Credit: Rich and Helen Chalu

Island dreams: What it's like to sail to French Polynesia with Windstar Cruises

Author: Rich and Helen Chalu

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On a cruise adventure of a lifetime, Rich and Helen Chalu enjoy sailing in style around the French Polynesian islands onboard luxury sailing yacht Wind Spirit.

When it comes to bucket-list adventures, a cruise around the French Polynesian islands has to be pretty high on the list.

And what better way to enjoy an incredible travel adventure than onboard Windstar Cruises’ sleek and stylish Wind Spirit?

This 148-passenger, 4-masted sailing yacht was specially designed for cruising these islands so not surprisingly, she’s considered by the locals as integral to the island's DNA.

Being a traditional sailing ship there are no balcony suites on Wind Spirit, but this doesn’t matter as this is one cruise you will be spending very little time in your suite.

Wind Spirit has been designed to make the most of the balmy weather and the ship’s public areas offer lovely little nooks and crannies to relax in, making it feel like you are sailing on your very own private yacht.

So you can rise early to watch the sun come up from the sun deck in front of the ship’s Bridge, catch some South Pacific sun with a lofty view from the Flying Bridge sitting atop the pool deck, mess around in the sea from the marina at the back and later, sip a sailaway cocktail at sunset on the pool deck as the sails are hoisted to the familiar Windstar anthem ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’ by the Greek composer Vangelis.

Repeat this every day as you gaze at knockout scenery and this will ensure you won’t want to go inside.

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Island-hopping bliss

Sailing on a roundtrip cruise from Papeete in Tahiti, our week-long cruise takes in six of the main Society islands starting with a short hop over to Tahiti’s little sister, Moorea, the mountainous island visible from the shores of Papeete.

With a wide variety of excursions on offer, including electric bike rides, jet skiing, kayaking, river cruises, snorkelling and diving, there’s something to suit everyone.

We opted for an exhilarating 4x4 sightseeing tour around this delightful little island which was a great way to cover a lot of ground fast.

Our second port call was Raiatea, the largest of the Society islands, otherwise known as The Sacred Island and home to the only navigable river in the entirety of the islands.

An overnight stay here meant we got to enjoy a great display of traditional Polynesian music and dancing as well as a lesson in making lai’s for ladies' wrists and demonstrating how to correctly wear a pare-a.

Later that evening we had a talk from a local Tahitian about their culture and the meaning of his fascinating and numerous tattoos before heading out on deck for the signature Windstar deck barbecue and ever-popular crew line dance.

Wind Spirit boasts stunning outdoor spaces. Credit: Credit: Rich and Helen Chalu

A short hop from Raiatea to neighbouring Taha’a gives guests the option to explore the vanilla plantations and sacred sites of the island.

Most chose simply to make the most of another Windstar signature event, a beach day and barbeque on a private motu where guests can laze around the pure white powdery beaches, coral reefs, palm trees and coconut shells whilst sipping cocktails from the Windstar bar set up on the beach up by the brilliant crew.

With 101 crew members, service on Wind Spirit is as good as it gets with the bar team remembering your favourite drink, your name and even your room number, so you won’t have to hand over your card or sign a check every time you order a drink.

Soft drinks are included on a Windstar voyage and they now also offer a package which includes pre-paid gratuities, wifi and drinks - a great option if you like to know everything is covered before you even set sail.

Bora Bora boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Credit: Shutterstock

The highlight of our week was a two-day stay at idyllic Bora Bora, where we decided to experience a Windstar concierge collection shore excursion - a six-hour ‘Lagoon and Cultural’ excursion with only seven other guests and our fabulous guide for the day, Ramon.

The excursion began with a snorkelling trip among a large school of blacktip sharks at the edge of the lagoon before moving to a shallower spot to pet some stingrays. Back on his boat Ramon took us on a long ride around the whole lagoon pointing out the luxury hotels and the overwater bungalows dotted around the lagoon.

We then stopped on the other side of the island to spend some time snorkelling in some of the most amazing coral gardens in the world. Weaving our way through the coral we discovered an abundance of tropical fish and luminescent clams.

Having worked up an appetite, we were glad to stop for a traditional Polynesian lunch which we ate on a plate made of leaves, sitting at a picnic table in the sea with our feet dangling in the water, fish swimming around us, stingrays gliding over our feet and sharks circling the shallow waters waiting for our leftovers.

This is not your average cruise excursion and we thank our lucky stars for such an enjoyable day.

During the stopover, we were treated to an evening on the nearby Conrad Nui private motu. All guests on the ship are invited to this memorable evening which starts with a warm welcome to the island by some of the amazing Windstar officers who greet you with a flower lei and a cocktail to enjoy while watching the sunset over the gorgeous sandbank.

Dinner comprised a delicious traditional Polynesian buffet which was followed by a daring dance and flame-throwing show. This is a must-do evening if you get to enjoy this cruise.

You will be well looked after with Windstar. Credit: Rich and Helen Chalu

Food for thought

Unless there is a signature event or deck barbecue, dinner is served in the Amphora main dining room, with service starting after the port talk which takes place every evening in The Lounge.

Breakfast and lunch are served at the buffet-style Verandah restaurant located on the top deck just in front of the pool area or at the fabulous Yacht Club located at the rear of the lounge, which is the perfect spot for grabbing a hot drink or snack throughout the day.

In the evening Verandah turns into the complimentary reservation-only speciality steak and seafood Candles restaurant, which as the name suggests, perfectly embraces the romanticism of candlelit dining with the backdrop of a sublime Polynesian sunset.

Don’t miss the chance to dine under the stars on the decks of this traditional sailing ship with Bora Bora’s twin peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu as your backdrop. Sailing doesn’t get more romantic than this…

Discover the serenity of French Polynesia. Credit: Shutterstock

Our verdict

If you’ve always wanted to visit the South Pacific this is the perfect cruise for you. Wind Spirit is one of the friendliest ships we have ever sailed on with staff who get to know you from the moment you step onboard the ship.

But the biggest attraction of this cruise of course is the destination itself - French Polynesia has to be one of the most beautiful regions in the world with some of the friendliest people on the planet. Make this cruise a bucket-list must-do.

Get onboard

10-night ‘Tahiti & The Tumotu Islands’ cruise aboard Wind Spirit, roundtrip from Papeete via Fakarava, Rangoria, Motu Mahaea, Raiatea and Bora Bora, departing 7 September 2023, from £4,707

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