The Windstar Cruises story began in 1984, prompted by a new ship design by Finnish shipbuilding firm Wartsila. The idea was called the Windcruiser, and it was like nothing else in the market: a vessel that combined standard diesel engines with several huge, computer-controlled staysails, which could propel the vessels on their own or work in concert with the engines, helping to save fuel. The fact that they add an air of romance to the cruise experience didn’t hurt, either, and that may be the word that still describes Windstar best to this day. For a romantic cruise, you can’t go wrong with a Windstar cruise.
After flirting with bankruptcy in 2011, Windstar was purchased by Xanterra Resorts, which immediately injected a lifeline of much-needed improvements to the line. Ships were dramatically upgraded, itineraries were retooled, and runs that had once been abandoned – like picturesque Tahiti – were brought back to life. Under the direction of CEO Hans Birkholz, Windstar has undergone a remarkable transformation that has arguably left this niche cruise line at the best point in the history of the company.
Historically, Windstar Cruises operated a fleet of three ships: Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf. All three feature gorgeous white sails that are used as frequently as possible, though the ship’s diesel propulsion is regularly used to maintain itineraries. Each of these vessels was given a dramatic makeover between 2012 and 2013, emerging with redesigned public rooms, refreshed staterooms, and a new onboard color palette, artwork, and upgraded culinary offerings.
In 2013, Windstar announced it would be purchasing three luxury cruise ships from Seabourn Cruises: Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Spirit. Renamed Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride, they were delivered to Windstar Cruises between 2014 and 2015, and each underwent a substantial refurbishment intended to bring them in-line with the line’s existing fleet.
Windstar Cruises is one of a handful of cruise lines operating a fleet of small ships that offer the amenities of a premium cruise experience but with one utterly distinctive difference: These ships have sails.
Aside from sails, Windstar’s hallmarks have remained consistent throughout its quarter-century history and through four different corporate owners: It’s a line that sails in beautiful, exotic locations; it provides great service and excellent dining; and its onboard vibe is completely casual and unregimented — no dress code, no loud onboard activities, no stress.
Wind Star and Wind Spirit are the line’s two smallest vessels, with passenger capacities of just 148 guests apiece. Wind Surf, built in 1990, is larger and can carry 330 guests.
Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride are Windstar’s latest acquisitions. Each underwent a multi-million-dollar refit before entering service for Windstar between 2014 and 2015.
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