Windstar offers a variety of tours, at least one in each port of call; as many as three were offered in a given port on our cruise. In addition, at each port you can opt to go it on your own by arranging a private car and a guide (maximum of two people) or a van and a guide (maximum of six people) at a premium price.
Many excursions are cultural or food-and-wine driven, while some have an active or outdoor angle, like hiking, for the more physically fit. Typically, tours are half-day, lasting four to five hours. Few can take up a full day with eight hours away. They're best when they take you to a town or attraction that's a few hours away or otherwise more difficult to access on your own.
Excursions come at a cost and should be arranged in advance. Once onboard, you can add to, change or cancel excursions. It's best to handle in advance to ensure availability.
Also, market tours are often available and free of charge on each cruise. Passengers join the chef to shop in local markets; he then uses the product(s) in the nightly special at dinner. This program is offered on most Windstar sailings at least once, but there are some sailings where time does not allow. Book in advance at the front desk.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
This is a smaller ship, so there isn't an expansive menu of entertainment options or poolside activities. The focus is really on the destination and allowing passengers to explore in port.
The Screening Room is the place to watch the latest movies and play video games. Card games, board games and Wii games in the Screening Room are not hosted. If you're looking for more structured gaming, you'll find hosted Wii game tournaments, mini-golf tournaments, gaming lessons in the casino and blackjack tournaments.
Port talks, which are 15-minute daily chats led by the Voyage Leader (aka cruise director), take place in the Lounge before dinner.
Windstar Cruises is one of the few cruise lines to have an open bridge policy. Visits are off limits when in port, docking or sailing away. Otherwise, it is an open opportunity to meet the captain and crew and get a behind-the-scenes look.
The Star Pride Signature Sail-Away is worth attending at least once, as it is a daily occurrence. Crew members hoist flags to the strains of Vangelis' "Conquest of Paradise" song as the ship sails out of port, a holdover from the sail-raising tradition on the original Windstar ships. The Star Bar tends to be abuzz about this time regardless.
Evening entertainment, in general, is limited in comparison to big ship offerings, and the quality can vary. On our cruise, the piano player in the Lounge was a bit cringeworthy, and his shows were lightly attended. After dinner, many passengers migrate to the outdoor Star Bar to listen to a live duo of a musician/singer or a singer. There is also a big barbecue night onboard, a crew talent show in the Lounge and an evening of crew and passenger line dancing.
To complement the market tours, the chef often offers a cooking demonstration onboard. This is not a hands-on demonstration. The venue for the demos is typically small and normally 35 to 45 people are in attendance. It is free, but you must sign up in advance at the front desk.
Local enrichment activities, such as a pesto making demonstration on the Italian Riviera, are also scheduled. The line is trying to add more of these.
In addition, Windstar occasionally has theme cruises, although these are spread out among its ships. Star Pride was used for the line's annual Monaco Grand Prix cruise in 2019, and James Beard Foundation sailings, where special chefs and wine experts are brought onboard, also take place. These sailings usually have more enrichment activities and lectures provided.
The bars and lounges on Star Pride are casual and comfortable. Many passengers turned up at the outdoor Star Bar for the daily sail-away, especially when it was near sundown or close to dinnertime. It's worth an early arrival to ensure a seat at or near the bar, or on a nearby lounger.
The discounted Drink of the Day is another draw at cocktail hour. Rum Punch, Kir Royale and French Kiss were but a few on offer during our sailing. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added onto any and all alcoholic beverages served onboard.
Drinks packages are available for unlimited cocktails, sparkling wines, wines by the glass and all beers (for drinks typically priced under $12). The package cost per day (based on double occupancy) for a wine-and-beer only package is $49 per person per day and $59 per person for a cocktail-inclusive Captain's package. Packages must be purchased on the first day of the cruise and for the full duration of the cruise. The price does not include the standard 15 percent gratuity.
There were very good wines by the glass; red, white, rose and sparkling at a surprisingly affordable price ($7). Things got much more interesting and more expensive by the bottle. There were a lot of bubbles by the bottle (Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon and an Italian prosecco). Pouilly-Fuisse (France) was on the Connoisseur's White List. The Connoisseur's Red List had everything from Italian Chianti to Spanish Garnacha, Oregon pinot noirs and Syrahs from Washington State.
There was an endless array of chardonnays -- including French, Spanish and Argentinean -- beyond the usual California chardonnays like Rutherford Ranch and Napa Valley.
The Lounge (Deck 5, aft): The Lounge on Deck 5 is an amenable space for entertainment and gatherings. It's where the welcome cocktail, port talks and the crew's talent show takes place, and it's where passengers typically gather for excursions or tenders. While it's not the full theater experience you'd have on a bigger ship, the seating is plentiful and comfy.
