Fodor’s Expert Review
For years, Windstar Cruises’ fleet traditionally consisted of three majestic motor-sail yachts with billowing sails, but in 2015 the line doubled in size with a trio of 212-passenger luxury yachts. All of the upscale yachts often visit ports of call inaccessible to huge, traditional cruise ships and offer a unique perspective of any cruising region. Windstar’s sailing ships seldom depend on wind alone to sail, but if conditions are perfect, as they sometimes are, the complete silence of pure sailing is heavenly.Read More
Whether on the sailing ships or megayachts, it doesn’t take long to read the daily schedule of activities on a typical Windstar cruise. Simply put, there are few scheduled activities. Diversions are for the most part social, laid-back, and impromptu. You can choose to take part in the short list of daily activities; borrow a book, game, or DVD from the library; or do nothing at all. There’s never pressure to join in or participate if you simply prefer relaxing.
Multimillion-dollar upgrades last took place in 2012, when each sailing ship was enhanced from bow to stern with chic decor that mimics the colors of the sky and sandy beaches. The Yacht Club is designed to be the social hub of the ship, with computer stations, a coffee bar, and an expansive feel. The yachts Windstar acquired in 2015 from Seabourn were substantially renovated before they entered the fleet. The all-suite accommodations, restaurants, pool deck, and public spaces were upgraded in the move.
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What to Expect on Board
Dining on Windstar ships is as casually elegant as the dress code.
There’s seldom a wait for a table in open seating AmphorA dining rooms, where tables for two are plentiful. Whether meals are taken in the open and airy buffet restaurants, with floor-to-ceiling windows and adjacent tables outside, or in the formal dining room, dishes are as creative as the surroundings. Expect traditional entrées but also items that incorporate regional ingredients, such as plantains, for added interest. Save room for petits fours with coffee and a taste of the fine cheeses from the after-dinner cheese cart.
In a nod to healthy dining, low-calorie and low-fat spa cuisine alternatives for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are prepared to American Heart Association guidelines. Additional choices are offered from the vegetarian menu.
A midcruise deck barbecue featuring grilled seafood and other favorites is fine dining in an elegantly casual alfresco setting. Desserts are uniformly delightful, and you’ll want to try the bread pudding, a Windstar tradition available at the luncheon buffet. With daily tea and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres served several times during the afternoon and evening, no one goes hungry. Room service is always available, and you can place your order for dinner from the restaurant’s menu during scheduled dining hours.
Evening entertainment is informal, with a small dance combo playing in the main lounges.
Compact casinos offer games of chance and slot machines, but don’t look for bingo or other organized games. A weekly show by the crew is delightful; attired in the traditional costumes of their homelands, they present music and dance highlighting their cultures. You may find occasional movies in the main lounges, which are outfitted with state-of-the-art video and sound equipment. Most passengers prefer socializing, either in the main lounge or an outdoor bar where Cigars Under the Stars attracts not only cigar aficionados but stargazers as well.
Welcome-aboard and farewell parties are hosted by the captain, and most passengers attend those as well as the nightly informational sessions regarding ports of call and activities that are presented by the staff during predinner cocktails.
Most of the line’s massage and exercise facilities are quite small, as would be expected on ships that carry 212 and fewer passengers; however, Wind Surf‘s WindSpa and fitness areas are unexpectedly huge.
An array of exercise equipment, free weights, and basic fitness classes are available in the gym and Nautilus room. There is an extra charge for Pilates and yoga classes. A wide variety of massages, body wraps, and facial treatments are offered in the spa, while hair and nail services are available for women and men in the salon. Both spa and salon are operated by Steiner Leisure.
Stern-mounted water-sports marinas are popular with active passengers who want to kayak, windsurf, and water-ski. Watery activities are free, including the use of snorkel gear that can be checked out for the entire cruise. The only charge is for diving; PADI-certified instructors offer a two-hour course for noncertified divers who want to try scuba and are also available to lead experienced certified divers on underwater expeditions. The dive teams take care of everything, even prepping and washing down the gear. If you prefer exploring on solid ground, sports coordinators are often at hand to lead an early-morning guided walk in port.
Key cruising tips
Windstar Cruises appeal to upscale professional couples in their late thirties to sixties who enjoy the unpretentious, yet casually sophisticated atmosphere, creative cuisine, and refined service.
Windstar’s sailing ships were not designed for accessibility, and are not a good choice for the physically challenged. Although every attempt is made to accommodate passengers with disabilities, Wind Surf has only two elevators, and the smaller ships have none. There are no staterooms or bathrooms with wheelchair accessibility, and gangways can be difficult to navigate, depending on the tide and angle of ascent. The mega-yachts are better, with suites that have been modified for accessibility. Bathrooms have a shower only, and there is a step into the bathroom with a portable ramp. Service animals are permitted to sail if arrangements are made at the time of booking.
All evenings are country-club casual, and slacks with a jacket over a sweater or shirt for men, and sundresses, skirts, or pants with a sweater or blouse for women are suggested. Coats and ties for men are not necessary, but some male passengers prefer to wear a jacket with open-collar shirt to dinner.
Windstar Cruises’ unregimented atmosphere is adult-oriented, and children are not encouraged. No dedicated children’s facilities are available, so parents are responsible for the behavior and entertainment of their children.
Personal service and attention by the professional staff is the order of the day. Your preferences are noted and fulfilled without the necessity of reminders. Expect to be addressed by name within a short time of embarking.
A service charge of $13.50 per guest per day (including children) is added to each shipboard account. A 15% service charge is added to all bar bills. All these proceeds are paid directly to the crew.
Windstar guests who cruise once with the line are automatically enrolled in the complimentary Foremast Club. Member benefits include savings on many sailings in addition to the Advance Savings Advantage Program discounts, Internet specials, and a free subscription to the Foremast Club magazine.