Windstar Cruises Travel Guide

Great Ships: Three sailing ships and three luxury yachts make up the line; all have the amenities of much-larger ships.

Watersports Marinas: You can paddle-boat, windsail, or waterski off the stern of the ship.

Sail Away Party: The sailaway party on the older ships, on which you can watch the sails unfurl to music, is a memorable highlight.

The Masts Are for Show: While we've seen the sails used as the sole mode of power on rare occasions, more often than not the diesel engines are propelling the ship forward.

Overview.

Long known for its masted sailing ships, Windstar also operates three ships that it acquired from Seabourn; they're small but yacht-style. Mix in some major refits for all six ships, and Windstar feels like an entirely new line.

EXPERIENCE

Talk to a past Windstar guest, and they will likely tell you about the sailaway ceremony. Set to the thudding tune of Vangelis' 1492: Conquest of Paradise score, the sails aboard Wind Star, Wind Spirit, and Wind Surf are dramatically raised during each sailaway, and then unfurled at the song's crescendo. It's all part of the Windstar experience which also encompasses the line's notable on-deck barbecue feast, evening cocktail parties, and chill atmosphere.

Those who sailed more recently, however, may have different tales to tell. In 2013, Windstar announced it had entered into an agreement to purchase the former Seabourn Spirit, Seabourn Pride, and Seabourn Legend from Seabourn Cruises (see p. 258 ). All three were given stupendous makeovers and, between 2014 and 2015, entered service as the Star Breeze, Star Pride, and Star Legend to pretty much universal acclaim Staterooms, all of which are oceanview suites, and public rooms have been lovingly redone (see below).

Windstar also put its sailing fleet through an extensive refit program back in 2012 that left all three ships with crisp, new decor. Deep blue accents intermingle with dark and light wood, and new lighting, shutters, carpeting and soft furnishings have been added throughout. If you haven't stepped aboard Windstar's ships in the last five years, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised with the changes.

ROUTES

Windstar has a wide reach, sailing through the Caribbean, to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, to the Baltic and Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Tahiti, where Wind Spirit makes her year-round home. The line has plans to push into Asia in 2017.

PASSENGERS

On these ships, the passengers are overwhelming American, with some Canadians, Brits, and Australians. They're also overwhelming older empty nesters and retirees primarily. Multigenerational families are slowly discovering Windstar, so expect to see a handful of kids during peak travel times. While not as formal as, say, luxury lines like Crystal, guests on Windstar ships nonetheless like to dress up a bit at dinner, albeit in a resort-casual way.

DINING

Guests can choose to dine in the AmphorA Dining Room or out on deck at Candles, Windstar's signature dining venue that also does double-duty as the ship's casual buffet eatery during breakfast and lunch. Dishes largely continental cuisine with some international items added are well executed in both venues. The highlight of the sailing is always the weekly barbecue on deck, which is an all-you-can-eat spread of seafood and grilled meats that really takes advantage of the weather in warm ports.

ACTIVITIES

In the daytime, most guests are content to sit with a good book up on deck, or socialize with their fellow guests in the lounge. There are some daily activities, primarily trivia or lectures, with local performers or a resident pianist to entertain guests each evening.

The addition of Star Breeze, Star Pride, and Star Legend to the fleet, however, adds another dimension to the Windstar cruise experience. Though there are still few scheduled activities, passengers on these boats can enjoy spas, gyms, and libraries; the newer ships offer more indoor public rooms, including both a show lounge and the Compass Rose, which hosts a small but favorably trafficked casino. All the way forward on the ship's uppermost deck is The Yacht Club, a gorgeous forward-facing observation lounge that offers refreshments and beverages all day long, plus plenty of cozy seating.

All six of Windstar's ships including the new ex-Seabourn Power Yachts (Star Breeze, Star Pride, and Star Legend ) feature the line's signature Water Sports Platform experience, which includes a variety of water toys and boats for complimentary guest usage. This area, actually a hydraulic part of the stern that folds out flush with the water, is typically deployed in calm bays, and when weather permits.

CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS

While children aged 8 and older can technically sail the line, Windstar goes out of its way to make it clear that, children, especially infants and toddlers, are not encouraged aboard Windstar Cruises. ?

ENTERTAINMENT

Highlights of evenings are dinner and cocktails on deck in the wood-lined bar by the pool. There is also a small casino and live music is offered on most nights. The larger Power Yachts (Star Breeze, Star Pride, Star Legend ) offer scheduled evening entertainment in multiple lounges. Still, let's be honest: For most, these are make-your-own-fun kinds of cruises.

SERVICE

The staff on these ships are quick to learn; don't be surprised if they remember your favorite drink by your second day on board, or if they remember you by name on your second voyage with the line. Officers are typically European, with an international crew. Windstar recommends a gratuity of $12 USD per guest, per day, which is added to your onboard account.

FLEET

Wind Spirit and Wind Star are the 148-passenger sailing yachts in the fleet; the 310-passenger Wind Surf claims to be the world's largest sailing yacht,  and indeed, it's plenty big. Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend, originally part of the Seabourn fleet, are all 212-passenger yachts without sails, but their engineering makes them faster, sleeker, and better able to reach distant ports of call that are off-limits to the slower sailing yachts.

Wind Star – Wind Spirit.

Romantic and cozy, these 148-guest boats strike the right balance between comfort and amenities, with modern decor to complement the relaxed atmosphere.

With their high-tech, computer-controlled sails, these sleek ships are like combinations of private yachts and grand turn-of-the-century sailing vessels. They were looking tired and worn-down a decade ago, but a thorough overhaul recently brought on new drapes, carpets, lighting, wall treatments, and decor. The end result feels like an entirely new Windstar.

Cabins Nearly all cabins are oceanview staterooms measuring 188 square feet. There are dual porthole windows in each, along with a completely refreshed blue color scheme. Common to all staterooms is a mini-bar, fresh fruit replenished daily, and Bose SoundDocks that are compatible with Apple iPods. Don't have one? Borrow a fully loaded device free of charge from the reception desk. Bathrooms are some of our favorite afloat, with attractive teak floors and separate crescent-shaped stalls for the shower and toilet.

Each ship has a single suite a 220 square foot Owner's Suite near the stern. Unsurprisingly, it tends to sell out fast.

It's worth noting that Wind Star and Wind Spirit are not a good choice for guests with mobility impairments; both boats lack passenger elevators and contain numerous high sills that require some agility in stepping over.

Public areas & activities Public spaces aren't especially creative but they're attractive and well laid-out. The main lounge is the place to be for a cold drink and nightly entertainment and lectures. The room has definite sex appeal, with dark slatted window shutters, a bustling bar, an overhead skylight, and 180-degree views from the windows. A secondary bar next to the aft pool serves as the venue for Cigars Under the Stars. ? Outside the main lounge, a small wood-paneled library contains a decent selection of books and DVDs you can rent for free. There are also computer workstations and Wi-Fi.

Each ship has a tiny swimming pool, along with a small hot tub that tends to get crowded quickly. Guests tend to forget that the flying bridge, one deck above, has additional loungers for soaking up rays. The main outdoor deck has a promenade that wraps attractively around the ship; bow access is available at designated times. Impressively for ships of this size, the fitness center is nicely stocked, with elliptical trainers, recumbent bicycles, a ballet bar, and free weights. Treatments are available in the equally small spa.

Dining AmphorA has a definite sense of style. Ceiling tiles with a faux woodgrain texture lend a yachtlike ambiance to the room, while crystal chandeliers class up the joint. Only dinner is served here the sunny, window-lined Veranda is the place to be for breakfast and lunch. You can have your meal out on deck at one of the many tables clustered around the port and starboard sides of the ship. On the specialty restaurant front, Candles is an outdoor, reservations-only experience. Serving up steaks and a variety of grilled meats, it is open to about 30 guests per night. Though the dinner is free, demand is high, so sign up at reception early on in the cruise.

Wind Surf.

