept them regaled. On day 9, we had a Guest Talent Show, where my shipmate Jessica wowed the crowd with renditions of Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse songs.
The boat was rocked to such a degree, Jess was asked to perform a ‘crew only’ concert; a kind of ‘entertaining the troops, if you will. After 9 days at sea, these intimate shows were a timely morale booster for both guests and crew.
One of my favourite things about Windstar is how casual it is. The only dress code is with regard to evening wear in the Amphora restaurant: no jeans, shorts or t-shirts. I totally broke this rule by wearing t-shirts on some evenings and nobody batted an eyelid. Smart-casual seems to be the order of the day.
Cabins (or, staterooms as the industry prefers to call them) come in 5 categories, from Owner’s Suite down to Category B.
Plus points of my AX Deluxe suite included: extremely comfortable bed; ample storage space; a soothingly muted colour scheme; Bose Bluetooth speaker and an easy-to-use power shower with posh L’Occitane products.
Each suite features a table and 2 chairs, a big-enough TV and a pay-as-you-go minibar. Bottled water is complimentary, but I do wish they’d stop using plastic bottles…and plastic straws.
It seems strange to say this about such a small ship, but you can actually loose yourself on Windstar. Not in a wrong door kind of way, but in a staring-at-the-ocean, drifting into another dimension way.
14 days of doing absolutely ‘nothing’ has left me with some wonderful memories. Despite the fact it’s now almost 4 weeks since I returned to London, I’m still buzzing. Buy yourself a dream.
- Passengers: 148
- Crew: 101
- Tonnage: 5,307
- Length: 360ft/110 metres
- Decks: 4
- Beam: 52.1ft
- Masts: 4 at 204ft/62 metres
- Sails: 6 triangular, self furling, bridge-operated sails with 21,000 sq ft surface area
- Cruising Speed: 10 knots with engines only: up to 15.8 knots with prevailing winds
For more information please visit windstarcruises.com
NOTE – Main image credit – James Johnston