Compass Rose (Deck 6, aft): The Compass Rose is open during the day, yet it is more popular later in the evening, after dinner and late into the night. It's decked out in comfortable banquets, sofas and small cocktail tables near the dance floor. Limited seating is available at the small bar and at the piano, near the pianist and singer. The ambiance is lively, and the dance floor tends to get busier each night.
Yacht Club (Deck 8, forward): The biggest draw to the Yacht Club is the view. The semicircular room with dark wood and plush couches has expansive views out the bow and on both sides of the ship. Servers are happy to bring drinks in from the nearby Star Bar at any time of the day, and it's a nice spot for predinner cocktails.
The Yacht Club is a serene space throughout the day, an ideal place to read, write, check emails or simply enjoy the surrounding scenery. There isn't service past 5 p.m., but if the Star Bar is cold or windy, it's a great place to pop in for a quick warm up, in between ballads.
Star Bar (Deck 8, aft): The Star Bar is the only outside bar onboard. The Signature Sail-Away and $8.50 daily drink specials draw a crowd. Passengers gather around the bar, at neighboring tables and on loungers to watch the ship sail out of port and for predinner drinks. After-dinner cocktails at the Star Bar draw a committed crowd every night, aided on our cruise by the talented duo that performed every evening.
A small pool (more of a wading than a swimming pool) and two hot tubs are located on Deck 7. Just above those pools, the Star Deck (Deck 8) is often abuzz with sail-aways, sundowners, pre- or post-dinner cocktails or lazy loungers.
A whirlpool (hot tub) is tucked discreetly away on Deck 5 forward, and it's easy to forget it's there.
The water sports platform or Star Pride Marina is available as weather and port conditions allow. Windstar aims to have the platform open for at least one day during each cruise; on a May Med cruise, it was open three days. Activities include stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking, sailing, water skiing and diving on certain itineraries.
Available on some cruises, the Discover Scuba program is designed for those who are not certified divers but interested in trying. The Certified Dive Program is for certified divers only. Bring proof of certification with you.
Aside from the Lounge, you'll find the reception, the purser's desk, the shore excursion desk and a computer center with two computers and a printer on Deck 5. Just above, midship on Deck 6 is the library with a wide range of books and DVDs to check out for free. The Signature Shop is home to several Windstar logo tees, bags and hats and well-appointed signature gifts from the regions visited. It is a small shop but surprisingly robust.
One of the best deals that Windstar offers is an all-inclusive package that wraps up the Captain's drink package, internet, laundry and gratuities. It costs $89 per person per day ($623 per person for a seven-day cruise). It's best to buy it before you leave for your trip because voyages in Europe carry a hefty VAT tax on internet and other services.
Otherwise, you can buy laundry and internet packages separately; for the latter, you'll want to buy before you go so you can avoid the VAT tax. The Basic Email Plan is $60 for 200MB, which averages out to approximately 15 to 60 minutes. The Surfing Plan at $120 is 500MB (approximately five hours). The Unlimited Plan is $245 for seven days. (None of these prices include VAT.) All packages bought onboard are good for one device. In general, internet on Star Pride is a bit pricy, and considering the quality of the service, a questionable value.
The WindSpa is located on Deck 8. We found treatments to be a bit expensive but no different from an upmarket salon in a major city. As the cruise goes on, you will find prices getting better, with flyers for daily deals slipped under your door.
There are three treatment rooms, and services range from Collagen Quartz or the Tri Enzyme Resurfacing Facials, Lime & Ginger Body Massage, an Aroma Stone Massage with Volcanic rock, a customized (deep tissue or gentle strokes) Bamboo Massage with essential oils or an Ionithermie Slimming Treatment.
The salon had manis, pedis, cuts, colors, teeth whitening and waxing for anywhere there was hair. Men had their own IQ Facials and haircuts. Aside from daily deals, you can get a 10 percent discount for your first treatment, 20 percent for your second and 30 percent for your third.
The fitness center is attached to the spa. It's small but efficient, with treadmills, bicycles and free weights. Yoga and exercise classes are available. Schedules vary per cruise and are left in your cabin upon arrival. Most classes are complimentary.
There is no organized kids program or playroom, let alone any kind of outdoor attractions like a climbing wall. The ship's ambiance and clientele does not lend itself to kids running amok. Well-behaved children ages 7 and above are allowed on Windstar, but they will need to find their own entertainment and handle long, grown-up dinners (or settle for room service).
Well-behaved teenagers, however, might like the port-intensive itineraries. We saw several families on our Med cruise, with the teenagers particularly enjoying the water sports platform.