Windstar's Wind Spirit is a great cruise line for meeting new people for several reasons. First of all, they offer single open-seating dining at all meals. To be more clear; you are not assigned a table for the cruise, you are free to pick the table of your choice for every meal. If you are in the mood to socialize you can sit with other diners, or if you feel like sitting alone at a cozy table for two you can do that, too.
We met some fantastic people on this cruise, so of course we searched them out when mealtime came along. The crew was savvy enough to notice who was hanging out with whom and they would escort our friends directly to our table. Since CruiseMates is about the people who love to cruise, allow me to introduce you to our new fellow CruiseMates.
The first couple we met were Ron and Sherril from Glendora CA. They are experienced cruisers, married for 25 years, who have eclectic taste in their cruising choices. They have previously cruised in the Caribbean, the North Sea and Australia. Sherril has cruised on the Danube and actually took her first sea voyage as a young child aboard the Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam.
Mel and Martin are also from Los Angeles. When I asked how long they had been married Martin said, "Well, actually we're divorced! We were together for many years before we got married, we stayed married for three years, and then we got divorced. A year later we got back together again and have been together ten years since. We just never bothered to get married again." They had a good laugh over that. "I guess we just do better not being married."
Sue and Donald are from New York City, celebrating their 10th anniversary. Both were married three times before, and Don quipped that they were celebrating 50 years -- cumulatively.
I asked each couple for their most memorable moment of our Greek Isle Windstar voyage.
"Most memorable moment? You mean which purchase?" Sherril laughed. Indeed, shopping is a favorite pastime for most of the cruisers on this itinerary, especially in the markets of Kusadasi, Turkey where gold jewelry and Turkish carpets can be found for a song if you have the spirit to bargain with the shopkeepers. Mel had a similar response, "My bargain in Kusadasi!" she exclaimed. Shopping for a single leather coat, they discovered a fantastic leather shop where the prices were so great they bought three.
For Ron, it was the funicular cable car in Santorini. The beautiful Greek island was once known as the "round island" in the pre-Hellenic second millenium BC. It was the home to a Minoan settlement -- an offshoot of one of the oldest earthly civilizations living on the island of Crete. A huge volcanic eruption blew away half of the island creating a crater that has become the natural harbor for the breathtaking village of Fira high atop the cliff. It is so deep that ships are unable to anchor to the bottom of it, instead they tether to a sea buoy that is attached to the bottom. Anthropologists believe the explosion created a tidal wave so large it traveled to Crete and wiped out the Minoan civilization living there at the time.
The beautiful village of Fira, several hundreds of meters above the sea, is a stunning whitewashed enclave of narrow streets, blue bordered windows the color of the Mediterranean, and fascinating shops and art galleries. Once only accessible by donkey, today the funicular cable cars glide silently above the steep and rocky cliffs offering dramatic views of the harbor every centimeter of the way. Ron cherishes the memory siiting in an outdoor Greek cafe, enjoying a cool beer in the warm breeze, and peering down into the volcanic caldera where the wind played the Wind Spirit against its sea anchor.
Sue found Wind Spirit's late night sail away from Bodrum, Turkey to be her most fascinating memory. It was near midnight and the Medieval castle of the Crusaders was lit up vividly, its light illuminating the rows of Turkish wooden sailboats known as gulets anchored in the harbor. More gulets sailed past us returning from their voyages to the thousands of small and uninhabited Greek Islands that dot the Aegean sea. The sails of Wind Spirit snapped in the breeze as we headed into deep water to make our way to Istanbul.
Donald was overwhelmed by the magnificence of Ephesus, built by Alexander the Great and one of the largest and best preserved sites of antiquity in the world.
Martin, a sail enthusiast, particularly liked the open bridge where guests are invited to come in anytime and watch the captain sail the ship. When I went there the officer on duty, obviously busy consulting his charts, offered to stop what he was doing and give me a personal tour. Having been on quite a few bridges myself, I gratefully thanked him but declined.
What surprised Ron and Sherril the most? "That so many people worldwide speak English." Indeed, throughout Greece and Turkey there was hardly ever a problem conversing with anyone. For Mel and Martin it was Windstar itself. "We're anti-cruise." Martin said, "but the casual atmosphere here is not like larger cruise ships." I asked if they made many friends, and if that is even important to them. "Absolutely," replied Sue, "it is a major part of the experience." I asked Don if he liked the casual atmosphere, too. "Well, given a choice I'd be bare-assed naked, so yeah, I guess so." He laughed.
I asked if they were having a romantic time. The responses varied from, "Oh yes," to "Let's put it this way, we're still waiting for the romance to happen." Mel and Martin expanded, "we didn't come here for romance, it is more adventure. If we want romance we usually go to a hideaway where you don't even see other people." Good point, I thought. Cruising is a social activity where you meet other people and dine and take tours in groups. Of course it can be terribly romantic considering your surroundings, especially for younger cruisers and first timers, but for more seasoned couples romance may not be on the top of the list of reasons to cruise.
I think the biggest personal transformation I saw on this cruise was Sherril who during our first dinner on board confided to us that she was too intimidated to bargain. By the end of the cruise she had a shipwide reputation for being the best bargainer in Turkey. I'm proud to say a little advice I gave her helped out.