Barbados and Southern Windward Islands
A cruise on the Windstar
Warning: this report is a bit longer than normal because several people indicated an interest in Windstar cruises so I have included a bit more detail and commentary than usual. Hopefully it will not be too boring to most people.
I have used a different mechanism to build and publish this report so it will look a little different. I’d be interested if readers like this more or less than my previous reports.
In early January, before heading to Bonaire, we started looking at the calendar and decided that we would be at home in “cold frozen Atlanta” too much of the coming winter so we started looking at potential travel destinations. We had never been to the more southern of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean and thought that might be a good area to look into. But we really didn’t want to do another “large ship cruise”; Our cruise to Alaska was fun but the huge ship and crowds just wasn’t to our liking. I had seen the Windstar cruise line while looking at cruise possibilities and decided to investigate further. They have three large “motor-sailers” and three relatively small “motor yachts”. Since we like to sail ourselves, I was really looking at the sailboats although I realized they were really not traditional sailboats as some of the other ships. We found a cruise on the Windstar line’s Windsurf from St. Martin covering the northern Windward Islands and the Windstar line’s Windstar (namesake ship) sailing out of Barbados to the more southern Windward Islands. The Windsurf is a bigger ship, carrying up to 310 passengers while the Windstar can accommodate 148 passengers. We ended up almost flipping a coin and decided on the Windstar out of Barbados. We made our Windstar arrangements through James Bingley, a travel advisor at Vacations To Go. As with our Alaska cruise, he provided prompt and friendly service.
Because of airline schedules and when we needed to be on the ship, we had to come down at least the prior day so we thought “as long as we have to have at least one hotel night anyway, we might as well take a couple of extra days and explore Barbados. So we made reservations to fly to Barbados on Wed. Feb. 15 and stay in the Hilton hotel for three nights before boarding the Windstar on Saturday the 18th. The plans were laid……
Getting there and back:
The flights were OK at the Atlanta end in both directions, but Barbados offered some challenges. Although the Barbados airport had apparently recently been upgraded and looked good, it was still behind where it needed to be. There were not enough standard gates when we arrived, so our flight had to be bused to the customs area and of course this always takes an extra 15 – 20 minutes.
1 Waiting for the bus to take us to Barbados customs
When we got to the customs area, the large room was almost filled with the long line ahead of us. It took about 45 minutes in line before we got through and claimed our luggage and exited. I had arranged through the Hilton to have a taxi waiting for us so we found the Hilton representative and she assisted us and got us into the taxi, driven by a very pleasant young man who was very proud of his country and made a few somewhat unbelievable statements (“There is no crime in Barbados.”). But he meant well. He delivered us to the Hilton through some very busy traffic so I was glad we had not attempted to rent a car.
On the return there were several issues in Barbados. At the Delta counter, where we just needed to check our luggage, their counter computer was not working so the agents had to shuffle between the counter and a working computer in the “back room” causing the process to take about 5 times longer than it should, probably about 30 minutes for us. Then we had to get through the very long line for their outbound customs and security check. We were not worried about making our flight because we had already been informed that it would be about 40 minutes late. Once through the security check we found the departure gate. Unfortunately, we were going out through a shared gate that would service several flights and all these passengers would be walking some distance to the aircraft. The PA system was hard to understand and everyone on multiple flights were continually crowding the gate area trying to figure out what was going on, and our late flight just confused things more. We finally boarded almost an hour late and the Barbados chaos made the customs facility of Atlanta seem almost calm and serene.
As mentioned, we stayed at the Barbados Hilton which was situated on a point of land along the beach on the southwest coast of Barbados, close to Bridgetown and on the southern end of Carlisle Bay. Somehow we got a room on one of the “Executive levels” on the seventh floor. We had a nice view over the beach and ocean and the walkway connecting parts of the hotel offered a very nice view of the pool area.
2 Looking down at the Hilton pool area and beach.
We just relaxed the rest of the day, taking a short walk to the left along the beach where a few people were surfing, catching some small but well-formed waves. I was surprised at the amount of surfing done on Barbados as we saw the activity several times. Walking in the other direction from the hotel we almost immediately ran into the ruins of an old fort. That night the Hilton was having a “beach BBQ” around the pool area and we were tired, so we just took advantage of that and relaxed, calling it an early night.
