Windstar Cruises is an award-winning cruise line that’s 180 degrees from ordinary
- The newly transformed Star Breeze is the first all-suite Star Plus Class yacht to complete her upgrades and is now sailing in the Caribbean; scroll down to read a review from the 19 June cruise.
- Wind Surf returned to service in early August sailing the Mediterranean. Wind Spirit has resumed sailing in Tahiti and Wind Star is delighting guests in the Greek isles.
- While local regulations and ports of call remain fluid, guests are raving about their experience as they’re excited to be exploring in a safe environment where they are pampered and appreciated. The crew is overjoyed to welcome guests back with a big smile and a Windstar wave and these are some guest comments:
“We really loved this holiday and it exceeded our expectations. It was the first cruise after being locked down and we weren’t sure what to expect. But the crew looked after us very well and we thought Windstar pulled out all the stops to give us a good time.”–Neil
“This was our first time on a small ship and we liked the intimate, elegant old-school atmosphere. We’re thankful that it got us out again after such a long lockdown.”—Audrey
“We’re big cruise ship people. We really like that this was small and intimate. You can easily meet and mingle with people on deck. Love the opportunities to go to small ports. We loved it!”—John and Olga
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“You (Windstar) are underselling your staterooms. Your online pictures do not do the cabins justice. It is so spacious and well laid out. When restraint is the only problem you have on vacation, that’s a darn good vacation.” –Robert
“I just love Windstar. I’ve been posting on my Facebook page and telling all of my friends to book vacations. Everything is incredible from our pre-cruise Cruise Tour to the cruise itself. Everything is perfect. The staff is wonderful. I love them.” –Karen
“We think Windstar did a fantastic job on our first sailing after the pandemic. Health precautions were perfect and taken very seriously by everyone.” –Monica and Thomas
Make 2022 cruise plans that will take you through Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, island hopping in the Caribbean or Tahiti, to historic landmarks and little-known places in Portugal, Spain and Morocco, or through Greece and Turkey and the tiny Corinth Canal. Or set those plans a little further out on a 2023 voyage through Japan with an extended Cruise Tour exploring Kyoto.
Windstar re-launched its Caribbean itinerary with a laidback 19 June voyage out of Saint Maarten in the Leeward Islands
Windstar is back in the water, and journalist Maria Sonnenberg details what it was like to cruise on one of the first sailings since the pandemic forced all ships to dock! This also coincided with the inaugural sailing of the newly transformed all-suite Star Breeze, so it was a doubly exciting day for both the guests and crew. Travel as the world re-opens is still fluid and constantly changing due to the current environment and government regulations, but going on a private yacht style cruise makes it totally worth it.
As a crew member of Windstar’s Star Breeze snapped photos, Audrey and Jim Speth exuberantly jumped from the cruise ship’s Watersports Platform into the liquid azure of the Caribbean.
They took the ship’s inaugural cruise after the COVID shutdown as a 35th anniversary present to themselves and were among the small but delighted group of passengers ready to get back to cruising. “We had a great time,” Audrey Speth said.
It is not surprising that Windstar, a boutique cruise line that takes pride in navigating the fascinating nooks and crannies of the world, is among the first to return to the high seas.
Cruisers familiar with the ship might not recognize the sleeker, elegant new Breeze, fresh out of an extreme makeover. Windstar did not allow its ships to languish during the pandemic, but instead made lemonade out of lemons by embarking on a major remodel of the all-suites Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride, half of the company’s fleet of six yachts.
Star Breeze was cut in half by Italy’s Fincantieri shipbuilders, who also lengthened the yacht to add 50 new suites, two innovative restaurants, a reimagined spa/fitness center and an enlarged pool/deck area. Existing suites received new bathrooms, and the Breeze was decked out with new efficient engines.
The stretch brought the total of suites up to 156, a fraction of a large cruise ship’s capacity. Capacity increased from 212 guests to 312, still intimate enough for visiting small ports and hidden harbors around the world.
