Wind Star, a trim sail-and-diesel-power yacht built in 1986, is the namesake ship in Windstar Cruises' informal-yet-upscale fleet. Don't let the ship's age fool you; constant maintenance and extensive bow-to-stern refurbishments guarantee this 29-year-old vessel can deftly maneuver across waves and look sexy doing it. For travelers swept up in the romance of a sailing vessel, Wind Star delivers nautical inspiration galore: an elegant fluted funnel; six triangular, self-furling, computer-operated sails; and four masts that each rise to 204 feet. With 10,000 square feet of open deck space covered in teak wood and an aura reminiscent of sailing ships of yore, Wind Star is a sailor's dream. When the ship sets sail, the ritual is to play the bombastic theme song "Conquest of Paradise" from the film "1492," with sails unfurling as the music builds to a resounding crescendo. This is the Wind Star way.
The ship is also committed to a low passenger occupancy (just 148 cruisers), which ensures a high crew-to-passenger ratio (1 to 1.5) and attentive, personalized service. You might be surprised at how quickly staff learn passengers' names, and some repeat cruisers and employees have developed friendships. The benefits of sailing on a small ship are immediately realized at embarkation, when, minutes after walking up the gangplank, you're shown to your stateroom. No long lines or delays. Disembarkation is easy, as well.
Wind Star's intimate size also allows the ship to slip into hidden harbors and pint-sized ports, such as Greece's Monemvasia, which large ships cannot access. This not only means discovering out-of-the-way pretty places, but it also ensures that you won't run into hundreds of other passengers when you head ashore.
Onboard, the decor is pleasant and polished, but not showy, and it harkens to nautical themes. On Deck 3, midship, is a carved wooden female figurehead replica from the 1865-built Prussian frigate Hertha. In the nearby entrance hall, a circular blown-glass art mobile of fish, bubbles and seaweed electronically changes color -- blue, pink, yellow -- throughout the day. Hallways on passenger decks are hung with framed photographs of the beautiful scenic destinations where Wind Star has dropped its anchor.
If a razzmatazz theater with Broadway-style shows and dancing girls, bling-a-ding casino and multiple nightclubs showcasing a breadth of musical genres are musts, Wind Star's tranquil tucked-into-bed-by-midnight vibe will leave you wanting more. On the other hand, if you crave interesting conversations with engaging people in a laid-back-yet-sophisticated environment marked by top-notch service and fine food, this ship is a the perfect escape.