Star Pride notes from the Mediterranean Sea
Folks who sail, the ones who prefer to meander the seas and to challenge the capriciousness of the winds and waters, mostly are a hardy lot, energized by their battles with the forces of nature.
At sea, they tend to be casual in dress, taking comfort in the same old sweatshirts, shorts, and salty caps.
While travelers who choose larger, well-equipped sailing vessels for a cruising vacation are not nearly so salty -- after all, someone else is setting the courses, trimming the sails, swabbing the decks, fixing fine meals -- there are similarities in attitude and casual style.
That’s what was on my mind as I looked over the arriving group of passengers at the recent inaugural ceremony for the Star Pride, docked at a pier in Barcelona, Spain.
Invited to the party of champagne and hoopla were dozens of past passengers from Windstar Cruise’s sailing yachts. Windstar, known for its casual, romantic voyages in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, is expanding from three to six small ships.
Looking over the power yacht
As no yachts with sails were available for purchase, the three additional vessels are without sails, powered only by motors.
I was curious how the veterans of Windstar sailing voyages would react to their first opportunity to test the company’s most ambitious venture.
All told, the initial cruise went well, with a minimum of the usual first-voyage complaints about finishing touches (such as no room service menus), and on the last day most passengers indicated they would return for another trip on Star Pride.
The ship was built in the late 1980s as the Seabourn Pride to satisfy a high-end client list on fancy cruises around the world. The 112-passenger vessel sports spacious cabins with a sitting area, granite top in a bathroom with tub, and a walk-in closet, the sort of amenities that no sailor expects. The Pride was designed to be country clubby, more lunch club than launch club, as Seabourn passengers tend to be somewhat dressy, and at least highly fashionable in attire.
Star Pride, the first of the three to arrive in Windstar’s hands during the next 12 months, had spent 18 days at dry dock, where its new owners made some physical changes -- building an airy Yacht Club room forward, redesigning a lounge and the dining room, moving the atmosphere toward Windstar’s warmer, more contemporary style.
The first official day in the life of Star Pride began during a late afternoon ceremony of short speeches, including a religious blessing of the ship and crew, and the traditional christening with a champagne bottle by the godmother, the charming Nancy Anschutz, wife of Philip, owner of Windstar.
Invitations to the inaugural event had described the attire as “business casual.”
While company executives and ship’s officers were well dressed for the ceremonial business, most of the passengers apparently had read only the word “casual.”
Many men wore a collared shirt with khaki trousers, jeans, or shorts, outfits that I would see often during our six-night cruise to Rome. Women dressed a bit sharper than the men; they always do.
For all of its ships, especially in the dining room at night, Windstar has attempted to guide the dress style with a phrase that you see often on ships and in restaurants these days, the trendy “casually elegant.” It’s inexact enough to include most clothing, yet hopeful for a slightly refined look.
Pack only a carry-on bag
For some travelers, the elegant part may be a bit of challenge, especially if you follow recommendations on Windstar’s own website, where frequent cruisers write about packing for vacations of a week or longer. They suggest that you bring only what you may carry onto an airplane.
That’s not much in the way of elegance, as most airlines restrict carry-on luggage to a bag of 45 linear inches, such as the typical 22-14-9, plus a purse or a small personal bag with your computer and a few other electronic items.
What more do you really need for a casual vacation on the sea, beyond bathing suits, t-shirts, shorts, a windbreaker, a pair of long pants, some dinner shirts, and the usual collection of unmentionables?
For informmation contact a travel agent who is knowledgeable about cruises and ships, or Windstar Cruises.
Next blog: Goose bumps on Windstar's sail-aways
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com