A Concept is Born : Cruising the Windstar Way

On a crisp November morning in 1986, the first commercial sailing vessel built in 60 years slipped effortlessly out of a French dry-dock in Le Havre. Although the sails seemed a throwback to past sailing vessels and explorers of yesteryear, the Wind Star, with its fully-computerized controls, was revolutionary in design.

The Wind Star was soon joined by her sister ships, the Wind Spirit and the Wind Song, and a new, refreshing concept in luxury cruising was born. 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 experience on a luxurious sailing ship with unique, romantic cruises, unusual itineraries, deluxe accommodations, and five star service.

Windstar’s ships are officially masted schooners, but the designation belies the crafts unique rigging. Everything is operated by a few micro-chips. Unfurling in two minutes at the push of a button, billowing white sails — some 21,000-plus square feet of Dacron — reach into the skies.

There are no sheets or rigging on deck. The huge booms are motor-controlled with high-tech sensor input to im the angle of the sail. Angle of heel is kept at a maximum of six degrees by a computer-controlled hydraulic stabilizing system in the engine room, pumping thousands of gallons of water from side to side with changes in the wind.

Upscale & Intimate

Rich wood interiors, exceptional signature cuisine, an attentive crew and intimate surroundings add to the special experience aboard each ship. With 148- and 312-passenger capacities, it doesn’t take long before people get comfortable and begin to become friends.

Cabin amenities include a color television, video player, safe, CD player, mini-bar/refrigerator, international direct-dial telephone, private bathroom with toiletries, hair dryer and terry cloth robes. Each ship stocks an extensive multi-media library of more than 650 video titles and 500 CDs for passengers’ use.

Artwork varies from ship to ship and reflects both the history of each vessel and the routes they sail.

Dine in Casual Elegance — Lose Your Black Tie

In keeping with the ship ambiance, Windstar guests leave their ties and formal wear at home. By day, shorts and light shirts are the norm. For dinner and later in the evening, woman typically wear casual and sun dresses or pant suits and men can be found in a pair of light-weight slacks and a polo or button-up shirt.

Dining is an experience all its own aboard Windstar ships. Joachim Splichal, celebrity chef and renowned owner of Patina Restaurant in Los Angeles, created 180 new recipes in his adventurous style for the vessels. Windstar’s signature cuisine features such Splichal creations as appetizers of corn risotto with wild mushrooms and basil, towers of marinated salmon with chive creme fraiche and red onion soup, filet of beef with fried potato ravioli and roasted shallot sauce and farm chicken with carrot rounds and lemon thyme sauce.

Recently, Windstar enhanced it’s on-board culinary offerings with a healthy cuisine and vegetarian menus for guests watching their intake of calories and fat grams.

Created by light cooking expert Jeanne Jones, Sail Light and the Vegetarian Menu feature complete meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dishes feature such low-calorie delights as Blueberry Blintzes at 139 calories per serving and 4 grams of fat, French Garden Stew with Light Aioli (199 calories/4.6 fat grams), and Lemon Custard Cake (245 calories/5.6 fat grams).

One Day In Seven — What Will You Do

Windstar Cruises sails in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Panama Canal, and Costa Rica. An interesting mix of shore excursions and complimentary water sports activities are available at each destination. Passengers may find themselves “zip-lining” on a pulley and cable from tree to tree 75-feet above the forest floor in Costa Rica, slicing through the Caribbean aboard an actual America’s Cup racing yacht or exploring archaeological findings in Greece, the “Cradle of Civilization.” Water buffs can enjoy water-skiing, sail boarding, snorkeling, kayaking and “banana” boat rides from the water sports platform at the stern of the ship.

Windstar Accolades : Over the years, Windstar has been one of the most decorated cruise lines. For an unprecedented fifth year in a row, Windstar was voted the top cruise line for destinations offered by the Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Survey. The line also received a 1996 Best Cruise Value award from the Ocean and Cruise Society and was heralded as having the most romantic ships afloat by Porthole Magazine.

Today, the sailing ships of Windstar Cruises have called at more than 150 ports worldwide and welcomed more than 170,000 passengers. Perhaps, given the option at the time, Columbus would have preferred a Windstar sail cruise, too.