Windstar offers several shore excursions in each port that generally include a walking or bus tour of the city, snorkeling or hiking and visits to the area's cultural centers. Generally speaking, passengers booked one or two shore excursions through Windstar and then made their own plans in other ports. If the ship was docked outside of town, an hourly shuttle was provided.
The evening before every port call, the ship's Voyage Leader (Windstar's version of the cruise director) gave a helpful 15-minute briefing, with information on the port, docking position, shuttles and shore excursions.
* May require additional fees
Technical problems initially plagued the ship's tenders (which were part of the purchase from Seabourn), but the motors on all tenders were replaced in May 2016; both worked perfectly for about half of our Alaska cruise, but then one had to be put out of service when the engine stopped working.
One highlight, for the passengers who participated, were complimentary onshore market tours with the galley crew. Windstar tries to organize these at least once on every cruise, though some itineraries are more conducive than others -- they're not available at all in Alaska. The ship's chef is on a serious purchasing mission, but will also secure samples of items from vendors for passengers to taste. It might be cheese, pate or a red-ripe local tomato. You'll also get to learn how the chef scrutinizes items like fish for freshness. It's fun to see how a big purchase can make a vendor's day. We witnessed an adorable older lady plant a kiss on the Star Legend's chef when he purchased a mountain of fresh vegetables.
In Alaska, Windstar also layers on expedition excursions on top of its standard port options. These expedition choices are only available on scenic sailing days (Kenai Fjords, Misty Fjord and Tracy or Endicott Arm). They are either one-hour Zodiac tours that take a max of six people at a time up close to ice floes and glaciers or 2.5-hour kayak tours that do the same, but require a greater fitness level. In both cases, participants are accompanied by expert expedition guides who provide a great deal of information about the flora, fauna and glaciers.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
During the day, travelers go ashore, enjoy the aft water sports platform (when it's open) or sun themselves on the open decks. The typical Windstar passenger doesn't really need scheduled activities; they are happy to spend their time onshore or enjoying the company of other travelers on the ship.
Because of that, don't expect a constant barrage of daytime activities. Unlike larger cruise ships, there are few staff-led activities or pool games, and the number varies by itinerary. Regular daytime activities might include a scavenger hunt (one of the items: the captain's signature), seminars by the ship's photographer and spa staff, or trivia.
On some itineraries, a local music group might come aboard to entertain on a port day afternoon.
Being foodies, we enjoyed the galley tour, where we got to see fruit carvers, the pastry chef and cooks hard at work. We learned interesting facts, like how the first thing the baker prepares every day is the gluten-free offerings, so he's working in a just-scoured, gluten-free environment.
Make a point to visit the bridge when the ship is at sea and conditions are good. Windstar is one of the few cruise lines with an open bridge policy, in which you can visit at almost any time to talk with the captain or officers. It's a unique opportunity and a chance to learn a little bit about how these yachts are piloted. Note the posted rules for visiting the bridge, and don't head there when the ship is in port or in the process of docking or sailing away. While you rarely see the captain on other cruise lines, we find that Windstar's captains and officers are typically welcoming, charming and enjoy interacting with passengers.
Like most smalls ships, Star Legend offers few activities at night with the exception of live music and dancing in the Lounge, Star Bar and Compass Rose. Onboard acts might include talented duos or a lively piano or guitar player.
Planned nighttime activities might include the Liars Club with Officers, at which officers tell stories and the audience has to guess which are true and which false; a line dance party after the deck barbecue dinner; a karaoke night; and an evening of "name that tune."
There's also a crew show one night, where the ship's unsung heroes get to come up from the engine room or laundry and actually sing. It's good fun, and usually includes a dance performance from some of the crew's home country.
There is a small casino to the left as you enter Compass Rose (Deck 6, aft), with two tables for card sharks, hosting blackjack and poker games, and a dozen slot machines (some in a separate room, three steps down from the main casino area). The casino was never crowded and is only open certain hours when the ship is at sea. Hours are listed in the ship's daily program.
There is also a Screening Room (Deck 5, off the entry to the Lounge), with comfy movie theater-style armchairs, where you can view flicks. You'll also find two tables in this room for card players. On Alaska itineraries, this space is commandeered by the expedition team who use it as their office.
