Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 4

Costa Rica Dazzles One Last Time

Dolphins in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica, put on quite the show for our Dolphin Watching excursion this morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Dolphins in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica, put on quite the show for our Dolphin Watching excursion this morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

As usual, Windstar CruisesStar Breeze dropped anchor this morning in another gorgeous little bay off the shores of Costa Rica. Today, we find ourselves yachting around Golfo Dulce, near Corcovado National Park and the town of Puerto Jimenez. Puerto Jimenez is decidedly larger than some of the other towns we’ve anchored adjacent to; a collection of prop-planes has been zipping into and out of some hidden airport in the jungle all day.

The elegant Star Breeze... Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
The elegant Star Breeze… Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
...at anchor this morning in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
…at anchor this morning in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

As our Star Breeze voyage progresses, I’m convinced it has more in common with classic expedition cruising than some of the line’s other itineraries. That’s a good thing: expedition cruises are immersive experiences that are designed to take travellers to off-the-beaten-path destinations. This weeklong itinerary, with three ports of call in Costa Rica and four ports in Panama, is just that: an immersive experience. You won’t find duty-free shopping, but you will find an enormous connection with nature.

Today, I explored that connection with nature by taking Windstar’s four-hour Dolphin Watch excursion. At $139 per person, it would spend three hours cruising the waters off the Osa Peninsula – a place named by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense area on earth.”

Watching for dolphins on our excursion that departed bright and early this morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Watching for dolphins on our excursion that departed bright and early this morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
...we didn't have to wait long. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
…we didn’t have to wait long. Star Breeze is in the background. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

National Geographic got it right, at least in terms of the dolphins: we saw dozens upon dozens. After teasing us with a lack of sightings for 30 minutes, they came out in droves, dancing, playing and chasing the ship through the small wavelets that graced the otherwise calm surface of the water.

As if the dolphin encounters weren’t impressive enough, we were fortunate to spend another hour on a remote, pristine beach before heading back onboard Star Breeze. The ocean water was hotter than I’d draw my bath; it felt like taking a dip in nature’s whirlpool.

Some images of what was an excursion to remember:

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Our excursion also included a brief stop...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Our excursion also included a brief stop…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
...on a remote and secluded beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
…on a remote and secluded beach. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
The ocean water was ridiculously warm. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
The ocean water was ridiculously warm. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I also have great news to report for water lovers: the watersports platform at the stern of Star Breeze was put into action this morning, and guests took full advantage of it, playing in the waters off the stern, paddle boarding around the ocean, and kayaking in the shadow of our luxurious yacht.

Heading back to the ship...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Heading back to the ship…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
...the Star Breeze's marina platform was opened! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
…the Star Breeze’s marina platform was opened! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Guests kayak in the shadow of the Star Breeze. Not a bad way to spend a morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Guests kayak in the shadow of the Star Breeze. Not a bad way to spend a morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the Star Breeze – which, for me, means running around taking photographs and writing. Still, I put that time to good use: I drew up a list of five things I’m loving about Star Breeze:

The Crew

The fantastic crew of the Star Breeze perform in the Crew Talent Show tonight. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
The fantastic crew of the Star Breeze perform in the Crew Talent Show tonight. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I know I keep mentioning the crew of the Star Breeze, but they deserve to be mentioned again: they’re fantastic. The level of engagement and interaction with the guests is on par with what I’d expect from an ultra-luxury line, and definitely exceeds my expectations.

Cozy Interior Spaces

Grab a seat! The Compass Rose Lounge on Deck 6, like the rest of Star Breeze, is nothing if not cozy. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Grab a seat! The Compass Rose Lounge on Deck 6, like the rest of Star Breeze, is nothing if not cozy. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

There’s no getting around it: from the Yacht Club on Deck 8 to the AmphorA Restaurant on Deck 3, this is one cozy ship. My favorite go-to spots are tied between the Compass Rose Lounge on Deck 6 aft and the Yacht Club on Deck 8.

Wide, Open Decks

Sunset this evening aboard Star Breeze. Finding a favorite spot at the rail (or a favorite deck chair) is never an issue. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Sunset this evening aboard Star Breeze. Finding a favorite spot at the rail (or a favorite deck chair) is never an issue. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

You’ll never have to fight for deck space here onboard the Star Breeze. Deck chairs are plentiful and the extended overhangs on Deck 8 ensure that shaded options are always available adjacent to the pools on Deck 7. Forward overlooks are available on Decks 8, 7, and 4; and aft observation areas are available on Deck 8, 7 (in the Veranda), 6, and 5. If that’s not enough, you can always splurge for a suite with a French balcony, available in Categories BS and BS1.