The next day, Thursday, we just explored on foot some and relaxed around the pool. We walked through the old fort ruins, which were on the hotel grounds, and found the fort had a number of old cannons placed around it.
3 Cannons at old fort protecting Carlisle Bay.
The surprising thing was when we looked down in the water at the base of the fort and realized there were more cannons down in the water. There were probably 10 more cannons encrusted with barnacles and other marine life lying in the shallow water. Anyone need some old cannons?
Then we continued around the point of land and got to the beach making up Carlisle Bay. We walked along this for a short distance, maybe a quarter mile, where a pier from another hotel blocked the beach and we had to walk along the streets for a while before we could rejoin the beach. There were lots of boats out in the bay, mostly sailboats, including a lot of catamarans and several of them appeared to be doing snorkeling excursions. We finally figured out that this was the area where snorkeling excursions came so the people could see and swim with turtles.
4 Snorkel excursions on Carlisle Bay: note snorkelers behind blue and green boat.
We walked on around the beach as far as we could go and then retraced our steps back to the hotel shortly before lunchtime. We mostly relaxed around the pool area the rest of the day but did make arrangements to do an “Island Tour” excursion the next day. That night we took the advice of our taxi driver who had pointed out a restaurant named “Brown Sugar” close to the hotel and he said it was very good for local style food.. We enjoyed our dinners very much but we’re not sure about the local specialty, Coucou and Flying Fish which we had for an appetizer as the fish seemed rather salty to us.
The next day, Friday, we met our guide/driver for the tour at the Hilton and then he picked up about 8 more people who would be on the tour in a van. Our first stop was “Miami Beach” (yes, that is what they called it) a moderate size beach close to the Oistins community where there is a big fish fry every Friday night.
5 Miami Beach, Barbados style.
Our tour included a drink from a “immovable” food truck there and the mango juice we had was good. Our next stop was the beach at Foul Bay which was a very pretty beach with large cliffs and rock formations at each end. There was almost no one else on the beach, although it was still fairly early in the day.
6 Foul Bay beach looks rather nice to me, not foul at all.
The next stop was Codrington College, an Anglican theological college in the community of St John. It was an old stone building set on a beautiful site overlooking the east coast of Barbados. We looked around the grounds, took some pictures and tried to not disturb the classes in progress.
7 Codrington College, looking at the back side. They had some amazingly tall palm trees..
The old St Johns Parish Church was the next stopping point and besides the beautiful old church itself, the adjoining cemetery was interesting.
8 The outside of the church had lots of stone work.
The church was beautiful, especially the interior with all the old finished woods and stained glass.
9 Much of the cleaning and maintenance is done by volunteers.
The cemetery had many old graves, some going back to the 1700s in all forms of graves and crypts. One (probably high ranking) military officer was buried standing up and looking east because he had said that he wanted to be able to see the coast from his grave.
10 Graves were as old as 1700s and new as the previous Prime Minister.
We got in the van and drove a short distance, descending to the coast and beaches, to the community and beach of Bathsheba. This is the primary surfing area for the bigger waves in Barbados, although on this day the easterly wind was blowing the waves over and closing them out to soon so there were no surfers around. The rock formations were interesting and we have heard several theories on how they were formed but there were several of these “mushroom rocks” along the beach.
11 Bathseba is popular for surfing, picnicking, and sightseeing.
From Bathseba, we rode almost an hour to the northern most point, “North Point”. Here a lunch was included with our tour at a restaurant set on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. The views from the restaurant and adjoining walkways were great, which is good because the food was not so great. We did see a couple of the biggest hogs I had ever seen at a small farm next to the restaurant property.
12 Rugged coastline at the northern most point of Barbados.
We next headed south along the western coast of Barbados and by this time the tour was getting a bit long. We made a brief stop at a small park along the waterfront at Speighstown, I suspect mainly to be able to stretch out legs a bit. The waterfront was nice and we did see a couple of rather skittish cats around there.
13 Jetty and little bay at Speigstown community.
That eventually brought us back into the Bridgetown area where some of the landmarks were pointed out, like the Mt Gay Rum distillery (which offers tours and tastings). The other customers were delivered to their hotels and we finally were returned to the Hilton. We didn’t feel like going out any more so we just took advantage of another Hilton party around the pool area. The tour had gotten a bit long at the end, but we did see a lot of Barbados and learned some history of the island.