There is always one culinary demo and one beverage (wine tasting or cocktail mixing) workshop per cruise on all itineraries. Windstar will also bring guest lecturers onboard for select itineraries.
In Alaska, a six-person team of expedition experts gives lectures anywhere from eight to 11 times per cruise on all kinds of topics including birds, glaciers, bears, local Alaska life and fishing. The team maintain an office just off the show lounge (in the screening room) with books and maps; most days someone is there to answer any questions you might have.
Windstar does offer sporadic culinary-themed cruises in partnership with the James Beard Foundation, which offer extra enrichment opportunities. For example, invited chefs might offer cooking demos and workshops around specific food, such as cheese, while guest sommeliers conduct complimentary wine tastings.
The bars and lounges aboard Star Legend are exceedingly comfortable and well decorated. Nearly everyone turns out for the meet-and-greets and enjoys the bars for pre- and post-dinner cocktails. The line does offer a Premium Beverage Package that costs $116 per cabin per day. It includes unlimited cocktails and beer using select top-shelf brands as well as wine and sparkling wine that are $12 or less on the a la carte menu.
The Lounge (Deck 5, aft): The Lounge has a small stage and dance floor, as well as several levels of comfy chairs and banquettes arrayed around tables. It's where passengers congregate for the welcome-aboard orientation, nightly port talks, crew talent show, the captain's Champagne welcome reception and the captain's farewell. One of the ship's duos entertains before and/or during each of these events. Bartenders circulate through the room and wait staff offer a variety of canapes during port talks and receptions. This is also the place to gather for shore excursions or tenders on shore days.
Compass Rose (Deck 6, aft): With its bar, dance floor and piano, Compass Rose has a clubby feel in the evenings. The vibe is considerably more upbeat during the day, with sunshine streaming in the vast windows and a view of the ship's wake. Decor is modern, yet comfortable, with sofas, leather-upholstered chairs and banquettes scattered with throw pillows. Flameless candles top the tables at night, and a duo entertains. The casino is off to one side, so you can keep an eye on your mate at the blackjack table.
Yacht Club (Deck 8, forward): One of the main gathering spots on Star Legend, the Yacht Club on the top deck is an excellent place to check your email (the Wi-Fi signal is strong here) or read a book, chat with friends, play a board game or enjoy a drink before or after dinner.
The circular room has spectacular views, with nearly 360 degrees of windows looking out the bow and sides of the ship. There are comfy sofas, cocktail tables and chairs, in a blue and beige color scheme with dark wood accents. On the shelves, you'll find a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which might help you explain to your kids or grandkids what life was like pre-internet.
Continental breakfast is served here daily, and sandwiches, desserts and coffee are available throughout the afternoon. In the evenings, bartenders will bring you beverages from the nearby Star Bar, and coffee, tea and espresso drinks are available from the resident barista until 6 p.m.
Star Bar (Deck 8, midship): The Star Bar is located on an open deck, and is therefore popular for sail-aways. Drinks like the daily specials (priced around $8) flow easily and there are tables, chairs and deck loungers from which to watch the world go by. Several tables are outfitted with ashtrays, as this is the designated smoking area on the ship. One of the ship's duos entertains here in the afternoons and evenings. On Alaska sailings, you might also find a late afternoon treat such as reindeer goulash (complimentary) or mulled wine (which carried an extra cost).
One area that Windstar tackled during Star Legend's refurbishment was the pool area on Deck 7. The line actually removed the original pool and replaced it with a small, rectangular swim-against-the-current splash pool; it's about the size of two hot tubs combined. Right next to it is the hot tub, which was used more frequently than the tiny pool on our cruise. There is a second, more private, hot tub on Deck 5, forward. Those with limited mobility should note that entry to both hot tubs and the pool are up several steps from the deck.
There are plenty of cushioned loungers by the pool -- some shaded by the overhang of the Sun Deck -- as well as on the Sun Deck, just up a flight of stairs. The Sun Deck on Deck 8 was widened during the ship's recent refurbishment and is outfitted with plenty of comfortable lounge chairs, tables and umbrellas. Bartenders from the Star Bar tend to passengers on both decks and made the rounds often throughout the day and early evening.