Spacious Suites

The verdict is in: this is one of the coziest suites, hands-down. I particularly like the separated seating area, shown above. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
The verdict is in: this is one of the coziest suites, hands-down. I particularly like the separated seating area, shown above. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Most suites – my run-of-the-mill Oceanview suite included – measure a spacious 277 square feet. The largest suites onboard – the Owner’s Suites – clock in at 575 square feet. But my Oceanview suite is so well-designed, it feels substantially larger than it is. Credit here goes to a spectacular seating area that features two chairs, a side table, a coffee table, and a full-sized couch; all of which is graced with perfectly-positioned lighting. A dual-vanity, marble-clad bathroom doesn’t hurt either. The result is suites that feel decidedly luxurious, even at the entry-level grades.

It's All New: Seabourn may have designed the basic suite layout, but the touches you see here - including the soft furnishings, bedding, lighting, backboard and reading lights, are all Windstar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
It’s All New: Seabourn may have designed the basic suite layout, but the touches you see here – including the soft furnishings, bedding, lighting, backboard and reading lights, are all Windstar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

But, I hear you say, Seabourn designed the suites. Not Windstar. True – and false. Seabourn designed the suites back in 1989, but Windstar has made significant improvements to them. The padded bedside headboard, reading lights, accent lamps, new furniture, new carpeting, new LG flat-panel television system – those were all added last year, after Windstar acquired Seabourn Spirit and transformed her into Star Breeze.

The ‘New’ Windstar

Star Breeze and her sisters represent the beginning of an entirely new chapter for Windstar Cruises. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Star Breeze and her sisters represent the beginning of an entirely new chapter for Windstar Cruises. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Years ago, you could comfortably describe Windstar as a ‘niche’ line. That line with the sails, you’d tell people. Truth is, ever since Windstar was launched, the line has had a tortured path to success. Holland America Line, which owned Windstar for twenty years, didn’t know what the heck to do with the line. Wind Surf, Windstar’s largest sailing ship, was originally destined for the line before being passed up by Holland America and acquired by Club Med. Windstar had to buy her back in 1998, but never did get the second ship, which sails as Club Med II to this day. The same goes for Ambassadors International, which acquired Windstar in 2007 only to nearly bankrupt the company four years later.

This evening, we made a technical stop in Costa Rica for passport clearances (taken care of by the ship's Officers) before departing and charting a course for Panama. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
This evening, we made a technical stop in Costa Rica for passport clearances (taken care of by the ship’s Officers) before departing and charting a course for Panama. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Xanterra Parks and Resorts picked up Windstar in 2011 and immediately injected a flood of cash into the line. The sailing vessels – Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surfwere remodeled and upgraded. Itineraries were revamped. Marketing was changed. A new logo brand was rolled out.

And then – Windstar purchased the original “Seabourn Trio” – Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit, Seabourn Legend. Heavily refitted them, to the point where interiors were ripped out and major structural changes made to their upper decks.

Sunset over the hills of Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Sunset over the hills of Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

In just one year, Windstar effectively doubled its entire fleet, guest capacity and route structure – and acquired three former luxury cruise ships in the process. No longer niche, Windstar now has more in common with upscale luxury lines – it finally has the routes and the ships to compete on the global stage. Wind Spirit returned to sail Tahiti. The “Power Yachts” (Star Breeze, Star Legend, Star Pride) were deployed in areas where the sailing vessels can’t go.

In essence, it’s a brand-new Windstar.

Goodbye, Costa Rica.

Star Breeze sets sail. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Star Breeze sets sail. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tonight, we’re leaving Costa Rica behind, setting out clocks one hour ahead in anticipation of our first Panamanian port of call tomorrow. It promises to be a good one; the location of our Complimentary Windstar Private Event: a day of beachside fun and frivolity, complete with watersports activities and an on-shore barbecue spectacular.

It’s hard to beat a Wednesday like that.

Tonight's Goodnight Towel Animal. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
Tonight’s Goodnight Towel Animal. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Star Breeze - Costa Rica & Panama

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
February 27, 2016Puerto Caldera, Costa RicaEmbark6:00 PM
February 28Quepos, Costa Rica7:00 AM6:00 PM
February 29Bahia Drake, Costa Rica7:00 AM5:00 PM
March 1Golfo Duce, Costa Rica8:00 AM4:00 PM
March 2Isla de Coiba, Panama7:00 AM6:00 PM
March 3Balboa, Panama5:00 PMOvernight
March 4Balboa, Panama / Transit Panama CanalOvernight 1:00 PM
Enter Canal: 5:00 PM
March 5Colon, Panama7:00 AMDisembark

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze continues tomorrow from our exclusive private Windstar event on Isla de Coiba, Panama! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

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