Boarding the Windstar: day 1
On Saturday we knew we could not board the Windstar until 1:00 so in the morning we took another walk along the beach of Carlisle Bay, watching all the snorkeling excursions apparently chasing the turtles. This was a Saturday so there more locals enjoying the beach. We got back from that walk, cleaned up a bit, packed up and headed to the cruise ship terminal about 12:00. Since there were several other large cruise ships loading also, there was some confusion on just where we should go to check in for the Windstar, but a very helpful local employee steered us in the right direction. We checked in and they soon let the group of us walk out the dock to the Windstar.
14 Approaching Windstar at the dock from the stern.
We boarded the ship and found our way to our cabin; not at all difficult on a small ship like this. The cabin was as expected, not especially spacious but very well laid out with a surprising amount of storage space available. I thought the head (bathroom) was better organized than on the Celebrity ship we took to Alaska. Our cabin was the stern most cabin on the second level/deck on the starboard (right) side. As we found out later, this is not the best place to be. We found our way to the Veranda restaurant, an informal light and airy café restaurant with inside and outside seating. This is where breakfast and lunch would be served during the cruise.
15 I'm standing alongside the Veranda, looking at the open-air seating area.
About the Windstar;
This would probably be a good time to describe the layout of the Windstar. Decks 1 and 2 were mostly passenger cabins with ours being close to the stern on deck 2. About the only thing of interest behind us was the access to the watersports platform that we used a couple of times. Deck 3 had the main restaurant, AmphorA forward, then a common area with information desk, small store, casino (also small), spa, and at the stern a lounge where the evening entertainment and any meetings took place. Deck 4 had the bridge (which was usually open to visitors), the Veranda restaurant, an open air bar/lounge area, a hot tub and small pool, and an open “sun deck”.
16 Windstar at anchor
All the cabins/staterooms had only two round portholes to the outside world so no full height windows or balconies here. The biggest problem we had was the noise we heard in our cabin. Being close to the stern we could hear the main engines fairly well, but that was just a rumbling background sound that was just “white noise”. But when the ship maneuvered into tight places, like docking or going into an anchorage close to land, they made heavy use of the side thrusters. (Surprisingly, the Windstar only had a single main motor and single propeller so it had no differential thrust capability and relied on the thrusters a lot to turn/maneuver. ) When the stern thrusters were in use, they were loud in our cabin and would wake us up from a sound sleep. Unfortunately, our itinerary included several early (4 – 5 AM) arrivals that required the use of these thrusters, so we had several early mornings.
17 The bridge of Windstar. The Captain is in the white shirt.
Another interesting aspect of the ship is that it did not have a typical sailboat keel, but instead had a normal ship’s flat bottom. I suspect it was initially planned/built as a normal motorized cruise ship and at some time, possibly during construction, it was converted to also have the sail power. The flat bottom did allow it to get into some more shallow anchorages as it only draws 13 feet of water, but it also means that it would roll in the waves more than a sailboat with a keel would roll.
18 Windstar with 2 of its 5 sails up.
Most of the time this rolling tendency was not a problem but on two occasions, when the swells from the open ocean hit us broadside, the rolls got relatively vigorous and we had to grab the glasses that were sliding off a table. Also, on a normal sailing ship the force of the wind in the sails would tend to stabilize the ship to keep it from rolling but the sails on the Windstar are actually so small in relation to the ship they did not help much. They did not help much for propulsion either: when I asked one of the ship’s officers what speed the Windstar could attain under the best conditions on sail power only, he reply that it would only be about 2 to 3 knots.
Continuing with our cruise…
About 6 PM we pulled away from the dock and headed out to sea. The Windstar makes a bit of a ceremony of raising the sails that they call the “sailaway” although it is completely automated. As the sails are slowly raised/extended they play a song, “Conquest of Paradise” from a 1992 movie of the same name. Here is a youtube video that is better than the one I captured.
