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Aarhus, Denmark and a relaxing evening aboard Wind Spirit
Stormy skies greeted us this morning in Aarhus, Denmark as Windstar Cruises’ Wind Spirit moored alongside the pier just east of the city centre. The second-largest city in Denmark, Aarhus is the busiest container port in the country, and it shows: the berths next to us were hubs of activity throughout the day.
While the city centre is roughly 26 minutes on foot away, guests with no proper shore excursion plans today could take advantage of Windstar’s new bicycle rental program. For $35, guests can rent a bicycle for a half-day, making far-flung attractions suddenly accessible for a reasonable price. As I stood on the ship today, I saw at least three guests avail themselves of this recently-introduced amenity, appropriately suited to the bicycle-friendly Baltic countries.
Today though, we opted to take one of the excursions offered by Windstar. Called the Silkeborg Highlights and Lakes, this tour took us outside of Aarhus to explore the magnificent Danish countryside, including the beautiful lake district and the Silkeborg Musem.
The lakes of this region are incredibly picturesque. We went by motorcoach to a place called the sky lookout, where it was possible to see for miles across the Danish countryside. This calm, serene area also has historic significance: it was here that women were first granted the right to vote in 1915, and here that the first Danes opposed the then-reigning monarchy in the late 1800’s, paving the way for a new, democratic system of government.
The highlight of the tour, however, was the small and unassuming Silkeborg Museum. A quaint structure built in 1767, this canary-yellow building does an excellent job of hiding its most famous inhabitant: the 2,200 year-old Tollund Man.
The Tollund Man is a person who died during the iron age, over two thousand years ago. He was approximately 25 years old when he was hanged. His body was disposed of in the bogs that encompassed well over 25% of Denmark at the time, and he remained preserved in a mix of cold water and bog material until the 1950’s when he was uncovered largely by accident.
Here’s the incredible thing: he’s remarkably well preserved. For someone who died in approximately 220 BC, you can still see the wrinkles in his forehead and the whiskers on his chin. The pigmentation has run out of his skin, and his whiskers and hair have turned an unnatural amber color, but the similarities between you, me, and the Tollund Man are incredible. I’ve seen photos of the members of the Franklin Expedition unearthed on Beechy Island by Dr. Owen Beatty in a remarkable state of preservation, but nothing could prepare me for this.
It looks as though at any moment he might open his eyes, sit up, and stretch. A life-changing sight if there ever was one, and surely a moving moment to anyone who doubts the power of the museum. The sight of the Tollund Man is at once horrifying, but also beautiful in its own way.
Back in the year 2011, however, we’ve been blessed with two extra hours in port in Aarhus, giving us ample time to take in the local craft tent set up nearby. Captain John also informed us this evening that thanks to favorable trade winds we’d be able to spend two extra hours in port tomorrow in Gotenborg, Sweden, changing our “all-aboard” time from 1:45pm to 3:45pm.
While the Wind Spirit has one more Baltics itinerary left this year, I don’t think it’s a stretch to call this season a complete success. This is the first time Windstar has returned to sail the Baltics in years, and passengers seem to be thrilled with the itinerary and the ship. Over 80 percent of the passengers aboard this sailing are repeat Windstar guests, and last voyage I’m told that number was closer to 90 percent. That speaks volumes to the number of loyal passengers who enjoy the product the line puts out, but who want to adventure beyond the standard Caribbean and Mediterranean runs.
But let’s not forget those passengers who, like myself, had never sailed with Windstar before. I think there’s a huge number of potential passengers who have never considered sailing with Windstar, but who would love their product. Interestingly, I can see both mainstream and ultra-luxury cruisers enjoying this product. It’s completely different from anything else on the market, save for perhaps the sailing vessels of Star Clippers, and the traditional magic of sail coupled with the amenities of a modern cruise ship are sure to win passengers over.
Speaking of modern cruise ships, I suppose I can let this out of the bag: Captain John stated at his Captain’s Reception tonight that all three Windstar ships – Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf – are to undergo both technical and “soft” hotel refurbishments in the next year, to the tune of $12 million dollars. The end result? The loving TLC these ships need to truly sparkle and compete one-for-one with the best of the best.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and my time here aboard the beautiful Wind Spirit grows short. But we still have another exciting day and night aboard this unique ship tomorrow in Gothenburg, Sweden before our arrival and disembarkation in Oslo, Norway on Saturday.
I pride myself on loving everything from the budget-minded quality of Norwegian Cruise Line to the absolute luxury of Silversea, and I am now firmly hooked on the traditional seafaring quality of Windstar Cruises. Nothing beats the magic of seeing those sails go up every evening on sail-away, or hearing “Conquest of Paradise” by Vangelis. I’ve had that “1492” soundtrack for eleven years now, but I promise you, it will be known henceforth as the unofficial soundtrack to my Windstar voyage.
But tonight, there’s still more to enjoy here aboard the Wind Spirit. We’re gliding by at a comfortable eight knots, and there’s the slightest sway in the ship tonight – a welcome change from the smooth-as-glass seas we’ve enjoyed so far. I love a bit of “motion on the ocean”; it lets me know I am at sea and not on land, and only seems to add to the nautical appeal here onboard
So with a fantastic dinner filling my stomach and the sound of piano music wafting across The Lounge, another wonderful evening aboard the beautiful Wind Spirit draws to a close. I’m even looking forward to crawling into bed and listening to the sound of the seas slap against the steel bulkhead on our Deck 1 stateroom. I haven’t had an Oceanview stateroom in almost six years, but no veranda can compare to the intimacy of hearing the ocean so close by.
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