(5:30 p.m. EDT) -- A newly refurbished Star Pride re-entered Windstar fleet on June 9, following the vessel's grounding off the coast of Panama in late 2015.
A scheduled $4.5 million transformation project was initiated while the 212-passenger ship, one of three power yachts purchased in 2014 from Seabourn, was in dry dock in Grand Bahama Island undergoing repairs to the hull that occurred during the incident.
"We took this opportunity to take the ship out of service to implement more in-depth upgrades to match the other two ships," said Theresa Rasmussen, Windstar Cruise Line's Interiors Superintendent.
It's the second enhancement that Star Pride has undergone. Phase 1 of the renovations took place immediately upon acquisition of the three ships, including the Star Breeze and Star Legend.
"We did a partial refurbishment of the Star Pride initially so we could see how guests used the spaces and how the yacht integrated with the guest experience throughout the fleet of Windstar yachts overall. We used that knowledge to decide the full scale of refurbishment and renovations that took place on the other two yachts in 2015," Rasmussen said. "Now it was Star Pride's turn."
Interior refurbishments continued when the ship left Grand Bahama Island on May 6 and throughout the Atlantic crossing to Perama, Greece, where work continued in preparation for the June 9 sailing.
$4.5 million refurb touched all areas of the ship
The $4.5 million transformation involved installing new carpeting and flooring on stairways, in hallways and all indoor public spaces.
The Lounge, where guests gather for nightly port talks, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and special events has been totally refurbished, with new flooring, lighting, sound system and furniture. The space will also be used for a speaker series on cruises with days at sea.
A former card room has been transformed into the Star's Screening Room, where passengers can watch movies and play video games.
Renovations to the Fitness Center involved new flooring, wall coverings and window treatments, while the Library has been updated with new furnishings and artwork.
Dining venues upgraded
Star Pride's two dining venues -- AmphorA, the main dining room, and the Veranda, which becomes the reservation-only Candles restaurant in the evening -- have received extensive upgrades.
AmphorA's elegant setting now features several cozy half-moon booth seating areas, chandeliers and accent lighting, a mirrored wall and new flooring and wall coverings. The Veranda restaurant was opened up to offer 180-degree ocean views, with the addition of sliding glass doors and an aft windscreen for comfortable outdoor dining, day or night. At night, the space is transformed into an intimate gourmet steak and seafood restaurant, Candles, where passengers are encouraged to reserve a spot to dine al fresco by candlelight at least once during the cruise.
Courtyard seating with a garden wall design feature has been added for Veranda's breakfast and lunch service in the area formerly occupied by the pool and whirlpool.
Extensive changes have been made to Star Pride's top deck. It was expanded by four feet on each side to provide room for new sun loungers, and a "counter-current" pool, which allows passengers to swim in place, along with a whirlpool were relocated here steps away from the Star Bar and Yacht Club. A second whirlpool was added on the bow for more private relaxation.
Star Pride cabins redone
All Star Pride cabins have been refurbished, including new coffee tables and updated flat screen televisions. Sofa beds were added in several suites to accommodate triple berths. Work still to be completed at the time of the June 9 sailing included carpet replacement and re-facing of marble in the bathrooms in several cabins.
All 106 cabins have outside ocean views:
- Sixty-four Oceanview staterooms (277 sq. ft.) have picture windows, as opposed to portholes on the three Windstar ships with sails.
- Many first-time passengers on the Star Pride provided positive feedback on the spaciousness of the cabins, with separate sitting areas, ample drawer storage space and a walk-in closet.
- Thirty-six cabins (also 277 sq. ft.) have French balconies.
- Some passengers were unfamiliar with the definition of a French balcony. The sliding glass door opens to a railing with a very narrow platform, allowing the passenger to step out of the cabin for fresh air or a photo opportunity, but not actually sit.
- Six larger suites, including four Classic Suites (400-530 sq. ft.) and the two Owner's Suites (575 sq. ft.) have private verandas.
The two Owner's Suites were completely gutted and rebuilt with all new furnishings, including a new layout that increased the living room area and extended the wrap-around deck to include a full balcony.
Passengers aboard for the debut sailing of the Star Pride following the renovations were, by and large, seasoned travelers for whom the Greek Isles had been a bucket list trip and were attracted by the selection of ports and the desire to cruise on a small ship.
Cruises aboard the Star Pride will continue in the Mediterranean and Europe through October, then will reposition for Caribbean and Costa Rica/Panama Canal cruising for the remainder of 2016, returning to Europe in April 2017.
--By Debbra Dunning Brouillette, Cruise Critic contributor