19 Passengers on the sun deck watching the sails go up as we leave Barbados.
We next went down to the deck 3 lounge for a glass of wine before heading to the AmphorA restaurant for dinner. We soon found that the food on the Windstar was to be significantly better than we had on our Celebrity cruise. The choices were relatively extensive and the quality of the food, both presentation and taste, was impressive and there was a very good choice of wines. After dinner we went back to the lounge where the entertainment each evening consisted of two people, a man and a woman. She was a very good singer and he played keyboard and managed the other electronic accompaniment. He also sang but his voice was more effective on the Hispanic songs which he primarily did. When we hit the bed that evening the minor rolling and ‘white noise” of the engines did not bother us at all.
Windstar day 2: St Lucia/Pigeon Island
What did bother us was the sound of the stern thruster maneuvering us into position off St Lucia and Pigeon Island at about 4:30 in the morning. After we were in position and the thrusters quiet I went back to sleep for a while but I’m not sure Susan did. The Windstar was anchored in Rodney Bay which is on the northwest part of St Lucia and the bay is formed by Pigeon Island which sticks out from St Lucia. I suspect it may have been a true island at one time but there is now a land bridge and causeway connecting Pigeon Island to St Lucia.
20 The Windstar anchored in Rodney Bay
We enjoyed out first breakfast on Windstar and got a sampling of the very attentive service we would experience all week. They had plenty of buffet items, hot and cold, and you could order and omelet from an omelet station or order other items from the kitchen.
21 The Veranda restaurant for breakfast and lunch
We were scheduled for an excursion this morning, a hike in a rain forest, so we got ready and met the tour leader in the deck 3 lounge. Since we were anchored in the middle of the bay, we used the tender/lifeboat for transportation to the small dock on Pigeon Island where the vans picked us up for the trip to the rain forest. We saw quite a lot of St Lucia from the van as it took almost an hour to get to the rain forest where we met our guide and everyone got a walking stick.
22 Getting ready for the Rain Forest Hike.
The hike was billed as moderate exercise but some parts of the trail pushed the definition of “moderate” quite a bit. I ended up leading the group so the guide could stay back a bit and keep track of everyone and I did not have any problem but I have long legs and some of the people were in not such good shape. The guide pointed out some interesting plants (I especially liked the “sandpaper plant”) and a few birds as we went along. The actual hike was probably a little over an hour and ended at what they called a “jungle pool”.
23 Several people did get wet in the "jungle pool". The guys in red are the van drivers.
Someone had actually dammed up a small stream so it formed a pool. Although we had worn bathing suits the water didn’t look that inviting to Susan or me so we did not get in, but several other people did. There was also a little fresh fruit and juice available at the pool. After about 30 minutes at the pool we walked a short distance to where the vans were now parked and there were some interesting plants and flowers along the way, including a kind of orange tree and some Mango trees but the mangos had just bloomed so no fruit yet. We loaded up in the vans for the trip back to the dock and then the Windstar where we enjoyed a slightly late lunch.
After lunch we decided to try out a feature of the Windstar, the watersports platform that opens from the stern of the ship. They have kayaks, SUPs, a large floating “pad” you could get on, and one small sailboat (a Laser Pico).
24 The watersports platform in the stern of Windstar.
Someone else got the sailboat just as we were getting there and kept it out quite a while and when we got it we were asked to only stay out 20 minutes, so other people could sail some also. It was a small boat, the wind was a bit gusty, and there was a fair amount of chop to the water, making it an interesting ride. We made a couple of trips out and back across the wind, staying within sight of the guys on the platform and returned in 20 minutes. The next person took the boat for 20 minutes then took on a passenger for another 20 minutes and by then the crew were ready to close up the watersports. They really need a different sailboat for this purpose as the Laser Pico is not a good boat for beginners and it is difficult to rig and unrig within the limitations of the watersports platform. A standard Sunfish would probably be a better choice.
As usual, we ate at AmphorA again this evening, being joined by a couple from Cary, NC whom we had met during the day. Another delightful meal followed by mellow entertainment in the lounge.
Windstar Day 3: Sailing south to Grenada
We spent that night anchored in Rodney Bay so we did not wake to the sound of thrusters on Monday. About 9:00AM the anchor was raised and we headed south toward our next stop, Grenada. As we slowly cruised past St Lucia and its famous Pitons the crew would take two people at a time up to the ship’s bowspirit and take their photo (with their own cameras) with the Pitons in the background. There was quite a line for this and it was a slow process and we didn’t feel like standing in line so long. By the time the line got short and we did get in line for our picture, we had passed the Pitons so our photo shows the St Lucia “mountains” behind us and the ship.
