December 2, 2019
Somewhere in the Atlantic Aboard the Wind Surf
After spending 3 months in Europe, including backpacking 550 miles from France all the way to the western coast of Spain, how do you properly end such a life-changing journey? For J’Nell and I, we decided to sail back to North America on the Wind Surf, Windstar Cruise Line’s flagship vessel. Twelve full days at sea seemed like a proper send-off, and would give us plenty of time to digest all of our amazing experiences we had in Europe.
At a maximum of 342 passengers, the Wind Surf is the world’s largest sailing ship (and there were barely over 200 of us when we left Lisbon). While the big box cruise ships that board 3,000 people can make the Trans-Atlantic Crossing in half the time, we were excited for nearly 2 weeks staring out at the ocean with no land in sight. It was going to be magical.
We set sail from Lisbon nearing midnight on Saturday evening, November 30th, gliding majestically under the city’s iconic 25th of April Bridge (practically a doppelganger of the Golden Gate in San Francisco). We were delayed due to the tides, which had made going under that bridge impossible for our 221 foot masts. That meant we had been aboard the Wind Surf for over 8 hours before leaving port.
We had eaten lunch and dinner while at shore, toured the boat while savoring the beautiful city of Lisbon stretching out in front of us, met several nice people, watched a gorgeous sunset, and had taken full advantage of our beverage package. Our dinner was especially memorable, with J’Nell and I being paired up with dame Charlene (who became our great friend throughout the cruise, and at 77 as sharp and witty as someone a third her age) and the hilarious Jean (the Frenchman around Charlene’s age who had asked the Maître ‘d to pair him with an eligible bachelorette).
J’Nell said it perfectly, that it felt like we were in the first chapter of an Agatha Christie novel or inside a game of Clue. It was just one of those nights, finding yourself in a strangely wonderful environment about to embark on a new adventure with no idea what to expect. While we sincerely hoped nobody would be bumped off that evening in the study with a candlestick or pipe, for some reason it seemed entirely plausible.
When we finally set sail, it was a true thrill to be on the main deck, cocktail in hand, with the wind blowing and the sails ruffling, and the lights of Lisbon twinkling on the shore. We would be crossing the vast Atlantic Ocean, and a long time later, landing at some island in Caribbean. That truly blew my mind, which made the moment even more enjoyable. And they blast this majestic music when you leave port on Windstar, Vangelis’ 1492, Conquest of Paradise, and it was the perfect soundtrack to this next escapade. We went to bed that night very happy.
We were not counting on being nauseous.
Before leaving, the captain warned it would be choppy getting out of Lisbon. But he was expecting 20 knot winds, and we had 40. The boat had been rocking and rolling pretty good during the night, but I kept telling myself I never get seasick. I fell asleep around 1:00 AM, and I was awoken around 5 feeling like I was going to tumble out of bed. Sleep would prove impossible, so I got up, showered (the wobbliest of my life), and attempted to eat breakfast.
Neither of us could eat much that morning, even though the buffet was lavish, and we both endured that breakfast by staring out at the horizon trying to stabilize our equilibrium. While we wanted to walk around the deck to get fresh air, we both knew it was best to retire to our cabin. We walked the four flights down the spiral staircase to our room, only to find a gentleman inside cleaning it. What were we do, other than walk right back up the stairs, as the boat teetered, to the main deck.
After walking down to our room and back up to the deck in a matter of minutes, Nells and I collapsed on one of the couches, and I wanted to curl up in the fetal position. It felt like being hungover with the flu and a major head trauma. If this was how it was going to be for the next 12 days, they would certainly be the worst of my life.
Why didn’t we just fly back to Hawaii?
Everything we’d done since boarding the ship was a series of blunders. We drank too much, didn’t have enough water, slept little, and ate hardly anything that morning. We had done the exact the opposite of what is recommended to ward off motion sickness.
We’ve made a huge mistake.
In my mind I was thinking of the character Job from Arrested Development, but there was nothing funny about it. Could it really be like this for the whole ocean crossing? Had we just paid thousands of dollars to make ourselves ill for almost two weeks?
Thankfully the answer to both questions would be no.
We got the motion sickness pills from reception (complementary!), and stumbled back to our room to fall into a deep slumber. By 8:00 PM we were feeling well enough to attempt dinner. I figured it was going to be dicey, and I estimated how many steps it would be from our table to the railing of the ship if I needed to feed the fish.
The only reason we ordered wine that first night is because we were on the beverage package, and we calculated we needed to drink an average of 6 booze laden ones a day to get our money’s worth. But I think the wine helped (though I have no science to back that up), as well as the delicious meal I thankfully had no problem eating. After dinner we had a nightcap at the bar, and got a good night’s rest.
We both woke up feeling strong in stomach and mind, but the true test would be to get out and about. We walked up the four flights of stairs to the restaurant, with the ship nearly as wobbly as it was the day before, but we both felt fine. Yes, we had taken the motion sickness pills as a precaution, but that would be the last time throughout the whole trip we needed them.
The nausea disappeared and never returned, and we both finally found our proverbial sea legs. I went from thinking I made a huge mistake, to absolutely loving everything about being on the Windstar cruise. The days ahead would be memorable.