In most hotels the lobby is the building’s anchor – think of great lobbies of THE DORCHESTER, London, with its promenade, and any LUX* hotel, where front desks have become coffee bars. Some structures, of course, manage without any lobby at all, viz THE SAVOY AU LAC in Zurich, where owner Michel Reybier and designer Phillipe Starck have evolved the former lobby into eatertainment. So it is here, aboard Windstar Star Breeze. ‘Reception’ is a window less than two metres across looking into a back room where all the admin seems to be done.
Want to find someone? Check out the eighth deck’s Yacht Club Café and Bakery, which has a well-stocked library, or the Veranda. No need to check the Technogym fitness room as it barely seems to be used on this particular voyage. People are too busy. You might find your target someone on the deck, actually – see above. It has a small pool, with glass front, and a hot tub and the fact that towels are blue-striped white gives it a suitable nautical yacht feel.
It’s the pool deck, with newly-installed teak boarding where a lot happens. Long before sunrise one couple is sometimes out there, soaking up the space that is the south Pacific ocean. One habituée walks the deck daily, imagining as she strides how it would feel to have to ‘walk the plank’. Later in the day events happen here, say ‘walk a mile with Kelly and Sarah’, right through to starlit dessert and a local-clothes-suggested deck party.
Everyone aboard who could be called a regular cruiser agrees that the compact size of the ship is to its advantage. It was actually enlarged during its last, $250-million beauty treatment. By slicing 5he 133.4-metre ship vertically in half, and inserting a massive stent, length was increased to 159 metres, and suite count from 196 to 156. No-one misses the casino that has been replaced by a Spanish restaurant. No-one yearns for big glossy shows and an excellent quick laundry service, same-day at only 25% surcharge, is better than DIY launderette.
With such a bijou operation, it’s such a joy to go off on tours in small, 20-seats-at-most vehicles instead of a convoy of full-size busses. This was the case going to the Anapaperles Pearl Farm on Raiatea (see below). After a 20-minute scenic drive from Star Breeze, we had a five-minute boat ride out to a Heath Robinson-look wood house on tall stilts. Inside, in an area about 15 sq m total, Summer Rota, from San Diego, took us through a detailed Grade-10 level introduction to the farming of French Polynesia’s famous black pearls. Mikimoto-san discovered how to inseminate pearls, a years-long process. Summer buys her closed oysters in at five-15 years old, when the hermaphrodite insides of an oyster are already naturally turning male, later to evolve automatically to feminine state. The farm’s oyster surgeon Reno shows how one oyster is sacrificed, its gonads used to colour up to 40 more – during the next two-year stage an oyster can be prized open and a dental mirror inserted to check how the colour is coming long (failures are diverted, to be sold as keshi). Final assessment, instantly done by micrometre, assesses the grade, on smoothness, shape, colour, shine and size. And then we snorkelled, and swam, and went back to the ship, for yet another meal.