Wind Star books a single musician or musician-and-singer duo to perform in the Lounge every evening, covering well-known songs from a range of entertainers, such as Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, Carol King, Jason Mraz and Lady Gaga. There's a baby grand piano, electronic keyboard and amplification equipment for the artists.
Local talent is also invited onboard one evening when the vessel stays a bit later in a port. For example, on our cruise, flamenco dancers and their accompanying musicians performed in the Lounge during a stop in Almeria, Spain.
Every day, a few low-key activities are scheduled, such as music trivia or an un-hosted game of Bridge. Watch a martini-making demonstration by a bartender, learn how to fold towels into animal shapes with the chief housekeeper, or visit the galley, where the executive chef does a cooking demonstration. Wind Star has an open-bridge policy (rare in the cruise industry), so you can visit the wheelhouse to chat with the captain or officers at any time, as long as the ship is at sea and conditions calm -- no reservations or guided tour necessary.
A really fun, complimentary sojourn is to tag along with the executive chef when he visits a port of call's fish or produce market. It's usually offered once per itinerary; sign up at reception.
Windstar offers one complimentary shore excursion set up for all passengers as a signature private event in one port of call per itinerary -- and it is positively memorable. On our cruise, the signature event took place in Cadiz, located in the Jerez region of Spain, which is renowned for its sherry and serves as the world capital of the drink. The tour took us to the Gonzalez Byass Bodega, an expansive and noteworthy multigenerational winery, where we enjoyed a captivating sherry-making tour and generous sherry tasting, followed by a private showing at the nearby Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation, where gorgeous Spanish horses danced to music.
The ship's voyage director (known as the cruise director on other cruise lines) gives destination and excursion talks every evening, usually from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Lounge, during which waiters pass platters of appetizers, such as cocktail shrimp, cheese puffs and salmon rolls. They also take drink orders.
Wind Star's passengers are generally not a late-night crowd. After dinner, live music is available in the Lounge, Deck 3 aft, from 9:15 p.m. until closing. Passengers meet to talk and sometimes dance. If the weather is agreeable, people will often have a glass of wine or cocktail upstairs at the Pool Bar.
A small casino next to the Lounge has a handful of slot machines (open from 5:30 p.m.) and two tables, blackjack and three-card poker (open from 9 p.m.).
Wind Star Bars and Lounges
There are two bars onboard, with a selection of top-shelf products that are available to be served throughout the ship.
Most cocktails run $8 to $12. Beers are $6 to $7, and wines are $8 to $13 per glass, with some exceptional vintages that run higher. Also available are aperitifs, ports and a variety of tequila, whiskey, bourbon and vodka.
A Premium Beverage Package costs $116 per stateroom, per day, plus a 15 percent service charge, based on double occupancy. Before signing up, be sure to ask specifically which alcohol is included and which is not (so you'll not be disappointed to later find out that your favorite brandy or sparkling wine is not part of the deal). Do the math, as well, adding up whether you'd drink enough to make the package worth your money.
Lounge Bar (Deck 3): Filled with sofas, chairs and cocktail tables, this room features a skylight, a dance space in the center, a cozy area where the musicians perform and large picture windows, dressed with dark-wood plantation shutters on three sides. There's also a video/TV monitor that's used for port talks.
Pool Bar (Deck 4): This is the busiest bar during the day, when passengers tend to spend time outdoors.
Wind Star Outside Recreation
On Deck 4 aft, there is one plunge pool, good for a refreshing dip but not big enough to swim laps. Next to it is the hot tub, which can comfortably fit four people.
Bicycles, carried onboard, are available for rent in select ports of call: half day for $15, full day for $25.
When at anchor in appropriate water and climate, Wind Star opens its water sports platform, entered via a trap-like door in the floor on Deck 2 aft, for direct access to the sea. Use of the life vests, floating mats, snorkeling gear, kayaks and skiffs for rides is complimentary.
Sun deck space can be found by the pool and on a flying-bridge sunning platform with a large wooden ship's wheel (a great photo op) that hangs over the Pool Bar. There are enough chairs, padded chaise lounges and tables with umbrellas to seat everyone.
Smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the ship, including your cabin; it's only allowed outside on Deck 4 aft, starboard side.
Wind Star Services
The reception desk is located on Deck 3, midship. There, passengers can purchase Internet packages: a $60 "email package" for 200 megabytes, $120 "surfing package" for 500 megabytes and $250 for unlimited Internet access, best if you want to regularly keep in touch with family and friends, as well as leisurely browse the web. Connection speeds depend upon the satellite connection. (During ocean crossings, the Internet is inaccessible.)
The Library, located on Deck 3 midship, has a four-person card table (with imprinted chessboard) and glass-door bookshelves holding hundreds of DVDs, as well as music CDs to borrow for free. There are books -- fiction, nonfiction and travel guides -- and games, such as Scrabble. Two computers are set on a desk shelf in the library for use by passengers who didn't bring their own laptops or tablets.
Next door, at the Signature Shop, where all items are duty free, you can buy fine and costume jewelry, watches, sunglasses, sundresses, shirts, pants, Tilley hats, a Wind Star yacht model (which can be shipped to your home) and Windstar Cruise logowear, as well as sunscreens, toothbrushes and grooming sundries. Due to customs regulations, the gift shop is never open when a ship is in port.
There are no self-service laundry facilities. Many passengers who cruise for longer than a week take advantage of the unlimited laundry package ($109 per stateroom, based on double occupancy). Every day, your bagged dirty clothes are washed and returned to you folded.
Wind Star does not have an art gallery, nor are there official ship photographers.
The medical facility is on Deck 2 aft, and it's staffed by a physician. Medical fees are charged to your stateroom account, and a receipt is provided for travel insurance purposes.