Star Legend offers an aft marina, equipped with a water sports platform. It's only open on certain warm-weather itineraries where there's an appropriate tender port where authorities permit the from-the-ship activities; for example, it's open once per sailing in Alaska for a polar plunge. When the ship is anchored and weather conditions are right, this is the departure point for kayaks, standup paddle-boards and windsurfers (all at no charge). It's also the place to access the fun floating island from which you can lounge or swim, or get in line to go water skiing.
Complimentary snorkel gear is available from the marina. The ship also offers a beginners' Discover Scuba Diving program on select voyages. Experienced divers just need to bring their certification card and they can join the ship's divemaster on a variety of dives throughout the cruise (again, itinerary permitting).
You can rent bikes by the half day ($15) or full day ($25).
Deck 5 is home to Reception, which houses the purser's desk, as well as the shore excursion office. A library is on Deck 6, midship, and offers two computers and a printer plus a variety of books ranging from novels to travel guides. This is also the place to go to select a DVD to watch in your room (we found few recently released options; for those, look to the movies offered on in-room TV). If you do find a movie you'd like to watch, head one flight down to the Reception Desk to pick up the DVD; it's a free service.
Also on Deck 6 is the small Signature Shop that carries Windstar-branded hats and T-shirts, as well as jewelry, apparel and sundries. One nice feature of the shop is that you'll find items collected from the ship's recent ports of call. For example, in Alaska, you might have the option of purchasing gold nuggets or Alaskan handicrafts.
Windstar's internet packages are on the pricy side. There are several plans, which are based on data usage rather than minutes. The Email Plan costs $60 for 200MB of data usage, the Surfing Plan is $120 for 500MB of data usage and the Unlimited Plan's rate varies depending on length of voyage -- from $250 for a seven-day cruise to $490 for a 14-day cruise. If you purchase the Unlimited Plan before sailing, you can use it with two devices; purchased onboard, you can use it with only one.
While any onboard satellite service risks being hit-or-miss at sea, we were generally able to connect to Wi-Fi throughout the ship. We found the strongest Wi-Fi signal in the Yacht Club, which was the best spot for uploading photos or other data-intense tasks. Our tech-savvy mate was extremely impressed with the Wi-Fi speed and service.
You can also access the internet via the computer station in the Yacht Club on Deck 8 or the Library's two computers on Deck 5; Wi-Fi is available in all cabins and throughout the public areas of the ship.
WindSpa is a lovely albeit small oasis on Deck 7, midship. Elemis products and treatments (aroma and hot-stone therapy, Swedish massage, Thai herbal poultice and deep tissue massage) -- are the focus. There are two treatment rooms across from the equally small beauty salon, which offers hair care, shaves, manicures and pedicures, tooth whitening and waxing.
The spa and salon team up to offer money-saving packages for individuals who want to book multiple services. Options included things like a Frangipani scalp massage, phyto hair conditioning treatment, facial, hand and arm massage, foot and ankle massage, paraffin wax hand treatment, booster eye treatment and sunglow makeover, with three treatments costing $59, four for $60 and five for $79. Several other 75-minute spa packages were also available. If you enjoy splurging on spa treatments, you'll get a lot for your money at WindSpa.
The gym is attached to the WindSpa; while small, it's outfitted with exercise gear such as stationary bikes, free weights and treadmills. Morning yoga and Pilates classes are also offered on a complimentary basis, and an afternoon class was offered during one sea day.
Unlike many small ships, Star Legend actually has a nice Sun Deck (Deck 8) that is wide enough to allow for power walking and jogging without getting in the way of early morning loungers.
There is no formal kids club onboard; there's not even an informal play area. Children under 7 years of age are not allowed on Windstar ships. Older kids that don't need to be constantly entertained can board the ship with their parents, but the atmosphere might not be appropriate for most children or teens who might long for more organized daytime and nighttime activities as well as the company of people their own age.
That being said, Star Legend does have six cabins with a sofa bed that adds a third birth.