The cruise began in the routine Windstar fashion with efficient and friendly service. The first person we encountered, who was handing us refreshments, was Gino ... a friend from several past Windstar voyages. A few minutes later we were greeted by Bobby, another old friend. There were at least half a dozen crew who recognized us from past trips and welcomed us to the Star Legend. We were checked in and in our room in less than fifteen minutes.
First, let me admit that we love Windstar, and the flagship Wind Surf is our favorite. That being said, I will attempt an honest review, and I will attempt to address a few of the issues mentioned by a few people who have written rather critical reviews, who I henceforth will refer to as the complainers.
First, some have said that the ship is old and covered with rust. I'm reminded of Captain 'Lucky' Jack Aubry in "Master and Commander" when Maturin referred to the "Surprise" as being an old ship, and Jack responded that she was not old but "in her prime". I am a retired Naval Commander, and a retired airline Captain ... so I am the 'Captain and Commander'. All Naval vessels will show a bit of rust even brand new ones. That is why chipping and painting is a continuous process ... as is sanding and varnishing. The Star Legend from all outward appearances could pass for a new ship. She is beautiful. She is 'in her prime'. The suites (all the rooms are suites) are beautiful, the carpeting throughout the ship is perfect, the marble baths with tubs are marvelous, the public areas are amazing and they are constantly cleaned and polished. The smallest of the suites on Star Legend is nearly twice the size of the standard rooms on the Surf.
Some have said the service has suffered from the acquisition of the three 'Stars'. We have cruised with Windstar three times in twelve months, twice on the Surf and once on Star Legend. We have nine total cruises with Windstar. Our Star Legend cruise completed yesterday was simply superb. Bear in mind that we do not expect perfection, which in my view is why some become excessively critical. And we do not expect the Captain to control mother nature. Things did not go perfectly. We missed two ports because of heavy swells in the anchorage areas that made tendering impossible. St. Barth's had predicted heavy swells so we went to St. Thomas and enjoyed a catamaran snorkel trip to St. John, and we actually anchored at St. Martin, but the tender boarding platforms were going under water in ten degree rolls (I was sliding out of bed) so we went to Tortola. We also really wanted to visit St. Barth's and St. Martin, but the Captain did his best to adjust to the unfortunate circumstances ... and most of us had a great time anyway ... except for a few complainers.
The tenders: No ... the Stars do not use the life boats as tenders. The tenders are carried in the sports deck. They are two twenty-five passenger single deck cabin cruisers that are far more comfortable than a life boat tender ... they are not 'new', but I liked them. They can accommodate the entire passenger load in approximately four trips each. We never waited more than five minutes for a tender, and depending on the traffic they ran one or both continuously.
The sports deck was open and available in every port that allowed it, and where conditions permitted. I know this area is rarely, if ever, used in Europe.
The food: If you are expecting gourmet food, your expectations may be a little high. If you are expecting food that is better than most, if not all major cruise lines including their upscale offspring, you are in the ballpark. We have cruised with Silversea, and with Tauck, and they are very good. Windstar, including the Star Legend, is as good, or better. Forget about getting caviar, but the food is very good.
The Star Bar/The Compass Rose: On the Wind Surf, the Compass Rose is where the 'dance' duo resides. On the Star Legend they live at the Star Bar ... both are on the top of the ship. "Flash", Victoria and Dave were the dance duo stars, and they were great! In Europe it was explained that the Compass Rose becomes the dance venue.
The on deck BBQ: This is a really fun event on all the Windstar ships. But the logistics on the sailing vessels is a bit of a challenge. On the Star Legend they have a large pool deck, with an elevated area for the pool and the hot tub, which is an ideal location for the entertainers to perform, above the area where people eat and later dance. The food and the presentation were spectacular, the entertainment was great. We did feel a bit guilty that the staff worked so hard two days in a row, deck BBQ then beach BBQ the following day, to show us such a great time. But, we loved it in spite of our guilt.
Disembarkation: Just exactly what we expected from Windstar. You get up, have breakfast, pick up your passports, and walk off the ship. Two minutes to find our bags, porter picks them up and takes them to a taxi, and we are off to the airport. Ten minutes. When you only have two or three hundred people, this stuff is easy.
Do we miss the sails? Yes! But ... surprise ... they have continued the tradition. At sail away two officers in their dress white uniforms symbolically raise a large ship's ensign (flag) slowly to the masthead while they play Vangelis 1492, Conquest of Paradise ... and everyone is on deck watching and listening. On the Wind Surf this is done while they raise on five, two hundred foot masts, twenty-six thousand feet of sail. Awesome!
Our cabin was beautiful. The ship may be twenty-five years old, but this cabin looked like it was built yesterday. The rooms are almost twice the size of those on Wind Surf, the bathroom is quite large (we often both used it at the same time), it has a shower and tub combination. There was more than adequate storage, and the surfaces (marble?) looked new. Staterooms 100 and 101 are the most forward on the ship, they are shaped a little differently than the others, and I believe they are a bit larger, but the window is smaller.
Took the hop on hop off free shuttle. Fun.
Diverted from heavy seas at St. Martin, arrived late, used the WiFi on shore.
Hung out at Foxy's.
Beach BBQ. Fun day, great BBQ.
Fun. Very entertaining crew on the cat.