25 We're on the bow of the ship with the Pitons behind us
The rest of the day was spent sailing fairly slowly toward Grenada. We watched St Lucia recede behind us as we looked at maps to identify the islands coming up ahead.
26 Leaving St Lucia and the Pitons in the distance
The sea was generally very calm since the islands break up any larger swells but the wind was still blowing about 15 knots from the east. With no swells, the ship did not roll much but the wind from our port side caused the boat to heel over a bit. It was nothing uncomfortable, but enough to remind you of the power of the wind in even our relatively small sails.
27 Compare the deck of the ship to the horizon to see how much it is heeled over.
In the evenings the crew would set up a few tables on the stern sundeck and call it the “Candles” restaurant. You had to make reservations to visit Candles, you could only go once per week, and this was our night. The food was about the same as AmphorA, which is excellent, but the service was even a notch above the excellent AmphorA service. We had a beautiful evening to eat at Candles, cruising the calm sea toward Grenada.
28 Dinner at Candles: a beautiful evening cruising the Caribbean.
Windstar Day 4: Grenada
The Windstar docked at Grenada early Tuesday morning, thus we were treated to another early morning courtesy of the thrusters. When we did get up we were treated to a lovely harbor scene from where we were docked almost in the middle of the town of St George.
29 The harbor at St George, Granada was picturesque.
We later saw another, much larger, cruise ship docked just outside the harbor (for the deeper water) but they did not have the nice view we did. This was to be an interesting day with multiple activities.
After our normal breakfast in Veranda we joined a group going on a kayak excursion. We boarded a van that took about 20 minutes to deliver us to the site where we would start paddling. These kayaks had transparent “Plexiglas” bottoms so we could see some of what we were paddling over. The view was distorted and not great and we had to keep sponging the water off the Plexiglas, but we could see more than I expected to.
30 Just starting on our Kayak trip, Susan had the front seat.
We were a bit concerned about some of the other paddlers such as the two elderly women in one kayak, one of which had never paddled before. There were two “guides” in kayaks and a small inflatable boat with a very small outboard motor as a safety boat. The first part of the trip was fine as we were paddling downwind and with the small waves. We could look down on some large coral formations and in one area some “statues” had been placed on the bottom that we could look at, although the view through the bottom of the kayaks was poor and we could barely make out what the statues were supposed to represent when we did actually see them. Then we had to paddle about a mile back to the beach where we had started and now it was against the wind and chop. One of the older ladies, the one with more experience, had a back problem, so the safety boat took her back to the starting point while towing the other lady in the kayak. Another kayak got swamped by the waves and, while it would not sink, it was very difficult to paddle that way so the safety boat towed them to the nearby shore where they dumped the water out of the kayak. After that I made sure I kept our kayak as dry as possible (since I’m much heavier than Susan, any water that got in our kayak quickly flowed back to my end of the boat). On the way back in the van the driver said he was going the long way around to avoid traffic but I think we was really giving up the scenic route.
31 St George harbor from the hillside. Look closely and you can see the Windstar’s masts.
When we got back on board the Windstar we had a slightly late lunch and, haven gotten some exercise paddling in to the wind and waves, we relaxed and enjoyed the view the rest of the day.
This evening was to be a bit special as this was the on-board Bar-B-Que night, set up to be served and eaten on the stern sun deck.. I assumed that it would be a fairly simple affair but this was not your typical BBQ.
32 The whole roast pig was just the beginning. (Can you read the little sign?)
Besides the whole roast pig there was a big pan of Paella, roast chicken, pork ribs (that were much too big to have come from the above pig), steaks and lobster tails. There were all kinds of vegetables, salads, and an array of carved fruits, including a carved cantaloupe that looked like a small pig’s head. It was probably the most elaborate and tasty BBQ I have ever attended.
After everyone had finished eating (gorging themselves??) the crew cleared off the serving facilities and made room for some “line dancing”. The crew and a lot of the passengers did a number of western style dances as well as standards such as YMCA and the Macarena, finally terminating in a rather long and winding “conga line”. As the party was ending we pulled away for the dock and headed to sea, listening to “The Conquest of Paradise” while the sails were raised. Quite an evening!
