Friday, December 4, 2009

Somewhere, under the rainbows. (Caribbean travel on Windstar's Wind Spirit cruiser) (includes related article on Caribbean trips) (Cruise Guide). USA, LLC

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Windstar's Wind Spirit offers passengers visiting the Caribbean area a yacht-like experience because of the cruise ships four sails. Wind Spirit trips to St. Lucia, Marinique and other islands are low-key excursions that allow passengers to schedule much of their own time. Such activities as scuba diving, windsurfing, banana-boat rides and daily excursions to the islands keep visitors busy.

Full Text :COPYRIGHT Reed Travel Group 1994
ABOARD THE WIND SPIRIT -- It seemed too good to be true.

What, after all, could top an idyllic afternoon spent snorkeling in crystal waters among bright-green parrotfish along the coral reef of a deserted island, with only a steel band and a savory beach barbecue to distract from the tranquillity?

How about a double rainbow?

Rare, but there they were, arching over the four masts of the Wind Spirit as it lay anchored off Carriacou in the southern Caribbean, with a handful of passengers marveling at the sight from a sandy spit a mile away.

Good luck is the residue of design, it's been said, so if we were fortunate to witness the spectacular twin arches in such a splendid setting, then Windstar Cruises gets the credit for creating a low-key yet luxurious trip that encourages passengers to take their own sweet time.

Windstar touts its journeys as the closest thing available to a private yachting experience, and the cozy intimacy on this seven-day roundtrip from Barbados certainly fulfilled that promise.

Unhindered by a heavily orchestrated excursion schedule or an aggressive menu of onboard activities, many seasoned travelers decided for themselves how best to spend days in Martinique, St. Lucia and other stops in the Windward Islands.

One of the best ways to enjoy the ship's southern Caribbean jaunt is through its water-sports program, which encourages waterskiing, scuba diving, windsurfing, sunfish sailing, banana-boat rides, snorkeling and swimming.

Frequent scuba trips as well as lessons for novices, both organized and independent snorkeling forays and a well-stocked store of underwater gear sent many passengers into the sea early and often each day, especially the two days the ship anchored off deserted islands.

The daily excursions to the populated islands were generally low-key half-day tours, with the focal point often the startling array of flora in gardens and national parks.

At Grenada's Annandale Falls the third day out, three local youngsters -- Supersmash, Superfly and Butterfly, they called themselves -- dove the falls' 50-foot drop for day trippers.

The divers soon emerged and energetically walked us along the park's paths of crushed nutmeg shells, pointing out cherimoya, breadfruit and banana trees, cocoa bushes, coffee and tattoo plants and roots of the reputed male potency aid called bois bande.

When it came time for a tip, Supersmash said, "It's better to do this than steal, isn't it?" summarizing the fate of many islanders dependent on good weather and political stability to deliver tourism's benefits.

Wind Spirit's first port of call out of Barbados was Port Elizabeth in tiny Bequia, one of the Grenadines, where men still row out in 25-foot boats to hunt the humpback whale.

Athneal Ollivierre's Whaling Museum -- actually a room in his home filled with scrimshaw, harpoons, aging photos and rustic art depicting more than 35 years of hunting -- is too small to accommodate more than a few visitors, so instead we got a look at the white cedar boat his nephew is building for the 1995 hunt. Giant whale vertebrae were laid out nearby to bleach in the sun.

At the same time, other passengers took a short sail to Mustique for a peek at the homes of such rich and famous occasional residents as Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Great Britain's Princess Margaret.

I settled for a $2 water-taxi ride to a local beach.

Later that night, while the trade winds soothed our sunburns, a Bequian band played reggae and soca on the pool deck. The mix of passengers -- mostly in their late 30s to 50s, with a sprinkling younger and older -- yielded a casual, elegant party atmosphere.

The following day, we dropped anchor alongside Petite Bateau in the Tobago Cays, tiny dry islands visited mostly by day trippers, mynah birds and vendors from nearby Union Island.

Beach-bound passengers disembarked in a wet landing from the rubber Sillinger boats that made the three-minute journey at about 40 knots.

