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|Wind Song |
She was delivered on April 1987 and left Le Havre, for her maiden trip to New York, on 30 April 1987. She is a vessel of unmistakable form and was a novelty in the cruise industry
by Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (March 28th, 2000)
In 1984, Windstar Sail Cruise was founded by three eminent ship owners: Karl Andren, Jacob Stolt-Nielsen and Jean Claude Potier.
The first was the main share holder, and also owned a day cruise operation in New York, while the second, who owned the largest chemical tanker fleet in the world then and today, had a minority of shares.
Mr. Potier was the former US head of French Line, and possessed a strong passenger ship know-how.
He was responsable for the promotion and marketing of the France in the USA.
In December 1983, the Finnish shipbuilder Wartsila finished the design of a sail assisted cruise ship, called "Windcruiser".
She had four masts, a length of 115 metres and a capacity of 112 passengers.
A Reviewed Design
Windstar Sail Cruise signed a contract, based on this design, in late November 1984 with the French yard SNACH (now closed), located in Le Havre, for two sail assisted cruise ships.
The Wartsila design of the "Windcruiser" was reviewed by the yard and by the owner in several ways: a slight overall enlargement to 134 metres, a wider hull (15.8 metres), the addition of fin stabilisers, a slightly higher crew (90 persons), the elimination of the raised bridge and the addition of a glass buffet and a disco area on the upper deck.
The Wind Star
The construction of the first ship, called Wind Star, begun in early 1985, and was delivered on 21 September 1986.
Her sister Wind Song was delivered on April 1987, and left Le Havre for her maiden trip to New York on 30 April 1987.
On 20 May1987 she was christened by Maria Stolt-Nielsen, and later visited Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco before heading for Tahiti, when she commenced her first seven day cruise on 24 July 1987 to Huahine, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Maupiti/Tupai, Raiatea and Moorea.
In 1986, Windstar Sail Cruise ordered a second pair of sail assisted cruise ships (plus an option which was never confirmed) and in 1988 the third sister, the Wind Spirit, was handed over.
A Breath of Fresh Air in Cruise Designing
The Wind Song and her two sisters were a novelty in the cruise industry.
They tried to attract the increasingly affluent, younger, professional sector (the so-called yuppies), who were less inclined to take a conventional cruise, and the well travelled cruisers looking for a different experience as well.
The Windstar concept to attract both kinds of passengers was very simple:
- The Windstar ships combines the advantages of a limited passenger capacity (best service, low density accommodation) with the elegance and service of a big conventional cruise ship.
- Extensive range of outdoor sporting activities. The operator emphasised the energetic water sport activities offered on board.
- The schedules was based on unusual cruise ports, with some calls at anchor in private beaches. In her first years, Windstar was looking for a possibility of purchasing their own private island, like the bigger Caribbean operators.
- Windstar sold the ideology of a sailing yacht, with guests on board that could enjoy a sumptuous food and luxurious accommodation.
The WindStar Bankruptcy
But the design and building of a new type of cruise ship implied a long and expensive process.
Three and a half years passed after the signing of the first contract and the delivery of the third ship.
This lengthy process implied hull model tank tests, sail design, software simulating the handling of the ships, checking the stability under sails, etc.
The ships herself was very expensive to build, because of her high length to beam ratio, the high quality of materials used and the luxury of her accommodation.
Due to a stock exchange crisis and a decline in the yuppy phylosopy in October 1988 Windstar Sail Cruises had difficulties to survive as a independent cruise line.
Holland America Line
So, on 30 May 1987, Holland America Line became a 50% shareholder of Windstar Sail Cruises.
As a consequence, the Wind Spirit was christened by Clara Van der Vorm (HAL chairman's wife).
Windstar Sail Cruises obtained the necessary additional capital to finance the fourth ship.
HAL did not want to absorb Windstar and made it clear that it was strictly an investment that they considered a money making venture.
HAL and Windstar were maintained as separate entities, because they represented two very different ways of cruising.
On September 1988, HAL purchased the remaining shares of Windstar and become the sole owner.
But in January 1989, HAL was also purchased by Carnival Cruise Line, (the first giant merger in the cruise industry), and many people thought that both HAL and Windstar would not last.
A New WindStar Concept
But Carnival had other plans.
The Arison family opted to maintain HAL and Windstar brand names as separate branches under the Carnival umbrella, because they were compiting for a different market segment.
