The Windstar Cruises Fleet
Windstar Cruises was founded in 1984 to offer an outstanding travel experience to cruisers who wanted something different than modern megaships and tourist destinations. Owned by parent company Carnival and overseen by sister line Holland America, Windstar draws on all levels of experience to deliver a superb vacation in a yacht-like atmosphere.
Windstar only offers three ships, though their twenty-story sails herald grandeur unmatched by larger fleets. The smaller ships, Wind Star and Wind Spirit, can accommodate a mere 150 passengers, while the larger Wind Surf has berths for twice that number. Despite their miniscule manifests, the ships are spacious and comfortable without slashing public areas or cabin sizes.
Though the line's home office is in Seattle, WA, the only departure ports offered by Windstar Cruises are outside the United States. St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands; Caldera, Costa Rica; and Barbados are currently the principal departure ports, though interested passengers should consult a travel agent for updated information and alterations.
Resplendent with navy blue and burgundy hues and accented with generous teak and brass fittings, these ships are truly nautical in their décor. Following that theme, and with a nod to the ships' small size, no cabins have verandahs, balconies, or oversized picture windows - the classic portholes emphasize the cruise experience and are beautiful decorative accents in their own right.
The majority of Windstar's itineraries are 7-10 nights in length, perfect for honeymoons, with a few 11-night options available. Eastern and southern Caribbean itineraries are the main routes, though the occasional cruise will visit Costa Rica. Despite the limited itinerary range, the line focuses on exotic ports of call that larger ships are unable to visit due to size and capacity restrictions.
As a cross between luxury and mainstream lines, Windstar chooses to incorporate a bit of both extremes into its onboard activities. Very few organized activities are offered, and those that are available tend to be eclectic - vegetable carving and food decorating classes are frequently featured in place of raucous contests or pedantic lectures. Conference facilities are available for group meetings, and Windstar Cruises often hosts business gatherings.
Dining is always casual aboard these ships, with a more relaxed dress code than most mainstream lines (shorts are still not permitted during dinner, however). There are no assigned dining times or tables, and passengers are free to indulge their tastes whenever they choose during the two-hour window. The menu is more straightforward than most ships (which often try to outdo one another with gourmet selections), though the simple dishes are subject to elegant accents and regional themes. Vegetarian and light selections are available for passengers with stricter dietary needs, and extensive room service menus are also available. Only Wind Surf features an alternative restaurant - reservations are required but there is no additional fee.
In keeping with its casual atmosphere, Windstar does not have the large lounge shows frequently found on other ships. Cabins have DVD and CD players and the ships offer an extensive library for passengers to borrow from. Evening music is frequent and varied, and one lounge is transformed into a disco later in the evening for more adventurous passengers.
Spas and Fitness
While each ship does have spa and fitness facilities, the crowning jewel of Windstar's ships is the stern retractable platform - passengers can indulge in swimming, sailing, snorkeling, water-skiing, and other watersports while the ship is in port. For less active pursuits, spa packages are available for both men and women, and packages and individual treatments can be booked prior to sailing.
Casinos are modest on these ships, though they do have the standard complement of slot machines, roulette tables, and card games. Gaming lessons are offered throughout the voyage for passengers who wish to learn a new game or refine their skills.
The biggest natural extra about this cruise line is the inherent romance of being on a sailing ship while reveling in the luxury of a cruise. Additional perks include the "tipping not required" policy (though many passengers do still tip to acknowledge the superior service) and the open bridge, where passengers can chat with the captain and officers.
Cons About Windstar Cruises
There are no organized children's activities aboard these vessels, and individuals with mobility concerns are not recommended to travel with Windstar - the smaller ships do not have elevators, and the raised doorsills and port tenders may be too restrictive for maximum enjoyment. No cabins have balconies or verandahs, another detriment for some passengers who prefer that private retreat toward the sea.
From the towering sails to the stern retractable deck, Windstar Cruises offers a unique sailing experience for any cruise-savvy passenger. With fine dining, nautical décor, exotic ports, and exquisite service, a Windstar cruise is sure to have any traveler eager to regain their sea legs for another voyage.