By Melissa Paloti, Cruise Critic contributor
Windstar's namesake ship -- Wind Star, a sleek, four-masted, motorized sailing yacht that's one of three in the casual-yet-upscale line's fleet -- was built in 1986. Yet, continuous upkeep and recent refurbishments have kept it fresh and youthful. In the cabins, creaky old bathrooms have been spruced up with granite countertops, high-piled towels and fancy shower sprayers; and new combination DVD/CD/iPod Nano players have upped the ante in the tech toys department. Public rooms and restaurants have been updated, too.
During a 2012 refurbishment The Restaurant was redesigned, renamed AmphorA and a new menu was implemented. The Pool Bar also was redesigned to create additional al fresco seating for sunset dining at Candles Grill with a new awning and deck furniture. The Reception Area received a make-over, as did The Lounge with new hardwood flooring and a new AV system.
What hasn't changed, however, is the onboard experience. The cruise line has stuck to its core concept: a balance of small-ship features -- low passenger occupancy, high guest-to-crew ratios, personalized service, unique itineraries that include ports of call both on and off the mainstream grid, and active adventures ashore -- and more big-ship ones, particularly where pricing is involved. (Drinks are a la carte, for example.) It's what we have termed "luxury lite."
A fellow passenger told us he hadn't cruised on a Windstar vessel in well over a decade, but was glad to see from his week on Wind Star that not much had changed. He wasn't the only repeat passenger, and many others had cruised much more recently, waving hello to staffers with whom they'd sailed in the recent past. There's a genuine connection between the people who work and sail on these ships.
Indeed, beyond the treat of cruising on a real sailing ship -- engines silent, wind whipping the four, crisp white sails as you glide along the sun-kissed ocean -- and the fact that its sleek size offers access to otherwise unreachable ports, there's something else that made this cruise memorable: my fellow passengers.
Maybe it's the open-seating dining at every meal, the casual and comfortable dress code or the fact that the ship carries only 148 at double occupancy, but there's something about being onboard this ship that makes you want to meet, mingle and have fun. Even groups of couples traveling together fostered camaraderie, rather than sticking with their cliques. Since returning home, I've exchanged e-mails, photos and travel stories with new friends I made onboard -- some of whom are already planning to take a Windstar cruise together again soon.
Wind Star Fellow Passengers
The average age on most voyages is about 50, though passengers (mostly couples) range in age from 30's to 70's. The youngest passengers on our cruise were in their early 20's and were traveling with their parents. Passengers are well-traveled, well-heeled and generally active, particularly on Caribbean and Costa Rican itineraries that offer adventurous shore tours like hiking and zip-lining. Interestingly, a good number of Windstar passengers are first-time cruisers -- about one-third. On our sailing, the remainder seemed to be an even split of both Windstar repeaters and cruise veterans who were new to the line.
Wind Star Dress Code
The dress code is casual during the day. Most men wear shorts and polo shirts or T-shirts, with ladies in shorts, cropped jeans or capris with cotton tops or sundresses. At night, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, tank tops and tennis shoes are "forbidden" in the main dining room. (But, we did see a few neat jeans slip through.) The written code is "casual elegance": Men generally don button-down shirts or polo shirts with pants, and women wear sundresses or capris with light sweaters or blouses. Bottom line: Leave tuxes and evening gowns at home. Otherwise, pretty much anything goes.
Wind Star Gratuity
A $12 service charge is automatically added to passenger accounts each day. A gratuity of 15 percent is automatically added to beverage tabs and spa service charges (though you have the option to specify a smaller or greater amount for the latter if you'd prefer). Some guests choose to recognize outstanding staff members with extra tips at the end of the cruise.
Very rarely in our lives are we lucky or privileged enough to be able to use the word PERFECT for an experience or encounter with people. Our voyage last week on the Wind Star is one of those rare opportunities. To say that our expectations for ...continue
March 2013 oldbristolsailor
We sailed on the Wind Star from Puerto Caldera to Panama leaving on Sat. 3/9/13. The transfer to the ship was very efficient and the boarding went quickly. The check in was very efficient and we were in our cabin with our bags in less than 20 ...continue
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We took our first ever Windstar cruise from Colon Panama to Porto Caldera Costa Rica earlier this month. We were a bit worried as this would be the smallest ship by far that we had ever been on and were not sure what to expect! We were very pleased ...continue