Windstar Day 5: Tobago Cays
It probably did not require much maneuvering to anchor in our next location in the Tobago Cays as I don’t remember being awakened by the thrusters this morning. We went through our normal morning routine including breakfast in the Veranda and then got our swim suits on and gathered our snorkel equipment for the upcoming snorkel excursion. We were shuttled over to the large catamaran snorkel boat via the ship’s Zodiac boats. It turned out that the snorkel boat was a brand new boat and we were the first excursion on it. It had just been sailed over from France to go to work in the Tobago Cays. Although it was large and comfortable, the differential thrust available from the widely spaced hulls meant that it could maneuver and turn on a dime, which would come in handy in the busy areas where we would be going. We cruised (under power) to a reef just off a couple of islands and jumped in.
33 A view of the snorkel catamaran from the water as Susan prepares to jump in.
There were lots of small fish around large areas of coral and the water was very clear with good visibility.
34 There were lots of small fish but no larger ones.
We paddled around for a while over and around the reef area looking for interesting sea life. As we headed back to the snorkel boat we came across probably the most interesting fine, a “flight” of five cuttlefish (squid). They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them. Here is a short video of some of the cuttlefish.
We got everyone back on board and powered over to the other side of the island where there was a beach and shallow area with a sandy bottom and some sea grass; just the kind of place that turtles like. Sure enough, a turtle came paddling by as we were anchoring so everyone jumped back in to find a turtle.
35 This turtle did not seem bothered by our presence; he just kept on eating.
After pestering the turtles for a while, we got on the snorkel boat and headed back to the Windstar where we had a quick lunch before starting the afternoon activities.
The ship had anchored near one of the Tobago Cays named Petit Bateau and the zodiacs were being used to shuttle people between the ship and a beach on the island. The crew had taken the kayaks and SUPs to the island but, unfortunately, had not brought the little sailboat. We first hiked around and over the island, and when I say “over”, I really do mean “over”. On the back side of the island I found a path leading up a hill where I thought I could get a good picture.
36 The view from about half way up the hill.
One island of note is in the above photo. The small island (properly named Petit Tebac) a little to the right of center is the island used in the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie where Captain Jack Sparrow was marooned. This fact ended up being pointed out to us about five times so I guess the local people were a bit proud of it. The small beach on the left side of he photo is where we pestered the turtles earlier in the day. I was ready to go back down the hill, but Susan was climbing on past me, so I followed her. We ended up climbing quite a bit higher and then very cautiously going down the other side of the hill back to the beach where we initially landed. We were wearing our water shoes and they were not intended for this kind of dry land climbing.
37 A zodiac load of people being shuttled from the Windstar tto the beach.
After we got back to the beach and had something to drink, we got a couple of kayaks to paddle around a little. We were limited to a relatively small area but we investigated the channel and adjoining island as best we could. Once we returned the kayaks we got the next shuttle back to the Windstar and relaxed there until time for dinner at AmphorA followed by the normal entertainment in the lounge. All around, a pleasant day.
Windstar Day 6: Mayreau
During the night the Windstar repositioned a total of probably less than five miles to the western side of the island of Mayreau. Again, not much maneuvering was involved as I don’t remember hearing the thrusters this morning either. This was to be a “Beach Party” day for the Windstar. There were cabanas and umbrellas set up along the beach and a BBQ/grilled lunch would be served on the island.
38 A couple of the Windstar officers welcome us to Mayreau.
But first, we had another snorkeling excursion to go on. Actually, it was more about a boat ride and less about snorkeling, but that is OK. We had to first use the tenders to get to the dock at Mayreau where the preparations for the beach party were already in progress. We got off the tender, walked to the beach, and boarded the large snorkeling catamaran that was similar to the one the previous day, but not the same one. Once off the beach the crew actually raised the sails. The motors stayed on but I’d guess that the sails added about 6 or 8 knots to our speed. It was a fairly long ride to the snorkel location, going past Palm Island ( a very nice resort island) and on to a very small island off of Petit St Vincent Island.
39 Mopian Island, with the "Engagement Umprella".
This palapa on Mopian island is apparently more famous than the island itself and has earned the name of “Engagement Umbrella”. The snorkel boat anchored a little ways off the island and took us in to the island via a small dingy. We snorkeled around for a while seeing small fish and corals but no larger fish.
