At Sea with Eileen Ogintz

The azure waters of the Mediterranean have been revered since the Romans called it Mare Nostrum, or “Our Sea”, the Greek’s called it Mediterraneaus, or “Middle of the Earth,” and Arabic literature referred to it as “The Byzantine Sea.” Surrounded by nations of stunning natural beauty and innumerable small islands – each an unexplored micro universe unto itself – the Mediterranean Sea continues to be a beacon for today’s dreamers and explorers. Whether you seek a lesson in ancient history or simply desire to bask in the warm breezes and enjoy long, lazy afternoon lunches like the locals do, there are few destinations as pleasing to a traveler. One of which is acclaimed writer Eileen Ogintz, who traveled south from the abundant markets of Rovinj and the golden city of Dubrovnik in Croatia and is now en route to Messina, Italy – enjoying her time sailing the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Wind Surf as much as her time on land:

Wind Surf and Dubrovnik. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

Cooking class, massage, or just a chair and a book, the sun and sea breeze in my face?

Why not all three? It’s vacation, after all and that’s what I’ve got on tap for our one full day at sea aboard the Wind Surf  as we make our way from Dubrovnik to Messina in Italy.

After sightseeing in Venice, two other Croatian ports and Dubrovnik (and walking the city’s famous medieval wall in the heat) I’m ready for a break as, it seems, are my fellow passengers.

They’re working out in the fitness center, reading and sunning and playing cards and Scrabble, indulging in a leisurely lunch (beef or chicken gyros perhaps) served on deck as well as inside.  “I’m sold on smaller ships,” one veteran of large cruise ships told me as he scooped himself some ice cream at lunch. “I can do without the lines and the crowds.”

Consider that there are 10 times as many people on the huge ships we last saw in Venice. On board the Wind Surf, we only see an occasional yacht or sailboat in the distance.

I love that there are no lines anywhere—not for the breakfast buffet, not to ask a question, not to get off the ship when we arrive at port.

We enjoy our cooking lesson—crab cakes 101—taught to 10 of us by the genial Executive Chef and his assistants.  We practiced slicing, dicing, and sautéing, decked out in high toques and white chef’s jackets. After we’d eaten our creations, washed down by a glass of wine, he led us on a tour of the surprisingly compact galleys where everyone from the pastry chef to the cook slicing squash welcomes us with a smile.

‘Crab Cake 101’ lesson on the Wind Surf 8/31/2011. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

We tour the bridge (there is an open bridge policy) and run into familiar faces everywhere we go.  The ship’s small size makes it easy to get to know people. Last night, though we had a table for two at the tiny outdoor Le Marché seafood restaurant (there are four choices for dinner on board), we spent the entire five-course meal (I loved that it was a set menu and I didn’t have to make any decisions!) chatting with the couple from Great Britain at the next table.

I meet a California grandfather traveling with his wife, daughter and four grandchildren aged 11 to 17. “I wanted to show them some of Europe’s sites and this was the most stress-free way I could think to do it,” the grandfather, a veteran Windstar cruiser explained.  That certainly is the appeal for all of us onboard – the ship moves us and our bags to the next city while we relax rather than schlepping through airports and train stations, checking in and out of hotels.

From the wall walk in Dubvronik, Wind Surf anchored in the background. Photo by Andrew Yemma.

I wouldn’t think Wind Surf would appeal to kids—no water slides or kids clubs here and only a handful of kids on board instead of hundreds—but this crew is having a wonderful time. The kids, like the rest of us, give a thumbs up to the food, the service and the water platform where we can swim or kayak right from the yacht at certain ports.

“I love being treated as a grownup,” 12-year-old Sophie explained, sipping her virgin colada.  I smile at her, thinking I’m loving feeling like a kid and letting others take care of me for a change.

Time for my massage.

Read more from travel writer Eileen Ogintz at her award-winning column, Taking the Kids.

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