My friend, Wendy, and I recently sailed as the Virtuoso group hosts onboard the Wind Surf from Venice to Venice. Hotel Manager Geert de Meyer personally greeted guests as we checked in and he requested a steward to take our large bags to the ship. Another steward escorted us to our stateroom and explained where things were, that we could check out DVDs at Reception, and even borrow an iPod pre-loaded with music for the stereo system.
A welcome aboard buffet lunch was available at the Compass Rose. We were advised to make reservations for the alternate restaurants onboard for priority availability. There is no cover charge for these. Le Marche and Candles are set up on deck, weather permitting, with just a few tables, and are limited to one visit each during a 7-day cruise so that everyone may have an opportunity to enjoy them. Le Marche’s menu is seafood-focused and Candles focuses on steaks. Each has options available for those who prefer an alternative. The Degrees Restaurant also requires reservations, however, is not limited to once per sailing. They change their set menu every two days.
The itinerary included an overnight in Venice, sailing out the evening of the next day. From San Basilio pier, it’s about a 20-25 minute walk to Piazza San Marco. The streets and the square were relatively quiet on Sunday afternoon/evening. We returned in time for dinner in the main Restaurant. Seating was open from 7:30-9:30pm for dinner and we met some wonderful fellow passengers during our meals. The food and presentation were very good and the service prompt and friendly.
On our second day in Venice, the city was packed with tourists from Piazzale Roma to the Rialto to Piazza San Marco. We ventured over to Murano via the vaporetto from Piazza San Marco for a quieter setting and some glass shopping. Sailaway offered great views over the city, Windstar’s signature sailaway music on the aft deck, and the enjoyment of the Bon Voyage champagne gift we had received.
Our first port of call was Koper, Slovenia. We booked the ship’s shore excursion to the capital city, Ljubljana. Our guide, Dragan, was excellent. The tour took us from the Mediterranean region of the country about 1 ¼ hours away to the Alpine region. The central part of the city has a mix of Baroque and Art Nouveau architectural styles and is very attractive. The tour included the Preseren Square, Triple Bridge, local market, Dragon Bridge, St Nicholas Cathedral, Town Hall, and Robba’s Fountain. Free time was allowed for exploring and some guests used the time to visit Ljubljana Castle. In the afternoon, we explored Koper. The port town is fairly small and it only takes a short time to see the Praetorian Palace, Koper Tower and the old town. Fellow guests took the ship’s tour to the Postojna Caves and enjoyed it very much.
In the evening, the whole ship was invited to the Captain’s Welcome Reception with champagne in the Lounge. Both the Captain and the Hotel Manager posed for photos with all guests who wanted them taken. Captain John Clark was a terrific host – very personable and full of stories.
Next, we called at Rovinj, Croatia. It is a beautiful town built on a hill dominated by the Church of Saint Euphemia and its bell tower, modeled after the tower at St Mark’s in Venice. There are many artists with small shops along the cobblestoned streets leading up to the top of the town and a lively market at the base of the old town. Many passengers chose to take local ferries to Red or Katarina Islands for swimming. We chose to return to the Wind Surf since the watersports platform was down. Guests were having a great time swimming, kayaking and using small sailboats off the back deck.
Our second Croatian port was Split, a much larger city than Rovinj and a central transit point for the country. The well-preserved Palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the highlight of old town, a short walk from the pier. There is a nominal fee to tour the basement rooms and shops are located above. The ceremonial entrance court is a great place to people watch! Just outside one of the old town gates is the statue of Bishop Gregory of Nin, which is said to bring good luck to those who rub his toe.
Dubrovnik was our final port of call and the tenders dropped off right at one of the old town gates. The entire old town of Dubrovnik is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our complimentary Virtuoso Explorer excursion took place in the morning with a walk over a portion of the walls from the port to the Pile Gate, a short drive to a viewpoint over the city for pictures of old town and the surrounding area, and a walking tour in old town including the Onofrio Fountain, Franciscan Monastery, a walk along the Stradun, and visit to the Rector’s Palace. The ship was in port late so there was plenty of time for lunch/dinner, afternoon exploration, and shopping. The 1.25 miles walk around the top of the walls is well worth the price of admission offering great views at every turn. The watersports platform was down again and people were enjoying time in the water as it was a very warm day.
On our sea day back to Venice, the Captain announced that he was turning off the propulsion engine and we would be under sail power alone as the wind was strong enough. We could not get back to Venice in time without turning the engines back on later in the day, but it was a great experience for a few hours. In the evening, the Captain said that any early risers would be rewarded with a beautiful view of sunrise over Venice. Many of us were on deck as we sailed in and he was right. We had a terrific cruise and highly recommend the Wind Surf!