OnboardWindstar's three ships -- Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf -- are masted sailing ships. The ships, technically known as motor-sail-yachts, carry 148 to 310 passengers and feature teak decks, rich wood interiors, light cuisine, extensive wine lists and attentive crew. Passenger-to-crew ratios are 1.5 to 1, resulting in a superb level of personalized service. The line's unique itineraries include ports of call both on and off the mainstream grid, as well as active adventures ashore.
All cabins and suites on the three sailing vessels have ocean views, but only a handful have balconies. Staterooms are decked out with Bose SoundDocks, flat-screen TV's, high thread-count bedding, Egyptian cotton towels, waffle-weave robes and slippers, L'Occitane amenities, fresh fruit and flowers.
One of the biggest changes, in light of the 2013 fleetwide refurbishment, has been a new focus on dining. Dining aims to highlight the local cuisine of the regions visited, including the Mediterranean, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. The food is high quality, and extra attention is paid to those with special dietary needs. All three ships feature AmphorA, the ships' main restaurant, which serves Continental-focused cuisine and is an open-seating venue. Candles Grill, focusing on steaks, is centered on the ships' pools, weather permitting. And the intimate Veranda, Windstar Cruises' buffet venue, with indoor and outdoor seating, combines made-to-order grilled items with food stations.
One of the most unique features available on all of Windstar's vessels is the water sports platform with its range of complimentary water sports. Available are swimming, snorkeling, windsailing, paddleboating and water-skiing. There are licensed instructors for scuba, as well.
About Windstar CruisesWindstar Cruises, the unique three-ship fleet of sailing vessels that was created in 1986, is undergoing a major renaissance. The line was bought in 2011 by Denver-based Xanterra Parks and Resorts. Xanterra is best known for operating national and state park concessionaries, but it also owns disparate tourism-oriented companies, such as VBT Worldwide (bicycling and other tours), Williamsburg and Virginia's well-known Kingsmill Resort. In 2012, this new parent company invested in an $18 million refurbishment of Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf.
In an even bigger move, it was announced in early 2013 that Windstar would double its fleet with the acquisition of Seabourn's original trio of ships -- Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend. They will join Windstar between 2014 and 2015. Star Pride (Seabourn Pride, under a new moniker) will set sail in May 2014 as the first of Windstar's power yachts with 212 passengers.
The move signifies that Windstar, while remaining committed to the easygoing, casually elegant cruising style that its sailing vessels have made popular, is broadening its reach. The experience on the 208-passenger Seabourn vessels, which are among the more formal cruise ships in the luxury market, will become more laid-back when the ships join Windstar. What they'll offer, in addition to the increasingly rare small-ship experience, is a chance for the cruise line to expand its itineraries.
In the meantime, Windstar Cruises' current trio of sleek, masted sailing ships, with computer-directed sails, offer an intriguing balance of sophisticated pampering, exceptional service and luxurious amenities -- amidst an oh-so-casual atmosphere.
And though its fleet is the industry's oldest (average ship age: more than 20 years), Windstar continues to regularly upgrade and refurbish all three ships; recent improvements have targeted cabins, public rooms, restaurants and below-deck mechanical operations.
Windstar's small ships create a cozy, intimate cruise experience. But its a la carte pricing strategy -- unlike luxury lines, you'll pay extra for shore excursions, airfare, cocktails, fitness classes and the like -- means cruise fares fall in the somewhat moderate category. "Casual elegance" is the designated dress code, and that idea permeates the onboard vibe. Passengers leave ties and formal wear at home in favor of country club casual sportswear -- day and night. There are few organized activities and none of the typical cruise line Vegas-style revues.
Windstar Cruises FleetWind Surf, at 14,745 tons and with a passenger capacity of 310, is the largest and has five masts to each of the other ships' four. Built in 1990 as Club Med I, it joined the fleet in 1998. Siblings Wind Star and Wind Spirit each measure 5,530 tons and carry 148 passengers. They launched in 1986 and 1988, respectively.
All three ships have completed the fleet's recent $18 million refurbishment program in early 2013, which included staterooms (notably in the bathrooms), public rooms and deck areas.
In May 2014, 212-passenger Star Pride will join the Windstar fleet as the first power yacht (no sails). Sisters Seabourn Spirit and Legend will join the fleet between 2014 and 2015.
Fellow PassengersWindstar passengers tend to be active, well-traveled, well-educated adults of all ages -- mostly North American and British -- who enjoy the more laid-back atmosphere of a smaller ship, the idea of traveling under sail and the unique itineraries that Windstar provides.
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