As chic, trendy and sophisticated as the people who sail on it, Wind Spirit is a four-masted, 148-passenger cruise ship with lovely white sails on deck. It was built in 1988, but when Xanterra Parks and Resorts acquired the Windstar line in 2011, it gave the ship -- along with sisters Wind Star and Wind Surf -- an US$18 million refurbishment the following year to keep it fresh and youthful. In April 2015 the ship was again refreshed before its second season in Tahiti, where it is now based year-round.
In the cabins, carpets, wallpaper and mattresses have been replaced. There's new teak decking on the top deck and fresh coats of varnish on the floors of the lounge and Veranda restaurant, along with new furniture. The pool area has new sunbeds, tables and chairs, and public restrooms were recently upgraded. With the hull repainted in brilliant white, Wind Spirit is looking good inside and out.
These enhancements follow the 2012 makeover, which saw cabin bathrooms spruced up with granite countertops, high-piled towels and fancy showerheads. New Bose speakers for playing your own music from smartphones and tablets upped the ante in the tech toys department, too. The Restaurant was redesigned and renamed AmphorA, The Lounge got new hardwood flooring and a new AV system, and the reception area was updated. The Pool Bar was also revamped to create additional alfresco seating for sunset dining at Candles Grill, with a new awning and deck furniture.
What hasn't changed, however, is the onboard experience. The cruise line has stuck to its core concept: a balance of small-ship features -- low passenger occupancy, high guest-to-crew ratios, personalized service -- and more big-ship ones, particularly where pricing is involved. Excursions and alcoholic beverages are additional charges (drinks packages are now available), though water and soft drinks are included. The onboard atmosphere is just the right mix of upscale and laid-back; Wind Spirit combines the highest levels of food and service with a single open seating and casual attire.
If you're seeking a romantic escape, these ships are sublime. The sails are computerized and not really necessary for navigation or power, but who cares when the effect is exquisite? (When conditions are perfect, the engines are cut, and the ships are completely wind driven.) If your fantasy is making a spectacular entry into some of the best ports of French Polynesia while sipping a glass of bubbly on deck, this may be your cruise experience.
Plus, beyond the romance of cruising on a real sailing vessel, you benefit from the small ship's access to otherwise unreachable ports. Wind Spirit offers unique itineraries that include ports of call both on and off the mainstream grid, as well as plenty of active adventures ashore. Many of Wind Spirit's passengers wouldn't be caught dead on a conventional cruise ship, opting for bonding with other well-traveled couples and enjoying the excellent water sports offered right off the ship.
Windstar Wind Spirit Dress Code
During the day, shorts and T-shirts are appropriate. At night, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, tank tops and tennis shoes are "forbidden" in the main dining room. (But we did see a few neat jeans slip through.) The written code is "casual elegance": Men generally don button-down shirts or collared shirts with dress pants, and women wear sundresses or capris with light sweaters or blouses. Bottom line: Leave tuxes and evening gowns at home. Otherwise, pretty much anything goes.
Windstar Wind Spirit Gratuity
Windstar now automatically adds a hotel service charge of US$13.50 per person to each passenger's shipboard account on a daily basis. If service exceeds or fails to meet expectations, you may adjust this amount at the end of the cruise. In addition, a 15 percent service charge is automatically added to bar charges, the beverage package and dining room wine purchases. These charges are paid entirely to Windstar crewmembers -- both crewmembers who serve you directly, such as waitstaff and cabin stewards, and others you may never meet, such as galley and laundry staff -- and represent an important part of their compensation.