But in the early nineties, some changes were introduced in the Windstar's marketing to make it less 'elite' and offer a better value for money than Seabourn and Sea Goddess.
First of all, the word sail was dropped and it became Windstar Cruises.
Secondly, their marketing was newly replanned: their main goal being experienced middle-aged Americans travellers.
Lastly, the casual atmosphere on board was emphasised.
The line soon became profitable and the need for additional tonnage become evident.
So, in April 1997, Windstar announced the purchase of the Club Med 1, which was delivered in 1998 and, after a refit, became the Wind Surf.
So finally after ten years, the Windstar fleet has four ships, as originally planned.
The Wind Song
The Wind Song was designed and decorated under a ten year contract with the Tahiti French authorities on behalf of Windstar Sail, which guaranteed a cruise monopoly for the Wind Song in that Pacific islands.
To ensure a smooth operation, the master of the ship was a frenchman, and with Mr.Potier as president of the company, the Wind Song didn't encountered the bureaucratic maze experienced by the Liberte.
But the contract wasn't renewed and in December 1997, the Wind Song began to sail to Costa Rica, and later she spent the summer season in the Mediterranean.
Her External Appareance
The Wind Song is a vessel of unmistakable form.
Her sleek 'silhouette' is far from the square block fashion of today's cruise ships and features a clipper bow, a lower superstructure, and a square stern to provide maximum deck area.
The whole shape is crowned by four mast and by a bizarre winged funnel.
The on board computer decides which side of the ship smoke should be expelled, depending of the wind direction, to maintain clean sails and clear decks.
If the smoke ducts had been integrated in the mast, the upper part of the ship would have been perfect.
The Wind Song main architect was Marc Held, who was responsible for the refurbishment of the Mermoz.
The generalised use of wood or wood treated decoration, leather and fabric in all public spaces unifies the ship.
Also, the walls having a lot of Polynesian craftsmanship as well as the nautical decor, both give the ship a strong personality.
The ship has four decks and all public spaces are situated on the deck number three. Two decks are in the shallow hull that has space for 75 cabins.
The third and fourth decks are in the low superstructure, all the decks serviced by four stairways.
There are no elevators on board. The layout of the decks is very well planned and people can move without a sense of crowding.
The passenger embark through a traditional gangway and, after passing the metal detector and the scanner, come to the main entrance foyer, where there is the information desk (which also doubles as CD store), and the small but beautiful boutique.
The ceiling is metallic, but has also a hemisphere with fiber optic lighting. Forniture and carpets are in blue tones, and the walls are fitted with maple wood panelling.
An important detail are the doors, with a strong nautical accent.
Forward the foyer is the dining room, which was positioned amidship.
The main galley is located forward, under the wheelhouse and the funnel.
The dining room
This space is very comfortably furnished, with tables for four persons and a large one for the Captain.
It looks modern with a splendid windjammer decoration and with plentyful nautical wood panelling.
This ambience, with the large side picture windows, contributes to overlook its low Elmwood panelled ceiling which is the bad aspect of this area.
The Wind Song's dining room has an open seating, free dress code and no tipping rules, and the passenger may call at any time between 7 and 10 p.m.
All the waiters are from Indonesia and offer a superb service, whereas the cuisine is supervised by the famed chef Joachim Splichal. There are also alternative low-calorie, vegetarian and healthy eating menus.
The small library is located aft the main foyer, on the port side, opposite the purser's office.
The walls are wood panelled, on which are hung all the gifts (mainly metopes) that the ship received from Port Authorities, ship agents, etc. throughout her life.
The carpets are navy blue.
The Library has also the inevitable large globe of the world.
There are a lot of video tapes and books, that any passenger can help themselves to.
When the ship was delivered, the library was located in a corner of the lounge, but later the Library changed its position with the casino.
The Windstar Lounge
At the stern, spanning the full width of the vessel, lies the Windstar lounge. This room, capable of holding all passengers, is divided into smaller sections.
A central raised skylight, an authentic windjammer touch, provides natural illumination and gives a sense of spaciousness.
The casino is found at the forward end of the lounge on the port side, allowing the passengers to enjoy the music as they gamble.
The bar is located on the starboard side.
Entertainment is limited to a trio who play at cocktail times and after dinner, a crew show and sometimes ethnic shows.
Breakfast and lunch are served on the Veranda, passengers can stay inside or outside, under the shade of huge umbrellas.
