Review of Windstar
One of the industry's small cruise lines, Windstar Cruises is a passenger shipping company operating a fleet of small-sized luxury vessels. Largest Windstar yachts carry up to 310 passengers. The company offers exotic itineraries visiting around 150 ports of call throughout the Caribbean, Central America, Asia, South Pacific (Australia) and Europe.
In May 2014, Windstar Cruises added to its fleet of sailing yachts the Star Pride power yacht, which was followed by Star Breeze and Star Legend (May 2015). The additional capacity resulted in new itineraries such as cruises to Panama Canal, Costa Rica and Iceland, and allowed Windstar to sail Tahiti year round. The line is named World’s Best Small Ship Cruise Line by 2014 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
Windstar was established in 1984 as Windstar Sail Cruises, and its first ship, Wind Star was launched in 1986, followed by Wind Song in 1987 and Wind Spirit in 1988. Two additional cruise ships were ordered from "Sociéte Nouvelle de Ateliers et Chantiers du Havre" shipyard in France: Wind Saga and Wind Surf. These two were to be bigger than the original ones, holding more than twice the amount of cruise passengers and reaching a 660-feet length compared to the smaller, 440-feet vessels.
In 1987, Holland America Line (HAL) purchased 50% of Windstar Sail Cruises and the rest of the company a year later. In 1989 Holland America became a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. & plc. The option to continue building Wind Saga and Wind Surf was passed up by HAL. The French Government assisted in building these two larger ships for Club Med as Club Med I and Club Med II. HAL (Carnival) retained rights of first refusal for purchase. In 1998, Windstar acquired only the sail cruiser Club Med I as the line was unable to purchase both vessels. The ship was rechristened to her original name Wind Surf.
Windstar was sold to Ambassadors International in March 2007, for $100 million. On April 1, 2011 Ambassadors filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Windstar Cruises was planned to be sold to Whippoorwill Associates, Inc. (White Plains, New York). However, through a Bankruptcy court in Delaware, a 2-day bid was held and Windstar was won by Anschutz Corporation with the best bid of $39 Million. Now, the parent company is Subsidiary Xanterra Parks & Resorts.
On February 19, 2013 it was announced that Windstar had completed the purchase of Seabourn's Star Breeze, Star Pride and Star Legend. Star Pride entered service on May 5, 2014 with an inaugural voyage from Barcelona to Rome. Windstar Cruises increased its fleet in May 2015, from four to six yachts, with Star Legend and Star Breeze. Both yachts underwent a 3-week $17 million dry dock in Genoa, before a christening ceremony in May. The 212-passenger Legend and Breeze received stem-to-stern upgrades to all suites, dining venues and public areas.
In 2016, Windstar Cruises scheduled Star Pride yacht's drydock refurbishment at the cost of USD 4,5 million. In the period 2014-2016, the company invested over USD 21,5 million in drydock refits and refurbishments of the newest yachts Pride, Breeze and Legend.
All Windstar Cruises ships feature itineraries that mix exotic and marquee ports, top-notch cuisine and a variety of dining venues, superb service and intimate small ship cruising. All ships of the line feature the luxury-minded 1.5-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio. Windstar cabins include flatscreen televisions, Bose SoundDocks, L'Occitane amenities, fresh fruit, flowers and indulgent bedding.
Each of the ships has a sports marina. In sports in which Windstar vessels are anchored, travelers can engage in water sports like swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, windsailing, water skiing and paddle-boating.
One of the greatest changes for Windstar Cruises, across its fleet is the dining upgrade. Cuisine highlights the local fare of regions visited, including the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Tahiti, Asia and Mediterranean. The food is always the highest quality, with extra attention paid to passengers with special dietary needs. Ships' main restaurant, open-seating AmphorA, serves Continental-focused cuisine. Candles Grill provides a steakhouse-style menu. Stella Bistro, which is available only on board Wind Surf, is a French inspired, reservation-only venue. For breakfast and lunch, intimate Veranda buffet venue, combines food stations with made-to-order grilled items. It features both indoor and outdoor seating.
The most significant difference between Windstar's trio of sailing ships and the series of yachts is their stateroom size. On Windstar's Wind Spirit, Wind Surf and Wind Star, standard cabins measure just 188 sq.feet and have no verandas. Views are provided from porthole-style windows. Wind Surf offers 360-sq.foot suites which essentially are two standard cabins put together.
Star Pride and her siblings feature more spacious cabins, each measuring 277 sq.feet, with nice marble bathrooms including bathtubs. 36 of the staterooms have French balconies (large picture windows that open).
Windstar's "small ship" vacations create an intimate cruising experience, but the company's a la carte pricing strategy (unlike most luxury cruise lines) means passengers have to pay extra for airfare, shore excursions, beverages, fitness classes. The designated dress code is "Casual elegance", and that idea overtakes the onboard vibe. Cruisers leave formalwear at home in favor of day and night country club casual sportswear. Few are the organized activities and none of the typical Vegas-style revues.
