Windstar Cruises

by Margaret Backenheimer and J.D. Brown

Sep 1, 2019
Cruising

LONG REGARDED AS AMONG the finest small-ship cruise lines, Windstar made its name with its first three ships, the 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit and the 312-passenger Wind Surf, each featuring computer-controlled sails. Three more conventional 212-passenger boutique ships were recently added to the fleet: Star Pride (2014), Star Legend (2015) and Star Breeze (2015). Together, the six ships now call on some 300 ports in 80 countries, taking passengers to places larger luxury ships do not go, from Little Bay on Montserrat to Surtsey Island in Iceland, while remaining true to the Windstar motto, “180 degrees from ordinary.”

The ambience is stylish but smart and casual, yacht-like, relaxed and intimate. The 1.5-to-1 guest-to-staff ratio ensures attentive, personalized service. The Bridge is always open and the captain on hand to field questions. A water sports platform provides free equipment, as the weather and seas permit, from kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats and sailboards to water trampolines and even water skis. The cuisine reflects that of top American bistros. Windstar, the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation, often features its award-winning chefs aboard, especially on the numerous special culinary cruises offered each year.

Worldwide destinations include Alaska, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe; Asia and the South Pacific; and the American West Coast, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. While not an “all-inclusive” luxury cruise line, Windstar now offers an All-in Package that covers gratuities, WiFi access, laundry service and beverages (all wines by glass, minibar drinks and many cocktails) for $89 per person, per day.

In a novel twist, Windstar Cruises expanded its fleet this year not by number, but by length. Come November 2020, Windstar will have stretched three of its existing vessels (Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride) 84 feet each at midships, increasing capacity from 212 to 312 passengers and adding 50 new suites, an infinity pool, a spa and fitness center, new bathrooms all around, a central elevator and two 90-passenger tenders. If you can do without sails, these expanded ships will do nicely indeed.

The newly lengthened Star Breeze hits the water March 20, 2020, with a Miami-to-Panama cruise, followed by three Costa Rica/Panama trips; a Baja cruise; a James Beard Foundation culinary cruise from San Diego to Vancouver; 10 Alaska cruises May through August; and, closing out 2020, voyages to China, Korea and Japan. The “new” Star Legend debuts July 2, 2020, with a Barcelona-to-Lisbon voyage. It then heads up Europe’s Atlantic Coast to Iceland and ends up exploring the Mediterranean with cruises to Greece, Venice, the French Riviera, İstanbul, Alexandria and the less-visited Corinth Canal.

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