The Veranda is a glass walled room located on the top deck of the ship.
Her floor is made of polished teak, as well as the bar, whereas its ceiling slopes from bow to stern to add headroom in its aft area, with a skylight above the buffet.
The colours and the upholstery give a gay and fun atmosphere and this is the most popular space on board.
There is also video equipment for conventions and incentive cruises and in the main dining room as well.
Sometimes they set an outdoor barbecue with local foods and this is very welcome to the passengers.
The Wind Song has also a fitness room, small but well fitted with two treadmills and two exercise cycles, as well as weight lifting equipment and a sauna.
The Open Decks
The Wind Song always cruises in warm-weather seas so the open decks are used extensively. All the exterior decks (974 square metre) are planked with high grade teak.
The skylight of the lounge dominates the aft open deck, which also encloses a small swimming pool and a jacuzzi, and the small lido bar. Passengers could reach the flying bridge using the steps leading from the aft deck.
The flying bridge is another open deck and it is fitted with two steering wheels (one portside and one starboardside).
Passengers, under the supervision of the ship's officers, can steer the ship and cause the sail computer to adjust sails and booms.
The WindStar fleet features a sports platform that extends off the ship's stern and offers many sports activities when the ship is at anchor.
This hydraulic platform was first provided in the Wartsila designed Sea Goddess ships, and later all similar yacht cruise ships were fitted with it.
Equipment and instructions for water skiing, windsurfing, sailing, diving, snorkeling and deep sea fishing is available.
But that space is too limited and is the only place on board with rust and lack of maintenance.
The Wind Song bridge is always open so guests can chat with the officers on duty.
This is another aspect of the sailing experience on Windstar ships.
Passengers enjoy the chance to learn about navigation details such as wind, weather forecast, currents, etc.
Forward the bridge is located an open observation deck, where the passenger can enjoy the sounds of the sea and the occasional snapping of the sails.
The Wind Song has 74 outside cabins of 17.18 square metres.
The decoration is a mixture of classical and modern materials, with soft colours and fine fabrics.
They sport all the modern amenities expected in better cruise ship cabins, such as colour TV, mini bar, safe, and a console beside the queen-sized bed which holds a CD player, a VCR and a world-wide calling telephone.
They are fitted with wood panelling, plush chairs and much cupboard space.
They are very quiet too but they are fitted with two traditional portholes, not windows.
The bathrooms are one of the most functional and spacious afloat and are built of fiberglass reinforced resin.
Cabin service is available on a 24-hour basis.
Also the corridor are of a refreshing design, plenty of wood panelling and old sailing ship prints which reflect the ship's forebearers.
Sailing With Sails or Engines
The Wind Song has four 57,5 metre sails, all of them staysails unfurled by hydraulic motors connected to each sail's tack.
Three more sails can be set, two of them flying from the mizzen mast, which is the only one with a rigged mainsail.
The last one is a jib, again roll furled by a hydraulic arrangement, fixed onto the bow sprit.
Unlike traditional vessels, the Wind Star is not rigged to the end of the sprit, but to the ship's forepeak.
But in Wind Song and Wind Spirit the flying jib is tacked on the bowsprit's end, and gives more elegance to the ship.
In her voyages, the sails are shown to some extent.
But they are also used for propulsion.
As a diesel electric ship, the engines are always running generating electric power for air-conditioning, lighting, galleys, etc.
Depending on the wind conditions and sailing schedule the engines could be engaged with the propellers.
In the schedule of these ships, speed is not a critical factor, and they don't sail significantly faster under mechanical power than with sails (14 knots versus 12 knots).
So, there are very few vibrations and 'mal de mer' on board.
The ship is designed for travellers who want to make their own enjoyment. There are some fine foods, interesting ports of call and small groups of passengers playing games in the lounge.
But there isn't bingo, trivia contests, art auctions, production shows, napkin folding demonstrations and the like.
If you want glitz and an activity-packed vacation, don't go on Windstar.
If you have kids to take and want to go to the usual places when it comes to ports, or formal nights with tuxedos, then don't go.
But if you want a casually elegant vacation to non-traditional ports, feel comfortable not having a full calendar of activities, and want a romantic trip travelling under the sails, then go.
You find a lot of repeaters who enjoy the on board casual atmosphere and her unusual itineraries that are just not possible on big ships.
For further information: Windstar Cruises