Windstar Cruises passengers tend to be well-educated, well-traveled and active adults of all ages, hailing from the U.K., North America, Australia and New Zealand. They enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of a smaller cruise ship, the unique itineraries provided by Windstar, and the chance to travel under sail.
For season James Beard Foundation (NYC-based US national non-profit culinary arts organization) launched "Culinary Collection" series of all eight Windstar cruise itineraries. Fleetwide, Windstar launched the James Beard culinary program with exclusive menus created by guest chefs (including Hugh Acheson, Renee Erickson, Andy Ricker, Mario Pagan, Keith Rhodes). As special onboard guests, they were booked on 2018 themed voyages, also presenting (on rotating basis) their original food recipes on the ships' menus throughout 2018.
- The first "James Beard cruise" was themed "Icons of Southeast Asia" (January 20, 2018 / 14-day Hong Kong to Bangkok on Star Legend). Chef Andy Ricker presented Thai cuisine specialties. Each night, he served a signature dish in the ship's AmphorA dining room restaurant. He also hosted private cooking demonstration.
- The James Beard cruise ship menus are ticket price inclusive (at no additional charge).
Itinerary of Windstar
Windstar Cruises did a lot of changes to its fleet deployment. In May 2017, the company announced 8 new itineraries in Northern Europe plus 12 new Mediterranean itineraries, to the total of 40 voyages in 2018. A total of 26 new European ports were included, increasing the fleet's global number of maiden ports for 2018 to 93.
The sailings, which run from April through October, include “small ship-only” experiences, such as cruising the narrow Trollfjord in Lofoten Islands, docking downtown London (close to Tower of London / Tower Bridge) or tucking into San Remo (Italy’s Monte Carlo). Windstar's all-suite yachts are perfectly suited to sailing into small harbors and fjords, and larger distances at higher speed.
In 2018 there are also new cruises in Alaska, Canada New England.
Windstar Alaska cruises 2018
Beginning 2018, Windstar Cruises will base in Alaska its 212-passenger ship Star Legend (homeported in Vancouver BC Canada). The ship will operate on 3 different itineraries in the period May through August.
- 11- and 12-day one-ways from Vancouver to Seward Alaska
- 14-day from Seward AK to Vancouver BC
- 12-day round-trip cruises from Vancouver
- Each Alaskan cruise on Star Legend includes scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord and Misty Fjords, the latter of which are rarely visited by cruise ships. As these itineraries are longer than the region's typical 1-week long ones, the ship will offer more time lingering nearer the Alaskan and Canadian coastlines. Most itineraries also include Inside Passage.
- Star Legend carries a fleet of sea kayaks and Zodiacs, used for sightseeing excursions and landings from the ship directly.
Windstar also plans to offer Alaskan cruisetour deals with pre- and post voyage land extensions.
The company's "Signature Expedition" Alaskan program was also introduced in 2018. The program offers themed activities led by onboard experts (including naturalists, geologists, historians) who during the entire voyge provide passengers with information on Alaska's wildlife, glaciers, flora and fauna. The list of available for booking "Signature Expedition" cruisetours includes seakayaking (from USD 170 pp), zodiac boat tours (from USD 40 pp) and guided hiking tours (from USD 150 pp).
Windstar Asia cruises 2017-2018
The cruise line's itinerary program expansion brings a ship to Asia for season 2017-2018 - Star Legend - deployed there for the winter season. The luxury yacht will sail from Thailand, Malaysia Singapore, China, all the way up to South Korea and Japan. The new itineraries are the result of passenger feedback. Asia was among the most requested destinations in surveys of Windstar's loyalty program members.
Star Legend will make use of its small size to get into smaller waterways and ports and employ its water sports platform for swimming, snorkeling, standup paddleboarding and other activities. Destination-focused options include food market tours (with the ship's chefs), local onboard entertainment and lecturers, signature private beach days in exotic places.
Itineraries are mostly 14 days in length, with embarkation and debarkation in big port cities - like Singapore, Hong Kong, Yokohama (Tokyo). Travelers can also book B2Bs / back-to-back cruises without repeating ports.
Sea days are limited but spaced out to give passengers a break from land tours and port visits.. Windstar also offers pre- and post-cruise packages to places like Cambodia's Angkor Wat and and Burma's Bagan and Yangon.
Windstar related cruise news
James Beard Foundation launched its Culinary Collection series of eight 2017-2018 voyages onboard small luxury cruise line Windstar. On its fleet...January 14, 2018
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Windstar Cruises goes on with the changes to its deployment. The cruise line announced 8 new itineraries in Northern Europe plus 12 new...May 23, 2017
Windstar Cruises announced its return to Alaska for the first time in 2 decades. Beginning 2018, the cruise line will base its 212...March 19, 2017
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