Mann Travels’ Director of Leisure Sales Jeff Nickerson had the opportunity to sail on the Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride and experience small ship sailing first hand.
Over the years I have had the great fortune of cruising so many times, that I am no longer able to tell you how many. I have loved cruising from my very first encounter in 1991 on what was then called the Nordic Empress. It was love at first sight. Immediately I was hooked forever on cruising. As time went by, my love for cruising grew commensurately as the size of the vessels grew from under 50,000 tons to 90,000, to 140,000 and eventually to the 225,000+ ton behemoths of many of today’s newest ships.
And I LOVE big ships! Those who work with me can attest to this love; the action, the wealth of activities and the abundance of entertainment and options. Give me 20 restaurants, so many activities you cannot possibly do them all, all the while rubbing elbows with 6000 of my closest friends and I could not be happier! In a way, I have kind of looked down upon small ship cruising both figuratively and literally.
Then I had the opportunity to sail on Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride. In all honesty, the first day was an adjustment. My understanding of how cruising should be and my level of comfort with the differences in small and big ship cruising were challenged. A friend told me I needed to change my attitude and be open to the differences. Immediately I began to realize how amazing cruising is on Windstar. By day two, I honestly believe EVERY crew member new my name. I was told by an executive at Windstar that they should have known it on day one!
The cruise experience was so different than what I knew previously. Like I said before, I have cruised many, many times over the years. Maybe I have made a handful of friends and possibly kept in touch with a couple of them. By the end of this cruise I had made a dozen friends and was friendly with dozens more, including the crew. I actually ran into the captain several times. Because of the difference in number of passengers, you actually get to know the people you are with.
So here is some of what I loved.
- The amazing service and the warmth and friendliness of the crew (Apple and Mark Anthony were amazing; and yes, Mark Anthony did sing, but has never been married to J-Lo)
- Fantastic food (amongst the best I have had on a cruise)
- The intimacy the allows you to truly make friends like Amy and her “sister” Nancy; Christine, her lovely mom Angela (whose birthday we got to celebrate with in the absolutely incredible al fresco restaurant Candles) and with Eva whose birthday we are also celebrating
- Unique ports of call, including Montserrat with its black sand beaches, which was one of my favorite beaches I have visited
- The entertainment was perfect. There were two singing duos who were incredibly talented. Gustavo and Fabiola who were from Latin America, sang in English, Spanish and Portuguese while Laura and Benj hailed from the UK (keep writing those original songs Benj!). Both duos were incredibly talented, friendly and approachable. We were all friends by the last night with hugs all around.
- Windstar’s signature BBQ dinner on deck with all the crew was so much fun!
- Maybe my favorite thing on the cruise was each day leaving port, with Vangelis, Conquest of Paradise playing for all to hear. It is beautiful, emotionally moving and perfectly appropriate to sailing away. Thinking about it takes me back to the cruise gives me the chills. It is a memory that is gorgeous.
So, my first experience with small ship cruising is a paradigm shift for me. I’ll still love to go on the mega ships, but my next cruise is going to be Wind Surf. Thank you, Windstar, for opening me up to your wonderful world of cruising!
~Jeff Nickerson – Director of Leisure Sales