40 These two guys were about the biggest fish I saw.
After seeing enough of the small fish, we returned to the snorkel boat via the dingy and headed back to Mayreau and the Windstar. We had a pleasant sail back and it was a little after noon when we arrived so lunch was being served on Mayreau. We grabbed some plates and got in line for typical picnic food, including “Jerked chicken” that did not seem to have any kind of Jamaican jerk spice. Although the beach and environment was nice, this meal was probably the least successful of all the meals we had on the cruise. It wasn’t bad, but it could have easily been much better. There was really not much to do on the beach so we hung around for a while and relaxed then headed back to the Windstar.
41 The beach at Mayreau. The big catamaran on the right was our snorkel boat.
More relaxing back on the Windstar and it was unusually quiet as most passengers were back at the beach on Mayreau. Another pleasant dinner in AmphorA was followed by “special” entertainment. It was the “Crew Talent Show” night and crew members did various combinations of singing, playing instruments, and dancing. As one might guess, some acts were better than others, but most were entertaining.
Windstar Day 7: Bequia
Our last full day on the Windstar began early (5:00 AM) as the ship used the thrusters to maneuver into Rocky Bay on the island of Bequia (pronounced as beck-way). When we looked outside out portholes we did see an interesting sight.
42 The Sea Cloud is a true 4 masted, square rigged ship. Impressive.
We were sharing the harbor with the Sea Cloud, a four masted, square rigged ship. It was beautiful but I suspect we were more comfortable on the Windstar. We would only be here for half a day before heading to Barbados, so we got going early. With no planned excursion today, we hopped on the first tender heading to the island and started exploring. We walked as far as we could to the right (only a couple hundred yards), turned around and headed the other way. We knew there was supposed to be an old fort of some kind on a point above the harbor, so we headed that direction to see if we could find it. We kept following the main road as it wound around and up, hoping it would lead to the fort.
43 A view of the harbor from part way to the fort.
After 15 or 20 minutes of walking this direction we made it to the rather small and unimpressive fort. There were a couple of old cannons and some crumbling walls, but not much else. We talked for a couple of minutes to the T-Shirt and souvenir guy who had set up his small shop at the fort and then headed back down. We walked back into the main part of town and with more people arriving from the ships, the vendors were getting more active. Since we’re not big on “shopping” and we had seen what we wanted to see so decided to head back to the ship. One of the ships officers who had just come in on a tender was a bit amazed to learn that we had gotten here, toured the town, walked up to the fort and bac,k and were ready to head back to the ship. We don’t waste any time.
We put on our swim suits and headed to the watersports platform to see if we could make use of the little sailboat again. We convinced the crew to rig the Laser Pico and took it out for a while. With the two sailing ships in the bay and the need to stay within sight of the watersports platform, our possible area to sail in was again rather limited. With a brisk wind blowing, we had a somewhat exciting sail with some choppy waves and large wind shadows behind the large ships. After sailing we helped the crew unrig the sailboat and confirmed our earlier opinion that they need to find a better way to handle the boat and/or get a boat that is simpler to rig.
We cleaned up a bit and ate lunch and watched the Sea Cloud turn around and depart. Then the Windstar weighed anchor, turned, and left Bequia, heading for Barbados.
44 On our way out of the harbor this cruising catamaran cut much too close in front of us and got a well-deserved blast from the Windstar's horn. Note the Sea Cloud in the distance.
We spent the afternoon mostly relaxing around the deck 4 lounge and sundeck (but out of the sun). We did have a little excitement when we were in the open ocean and turned broadside to the swells for a while and the ship started rolling fairly vigorously. This is when we had to rescue some glasses that tried to slide off our table.
In the evening we again had dinner with the couple from Cary, NC and enjoyed the food and service in AmphorA one last time. After dinner there was a “Captain’s Farewell” reception in the lounge where the ships officers and many of the crew were introduced again.
45 From right to left, the Captain, the "Cruise Director", the "Hotel Manager" and then many of the crew.
After being introduced, the crew got a well-deserved standing ovation from the passengers.
Windstar Day 8: Arrival in Barbados
Sometime during the night, probably as we came around the southern part of Barbados, the ship again turned broadside to the swells and for a few minutes we had to hold ourselves in place on the bed to keep from rolling out and onto the floor. A little while later, about 5:00AM, the thrusters cranked up again and then we heard a “thud” and loud squeaking noise like rubber dragging across metal. I looked out the porthole and the only thing I could see was the front of the tugboat that had just started pushing us toward the dock. It was another early morning.
