FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Uncover Hidden Harbors with Windstar

by Carley Wade

Aug 2, 2018

© Carley Wade


Admit it — we’ve all looked at those big oceanliners and thought the itineraries looked great, but making new friends with 4,500 new people was a turnoff. But it’s worth taking a look at some smaller cruises that offer a maximum traveler count of just 300 or fewer (which means more personalized service), along with the opportunity to sail directly into intimate ports, in most cases not having to take a tender to shore.

Windstar’s Wind Surf includes recently refurnished suites and staterooms. The yacht sails the Mediterranean in summertime and a seven-night June departure of Hidden Harbors of Côte d’Azur is just long enough to truly relax without feeling overly long or short. Although the ports (including Marseilles, Antibes, Bastia) are charming, there’s also delightfully no guilt in skipping one or two of them to just chill by the pool and two adjoining hot tubs. Travelers with teens will also enjoy the fact that watersports — pricey on some other cruise lines — are offered at no additional cost. A huge swim-up trampoline offers a chance to work on the tan from the stern, or try tubing on a high-speed boat and work on your upper body strength if the well-equipped gym is too much like your at-home routine.

Windstar BBQ under the stars

Windstar BBQ © Carley Wade

There’s no shortage of opportunities to indulge with three dining options, and you don’t have to make awkward conversation either since it’s open seating at AmphorA for just your party size, although fellow travelers are friendly (read: mostly American). Lunch offerings are much better than many cruise lines’ buffet options, with plated options in addition to buffet salads, soups and desserts.

With open dining in AmphorA, and two other options to reserve a time in the steakhouse or French-themed Stella and Candles dining rooms, there’s a good range of cuisines and times in which to enjoy them (with wine included!). Once everyone’s gotten to know each other a bit, there’s also a fun barbecue under the stars with music (with live music offered in the bars and lounges nightly).

Planning to imbibe since you don’t have to drive on a road trip? The $52 a day per person drink package is the lowest tier package available, and includes what would be considered premium spirits at home and on other ocean cruise lines (read: Grey Goose vodka and Bombay Sapphire gin, for instance). If you’re planning to hang at the pool all day versus trek to and fro on land, it’s well worth it.

This particular itinerary also included some fun extras in the base price — including a few wine tastings — since it was one of a few James Beard Foundation-themed cruises this year. Chef Maxime Bilet and sommelier Belinda Chang led a few onboard demonstrations and tastings and worked with onboard culinary staff to add special menu items of their choosing. Besides mingling with travelers at dinners and lunches, it was fun to have a few local market visits with Bilet, who picked some of the freshest seafood served up later at dinner.

Windstar wine tasting optional tour

Windstar wine tasting tour © Carley Wade

Besides included smaller excursions, there are several optional tours in each port. While they may offer a chance for a leisurely drive to see more coastal and inland scenery, or a visit to iconic Cannes, the Cote D’Azur is lovely mostly for its laid-back vibe. The pleasure comes from strolling around and wandering tiny streets, absorbing local culture by having a pint with locals. Culinary musts, however, are bouillabaisse in Marseille, tapas in Palamos and pinxtos in Barcelona.

Windstar market visit Marseilles 2

Windstar market visit, Marseilles © Carley Wade

One of the great things about Windstar’s itinerary was the opportunity to extend the trip with a day on land in Catalonia’s capital, and the centrally located Gallery Hotel was quite lovely. An outdoor restaurant courtyard, free afternoon wine tasting, hip accommodations with spa bathrooms and to-die-for rooftop pool were almost too good to resist unless one hadn’t yet explored nearby Las Ramblas.

Spending one more day overseas almost makes it easier to leave, but even that is convenient should you choose to add on a bus transfer directly to the airport from the cruise dock. Or, save time and money on your international flight and opt for Windstar’s new domestic cruises along the East Coast. This fall, the line adds new itineraries in New York (The Maritimes and Manhattan) and Boston (Postcard Ports of Cape Cod & Canada).


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