4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
Once known solely for its masted ships, Windstar doubled its fleet with the addition of three ex-Seabourn motor yachts. All ships feature itineraries that mix marquee and exotic ports, a variety of dining venues with top-notch cuisine, superb service and the intimacy of small ship cruising.
Whether it's 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit, 310-passenger Wind Surf, or just-added 212-passenger power yachts Star Pride, Star Breeze and Star Legend, all ships feature a luxury-minded 1.5-to-1 passenger-to-crew ratio. On the sailing ships, cabins include Bose SoundDocks, flatscreen televisions, L'Occitane amenities, indulgent bedding, and fresh fruit and flowers.
Each of these vessels also has a sports marina where, in select ports in which the ships are anchored, passengers can engage in water sports like kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, windsailing, paddle-boating and water skiing.
Before joining Windstar, the ex-Seabourn trio underwent refurbishment programs. In particular, Star Breeze and Star Legend received investments of $8.5 million; cabins were refurbished, the line's trademark venues -- from its AmphorA main restaurant to its Compass Rose lounge -- were upgraded, and the pool and sun deck were completely redesigned. Star Pride got the full revamp in 2016.
One of the biggest changes for the line across the fleet is its dining upgrade. Cuisine aims to highlight the local fare of the regions visited, including the Mediterranean, Costa Rica, Asia, Tahiti and the Caribbean. The food is high quality, and extra attention is paid to those with special dietary needs. AmphorA, the ships' main restaurant, serves Continental-focused cuisine in an open-seating setting. Candles Grill offers a steakhouse-style menu, and Stella Bistro, available only on Wind Surf, is a reservation-only French inspired venue. For breakfast and lunch, the intimate Veranda, Windstar Cruises' buffet venue with indoor and outdoor seating, combines made-to-order grilled items with food stations.
The most significant difference between the trio of sailing ships and the newly acquired series of yachts is stateroom size. On Windstar's Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf, standard cabins measure a cozy 188 square feet and have ocean views but no balconies. Views are from porthole-style windows. Bathrooms are compact and shower-only. Wind Surf does offer 360-square-foot suites (essentially two standard cabins put together); one side is a dedicated living room, while the other is a bedroom.
Star Pride, along with its siblings, has more spacious standard cabins, each measuring 277 square feet, with large marble bathrooms that include bathtubs. Thirty-six staterooms have French verandahs -- essentially large picture windows that open. (There's no step-out balcony.)
In all cases, Windstar's small ships create a cozy, intimate cruise experience, but its a la carte pricing strategy -- you'll pay extra for gratuities, cocktails, shore excursions, Wi-Fi, airfare and spa treatments -- means cruise fares fall in the somewhat moderate category, compared with the more-inclusive luxury lines. "Casual elegance" is the designated dress code, and that idea permeates the onboard vibe. Passengers leave ties and formalwear at home in favor of country club casual sportswear, day and night. There are few organized activities and none of the typical cruise line Vegas-style revues.
Windstar passengers tend to be active, well-traveled, well-educated adults of all ages, hailing from North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. They enjoy the more laid-back atmosphere of a smaller ship, the idea of traveling under sail and the unique itineraries that Windstar provides.