Petite Bateau offered a secluded beach (except for the bar service set up by Windstar), an intricate coral reef and a tropical microclimate with blooming oleander and cacti atop red-rock outcroppings, where most of us spent the day wallowing in the buoyant sea.

Next was St. George's, Grenada, reminiscent of a small Mediterranean coastal port and a suitable location for writer Calvin Trillin's fantasy of the lost Italian West Indies island of Santa Prosciutto.

In town that steamy afternoon, youngsters in English-style school blazers, jumpers and ties walked home, while spice sellers hawked baskets of nutmeg, mace, cocoa and cinnamon.

The following day, we stopped at Carriacou, the largest of the Grenadines, a Scottish-influenced island with few amenities along the dusty, narrow streets of its only town, Hillsborough.

Perhaps Carriacou's most famous -- or infamous -- attraction is a local concoction called jack iron, a lethal sugarcane moonshine that even a hearty young sailor aboard the Wind Spirit found tolerable only when diluted with lemonade.

Most of us just idled the day away after a wet landing at Sandy Island, a little acre of coral, mahogany and palms.

It was here we watched the passing cloud of mist drape first one, then a second rainbow over the Wind Spirit.

In Martinique the next day, an otherwise desultory tour revealed the island's loss of 60% of its banana crop from tropical storm Debby.

A long day in port allowed shoppers a chance to survey expensive French swimsuits and aged Martinique rum, and that evening, the galley pulled out all the stops for a pool deck barbecue.

It was the only night the ship seemed crowded, as guests jammed on deck for grilled lobster tails, prawns, red snapper, lamb chops, a variety of tropical dishes and a local band.

St. Lucia was the final stop and may have been the most beautiful and dramatic.

The Pitons, two magnificent volcanic peaks, frame the town of Soufriere, where pink and green fishing boats named the Family Bible, Never Say Never and Jah Love drifted alongside the docked Wind Spirit.

A small town square sits below the quickly receding mountains, and just beyond lie the plantations, sulfur springs, drive-in volcanic floor and lush gardens that made the excursions here a passenger favorite.

Others settled for a spectacular water-taxi tour to Jalousie Plantation Resort for snorkeling beneath the Pitons in a marine reserve.

On departing, the ship sailed straight out of this deepwater port while little boys, some naked, swam out behind the boat for about a mile, calling out for apples or coins.

The Wind Spirit often provided the real sense of sailing so popular with many passengers.

Each evening after leaving port, the sails went up, the computerized rigging unfurling six sheets fore to aft, the giant boom sliding along the top of the flying bridge deck as the ship maneuvered.

Passengers lined up Thursday evening as Capt. Andrew Walsh turned power over to the flying bridge and gave each nervous initiate a few minutes at the helm, the captain's hands never far from the wheel.

The bridge was open all hours for drop-in visitors.

Some of the service staff still talked about the previous week, when tropical storm Debby's backwash brought heavy seas and left much of the crew sick or in bed. One can only wonder about the passengers.

The 148-passenger Wind Spirit, with its comfortable outside cabins, seemed ideally designed for this week of leisurely days in port and evenings under sail.

Unfortunately, the galley did not consistently live up to the ideal.

Breakfasts in the glass-enclosed Veranda were uniformly good, with an abundance of fresh tropical fruit, and many of the lunches outstanding (especially Tuesday's Indonesian barbecue), but at dinner, food and service were uneven.

Although wonderful grilled fish entrees sometimes came from the galley, on other nights, seafood dishes arrived dry, chewy and disappointing.

Menus also suffered from confused or overly ambitious planning, as on Thursday night, when sushi appetizers shared space with Thai soup and Indonesian-style pork, none exceptional.

It's the only low mark for an otherwise successful food-and-beverage division that excelled Friday night in Martinique.

And with award-winning Los Angeles chef Joachim Splichal of Patrina taking over the Wind Spirit in November and the rest of the line soon after, changes are coming.

