FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Spirited Sailing: The Breadth and Depth of Windstar’s Beverage Program Belies the Size of Small-Ship Line

by Kelly Magyarics

Sep 6, 2023

© Windstar Cruises

September 2023

It’s just before 5 p.m., and I’m standing on the aft upper deck of Star Legend with a flute of Champagne. After spending much of the day traversing the Panama Canal, we finally crossed under Bridge of the Americas, the gateway to the Pacific. Bubbly is definitely in order to celebrate a transcontinental crossing via this engineering marvel.

Star Legend is one of Windstar Cruises’ six vessels, all smaller than most cruise ships, with a maximum of 342 passengers. The high staff-to-guest ratio (1:1.5) translates to impeccable service; and while you won’t find the dizzying number of diversions available on mega-ships, the experience is anything but minimal, including the beverages.

Windstar’s expanded new cocktail program draws inspiration from pre-Prohibition to present day, with timeless classics, a martini section, modern riffs, coffee drinks and nightcaps. Standouts include Sailor’s Dream (gin, lemon, basil and blackberry) and Paper Boat (bourbon, Aperol, Benedictine and lemon). I sipped a pre-dinner Vesper while listening to live music in Compass Rose and cooled off with a strawberry Pimm’s cup at the always-hopping pool bar. Signature libations at the restaurants include a smoked cherry old-fashioned at barbecue-focused Star Grill and a sherry sip at modern Spanish Cuadro 44.

Drinks during global itineraries connect guests to their destinations. Think Mediterranean spritzes, a Middle Eastern paloma with za’atar, an aquavit sour in Northern Europe and tiki tipples for French Polynesia sailings. Creative zero-proof cocktails include alcohol-free versions of the mint julep, Painkiller and Pimm’s cup, plus fruit- and herb-infused tonics — perfect for a hydration break from day drinking.

The by-the-glass wine list, comprising 40 global options, is diverse enough to please an Old World or New World palate. I was pleased to find a Sauvignon Blanc from Côtes de Gascogne and a Spanish Albarinho, and a chilled Provence rosé was my best friend during lunch on the deck at Veranda. There’s also a good smattering of dry, earthy reds in addition to lush California Cabs, including a Pays d’Oc Pinot Noir and a few cherry-tinged Chiantis.

Fabulous beverages also await ashore. My sailing — Panama Canal, Cartagena, San Blas Islands & More — started in Aruba, where I spent the night before embarkation. I chatted with Dutch expats over gin and tonics at The Beach Bar on Palm Beach in Oranjestad and sipped a farmer’s daiquiri with local herbs before indulging in a multicourse wine-paired dinner at Senses. In Cartagena I snagged a barstool at Alquimico, named No. 10 bar in the world, where three menus (one for each level) pay homage to Colombian culture. The Yurupari celebrates the Amazon with gin; cupuaçu (a rain forest-sourced fruit); and a tincture made with chuchuhuasi, a local spirit.

Back on board, after that canal crossing which signaled our final destination, I refilled my bubbly and chatted with some new friends about the awe-inspiring experience. That’s another benefit of a small-ship cruise: the opportunity to truly get to know your cohorts — maybe over a round of Negroni nightcaps before the next port of call.

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