Baltic cruise aboard Windstar Cruises’ Wind Surf: departing Copenhagen

Wind Surf sails away from Copenhagen on the first leg of her "Baltic Delights" cruise.
Wind Surf sails away from Copenhagen on the first leg of her “Baltic Delights” cruise.

ONBOARD WINDSURF-Reflecting recently on the nearly 50 cruises I’ve logged during a 36- year career as a freelance travel journalist, it occurred to me that, while I’ve sailed the world’s five oceans and most of its seven seas, there’s one major cruising destination I’d missed.  The Baltic.

I’ve traveled extensively in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, visiting many of the countries bordering this 145,500-square-mile brackish inland sea ­ the largest body of brackish water in the world ­ but I’m now in Copenhagen, ready to cruise the Baltic for the first time.

Being a small ship devotee and a longtime fan of Windstar cruises, my choice of the line’s 10-day ‘Baltic Delights’ voyage onboard Wind Surf was a natural.

The plan was to arrive in Copenhagen early yesterday to meet up with my Canadian lady friend and cruising partner Melinda, allowing a day to explore the Danish capital before boarding Wind Surf this evening.  But, alas, a frustrating flight cancellation delayed my arrival until late this afternoon ­ with just enough time to transfer directly to the ship prior to its 5:00 p.m. departure.

Fortunately Mel arrived on schedule to enjoy a restful evening at the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel and a day of sightseeing during which she strolled the picturesque Nyhavn Harbor district and visited Rosenberg Castle and the elegant Rococco-style Amalienborg Palace that is home to Danish royalty.

As for me, my only photo opp in Copenhagen was through the rear view mirror, so to speak, shooting our Sail Away ceremony over Wind Surf’s aft deck as the city faded in the distance.

AmphorA is Wind Surf's main dining venue.
AmphorA is Wind Surf’s main dining venue.

Before we settle in for dinner, let me tell you a bit about our seagoing home for the next 10 days. Wind Surf was built in France in 1990 as Club Med 1 to serve as a yachting alternative for the French resort group.  Refurbished several times and operating for a number of years under the Holland America banner, it is currently the flagship of the Windstar fleet, that includes the much smaller 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit, along with three 212-passenger power yachts, Star Pride, Star Legend and Star Breeze, recently purchased from Seabourn Cruise Line.

At 617-feet in length, the 14,765 ton, 310-passenger Wind Surf is the world¹s largest sailing cruise ship — and with five masts towering 221 feet atop her six decks, she more than qualifies as a tall ship. Her seven triangular, self-furling, computer actuated sails combine for almost 27,000 sq. ft. of surface area.  Two electrical propulsion motors serve to augment the sails.  The ship typically cruises at 10-12 knots under sail and up to 15 knots utilizing both wind and power. A water-ballast stabilizing system keeps the vessel level while in motion.

With a shallow draft of just 16.5 feet, Wind Surf has the distinct advantage of being able to go off the beaten track to enter smaller ports that are off-limits to larger cruise ships.

Key public areas include three dining areas, a spacious lounge with a full-service bar and a stage equipped with professional-grade sound and lighting, the aft-deck Compass and Terrace Bars, the Yacht Club Sandwich/Espresso Bar, a library, a small casino, the 10,000 sq. ft. WindSpa and adjoining salon, a fitness center, the Signature Shop boutique, a photo gallery, two pools, a hot tub and sauna.

Wind Surf offers a brilliant array of dining options.  Breakfast and lunch are served in the Veranda, a top-deck restaurant surrounded by glass walls that open to a terrace for alfresco dining in fair weather.  Both meals are served buffet style; you can order dishes from a menu at the outside grill or choose your items from a buffet set up inside.  Lunch is similarly served, with hot and cold items selected at the buffet or from the fresh pasta station.  Burgers, chicken, sausages and other items are available
from the grill.

AmphorA, the ship’s main dining venue, has open seating from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.  Menu options here are pretty much traditional.  There’s always a choice of a meat, fish or chicken entrée, with the most popular choices being steak, roast pork, prime rib, seared tuna, salmon and shrimp.

The intimate Stella Bistro is a delightful alternative restaurant that emphasizes French cuisine.  A typical menu here might include escargot, beef bourguignon, skewered scallops, goat cheese soufflé and roast duck.  There’s a wine-pairing menu available, and the wine list goes beyond Windstar’s typically American leanings to include many European, South American and South African vintages.

Candles, an alfresco steakhouse-style restaurant, is another choice.  Essentially, it’s the poolside grill dressed up for dinner offering a menu of steaks and skewers.  Dinner here is subject to weather conditions. Reservations are strongly encouraged for both Stella and Candles ­ but there’s no additional charge for meals at either of these specialty restaurants.

The recently added Yacht Club Sandwich/Espresso Bar serves up gourmet sandwiches, pastries and a variety of specialty coffees and other beverages from 7:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. daily.  Offerings here also are included in the cruise fare ­ with the exception of wine and beer that are available for purchase.

With the exception of a pair of 500 sq. ft. luxury suites on Bridge Deck, staterooms are all located on decks 2 and 3.  They include 122 standard staterooms measuring 188 sq. ft. and 31 suites (formed by pairing two standard cabins) that measure 376 sq. ft.  Except for the two bridge suites, there are no balconies, although each stateroom has portholes.

We found our standard cabin a bit cramped but we did enjoy its many amenities ­ added during retrofits in 2006 and 2012 ­ including plush new Euro-top mattresses and upscale sheets, flat-screen TVs, DVD players and Bose iPod speaker docks (loaded iPods and DVDs are available at no charge). Shower-only bathrooms are cozy too, but nicely outfitted with thick Egyptian cotton towels, terry cloth robes, L’Occitane toiletries and more than enough storage space.  All staterooms feature a small desk/vanity, mini-bar/fridge, a roomy closet, a safe and international direct-dial telephones.  It isn’t free, but wireless internet is available throughout the ship, including staterooms.

In conclusion, what we have here is a truly unique vessel, offering plenty of big-ship features and amenities without sacrificing its inherently cozy yacht-like atmosphere and “we know your name” personalized service.

We¹re truly looking forward to our Baltic voyage ­ and I hope you’ll join us as I continue my blog tomorrow from the sun-kissed Danish island of Bornholm ­ continuing with reports on subsequent days from Gdansk, Poland; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia and Stockholm, Sweden.

August 23, 2016

Photos by Dave Houser

Leave a Comment

Trusted by over 1 million cruisers since 2003.
Get FREE access to members-only pricing.
There is a highly acclaimed way to receive multiple quotes from a site called CruiseCompete, where cruise specialists compete to offer you the best deal. The media sums it up for CruiseCompete:
Score Luxury Cruises at Bargain Prices” (The Street)
Best site for cruise deals” (The Wall Street Journal)
28 Best Travel Sites” (Kiplinger's) Multiple annual mentions
36 Web Addresses You Should Know” (The Washington Post)