The ABC's of the Caribbean

Dutch Antilles

The secrets of the southern Caribbean - Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Columbia.

The secrets of the southern Caribbean would unfold before us over the next seven days. We were excited about this trips itinerary and re-learning our ABC's departing from Aruba, known for its White Sand Beaches. Summer Year-Round climate. Oceanfront Resorts. Multicultural Cuisine. Duty-Free Shopping. Activities: Kite & Windsurfing, Parasailing, Scuba & Snorkelling, Deep Sea Fishing & Surfing. Then it would be on to equally beautiful and laid back Bonaire, it's reef-lined coast is protected by the Bonaire National Marine Park. Beyond its rich marine life, the island shelters lizards, donkeys and birds within its immense Washington Slagbaai National Park, marked by beaches, lagoons, caverns and desert-like hills. Next it's colorful Curacao - the Dutch arrived in Willemstad, the country’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the 1630s. Today, Dutch colonial architecture in a vivid color palette, adds visual panache. These islands are also known as the Dutch Antilles and are filled with historical and cultural gems to say nothing of being a sun lover and swimmers paradise. From there we would visit the oldest city in Colombia, Santa Marta, surrounded by the stunning mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Tayrona National Park, and the Museo del Oro, which displays a collection of Pre Columbian pottery, an ancient collection of gold and a scale model of Ciudad Perdida. On to Cartagena another port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. By the sea is the walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, with squares, cobblestone streets, and colorful colonial buildings. A slow horse-drawn carriage ride through the Old City is a true wake up to all the history that surrounds you. A leisurely day at sea on board our floating boutique hotel, Star Breeze, was a perfect way to unwind before we entered the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, where our cruise was to end.

Back to the beginning, from the moment we boarded our Windstar cruise ship "Star Breeze", we felt like we were returning family, this was our sixth cruise with WS. The check-in process went smoothly. Over a glass of champagne, Andre, the ship's Bar Manager made it easy for us to choose the Beverage package. Then it was straight to our Balcony Suite and what a lovely surprise, so spacious and inviting. Our Cabin Steward, Abdul, was there to take care of our immediate laundry/pressing needs. The sail away is always so special and gets everyone to come together at the Star Bar or bow of the ship - the Vangelis music from the 1492 Conquest of Paradise soundtrack is inspiring every time - a bon voyage into a setting sun.

This was our first on Star Breeze (well actually, we had experienced her when she was a former Seabourn ship). Seabourn it could be argued was the first to introduce white-glove luxury to cruising, apart from the iconic Titanic, which as we all know didn't end well and the still to this day First Class luxury offered on the Queen Mary by Cunard. Luxury can take on many different levels; it can be a pretentious lifestyle of the rich and famous, or it can be simple, casual and elegant. A Windstar cruise is the graceful equivalent and as they are fond of saying, “Casual elegance - 180 degrees from ordinary”. So what does all this mean for the first time WS guest? Extraordinary service, as WS encourages, all you have to do is ask and I did. I like a Bloody Caesar made with Clamato juice, which they didn’t have, but after our next port call voila! Andre brought me one the next day at the appointed hour.

Excellent cuisine - this is the Official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation - now you know you are going to experience amazing, artfully prepared food. This is like eating in any Five Star restaurant. I can’t speak highly enough about F&B Manager, Hubert and his attentive staff. Executive Chef Holvin's presentations at dinner in the Amphora restaurant, were nothing short of a feast for the eyes and in turn taste buds. The curry lamb-pops, the beef wellington, the mushroom stuffed vol-au-vents, and the light creamy chocolate souffle - all flavorsome with each bite. Our wine steward, Rod proved very knowledgeable and paired our wines well with each course. And at the Veranda restaurant (outside at the stern of the ship) for breakfast and lunch, the choices were many. At night it's known as Candles and offers delectable cuisine under the stars. Chef’s Indian buffet one day at Sea was so delicious, the chic-i-chic chicken with the naan bread, down to the Major Grey’s Mango chutney, well let's just say the flavors literally took you on an Indian journey, the only thing missing was Ravi Shankar’s sitar music. We like to think of our cruises with WS, as our own private yacht get-away, a sociable mingling with like passengers and with a familiar ‘family-like’ crew, taking us places to escape the rat race in today’s ever fast-paced world.

Our families have always been close to the sea and might be considered sailing enthusiasts, in various locations like the Royal Sydney, Vancouver, St Lawrence, and Waikiki Yacht clubs. So what do yacht clubs and Windstar have in common? “Yachties”, people with a sense of adventure. Brands are sometimes difficult to define. If you look closely, the most synonymous with sailing are Ralph Lauren Polo, Docksiders, and Veuve Clicquot, they all dovetail nicely to Windstar, casual, yet stylish approach to sailing. What you get on board a Windstar vessel, be it motor launch or motorized-sailer, is a guest list of diverse friendly people, from all around the world, united in one common goal, to relax, explore, dream and discover unique itineraries and ports of call, at the same time wanting for nothing.

Our Star Breeze, Secrets of the Southern Caribbean, was no less than sublime in all categories of new ports of call. We discovered new found friends, from the US, Canada, Great Britain. In summary, perhaps like BMW, which is hailed as the Ultimate Driving Machine, so too can we say WS is our ultimate cruise line. Treat yourself, give yourself permission and join the Windstar Yacht Club. Discover why Windstar considers themselves to be in the 'magic moments business'. Perhaps you might like to consider them, your cultural cruise Ambassador to the world, leaving a softer footprint wherever your Windstar cruise ship sails.

Charles Woollett

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