Windstar

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Windstar fleet

Review of Windstar

Windstar is a cruise ship line operating a fleet of small luxury vessels. Its six yachts carry just up to 310 guests and call at 150 ports throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South Pacific 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 is planning a continuation of Star Pride's renovation, which will cost $3 million and includes the completion of AmphorA remodel, total renovation of the Screening Room, reception, and others. In 2014 the ship received a partial overhaul.

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 cruise ships create an intimate cruise experience, but the a la carte pricing strategy of the line, unlike luxury lines, means that guests have to pay extra for airfare, shore excursions, cocktails and fitness classes, meaning that cruise fares fall in the moderate category. 

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.

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