The disembarkation process was a little confusing and did not go quite as the information sheet described, but we did eventually have breakfast and get off the ship, through customs, and claimed our luggage. We had to be off the ship by 8:45 AM and our flight was not due to leave until after 4:00 PM so we had signed up for another tour in Barbados, seeing some things that we didn’t see on our earlier tour, or so we thought.
In Barbados, another tour
In our first tour of Barbados we had seen much scenery/sights of the island but had not visited a couple of the most frequently seen “attractions”. Probably the top of this list was “Harrison’s Cave”, a cavern complex that had been cleaned out and developed as a tourist attraction. We got on the tour bus at the cruise ship dock and made our way toward the cave. Our hostess/guide on the bus was a very pleasant and informative young woman who, we decided, must be a teacher during the week. She was very familiar with the educational system in Barbados and explained it in detail and at one stop she saw a young boy who was working on some kind of school book, called him by name, and asked if he was working on his homework.
46 Entrance to the cavern at Harrison's caves.
The attraction features an electric tram that takes you through the cavern so no walking is required. The cavern is damp with water frequently dropping from above, so you will get a little wet. While the cavern is not as grand and impressive as many in the US, it is amazing that such a geological structure exists at all on an island like Barbados.
47 One of the areas of the cave with unusual formations.
Once back out in the sunlight and done with the cave, we loaded back into the bus and head to the next stop. We rode a long time and it seemed like we must have gone all the way across Barbados when we pulled up in front of old St Johns Parish Church. Yes, this is the same church that we visited on our earlier island tour, so I won’t say more about it now. Our next stop was just a little ways down the rod and was the Sunbury Plantation, a restored old style plantation house that had originally been built in the 1700s.
48 The main entrance to Sunbury Plantation House.
We got a brief tour and were given time to wander around the various collections within the house. One previous owner was a camera collector and there were displays of many old cameras from the 1900s. The staff then set up lunch for our group and several tour groups in a common area in what probably used to be the stable area. The serving process was somewhat chaotic and the food was mediocre but at least we did get something in our stomach before getting to the airport. It was only a 15 minute ride from the plantation to the airport where we unloaded from the bus, found our luggage, and proceeded into the airport mess described earlier. Thus ended our visit to Barbados and the southern Windward Islands.
Final comments about Windstar
The Windstar cruise deserves some additional comments. While certainly not everything was perfect (like the early morning awakening by the thrusters) we thought the Windstar “experience” was much better than our previous cruise on Celebrity. The smaller size ship enables you to meet and get to know more of the staff and other passengers. We met, talked to, and got to know a number of other passengers. The friendly and social atmosphere reminded me of Club Med resorts, which tend to be very friendly. The staff made it a point to learn our names and quickly remembered some of our preferences.
The food on board was definitely a notch above our previous cruise. It was apparent that each dish was prepared to order and not prepared by the hundreds and served as needed. The food quality was very good with a good choice. Each day the menu had new, different and unique items as well as a section of dishes that were the same every day (steaks, chicken, fish) so if you did not feel adventurous that evening, you could go with the ”tried and true” dish.
On our cruise there were 141 guests/passengers (capacity is 148) and there were 99 crewmembers, so there was a very high ratio of “servers” to guests. This was also reinforced by the way the officers always referred to the Windstar as “the yacht”, not “the ship”. Their intent was to make it seem that you were on a personal/private yacht rather than on a typical cruise ship and it was somewhat effective.
One recommendation I would make to anyone planning a Windstar cruise would be to make your reservations early enough to ensure you can reserve a cabin further forward of where we were. I suspect that a cabin four or five doors further forward from ours would have been much less subject to the noise of the thrusters.
All in all, it was a very interesting and different trip. We have already discussed possible future Windstar trips. The cruise on the Windsurf out of St Martin and going to St Barts, St Kitts, Guadeloupe, and Dominica would be a easy possibility. But the one that somewhat fascinates me is an eleven day cruise out of Papeete, Tahati on the Windspirit visiting the Tuamotu islands, Bora Bora, Moorea and other Polynesian islands.
Stay tuned for future trip reports!