One way to fight that sinking feeling when it’s time to disembark your cruise: Stay on board.
Valletta, Malta — As I stood talking to fellow passengers at the end of a weeklong Mediterranean sailing on Windstar Cruises, it soon became clear that I was a mere babe when it came to the number of times I had sailed on Windstar. My only other cruise on the line had been five years ago, a seven-day jaunt along the Italian Coast. Sure, two cruises made me an alumnus, but certainly not what you would call a frequent Windstar cruiser.
“This is our fourth cruise on Windstar,” says William Clanton, owner of a staffing service in Memphis, Tennessee. But even as he spoke those words, the Clantons were about to embark on their fifth Windstar cruise. They were staying on board, doing something I had not considered: a back-to-back cruise.
They would sail out of the Maltese port of Grand Harbour this evening, bound for the Italian coast. I envied them. And they weren’t alone. Nearly half of the passengers on our sailing would leave Malta in the twilight on the Wind Surf. Theirs would become 14-day cruises, with no repetition of ports.
It’s easy to see why someone would not want to disembark Windstar. Life under sail is perfectly relaxed. “You don’t feel like you’re on a floating city,” Sharon Clanton says. “And there’s not so much activity that you feel guilty if you miss something.”
But Windstar’s relaxed pace is not for everyone. Midway during our cruise, a group of passengers in their 30s asked if the cruise was not too relaxing. In ports, I saw them hurrying along sidewalks and roads, trying to burn a few calories from the morning meal. On ship, they used the treadmills and exercise bicycles. They were seeking activity of any sort.
Others weren’t. “Frommer’s (cruise guide) says the two places that Windstar falls short are with activities and children,” a couple from Washington state told us. “We thought, ‘Oh good, that’s the one we want to go on.’ ”
“It’s true that we’re not doing bingo and horse-racing,” said the ship’s hotel manager. Even so, Windstar’s ships are not devoid of activity. The Wind Surf features an ocean-view fitness center with Nautilus-style equipment, a workout studio for group exercise, a salon and spa, an internet cafe, a library (that also lends DVDs to view on the flat-panel TVs in staterooms), two restaurants and other dining venues, and perhaps best of all, a watersports platform where complimentary activities are offered nearly every time the ship drops anchor: snorkeling, waterskiing, wind-surfing, kayaking and banana boat rides. Scuba diving (as well as a scuba course that includes a dive) is offered for $70 (two tank dives go for $120). In addition, there’s also the portfolio of exotic ports on each cruise. Not enough activity?
But even with all that offered, most passengers (including me) spent their days by the pool, reading books or even snoozing. I could have used another week of the relaxed pace, but I couldn’t complain. Mine had been a great cruise, starting in Venice, where I spent the night on board before sailing past St. Mark’s Square en route for the Croatian coast. I spent a full (and fun) day in the beautiful, walled old city of Dubrovnik, and on another day, I walked the cobbled streets of Corfu.
Wind Surf anchored off a small Greek island, Cephalonia, which was quaint and authentic and made me think of returning one day if only it weren’t so far away. The ship sailed into Sicily, and after departing the beautiful island, I watched the lava flows run down Mt. Etna as the ship made its way to Malta.
I stayed overnight in Malta before flying home the next day. Near sunset, from the balcony of my room at the high-rise Westin Dragonara, I saw the Wind Surf leaving Grand Harbour. Yes, I would have liked to have been on board for the second part of the extended cruise our fellow passengers were enjoying. But life back home beckoned.
I watched the Wind Surf glide away, her beautiful sails billowing in the warm wind, and thought of the conversations with my fellow passengers still on board and wished I was still with them. Next time, I vowed, I would take an extended cruise. Seven days just isn’t enough.