An enlarged version of Wind Star and Wind Spirit, the 312-passenger Wind Surf is a sleek, super-sexy sailing ship that offers more of everything that made its smaller siblings great, done up in a larger and more amenity-laden package.

THE SHIP IN GENERAL

Board the Wind Surf and you just might wonder where everyone went, even at full capacity. The Wind Surf absorbs her 312 guests surprisingly well. And she manages to exude some of the class and charm of the bygone ocean liners, both in her interior public spaces and on her wide, open decks. For a ship with cruises starting at just under $2, 000 per week, that's not too shabby.

Cabins Like her smaller fleetmates, most staterooms aboard Wind Surf come in at a very comfortable 188 square feet. Decor and furnishings are almost identical throughout and quite chic light browns and slate greys, and hints of sea-foam green on pillows and throws. Staterooms also benefit from stylish lighting fixtures with cream-colored shades, flat-panel TVs, and Bose SoundDocks (with pre-loaded iPods available from reception for use during the voyage). Bathrooms are decidedly luxe, with granite countertops, large showerheads, teak flooring, and L'Occitane Verbena toiletries. Light filters into rooms through decently sized porthole windows for all staterooms (including suites). Alas, no staterooms or suites have private balconies.

Those looking for a little more space will want to check out the 30 suites on Deck 3. Essentially two standard staterooms with the adjoining wall removed, they feature two full bathrooms and living and sleeping areas that can be separated by a thick curtain. Two 500-square-foot suites on Bridge Deck are the largest on board, with separate living and sleeping areas. Some cool perks come with these suites, including laundry and pressing service, an invite to dinner with the captain, and chilled.

Champagne on arrival.

Public areas & activities Wind Surf is the roomiest of Windstar's sailing ships, with public spaces and amenities you might expect to find on a much larger vessel. The main lounge is an airy space with plenty of seating options around a dance floor. The adjacent casino isn't huge, but it stays busy on most evenings. All the way aft, the Compass Rose Bar is the go-to spot for after-dinner cocktails; live music is presented each evening and views overlook the ship's wake. A comfier option is the Terrace Bar, where the Cigars Under the Stars event takes place each evening.

When it comes to pool, fitness, and spa facilities, Wind Surf laps many ships twice its size. Its facilities are the largest and most elaborate of the Windstar fleet. Standard spa treatments are available at the onboard spa, which features treatment rooms made from repurposed guest cabins. Or you can elect to have treatments administered poolside. The glass-walled fitness center is perched high atop the ship, where an impressive array of fitness equipment includes treadmills, bicycles, dumbbells, and a water-resistance rowing machine. You can also take part in yoga or Pilates classes for a nominal fee.

Two swimming pools are on board: One is inset beneath the sails on the upper deck, and another is situated at the stern. Near the stern pool are two hot tubs that tend to fill up rather quickly on certain days, as do the adjacent Balinese beds. A full teak Promenade Deck encircles the ship, and jogging is permitted at certain hours.

Dining Buffet breakfast and lunch are served in the Veranda on Star Deck, while guests can enjoy dinner under the stars at Candles (for steaks), Le Marche (for seafood), Degrees (a reservations-only venue specializing in Mediterranean fare), or AmphorA, the main dining room Food quality overall ranges from good to very good, seafood and pasta dishes being among the most memorable, along with the line's famous outdoor, on-deck barbecue with suckling pig, paella, and numerous desserts.

Star Pride – Star Breeze – Star Legend.

Windstar has breathed new life into these three popular vessels, which, despite their lack of sails, fit in perfectly with the line's chilled-out take on cruising.

Originally built for luxury line Seabourn, these three twin-propellored megayachts were snapped up by Windstar in a package deal. Star Pride was the first to enter service in May of 2014, followed by.

Star Breeze and Star Legend in 2015. Carrying 212 guests apiece, they've been significantly revamped to fit a more contemporary sensibility. While a few areas show their age, much on the ships feels brand spanking new. Public rooms are spacious, and staterooms all of which feature ocean views and marble bathrooms with dual sinks are larger than those on Windstar's sailing ships. The notoriously narrow upper deck spaces above the pool deck have been widened, allowing guests (finally) to stretch out on full-length loungers.

