Windstar has built a reputation on offering small-ship cruising in a casual, non-pretentious way. Star Breeze is a prime example of that approach: a 312-passenger ship that feels ultra-intimate and delivers an upscale vacation to great cruise destinations.
It wins with excellent food, interesting shore excursions and great service, filling a tough-to-nail niche in the cruise industry.
Launched in 1989 by luxury line Seabourn, Star Breeze is by no means a new ship, but it was completely refurbished when Windstar acquired it and its fleetmates Star Pride and Star Legend in 2015. It was fully reworked in 2020, when it was stretched: Essentially, the ship was cut in half, and a new section was added, giving the vessel 50 additional cabins and ample public space.
The massive project gave the ship new life, creating beautiful public spaces, adding new restaurant options and increasing capacity by 50%.
Still, the refurbishment created a fairly large divide between new cabins and original rooms; the former is a joy, thanks to modern touches an overall contemporary approach, while the latter feels tired.
In 2024, Star Breeze will relocate to French Polynesia, where it will make its permanent home. It's a great fit for a ship that puts and emphasis on outdoor public spaces (including two al fresco restaurants) as well as its aft marina, open to guests several times per cruise.
If you're sailing in French Polynesia, spending time outdoors is a no-brainer, even when it rains. But you'll appreciate the ship's approach to outdoor spaces no matter where it's sailing. With multiple teak-wood sundecks, guests enjoy the outdoor space, which someone never feels crowded. Kudos, too, for lots of built-in shade, something many cruise lines seem to forget about.
Yet even with big, open spaces, indoors and out, Star Breeze provides the opportunity to find nooks and places to tuck away, undisturbed. A highlight is the multiuse Yacht Club venue, which has snacks for light midday noshing, games and books, plus unobstructed views. This ship is not one that draws guests who want to be entertained all the time. Instead, most passengers are content with self-directed, low-key entertainment.
The main restaurant, Amphora, is the biggest, and it's a lovely space -- fully new, following the stretching -- located on Deck 3. The low location means it might feel a bit dark at night, but we enjoyed our meals there. Additionally, the stretching added excellent Spanish-inspired restaurant Cuadaro 44 on Deck 6, as well as a casual grill, called simply the Star Grill, on Deck 7.
The ship is easy to navigate, with a spiral staircase midship that runs from Deck 7 all the way down to Deck 3. Nothing is far from an elevator bank or staircase.
The cabins that were updated in the stretching look and feel new, offering all the things we've come to expect on modern cruises ships, like multiple outlets and USBs for charging, sleek design and beautiful bathrooms. But the older cabins just don't stand up to the new ones, so if you're not careful in your cabin selection, you could end up with a room that doesn't quite suit your needs.
That said, all cabins are big by industry standards -- closer to the size of the average U.S. hotel room. They're also well laid-out and have ridiculously comfortable beds, thanks to memory-foam mattress toppers.
Because cruises on Star Breeze are so busy (you'll be in port for extended periods most days), you might not actually spend much time in your cabin.
Star Breeze packs a surprising punch with its excellent menu, variety of restaurants and approach to food inspired by the destinations it visits.
For starters, Star Breeze has five restaurants (though Candles and the Veranda share the same space, just open at different times of the day). We appreciated the sheer number of options we had at mealtime, with food that is both innovative and doesn't repeat.
The ship's main restaurant, Amphora, is good enough that if you ate dinner there every night, you'd be totally happy. Still, you'd do yourself an injustice if you didn't try some of the specialty venues, including Cuadaro, Candles steakhouse and -- a real gem -- Star Grill. Each venue fits its own role, from traditional and more formal to casual smokehouse and innovative tapas.
On our French Polynesian sailing, we appreciated seeing local dishes show up, including traditional poisson cru and fried breadfruit, as well as fresh fish at pretty much every meal.
• Nonalcoholic beverages, including soda, coffee and juice
All meals onboard and ashore for special Destination Discovery events
Use of the marina and its toys, such as trampoline, kayaks, noodles, standup paddleboards and floating mats
Use of the fitness center and fitness classes
Use of the thermal suite
Guests aboard Star Breeze are primarily English speakers hailing from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The average age varies depending on where the ship is sailing and the length of the itinerary; on our sailing to French Polynesia, we sailed with honeymooning young couples and older guests sailing solo or couples celebrating milestone anniversaries. Most people are active, willing to jump in the water from the marina without hesitation or climb steps to a temple without a second thought.
Families are more common during the summer and holiday seasons, when you'll have a smattering of kids. We saw a number of solo passengers on our sailing, and they were encouraged both by fellow guests and crew to get socialize.
The ship offers two banks of elevators, and four accessible cabins for those with mobility issues. Some of its itineraries -- especially those where tendering ashore is more the norm -- might not be a good fit for those who have mobility concerns.