Once known solely for its masted ships, Windstar features itineraries that mix marquee and exotic ports, a variety of dining venues to top-notch cuisine, superb service and the intimacy of small ship cruising.
Whether it's 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit, 310-passenger Wind Surf, or just-added 208-passenger power yacht Star Pride (joined by near-identical siblings Star Breeze and Star Legend), all ships also feature a luxury-minded 1.5 to 1 passenger-to-crew ratio. Recently refurbished staterooms include Bose SoundDocks, flat-screen televisions, L'Occitane amenities, indulgent bedding, and fresh fruit and flowers.
Each ship has a sports marina where, in ports in which the ships are anchored, passengers can engage in water sports like kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, windsailing, paddleboating and water skiing.
One of the biggest changes for the line, across the fleet, is its dining upgrade. Cuisine aims to highlight the local fare of the regions visited, including the Mediterranean, Costa Rica, Asia and the Caribbean. The food is high quality, and extra attention is paid to those with special dietary needs. All ships feature AmphorA, the ships' main restaurant, which serves Continental-focused cuisine in an open-seating setting. Candles Grill offers a steakhouse-style menu, and the intimate Veranda, Windstar Cruises' buffet venue, with indoor and outdoor seating, combines made-to-order grilled items with food stations.
The most significant difference between the trio of sailing ships and the newly acquired series of yachts is stateroom size. On Windstar's Wind Song, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf, standard cabins measure a cozy 188 square feet and have no balconies. Views are from a porthole-style window. Bathrooms are compact and shower-only. Wind Surf does offer 360-square-foot suites (essentially two standard cabins put together); one side is a dedicated living room, while the other is a bedroom.
Star Pride, along with its siblings, has more spacious standard cabins, each measuring 277 square feet, with large marble bathrooms that include bathtubs. Thirty-six staterooms have French verandahs -- essentially large picture windows that open out. (There's no step-out balcony.)
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 formalwear 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.
About Windstar Cruises
Windstar Cruises was created as a three-ship fleet of identical sailing vessels in 1986. (Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Song were the originals; Wind Song suffered a fire in French Polynesia and sank. Wind Surf, built in 1990, joined Windstar in 1998.) The cruise line today is undergoing a major renaissance following its 2011 acquisition by Denver-based Xanterra Parks and Resorts. That company is best known for operating national and state park concessionaries, and it also owns disparate tourism-oriented companies, such as VBT Worldwide (bicycling and other tours), Williamsburg and Virginia's well-known Kingsmill Resort.
Xanterra has invested millions of dollars not only in refurbishing the existing Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf but also in acquiring three former Seabourn ships: Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend. The acquisitions signify that Windstar is broadening its reach while remaining committed to the easygoing, casually elegant cruising style that its sailing vessels have made popular. (Already Star Pride has morphed from its formal Seabourn roots to a more casual ambience.)
The doubling of the fleet also offers Windstar a chance to expand its itineraries. The line has resumed its popular French Polynesia sailings and will travel to Southeast Asia, Arabia, exotic northern Europe and beyond.
Windstar Cruises Fleet
Wind Surf, at 14,745 tons and with a passenger capacity of 310, is the largest of the line's sailing vessels and has five masts. (The other ships each have 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 received enhancements via an $18 million refurbishment program in early 2013, which included staterooms (notably in the bathrooms), public rooms and deck areas.
Star Pride joined the Windstar fleet in May 2014 as the line's first power yacht, carrying 212 passengers. Two more acquisitions from Seabourn, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend, join the fleet as Star Breeze and Star Legend.
Windstar passengers tend to be active, well-traveled, well-educated adults of all ages, hailing from North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. They tend to 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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