(8:45 a.m. EST) -- Windstar Cruises' ambitious “Star Treatment Project,” an $18-million investment meant to transform its three-ship fleet, is nearly complete. The program, the largest in the cruise line's 26-year life span, primarily has focused on cosmetic upgrades to the nearly identical duo of 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit, and also to its 310-passenger Wind Surf.
In a press conference held onboard Wind Surf this weekend to celebrate its completion, Hans Birkholz, president and CEO, discussed the changes, including:
On Windsurf, the Yacht Club, its coffee bar/delicatessen/wine bar/library, is the ship's indoor hub with fresh new touches, from comfortable leather chairs with iPhone docks that connect to high-end headphones to the all-day food and drink service.
In AmphorA, the completely redesigned main dining venue, linen, cutlery and crystal are all new and the ambience is elegant rather than sporty as it was before the redesign (when it was known simply as The Restaurant). “Guests are now dressing up a little bit more to dine in AmphorA,” Birkholz told Cruise Critic, “and it shows that it's a bit more special of an experience.” He also added that Windstar does remain true to its resort casual vibe even with the upgrading of the venue.
All staterooms have received major overhauls, cosmetically anyway, with beds dressed in high quality linens, Eurotop mattresses, and leather headboards. Flat screen televisions, DVD players (with a nice selection of free-to-borrow films available in the library), and new lighting, including table lamps, that vastly improve the ambience of cabins, are other additions. It's important to note, however that built-in furnishings have not changed. Nor have bathrooms been part of the upgrade which while feeling yacht-like (a euphemism for cozy) do have roomy round showers with excellent water pressure.
Newly introduced on Wind Surf are two new eateries. Stella Bistro (where Degrees once was located) focuses on French fare (serving marvelous duck confit or duck cassoulet, and for dessert, chocolate fondue). Candles Grill, a steakhouse (which is available on Wind Spirit and Wind Star as well), is situated by the pool.
Also completing its overhaul is Wind Star, which underwent its public space and cabin refurbishment in April. When Wind Spirit arrives in Barbados for its Caribbean season on December 22, it too will have completed the major revamp.
All three ships got brand new sails (stretched out completely, they represent a combined size of seven football fields). The sight of Windstar's ships, when sails are unfurled and the vessels are traveling only under natural power, is one of its most iconic signature features. Not to mention their environmentally-friendly aspect.
Windstar Cruises, as Cruise Critic has reported, has undergone a major transformation itself in the past two years. The company has had four owners since it was founded in 1984. The first, which created the line, was an independent company, which sold the line to Holland America. It operated Windstar for almost 20 years, before it was acquired by Los Angeles-based Ambassadors International.
In 2011, Windstar was purchased by Colorado-based Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a subsidiary of Anschutz Corporation, and is helmed by Birkholz, who at one time was president of the well-known Moorings. Immediately upon acquiring Windstar Xanterra began planning for the massive fleet upgrade.
Wind Surf was originally built in 1990 as Club Med 1 before being acquired by Windstar in 1998. The overhaul took place partly during a five-day wetdock in Portugal and then partly while on its Atlantic repositioning.
The line -- which received Cruise Critic's Editor's Picks Award for best line for honeymooners this year -- will be sticking to its adults-only roots: “We're an adult-friendly cruise line," Birkholz confirmed.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief, and Teijo Niemela, Cruise Critic Contributor
--Photo appears courtesy of Teijo Niemela.