Talk about a second act: The 212-passenger Star Pride is the first of three small luxury all-suite sister ships that Windstar, now initiating a fleet expansion and worldwide product development, has purchased from Seabourn. It is Windstar's first vessel acquisition in 16 years (although the ship itself dates back to 1988). Most important, Star Pride is Windstar's first power yacht -- without the tall-mast sails that has defined the line until now -- a significant milestone.
Star Pride's splashy christening on May 5, 2014, in Barcelona, was not only the coming out of a single ship, but also a celebration of the soon-to-be doubling of Windstar's fleet to six ships -- raising its berth count to 1,230 upon completion. The Star Breeze, currently Seabourn Spirit, is scheduled to debut May 6, 2015 in Nice, France, and the Star Legend, currently the Seabourn Legend, is set for launch May 25, 2015, in Rome. These three twin-propeller yachts, driven by four Bergen marine diesel engines with a cruising speed of 15 knots, are identical in measurement: 440 feet long with a breadth of 63 feet, featuring six passenger decks, and will match in decor as well.
Windstar turned around an ambitious bow-to-aft renovation in 18 intensive round-the-clock days. The transformation -- to align Windstar's look and style across all vessels -- is overseen by the same company that played a key role in Windstar's recent $18-million makeover of its 148-passenger Wind Star, 148-passenger Wind Spirit, and 312-passenger Wind Surf.
The result? While some of the ship -- which, after all, debuted in the 1980s -- feels a bit dated (the lobby/atrium area is low-ceilinged and has lots of brass, teak decks need re-surfacing, and cabin corridors could use a sprucing up), Star Pride reflects Windstar's sensibility. It's one that focuses on a casual dress code and ambience, a top-notch staff, and an emphasis on visiting ports that aren't on mass market itineraries. Overall, Windstar's emphasis on providing more of a yacht experience than one that's all big ship amenities is true to what you'll find on its original trio.
Indeed, what remains are the signature rituals and personal touches that make Windstar cherished among its fans. Like other Windstar ships, Star Pride has an open-bridge policy, in which any passenger can visit the bridge at any time when the ship is at sea to talk with the captain and officers, and to peruse navigational charts.
The emphasis on getting to know every passenger is also a key tradition. Jose and Barbara Kirchner of California, who have voyaged with Windstar 18 times, said that they were immediately recognized when they walked into Star Pride's Compass Rose lounge. "As my eyes were adjusting to the darkness, a voice from the bar called out my favorite drink: 'Lagavulin, straight up?'," Jose Kirchner said. "It feels good to be welcomed back like that."
Even though Star Pride and its sister ships will be driven by power instead of sails, Windstar will continue to build itineraries that are different from mass market lines, seeking interesting small harbors and coves where others don't go. For example, on Star Pride's maiden voyage, we anchored in France's Sete and Sanary-sur-Mer, two towns that you'd be hard-pressed to find offered elsewhere.
Almost all Windstar guests hail from the United States and Canada, attracting active people ages 40 to 75, with a smattering of those older and younger.
Aim for no-fuss upscale casual clothes. During the day, most men sport Polo shirts or dressy T-shirts (usually with a discreet brand logo), and shorts or khaki pants, depending on the port stop. Expect lots of Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and Lands' End for the guys. Top-Siders are popular shoes. For daytime, women wear shorts, capris, pants, silk and cotton tops, and sundresses.
In the evening, women add simple jewelry and perhaps a fancier blouse or light sweater to slacks or a skirt. Some wear floor-length casual dresses. AmphorA, the main dining room, discourages shorts, jeans, tank tops, and sneakers. Do not pack suits, ties, tuxedos, or evening gowns.
An automatic $12 charge is posted to each passenger's account daily. To beverage bills and spa services, a 15 percent gratuity is added. You can amend that amount up or down, as you like. For extraordinary service by specific crewmembers, some passengers hand out additional tips at the cruise's completion.