I recently cruised with Windstar on its Pearls of the Indian Ocean, a 16-day exotic odyssey that started in Dubai and ended in Singapore. In between, we crossed the Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Bay of Bombay, Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca with Indian ports of call in Mumbai, Mangalore, Cochin and other countries that included Galle (Sri Lanka), Phuket/Patong Bay (Thailand), Malacca (Malaysia).
One would be hard-pressed to find such an extraordinary itinerary contained all in one cruise. The small size of Windstar’s ships and sailing yachts is the key, as it permits stops at places where large cruise ships simply cannot venture.
Windstar is a boutique small-ship cruise line known for its sense of adventure and fun. After all, its motto is “180 degrees from ordinary.” My ship was The Star Legend, an elegant cruiser that accommodates 212 guests, on an all-suite power yacht. The ship may be small, but it offers a watersports platform, lounge, outdoor pool and Jacuzzis, Windspa and fitness center, gift shop, library and lounge.
One of my favorites was the Yacht Club on the top deck, where I went for early morning coffee and pastries, as well as to get a birds-eye view of our sailings and sometimes to catch the sunrise. Other public spaces include a casino and night club-like bar featuring live music in the Compass Rose, for all those night owls.
A real bonus for those seeking educational enrichment during the cruise — especially for upcoming ports of call — are the expert-based lectures given on each of the ships. My itinerary featured world religion specialist Ross Arnold, a popular teacher and lecturer in world and comparative religions. He studied theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and holds a master’s degree in divinity from Fullerton Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. His well-attended informative talks gave us background and understanding of the regions we were sailing in, all from an unbiased but religious, cultural and historical perspective.
I was pleasantly surprised at the various dining options for such a small ship, from the nightly fine dining in AmphorA to the Star Grill on the top deck where grilling is obviously featured. I had time to sample all of them. My favorite was Candles, which served a special steak and seafood menu but required advance reservations. Even so, there were some days I couldn’t get in. The Veranda serves sit-down breakfast and lunch buffet-style, complemented with featured cook-to-order stations such as omelets at breakfast and pasta or stir-fry at lunch. And there’s always room service for those days you just feel like enjoying your suite.
Windstar offers a variety of itineraries appealing to adventurers, culture vultures and sun worshippers. Not surprisingly, it has quite a dedicated following of passengers who regularly book to meet and revisit with friends from previous cruises. Plus, the crew is one of the friendliest I have encountered, with many who became friends. The camaraderie feels like one of a big, happy family.
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