And what about Windstar's famous sail-raising ceremony upon departure? Though Star Pride, Breeze, and Legend lack sails, Windstar still plays the score to 1492: Conquest of Paradise upon departure from each port, complete with a flag-raising ceremony that takes place on the ship's radar mast easily seen and admired from the pool deck bar.

Cabins Windstar has refitted all of its spacious staterooms with indirect lighting, snazzy midnight-blue comforters tucked around crisp white Egyptian cotton sheets, and drapes edged in that same shade of blue. Amenities are top-notch: Bose iPod docking stations, waffle-weave bathrobes, and Molton Brown toiletries. Most bathrooms feature marble-clad tub-and-shower combos, though about a dozen staterooms (well-marked on the deck plan) feature a shower only. All suites feature a walk-in closet, though drawer space is paltry.

All staterooms have ocean views, either by way of a picture window with a seating ledge or, in the higher categories, French balconies. These don't provide an outdoor sitting area, but serve to turn the sitting area in every stateroom into an open-air balcony. If you like to sleep with your balcony door open, however, take note: These ships don't have much height above the waterline, so in stormy or choppy seas, the officers on the bridge can electronically lock your balcony door with the push of a switch.

The four Classic Suites are substantially larger, measuring between 400 and 530 square feet. These include full, step-out balconies, separate living and sleeping areas separated by attractive French doors, and powder rooms. The two Classic Suites at the bow (Suites 01 and 02) have obstructed views. On Deck 6 all the way forward are two Owner's Suites. The largest accommodations on board, they're basically enlarged versions of Classic Suites. Those prone to seasickness should note that, like forward-situated staterooms on any small ship, they really move around in rough seas.

Four wheelchair-accessible suites are available on each ship.

Public areas & activities The forward-facing Yacht Club, located all the way at the top of the ship on Deck 8, has 180-degree wraparound windows, an outdoor viewing deck, and appealing seating separated by curved display shelves. Snacks and drinks are available here all day long. Just aft on the same deck is the Star Bar. Quiet during the day, it gets busy at night and it's often standing-room only when Windstar's sailaway celebration gets underway.

All three ships sport a very decent library, with seating for a handful of guests. At the entrance to the Compass Rose Lounge is a small casino, complete with table games and slot machines. The Compass Rose often gets overlooked, but live music is offered here nearly every evening, and you can relax on leather couches or cut a rug on the dance floor. One deck below is the ship's show lounge, where shows, lectures, and other events are held. Curved seating translates into good sightlines.

Each ship has a small swim-against-the-current pool and adjacent whirlpool located amidships on Pool Deck 7. On Star Pride, the area occupied by The Veranda serves as a secondary swimming pool.

(this under-used feature was removed on Star Breeze and Star Legend. ) The big thing to write home about on these ships is the retractable Watersports Platform, a door mounted in the stern that folds down flush with the water when conditions allow. Guests are welcome to use any of the watersports equipment: kayaks, paddleboards, snorkels, and a large floating island that lets swimmers bathe off the stern or relax on the oversized float. The downside: The marina takes forever for the crew to set up, so it's typically not deployed on short calls and can only be used when the ship is at anchor.

Each ship has a WindSpa, which doesn't look like much on the outside, but an amazing number of services are offered, from acupuncture to Swedish massage. The fitness center at the end of the hall is positively massive for a ship of this size; it's got stationary bicycles, treadmills, weights, and more.

Dining Dinners are served in the porthole-lined AmphorA restaurant, which has been upgraded from its Seabourn days with cut-glass chandeliers, mirrored wall accents, and plenty of open seating. Breakfast and lunch buffets are in The Veranda, which has both indoor and shaded outdoor seating. A small menu of cooked-to-order specialties is also available; offerings change daily. At night, this space doubles as Candles, a complimentary (but reservations-required) specialty restaurant dishing up a wide variety of steaks and seafood. Aboard Star Breeze and Star Legend, additional seating is available in The Courtyard, just forward of The Veranda.

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