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Erica Harnett

New York, New York Travel Agent

Windstar: Sailing through the Mediterranean

This past summer, I decided to take my husband and our two teenage children (a boy and a girl) on a Mediterranean cruise. The kids wanted to go on a big ship where they’d have lots of onboard sports and programs. But I couldn’t get excited about seeing the Mediterranean from a mega-liner.

So I told them that it’s not always about what they want; this was going to be a family trip where we would do things together. Windstar Cruises offered a cruise that seemed perfect. Windstar is about the same price as the big ships, so it wasn’t a question of cost, but in how we would travel. 

Windstar sailing ships are relatively small; the one we sailed on had only 148 passengers. You get to know everyone: waiters, bartenders, and other travelers, and in many ways, it feels more like a yacht than a cruise. Windstar’s small ships can dock at many ports that don’t accept larger ships. I like that because we aren’t surrounded by thousands of people or change the character of the town when we dock.

The cruise we chose took us to eight different ports, which was amazing! We found some great things to do in each port. In general, we prefer to go off on our own, shop and have lunch in local places rather than join a bus tour. And since we are four people, the cost for private outings is usually lower than for group excursions, even when we hire a private car and guide. 

We’d been to Barcelona before so we decided to explore on our own. The only advance thing I booked were tickets to Sagrada Familia Cathedral because the lines can be extremely long. We explored Las Ramblas, which is chock-a-block with cafes and interesting shops, and Gaudi's Parc Guell, which was quite fun. 

In Marseille, we took a car to Aix-en-Provence, something I would suggest to clients. Similarly, in Portofino, we walked around and had a great lunch at Belmond Hotel Splendido. Then we spent the afternoon relaxing at the ship’s pool. Two highlights for our family were a cooking class in Portovenere and hiring a private boat to Elba, which has lovely beaches. 

Guess what? We all had a great time! Because it was July, there were a dozen or more teens on board, and the kids made new friends, which was a nice surprise. The kids enjoyed visiting the bridge, which is open to passengers most of the time, and learning how the crew navigates. And we all thought it was very cool watching the sails shift to catch the wind. 

The other great thing about this itinerary was that there are a lot of places where the ship lets down its water sports platform. This is a really fun feature, and the kids loved taking off on kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and other water toys. I wasn’t sure if the boys would get bored with the ship, but I think our sons enjoyed the voyage at least as much as my husband and I did!