I fell in love with the Windsurf, the flagship of the Windstar Collection of small, casual cruise vessels, at first sight. Maybe it was those sails—seven of them. Something about that design communicated to me that the voyage was about embracing the essence of seafaring. Once I embarked in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, the narrowness of the Windsurf struck me—views of the sea were everywhere; I never had to search for the horizon. With only six decks and a capacity of 342 guests (it was not fully occupied), I could indulge my dream of being on an Italian yacht. With Miami in the full swing of the holiday season, the week would prove to be a serene escape.
The destinations weren’t exotic to me, because I’d traveled to most of the Caribbean before. I’d just never sailed from island to island. For example, Browne’s Beach in Barbados wasn’t new to me, because I’d stayed at a hotel right on the sand years ago. But that beach is phenomenal, with perfect sand and water—and I appreciated it all the more because I’d be returning to the ship for dinner. And dinner would mean escargot cooked in garlic and poached scallops over mushroom puree at Stella Bistro.
Just as toothsome were the dishes served on the Veranda: The James Beard Foundation had partnered with Windstar to introduce guests to Chef Hugh Acheson’s roasted garlic and white bean puree and Chef Jamilka Borges’ watermelon and shrimp salad. And there was always a generous selection of heartier fare—from seared tuna to spanakopita to veal osso buco—so there was never a need to repeat a meal.
I’d also been to St. Lucia before, in a land-based way, so signing up for a small boat excursion to sail down to the island’s famed Pitons allowed me to see St. Lucia in a different and exhilarating way. St. Kitts was new to me, because in the past I’d only breezed through to access Nevis, its sister island. But St. Kitts was a find—lush and mountainous. Carambola Beach Club on South Friar’s Bay was blissfully devoid of crowds; dotted with green umbrellas and surrounded by verdant mountains, it felt like an end-of-the-word kind of place.
Because I’m such an obsessive swimmer, of course what delighted me the most about the voyage had nothing to do with the itinerary: the days when we would drop anchor off the coast of several of the islands and the staff would unleash the marina, where buoys and rafts created a triangular boundary—our own swimming pool in the tropical sea. Not to undersell the charms of Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke (where the Baths and the famed Soggy Dollar, respectively, are two of the Caribbean’s best coastal spots), but jumping off the stern of the ship and letting the current pull me out before I swam happily back was my idea of nirvana.
Photos by Drew Limsky