Windstar Cruises is growing. The small-ship luxury cruise line has expanded its capacity with an ambitious redesign and "stretching" of its all-suite yacht Star Breeze.
The ship was cut in half and lengthened to give it an additional 50 spacious suites, as well as two innovative restaurants, a reimagined spa and fitness center, an enlarged pool and deck and new bathrooms in all of the suites. The refurbishment even added more efficient engines.
With the new suites, Star Breeze can now carry 100 more passengers (up to 312), which is still small enough to visit small ports and hidden harbors around the world.
I have sailed with Windstar in Morocco and the Canary Islands on the line's Wind Surf. That was one of my favorite voyages because of the intimate nature of the small ship and the exotic adventures and locations we were able to enjoy. I am planning to sail again in 2021 with Windstar and can't wait to get back onboard to roam the teak decks, smell the salty air and dive into the great food and adventures.
During the global suspension of cruise travel in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, renovation work went forward on Windstar's three Star Plus Class ships, with Star Breeze as the first to emerge from the line's $250 million Star Plus initiative that includes sister ships Star Pride and Star Legend. Those ships will join the fleet later in 2021, following their transformations carried out by Fincantieri at its shipyard in Palermo, Italy.
"We're delighted to take delivery of Star Breeze, the first ship completed as part of the Star Plus Initiative," said Chris Prelog, president of Windstar Cruises. "These three Star Plus Class yachts offer more amenities we know our guests want, while still being small enough to travel the narrow waterways and visit the small ports we're known for."
Prelog also highlighted additional work and investments that the company put into Star Breeze and the rest of the Windstar Cruises fleet for health and safety features as part of the new Beyond Ordinary Care program. Star Breeze is outfitted with new HEPA filters and UV-C light technology, and the rest of the fleet will be outfitted with these updates and more before returning to service.
I sailed with Windstar on Wind Surf
Emphasis on Dining in the Fresh Air
One of the most-anticipated features in Star Breeze's overhaul are two new restaurants: one an outdoor barbecue concept with grilling guru Steven Raichlen and the other a Spanish small plates restaurant from Anthony Sasso, one of the youngest chefs to be recognized by the Michelin Guide.
Star Grill by Steven Raichlen embraces the al fresco setting and ocean views with drinks like strawberry Pimm's cups and raspberry melon slushies. From the smoker, you'll love to dig into tea smoke duck and coffee-crusted prime brisket with chipotle molasses barbecue sauce and grilled selections such as shrimp on sugarcane with Mount Gay rum sauce. Vegetarians are offered choices like planked Camembert with pepper jelly, pecans and grilled bread, Mexican grilled corn, falafel burgers and grilled eggplant salad.
On Deck 6, at Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, passengers can expect a curated collection of Spanish staples, all with a modern twist. Items range from Galicia's pulpo Gallego (octopus salad) to Valencia's fideos mar y montana ("sea and mountain" noodle casserole with meat and fish), with decadent desserts including Madrid's famous churros y chocolate. A chef's counter overlooking an open kitchen lets diners observe the cooking process, and a Spanish-centric wine and cocktail list completes the experience. The restaurant only seats up to 38 people for an intimate dining experience.
At Veranda restaurant, where cruisers are served breakfast and lunch daily, there's a new coffee station, as well as more outdoor and ocean-view seating. Veranda transforms at night into another concept called Candles, Windstar's reservation-only steakhouse. Dinner is served outdoors, under the stars and by candlelight, unless weather prohibits. Candles will debut a new menu on Star Breeze with a jaw-dropping 40-ounce beef bone-in ribeye tomahawk steak, as well as a 30-ounce bone-in porterhouse steak. Both are Linz Heritage Certified Black Angus, carved tableside, and require a small upcharge. (Dining across Windstar's fleet is included in the cruise fare, with no additional upcharges beyond these individual items.)
Star Breeze features a totally redesigned and enlarged spa and fitness center filled with Technogym equipment that will appeal to fitness-focused travelers. The spa menu offers regional spa treatments and destination-themed therapies as part of the World Spa by Windstar program. Massage therapists and beauticians will be using products from Elemis, a luxurious British body and skincare line.
More Deck Space and Outdoor Amenities
The yacht now has a large pool and hot tub on an elevated top deck, offering outstanding views, along with expanded outdoor deck areas for relaxing and sun-bathing.
There are 50 new suites featuring new categories and open configurations, as well as two new and larger Owner's Suites. These suites combine to create up to a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite -- the first of its kind in the cruise industry. Every suite on board features new bathrooms.
Added Efficiency and Accessibility
Star Breeze runs on new, state-of-the-art engines and diesel generators. A new elevator mid-ship, allowing easy access to all decks from anywhere onboard. A comfortable tender loading area located mid-ship and two new 90-passenger tenders deliver passengers ashore when the yacht is at anchor. In addition, staff and crew areas and accommodations were expanded and upgraded.
COVID-19 and Cruising
Windstar has created its Beyond Ordinary Care program, a multi-layered strategy with key hospital-grade elements: HEPA filters and UV-C ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to filter and disinfect the air, plus electrostatic sprayers to sanitize all surfaces throughout the yacht.
The company worked with the Anschutz Medical Center department of epidemiology to design a multi-layered approach that takes into account the best practices in science, technology and behavior. The line believes this comprehensive program to provide a healthy environment onboard gives travelers the confidence that they can sail safely. Also, Windstar's Travel Assurance Booking Policy gives flexibility to make plans and update them without fees if conditions change.
When Windstar begins sailing again, the first destination it plans to resume operations is the storied Islands of Tahiti. And where better to forget the chaos and stress of daily life than on a small ship that glides into bays other cruise ships can't reach. You'll be transfixed when your ship drops anchor for a day of adventures (or simple relaxation) at some of the planet's most beautiful islands, such as Bora Bora and Moorea.
Windstar offers a convenient Air + Hotel package from Los Angeles International Airport that includes the round-trip flight from Los Angeles, pre-cruise accommodations and a post-cruise day room, ground transfers in Tahiti, and a seven-, 10- or 11-night voyage in the French Polynesian Islands.
"We expect Tahiti to be one of our first sailing destinations for our return to cruising in 2021," said Prelog, president of Windstar. "I can't think of a better place to go after this year of reduced travel, and in fact, I plan to go with my family."
Windstar typically sails year-round in Tahiti, where cruises take place on Wind Spirit, a 148-passenger sailing ship that was specifically designed for the region and capturing the South Pacific trade winds in its billowing sails. In 2021, Windstar's Wind Spirit will travel from Tahiti to Asia (stopping at some of the smallest island nations along the route). Starting in November, Star Breeze will take over cruises in Tahiti for a limited engagement (through March 2022), giving cruisers a unique chance to sail on the larger, all-suite, newly renovated yacht in this exotic destination.
Windstar offers a complimentary private event on all of their Tahiti cruises: a private beach party and feast of regional cuisine on one of Bora Bora's tiny motus, followed by a kinetic fire-dancing performance.
Thanks for reading. Happy travels, soon! See you onboard.