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It's strange how the transport of yesteryear sailing ships, biplanes, classic cars and steam trains should be so evocative when it didn't get you places nearly as efficiently as today's models. Strange but true. It was the late 1980s when Windstar Cruises realised this and built its first three ships. But Windstar's five and four mast sailing ships are not those of yesteryear: in fact, they're highly technological sail cruise ships which are operated by computer. And they are not under sail for the whole journey at least half of it is usually spent under motor power. Whether that takes away some of the romance depends, probably, on what you want to get out of the cruise. Still, there's no denying that they look great and are a novel choice for a cruise trip. And their relatively small size means that they can visit harbours that larger ships cannot.

The Windstar fleet consists of three ships, Wind Surf, Wind Spirit, and Wind Star. Wind Surf, the newest and five masted vessel, is one of the world's largest cruise sail ships, yet its 308 passenger capacity means that in cruising terms it is still small. The other two, four masted, ships are even smaller, with a capacity of about 160 passengers apiece. Wind Spirit and Wind Star are identical, and had a sister ship, Wind Song, which was destroyed by fire in Tahiti in 2002.

Windstar cruises to nearly 50 countries all around the world. Destinations include the Mediterranean, Caribbean and French Polynesia as well as less common itineraries in Northern Europe, Malta and Tunisia. There are also trans Atlantic crossings. The line offers specialities such as honeymoon and wedding packages and the staterooms are well equipped. All have an sea view and queen sized bed (it converts into twin beds if you're not planning any 'romance under the sail), plus radio, video, CD player and mini bar. Most plush of all are the Wind Surf suites with living/dining area and extensive ocean views. The boats are well appointed, with large windows and an 'open bridge' so that you can meet the crew and see how the computer system works. You may not be sailing the ship on Windstar cruises as opposed to trips on true sailing boats such as those operated by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises but it doesn't mean you can't get any exercise. Water sports, such as windsurfing, snorkelling and banana boating, are complimentary.