On Saturday, February 27, we’ll begin another exciting Live Voyage Report as we sail aboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze through Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. It’s an incredible itinerary; one that will take us from Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica to Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park; Bahia Drake’s Corcovado National Park; Golfo Duce; the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Isla de Coiba – all before a spectacular (and very rare) evening transit of the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal.
But an equally great marvel of engineering and human spirit is the Star Breeze, one of three motor-yachts recently acquired by the formerly all-sail Windstar Cruises. So how does a cruise line move from being primarily rooted in the world of wind power to one with ships that can explore nearly every corner of the planet? Very carefully.
Before our voyage begins, I want to tell you about the Star Breeze – where she’s been, what changes have been made, and why she’s the perfect vessel to embody Windstar’s personalized style of cruising.
Star Breeze began her life in 1989 as Seabourn Spirit, the second launch vessel for the then-newly-formed Seabourn Cruise Line; an upstart cruise line founded by industry vet Atle Byrnestad that intended to use the fledgling line to enter the luxury cruise market. Originally, Seabourn was to have been called Signet, but that name was scrapped early on after Signet Oil registered a complaint.
The sister to Seabourn Pride and, later, Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Spirit served Seabourn for more than 20 years. During that time, however, she was continually refitted. French balconies were added, as the ship’s original oceanview-only accommodations were falling out of style in the late 1990’s. Certain features were removed, while others were added.
As built, the Seabourn trio featured an underwater observation room known as the Nautilus Room, where 16 people at a time could look “under the sea” through reinforced glass windows. Another early feature was a special stargazing platform that featured high-powered telescopes. Both features were removed during their tenure with Seabourn.
One feature that wasn’t removed were the ship’s retractable marina platforms mounted at the stern, which have been heavily copied ever since. This fits in perfectly with the Windstar mantra; each of the line’s existing three sail-motor ships includes a retractable marina.
Seabourn Spirit, Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Legend were sold in bulk to Windstar Cruises, which acquired the three ships in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The latter two became Star Pride and Star Legend when they entered service for Windstar. Recently refitted by Seabourn before their transfers, Windstar didn’t really have much work to do to the public spaces and staterooms onboard – but the line chose to embark on a multi-million dollar refitting campaign that would make each of these three vessels unmistakably theirs.
During her transformation from Seabourn Spirit to Star Breeze, Windstar drydocked their newest acquisition in Genoa, Italy for a three week, $8.5-million refurbishment on April 15, 2015.
At the time of the acquisition, Windstar Cruises CEO Hans Birkholz remarked that the refit was necessary to better brand their newest vessels. “Star Breeze and Star Legend will receive a full stem-to-stern transformation, more than doubling the investment that was spent on Star Pride’s original enhancements [in 2014],” he said. “We learned a lot about our guests’ preferences with the debut of Star Pride last year. We are taking their feedback and giving them what they want with the launch of these two all-suite yachts.”
The refit was extensive. The ship’s uppermost deck, Star Deck, was widened by four feet on either side to allow more space for deck loungers and viewing opportunities. In one swift stroke, Windstar had corrected a design flaw that had resulted in cramped upper deck space for the ship’s entire career with Seabourn.
Windstar also axed features that weren’t befitting of their grand ambitions for the ship, replacing two outdated hot tubs with a modern swim-against-the-current pool and nixing the under-utilized pool beneath the twin funnels in favor of an attractive outdoor seating and dining area.
Carpeting was replaced throughout the ship, as was signage and much of the soft furnishings. New wall treatments were added, and new artwork hung. Except for the ship’s physical design and general arrangement, few traces of her Seabourn past can be seen today – and that’s a good thing.
We’ll be taking you on a deck-by-deck Photo Tour of the transformed Star Breeze during our week onboard.
One thing that Star Breeze and her sisters did for Windstar was to allow the line to branch out to offer more destinations than ever before; regions that may not be well-suited to sailing ships, or itineraries that required a higher top speed than Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf could reach.
In addition to her Costa Rica and Panama itineraries that continue through April of this year, Star Breeze offers sailings in the Mediterranean beginning with her April 30, 2016 voyage from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Lisbon. Her season in Europe’s warm embrace ends with her November 2, 2016 “Spanish Serenade” itinerary that takes her from Barcelona to Lisbon.
Join us on Saturday, February 27 for a week sailing through two very unique countries and exploring all that they – and Windstar’s sleek Star Breeze – have to offer.
|February 27, 2016||Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica||Embark||6:00 PM|
|February 28||Quepos, Costa Rica||7:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|February 29||Bahia Drake, Costa Rica||7:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|March 1||Golfo Duce, Costa Rica||8:00 AM||4:00 PM|
|March 2||Isla de Coiba, Panama||7:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|March 3||Balboa, Panama||5:00 PM||Overnight|
|March 4||Balboa, Panama / Transit Panama Canal||Overnight||1:00 PM |
Enter Canal: 5:00 PM
|March 5||Colon, Panama||7:00 AM||Disembark|
Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze will begin Saturday, February 27 as we embark our ship in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.