Windstar Cruises is a luxury cruise line with a fleet of six yachts, three of which are their signature sailing yachts, and the other three, the newly refurbished motor yachts (Star Legend above) to the tune of $8.5 million dollars each. This year Windstar partnered with The James Beard Foundation to offer three voyages throughout Europe and Northern Africa with award winning Chefs and Sommeliers providing rich culinary experiences in each destination.
The yachts fit 210 people in luxurious suites, many with balconies, bathtubs, and walk-in closets. Small enough to enter rivers and ports where larger ships cannot go, but big enough to provide amenities like pools, jacuzzis, full-service spas, gym,multiple dining options and entertainment venues.
Our voyage began in Lisbon, Portugal a coastal city with old world charm that is seeing a huge growth as a premier destination with a growing foodie and art scene. Fashion Week in Lisbon is now drawing designers from all over Europe and abroad twice a year.
Our first port of call was Porto, Portugal (Day 1). A coastal city in Northwest Portugal known mostly for the many bridges ,and for the producers of Port Wine. Being on a culinary cruise with daily wine tastings, the Sommelier, William Davis, went into Porto and shopped for favorites to introduce to guests that evening. Windstar provides two complimentary culinary excursions on each sailing. Guests can choose which port of call to attend these immersive activities. Wines offered during nighly wine tastings are complimentary during event and at dinner.
The next two ports of call( Day 2 & 3) were in El Ferrol and Gijon, Spain. Two old cities in the Province of A Coruna on the Atlantic Coast, and in Austurias, respectively. El Ferrol is known to be major naval shipbuilding center for Spain and Northern Europe. Gijon is located on the Bay of Biscay. Gijon is mostly recognized these days for having one of the best International Film Festivals in Spain.
Days 4 & 5 We were docked in beautiful Bordeaux, France. Windstar offers overnight stays in cities where most cruise lines only stay for the day. Part of the Windstar program is a complimentary excursion to a French Chateau (Chateau Kirwan) and Vineyard. A catered cocktail party awaits the guests with delicious food, wines from the vineyard and live music.
Day 6 We were in La Rochelle, France. A coastal city in southwestern France. A busting marina with tons of outdoor cafes and shops. Renaissance architecture mixed with colorful hillside homes. Many Europeans venture here for weekend stays and boating activities during the summer months.
Day 7 was the first of two enrichment days at sea. A time to unwind and enjoy activities on board including cooking demonstrations with James Beard award winning chef Maria Hines. Guests can also arrange galley tours and lectures with Sommelier William Davis.
Day 8 was spent in Saint- Malo, France. A coastal city in Brittany with the downtown located in a Walled City and the Saint-Malo cathedral as the centerpoint. A popular Windstar excursion is the Oysters of Cancale tour. Driving through the countryside until you reach the Oyster farm, a family run business producing some of the freshest oysters that are sold locally and exported worldwide.
Another highlight of the cruise was the extravagant deck BBQ, well more like an enormous variety of Seafood, Meats, Paella, Salads, BBQ, Desserts and more. Combined with live music involving the ship’s crew, who have way more unlisted talents then you would imagine in their job description.
Day 9 was another relaxing enrichment day and the final day to indulge in spa services, learn about wine, or work -out after nine days of James Beard inspired eating and drinking.
Day 10 Arrival in Dublin, Ireland. Windstar offers post-cruise packages as well as daily excursions for guests with late flights.
One of the highlights of the cruise was a chance to dine with James Beard COO/CFO Marilyn Platzer and her husband Kenneth who was on board as well. We discussed how the James Beard institute raised over 6.5 million dollars in scholarship money to aspiring chefs to build careers in the culinary arts. The institute funds research in sustainability, environment, and the growth of the food industry.
TAP Portugal offers daily nonstop flights out of Newark to Lisbon and offers connections throughout Europe. TAP Executive Business Class offers premium seating, dining, and entertainment options. http://www.flytap.com