CruiseClout score: 95.0
Wind Star: Yacht-like sailings in the Caribbean & Mediterranean
Sailing on any of the trio of petite four-masted tall sail ships from Windstar Cruises is like living a fantasy — especially when you cruise in French Polynesia or any other tropical paradise. The ships Wind Star and Wind Spirit (both with 148 passengers) and Wind Surf (310 guests) are especially popular with active, sophisticated sorts who enjoy being out on the open sea watching the computer-controlled billowy masts blowing in the wind.
Unlike the mega-ships from other cruise lines, the lithe, graceful Wind Star and her sister ships can slip into hidden coves and remote areas. The vibe on board is uncrowded and unhurried, with a dash of intimacy, making guests feel as if they're sailing on their own personal yacht. Her wide-open teak decks, highly unusual for a small ship, provide more than 10,000 square feet of open-deck space for guests to find concealed nooks and have private moments.
With the purchase of three more traditional motorized ships from Seabourn, the Seattle-based company now has a fleet of six. But it's the three stylish, sleek sailing yachts that truly set Windstar apart.
Who will like sailing on Wind Star
Wind Star appeals to people looking for an away-from-it-all experience far from the madding crowds of larger vessels. Young and middle-age couples, singles and adventure travelers who like exploring smaller, charming ports and cultural immersion will especially like Wind Star. On her Enchanting Greece & the Amalfi Coast cruise, for instance, guests will visit a family-run winery and feast on Sicilian fare.
Wind Star attracts people like Glenn Bozarth, a well-heeled, super-active resident of Balboa, California, who has taken more than a dozen voyages. Glenn normally travels with his own wet suit and gear although the ships offer all the nautical equipment you need from snorkels to scuba tanks (which cost extra). The main attractions for Glenn are the retractable marina at the back of the ship where you can dive off and snorkel, swim, jet ski, paddleboard go for a banana boat ride or simply float in the sea.
Wind Star is not recommended for the physically challenged or families with small children.
Where Wind Star sails
Wind Star sails in and around the Caribbean from November to April and the western Mediterranean the rest of the year, mostly on six- to seven-day cruises.
Where I sailed and what I loved
I have sailed all three of Windstar's original ships, twice to French Polynesia as well as the Med and the Caribbean, and each voyage was as memorable as the last. The three sailing ships also do Panama Canal cruises, Costa Rica itineraries, the Greek Isles and Turkey — take your pick. If you're a Windstar kind of cruiser, you'll love them all. As a Pisces I love the water and the ability to dive into it whenever the captain anchors off shore or sails into a pristine beach or cove.
Highlight of a Wind Star cruise
The main attraction of Wind Star is the ease and availability of water sports from the retractable marina when the captain anchors the ship or in the small coves and inlets where the ships can pull up to the shores or send people off on Zodiacs. The showcase moment, though, is the “sail around” while passengers are in port. We saw this in the Med and Caribbean, and it was amazing watching Wind Star sail by in all her white billowing masts glory.
Food, glorious food!
Dining on Wind Star is open seating and the food is often excellent. AmphorA offers gourmet, course-by-course cuisine in the evenings, and its dishes are served on beautifully set tables with Rosenthal china with Riedel stemware. Light and vegetarian cuisine are available on request. My favorite restaurant on board is Stella Bistro, which serves fresh fare with a French twist. I also loved the open air dining areas on the top deck, where you can take in water views, exquisite sunsets and stars while dining al fresco.
Guests can also make a reservation for Candles, a poolside grill with seating for 30 that serves steaks and grilled skewers. The Veranda Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, while continental breakfast and afternoon tea are served on the Pool Deck. Lunch buffets are a cut above many offered at sea, always attractively presented and usually eagerly attacked by passengers hungry after active mornings.
Activities on board
The main focal points of a Wind Star cruise are the daytime water activities and shore excursions, so don't expect the kind of stage productions or onboard games you'll find on larger ships. On the upper deck, take a dip in the outdoor pool, stretch out in the sun or come back at night to linger in the whirlpool. On the whole the nautical scene rules on these ships by day. After dinner most passengers either hit the bar or go to bed.
Watersports: Passengers can swim in a tranquil cove or reef or get more active. Just head aft to the open-air sports platform, where you can find sailboats, paddleboards, water skis, kayaks and snorkeling and scuba gear.
On shore: When the crew drops anchor, the reefs and caves are yours to explore. You can also go ashore and shop, join an excursion into a rainforest or wander a medieval city.
Bar & lounge: The ship has three bars and lounges. Socializing at the bar on Wind Star is a popular pastime, while the main lounge plays its part as a stage for singers or musicians and occasional shows put on by locals in port.
Spa: While the ship's WindSpa is tiny, it nonetheless doles out top-quality treatments. My first mate Richard and I had aromatherapy massages that were reinvigorating, and I have indulged in facials, manicures and pedicures that were quite good.
Casino: Yes, there's also a small casino on board.
All 73 staterooms and suites have ocean views and luxury Egyptian cotton linens on the queen bed (which can be separated into twins if you prefer). The spacious bath features granite countertops, ample storage and a roomy shower. Rooms include an LCD flat-screen TV, DVD/CD players, personal safe, mini-bar with complimentary soft drinks, international direct-dial phone, wireless Internet (for a fee), Bose SoundDock speakers, toiletries by L’Occitane, hair dryer, vanity desk with chair, magnifying mirrors, Euro-Top mattresses, private safe, waffle-weave robes, slippers and alarm clock. You’ll find fresh fruit and flowers always waiting for you after a day of sun or sightseeing.
During your sailing you're also free to check out and use laptop computers, DVDs, CDs, iPod Nanos, games and books.
Be very careful when booking your cruise to select the right cabin or suite. Check the website for size and location and speak with a Cruiseable travel professional. On one Windstar voyage we were assigned a stateroom in the bowels of the ship that was so cramped I kept hitting my head on the overhead TV when climbing out of our undersized bed that was smack against the porthole. After a few complaints, we were relocated to bigger digs and placated with bottles of wine and chocolate-covered strawberries sent to the suite plus free wine at dinner and even a bonus ride in the hotel manager’s zodiac.
- Dress down: There really is no dress code on Windstar ships but most of the passengers put on nifty, country club casual outfits for dinner. During the day most of us live in bathing suits, shorts, sarongs except when going ashore in dressy ports say Barcelona, Monte Carlo or San Juan and the like.
- Gratuities: Tips are included in the fare, although extra palm crossings are hinted at for “exceptional” service. Wines, spirits and soft drinks are not included in your fare, so expect to pay a premium. We once paid $7 for a bottle of Evian on Wind Surf during a Med cruise, after which we stocked up in port.
Patti Pietschmann sailed on Wind Star as a guest of Windstar Cruises. See Cruiseable's Ethics & Disclosure policy.
How about you? Have you sailed on the new Wind Star? We'd love to hear about your experience or see your photos!
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Top highlights on this ship
- Gaming in the Vegas-style casino
- Access to a variety of sports equipment, including water skis and snorkeling gear
- Spa treatments in the onboard WindSpa
- All staterooms feature ocean views