Cuadro 44, one of the new chef-curated restaurants, brings tapas and modern Spanish cuisine to the high seas, courtesy of the menu created by Anthony Sasso. The wunderkind chef is known for his groundbreaking work at New York restaurant Casa Mono, where he spent 13 years and earned the restaurant a Michelin star 10 times. His connection to Windstar Cruises began in 2018 as guest chef on a James Beard Foundation Culinary Collection themed cruise in the Mediterranean.
The “Cuadro” in the name translates to “Frame” in English. When ships are built, the vessels are mapped out in frames. The restaurant resides inside the Breeze’s Frame 44. Cuadro’s cuisine showcases the coastal areas of Spain, from the northern Cantabrian Sea to the Mediterranean, and features foodie fare such as legendary Jamon Iberico, Pulpo Gallego and Catalonian lamb chops, among others.
Stephen Raichlen of “Project Fire” fame is the impeccable grilling authority behind the menu for the al fresco Star Grill, where the focus is on innovative grilled, smoked and rotisserie fare, paired with craft side dishes and sauces.
While Star Breeze’s inaugural cruise carried its share of hiccups and even a burp or two, it was indicative of the company’s determination to get back to cruising. Docked in Philipsburg, the Star Breeze shone, sleek and crisp. Music, drinks and hors d’oeuvres were abundant at the deck party, as crew members from neighboring ships watched a sight not seen for more than a year.
Cruising in the age of COVID-19 necessitates an attitude for adventure, and a bit of a penchant for the unexpected. Requests for COVID tests, required for embarkation on the Breeze, plus mid-way through the seven-day cruise and as a farewell ritual that would allow re-entry into the United States, arrived as elegantly embossed invitations.
Guests must have completed a full course of the COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks before boarding. A multi-layered sanitizing strategy includes hospital-grade HEPA filters and UV-C ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to filter and disinfect the air, plus electrostatic sprayers to sanitize all surfaces throughout the yacht.
“We were very pleased with all of the protocols that were in place for safety and cleanliness.”
Despite the changes, much remained the same, or actually better, because if medals were given for faultless service, the crew of the Star Breeze would have walked off with the gold award, smiling all the way.
“We’re so glad to have the guests back,” said Jenny, the boutique manager.
For their part, the guests were making up for lost time and didn’t miss an opportunity to bask by the pool and participate in activities such as swimming off the ship’s water sports platform.
Small ships such as the Breeze navigate in smaller — and less populated — harbors, and offer reassurance to guests skittish about mixing in with the hordes of a megaship. “The pandemic has actually helped small ship cruising,” said Steve Simao, Windstar’s vice president of sales. “People prefer not to be around crowds and the ports themselves are shy about getting large crowds of people.”
Star Breeze will transit the Panama Canal en route to Tahiti in September, where it will join one of the company’s sailing ships, Wind Spirit already cruising the enchanted South Pacific. Other Windstar yachts are sailing the Greek islands and Mediterranean.
The pandemic may well serve to showcase the charms of these well-appointed communal yachts, where guests are individuals, not just part of a huge crowd.
“This was our first time on a smaller ship, and we liked the intimate, old-school elegant atmosphere,” Speth said. “We are thankful that they got us out again after such a long lockdown.”
Maria Sonnenberg is a Melbourne-based freelance travel and lifestyles writer.
View your Windstar Voyage Collection travel guide here and discover a world 180 degrees from ordinary that’s awaiting you.
Windstar continues to review and update their health and safety practices including enhanced sanitation protocols, COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all guests and crew, additional medical staff on board, and more. Their new Beyond Ordinary Care Program is a multi-layered strategy with key hospital-grade elements: HEPA filters and UV-C germicidal irradiation to filter and disinfect circulated air, plus electrostatic sprayers to sanitize all surfaces throughout our yachts. Learn more about these measures here.
We look forward to hearing from you and helping you plan your ideal holiday – 021 434 9394