July 20, 2024
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Cruising Under Sail

Find casual elegance and relaxed atmospheres aboard these
classic small ships

By Elizabeth Armstrong

Vacations Magazine: Cruising Under Sail
With their white sails billowing against the trade winds, the distinctive ships of Windstar Cruises and Star Clippers make striking sights upon the sea. Traveling primarily in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Greek Isles, these vessels combine the romance of sailing with the modern luxuries expected of today's cruise ships.

Windstar's three vessels are designated as motor-sail yachts, while Star Clippers' armada of tall ships recall a bygone age of sailing. All use the power of the wind when possible but turn to diesel engines if needed.

Windstar appeals to vacationers seeking a casually elegant, country club atmosphere, says Cheryl Cunningham, director of special projects at national cruise discounter Vacations To Go. "The line tends to draw passengers who are well-educated and well-traveled. They want good food, interesting company and an itinerary that visits the more out-of-the-way places that larger cruise ships can't reach."

Those with a passion for maritime history will be at home aboard a Star Clippers vessel, she says. "Someone who really wants a true tall ship experience would enjoy Star Clippers," says Cunningham. "These ships are geared to people who love boats, love to be on the water and love to sail," she says.

Star Clippers goes farther afield, exploring Thailand, Malaysia and India in Asia; Oman and Egypt in the Middle East; and Raiatea, Bora Bora and Moorea in the South Pacific. "Even for the line's more exotic sailings," says Cunningham, "its prices are quite reasonable for the unique experience you are getting."

Browse through the itineraries of both lines, and you'll find they often seek out less-traveled ports. In the Caribbean, for example, Windstar visits Nevis in the British West Indies, St. Martin and St. Barts in the French West Indies, and Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Star Clippers, in the meantime, pulls into Tobago Cays and Bequia in the Grenadines as well as Los Roques, a Venezuelan national park comprised of hundreds of islets and reefs.

Read on for brief profiles of each cruise line.

The Yachts of Windstar Cruises

Sleek lines and graceful white sails give Windstar's three ships a breezy, summery feel. The five-masted Wind Surf is the largest of the vessels, carrying 308 passengers, while sister ships Wind Star and Wind Spirit accommodate 148 guests each. At the push of a button, computerized sails can unfurl in two minutes. Passengers who want to learn more about the ship's workings can visit the bridge and chat up the officers, as the line maintains an open-bridge policy.

All Windstar cabins have ocean views and sport luxury cotton linens, plush Sealy Euro-Top mattresses, L'Occitane en Provence bath products, DVD/CD players, flat-screen televisions and Bose SoundDock speakers that play tunes from MP3 players or iPods. DVDs, CDs and complimentary Apple iPod Nanos with preloaded music can be checked out from the ship's reception desk.

Weather conditions permitting, a water-sports platform at the aft of each vessel is lowered while the ship is at anchor, allowing guests to participate in complimentary recreation such as water skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, swimming and snorkeling. These activities are most commonly offered in the Caribbean.

You'll find fitness centers on all three ships, but the Wind Surf has the fleet's largest and most comprehensive spa, WindSpa, offering a range of facial and body treatments. Wind Spirit and Wind Star have an abbreviated list of spa services. Each ship has a small casino, a handful of bars and lounges, and pools (two on Wind Surf, one each on Wind Spirit and Wind Star).

Crews of 90 on the Wind Spirit and Wind Star and 190 on the Wind Surf ensure a high level of personal service, with more than one staff member for every two guests. The dress code is "resort casual," which means no cocktail attire, suits or ties are required, but no shorts, jeans or T-shirts can be worn at dinnertime in the restaurants, either. There is no assigned seating in the onboard restaurants.

Windstar sails in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Greek Isles and Mediterranean. It also offers a handful of Panama Canal cruises and trans-Atlantic crossings.

From May through September, 2007, the Wind Star sails seven-day Greek Isles itineraries between Istanbul and Athens, as well as a few Mediterranean itineraries in early May and in October (most early and late-season departure dates were sold out at press time). On Dec. 1, 2007, it sets out from Barbados on a 14-day Panama Canal sailing that ends in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, its home port for a series of weeklong cruises along that country's Pacific coast from Dec. 15, 2007 through March 29, 2008.