The dining room itself, with planked walls and ceiling, rope-wrapped pillars, discreet dividers, low ceilings and subdued lighting, gave a strong sense of relaxed intimacy.

Seating was unassigned, and passengers rarely were forced to share tables or wait for available space.

Afternoon tea on the pool deck also seemed a hit, with baked sweets, finger sandwiches and appetizers disappearing quickly. But overall, there is less emphasis placed on food aboard the Wind Spirit than is usual with cruise lines.

Cabin designers get very high marks, with every nook and cranny organized for maximum storage and convenience. Comfortable queen-size beds convert easily to double twins.

The bathrooms, too, excel, with teak decking, well-lighted mirrors, hair dryers, terry robes and good utility storage.

As for the on-board entertainment, the two-dealer casino opened its doors in the afternoons and evenings when out of port, mostly for the dozen or so enthusiasts of Caribbean stud poker or blackjack, while a handful of slot machines kept up a noisy jangling.

More popular for evening entertainment was the well-stocked video and CD library for in-room units.

On-board TVs also played a variety of movies each day and offered satellite news updates around the clock.

Line: 44 Caribbean Trips in '95

SEATTLE -- Windstar Cruises is offering 44 Caribbean departures in 1995.

The line features three seven-day itineraries.

The Wind Star sails seven- and 14-day cruises to the Windward and Leeward islands.

The ship's 1995 Caribbean cruises operate from Jan. 7 to April 22 and Nov. 4 to Dec. 9.

The alternating southbound itinerary is a roundtrip voyage from Barbados that calls at Tobago Cays, Bequia, Martinique, Iles des Saintes, St. Lucia and Carriacou; the northbound itinerary is a roundtrip cruise from Barbados that calls at St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and St. Kitts.

Rates range from $3,095 to $3,195 per person, double.

Holiday cruises include an 11-day Christmas cruise that departs Barbados Dec. 16, 1995, and visits Tobago Cays, Bequia, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, St. Kitts, Isles des Saintes and St. Lucia.

The price is $4,895.

A 10-day New Year's cruise departs Barbados Dec. 27, 1995, and calls at Tobago Cays, Bequia, St. Lucia, Martinique, Virgin Gorda, St. Martin and Tintamarre.

The price is $4,495.

The Wind Spirit will sail a 1995 Virgin Islands itinerary from Jan. 8 to March 26 and from Nov. 5 to Dec. 10, 1995.

The cruise departs from St. Thomas and calls at St. Croix, St. John, St. Barthelemy, Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.

Prices range from $2,995 to $3,095.

The Wind Spirit's 10- and 11-day holiday cruises depart Dec. 17 and Dec. 27, 1995.

The Christmas cruise itinerary includes calls at St. Martin, St. Kitts, Isles des Saintes, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Bequia and St. Barthelemy; the cruise is priced at $4,495.

The New Year's sailing calls at Virgin Gorda, St. Barthelemy, St. Martin, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Saba, Jost Van Dyke, St. Croix and St. John.

The price is $4,895.

Discounts are available under the line's Savings Update program.

For more information and reservations, call (800) 258-7245.

FACT SHEET: All Outside Cabins

Line: Windstar Cruises.

Ship: Wind Spirit.

Builders: Societe Nouvelle des Ateliers et Chantiers du Havre et La Rochelle-Pallice, France.

Displacement: 5,350 tons.

Passenger capacity: 148.

Crew: 91.

Passenger decks: Four.

Public areas: Outdoor pool bar; lounge; casino; beauty salon; library; shop; reception area.

Dining facilities: One dining room, the Restaurant; breakfast and lunch room, the Veranda and surrounding deck.

Fitness facilities: Fitness room, Jacuzzi, sauna, masseuse, small outdoor swimming pool, water-sports platform.

Cabin accommodations: All outside, each 185 square feet; owner's suite, 222 square feet; 11 cabins with third berth.

Reservations: (800) 258-7245.

Source Citation
"Somewhere, under the rainbows." Travel Weekly 7 Nov. 1994: C3+. InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Web. 4 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A15903703

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