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.
The Romance of Sail: Wind Star, Wind Spirit, Wind Surf
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.
The Power Revolution: Star Breeze, Star Legend, Star Pride
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.
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 performed to Star Breeze and Star Legend was extensive. On each vessel, the 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 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-utilised 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.
Whether in the Greek Isles, the Mediterranean, the Baltics, Central America, or the Caribbean, Windstar’s itineraries are port-intensive, usually with just one day spent at sea. On board, there are few organized activities to distract you from daydreams. What activities there are include things like fitness classes and a nightly cocktail hour where the ship’s hosts fill you in on the next day’s port. When the ships are able to anchor offshore, the crew may lower a water sports platform from the stern, from which guests can go waterskiing, windsurfing, or kayaking. Entertainment is generally limited to music in the lounges, though once per cruise members of the crew put on a show highlighting music and dance from their home countries. Each of the ships also has a small casino, plus both indoor and outdoor bar/lounges.
Dining aboard Windstar
Dining is one of the highlights of any Windstar cruise, with dinners served in the ship’s comfortable main restaurant, which operates on a casual, open-seating basis — just show up when you’re ready during mealtimes and the maitre d’ will seat you. The fleet’s largest ship, Wind Surf, also offers a Mediterranean bistro called Degrees and two outdoor, alfresco venues: Candles for steaks and skewers and Le Marché for seafood. Fleetwide, breakfast and lunch are served in the buffet-style Veranda Cafe, and the Yacht Club offers specialty sandwiches, fruit, and other snacks throughout the morning and afternoon.
Due to the small size of these ships, and their focus on providing a relaxed, adult atmosphere, there are no dedicated activities or play spaces for kids. Generally speaking, you’ll find very few children on any particular sailing, even during school holidays.
Articles About Windstar Cruises
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- Avid Cruiser’s Q&A With Windstar Captain James Griffiths
- Windstar Returns to Asia with 7 Sailings from September 2018 to April 2019
- Wind Surf 51-day Grand Mediterranean Cruise Announced for 2019
- Windstar Will Continue Partnership with James Beard Foundation in 2018
- Windstar Cruises Debuts Signature Expeditions in Alaska
- A Dream Itinerary on Windstar’s Star Legend
- Windstar’s Flagship Vessel Receives New Set of Sails
- Windstar Repositions Select Caribbean Itineraries to Barbados
- Windstar Debuts New 2017 and 2018 Asia Itineraries
- Windstar Launches New Star Collector Voyages
- Windstar Adds New Itineraries for 2018 Sailings
- Alaska By Small Ship
- Windstar Returns to Alaska in 2018
- Tasty Cruising Ahead: Windstar Named James Beard Foundation’s Official Cruise Line
- The New Windstar Cruises
- Cruising Costa Rica With Windstar President John Delaney
- Updated: Our Star Pride Review
- Star Pride Rejoins Windstar Fleet Following Refurbishment
- Star Legend Ship Review
- Upper Premium Cruises Defined
- Star Breeze Ship Review
- Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 7
- Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 5
- Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 4
- Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 3
- Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 2
- Star Breeze Live Voyage Report – Day 1
- Updated: Our Wind Star Ship Profile
- Updated: Our Windstar Cruises Profile
- Live Voyage Report Preview: Sailing Windstar Cruises Star Breeze Through Panama & Costa Rica
- Five Things That I Enjoy About Crossing The Atlantic
- Sailing East: A Look at Cruising in Asia in 2014
- Featherweights: Best Small Ships Carrying 600 Or Fewer Passengers
- Is Silversea Becoming An Expedition Company? Plus Windstar’s New Tack & Designed In 2008? Regent’s New Ship
- Only Six Months Away, Windstar To Launch The First Of Its New “Motor Yachts”
- Caribbean Cruising, Winter 2013/14, A Sampler Of Offerings
- 9 Questions For The Avid Cruiser, Tips For Successful Cruises, Family Cruising & More
- Five Reasons Why I Prefer Cruising On Small Ships
- Two Caribbeans: Which Suits You Best? Big Ship Or Small Ship?
- Islands In The Stream: What Is Your Preference? Big Caribbean Island Or Small Island?
- The Caribbean’s Most Up and Coming Cruise Ports
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- Big Ship? Small Ship? Which Is Better For Your Caribbean Cruise?
- Still Sailing On Wind Spirit: Live Voyage Report – The Last Day
- Wind Spirit From Stockholm: Aaron Saunders’ Live Voyage Report – Day 2
- Avid Cruiser Far & Wide: Ralph Grizzle Reports From Canada While Aaron Saunders Sails From Stockholm
- 10 Reasons To Cruise Over The Winter Holidays
- Women At The Helm: Windstar Cruises
- Wind Surf Question Of The Day: Will You Marry Me?
- View From Wind Surf: Breakfast In Corsica
- On Board Wind Surf: Tastings From One Of The World’s Top Wineries
- Wind Surf: Best Parking Place In Portoferraio
- Choose Your Cruise Style: Sailing Ships
- Leave The Cruise Feeling Better Than When You Started
- Windstar exclusive: Dinner at the Arasta garden of Ephesus Museum
- Ship Inspection: Wind Surf
- A Roundup of Cruise Bargains
- explore, dream, discover
- Something About Jerry
- A Few Good Men
- Luxury Cruise Report: Update & Trends
- Back-To-Back On Windstar
- Who Needs Balconies?
- Standard Staterooms Measure Up
- The Yacht Club
- Chasing The Wind
- The Sails Aren’t Just For Show
- Wind Surf’s Back to Back Caribbean
- Wind Surf’s Out-Of-The-Way Ports
- Checking In: Wind Surf’s New Suites
- Vintage Interview with (Then) Windstar Cruises’ Diane Moore