The Wind Spirit also spends most of the summer and fall cruising between Istanbul and Athens, with a few Mediterranean itineraries at the start and end of the season. A 14-day repositioning cruise leaves Lisbon on Nov. 10, 2007 and ends in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. From St. Thomas, the Wind Spirit will sail weeklong Caribbean cruises until March 8, 2008.

The Wind Surf does seven-day Mediterranean sailings from May 6 through Nov. 4, 2007, alternating departure ports among Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Venice, Barcelona and Nice. Depending on the itineraries chosen, it is possible to combine two back-to-back sailings into one 14-day trip without repeating ports. After a 14-day repositioning between Lisbon and Barbados, which departs Nov. 11, the Wind Surf will sail seven-day Caribbean cruises from the latter through March 30, 2008.

National cruise discounter Vacations To Go cuts Windstar rates by up to a third. For example, Wind Surf's weeklong Mediterranean cruises that departed July 1, 8 and 15 were listed for $2,399 per person, based on double occupancy -- a savings of $1,400 per person or $2,800 per cabin. The Dec. 15, 2007 Costa Rica cruise aboard the Wind Star is reduced by 34 percent to $1,849 per person, based on double occupancy.

Information: For more information on Windstar Cruises, and to to browse itineraries and check rates, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962.

The Ships of Star Clippers

The three tall ships of Star Clippers combine the maritime traditions of old with contemporary style and amenities and state-of-the-art navigation. Sailing enthusiasts can visit the captain on the bridge, lend a hand hoisting the sails or learn how to splice a line and tie a square knot. Or, don a safety harness and climb the mast to the crow's nest for far-reaching views.

The line's flagship is the Royal Clipper, the world's largest fully rigged sailing ship. Launched in 2000, it was modeled after a 1902 German ship called the Preussen and boasts an impressive 42 sails.

The Royal Clipper carries 227 passengers, who will find nearly 19,000 square feet of open deck space as well as three small swimming pools and a marina platform that's lowered for water sports. The Captain Nemo Lounge, located on the lowest passenger deck, is a spa and fitness center with underwater portholes.

Sister ships Star Clipper and Star Flyer each have a capacity for 170 guests and recall the glory days of sailing with their teak decks, mahogany and brass accents, and displayed prints of famous sailing ships. Each has two pools, an indoor-outdoor bar, piano bar and library.

Across the fleet, most cabins have ocean views, but each ship also has six inside cabins. Buffets are laid out for breakfast and lunch, while dinner is a sit-down affair. Seating is open, and there are no assigned mealtimes. Like Windstar, Star Clippers also has a relaxed, resort-casual evening dress code. And, you won't find flashy revues or casinos on these ships, but at some ports, local entertainers come aboard to give guests a sampler of regional music and dance.

Star Clippers sails in the Caribbean, Greek Isles, Mediterranean, South Pacific, Asia and Middle East. It also offers Panama Canal trips and repositioning cruises.

The Royal Clipper cruises the Mediterranean from mid-May through Oct. 20, 2007 on five- to 12-day trips, primarily out of Civitavecchia or Venice. After a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Lisbon to Barbados in the first half of November, the ship will offer weeklong Caribbean cruises from Barbados through April 5, 2008.

The Star Clipper sails four- to 12-day Mediterranean itineraries from May through September, mostly from Cannes. Vacations To Go offers the four-day cruises starting at $1,140 per person, based on double occupancy. From Oct. 11, 2007 through March 15, 2008, the Star Clipper will offer exotic voyages in the Middle East and Asia, including several multiweek sailings that feature many days at sea. Among choices in winter are weeklong itineraries in Thailand that start at $1,830 per person, based on double occupancy.

Star Flyer also remains in Europe from May through September, 2007, usually sailing weeklong Greek Islands trips from Athens. A few itineraries stretch to 10 or 11 days, incorporating unusual destinations such as Kotor in Montenegro and Dubrovnik, Korcula and Hvar in Croatia. A three-week crossing on Oct. 13 from Malaga, Spain, to Barbados is followed by an 11-day Panama Canal trip on Nov. 4. Star Flyer rounds out the winter in the South Pacific with seven-, 10- and 11-day voyages available through June 29, 2008, mostly from Papeete, Tahiti.

Information: Learn more about cruising with Star Clippers, and see itineraries and check rates, when you visit cruise discounter Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Spring 2007 . Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.

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