On the one hand, Day 2-4 of my isolation on Windstar’s Star Breeze is a bit frustrating, but it also has given me time for a bit of reflection and comfort in my truly being a “full glass” kinda person. I mean one has to start the cliché with having a glass and something is in it, right? (BTW, I tested negative with a PCR test last night – not surprising – and if I test negative this evening, I will be free from isolation. Masks may be inconvenient, but they clearly do work!)
So while I am in my beautiful suite on the Star Breeze eating, drinking, relaxing, working, etc. with pretty much total discretion, I am now looking back on my already having an amazing stay at the Intercontinental Tahiti, a fantastic time catching up with old friends, a great morning on a small boat birdwatching and snorkeling, having incredible culinary and wine yet casual experiences in Candles and Cuadro 44 al fresco, some serious whirlpool/cocktail time and more…and that was all before the isolation.
True, I have missed the Beach BBQ at Moto Mahaea yesterday and will miss kayaking the Faaroa River today, but I am looking forward to tonight’s Windstar Signature Deck BBQ, a full day hanging out at a lagoon on Bora Bora tomorrow, a second day in Bora Bora plus the Windstar evening event, another beach day in Huahine, scuba diving in Moorea and, oh yes, all the Star Breeze has to offer. I mean, it is not exactly like my world has been shattered or I came all this way for nothing!
On the more important third hand (weird, right?!), this has been a great way to see in how Windstar emphasizes what I am calling: “Nice. Easy.” These are two different concepts that marry together if done correctly.
Sometimes being “nice” can be the hardest; especially when it is allegedly being delivered but not meant. On Windstar “nice” is one of the foremost parts of its culture, so you can tell it is truly meant. Possibly the better word might be “Caring”.
“Easy” to me means that there is no stress, no pressure, no putting on “The Show”. Things are just done with “ease” and, well, to put or keep the guest at ease. Try to successfully do that with a Covid issue on a small ship in the middle of the South Pacific! Windstar has done it with aplomb.
Right at the top of the list of “Easy” is Transparency! I have heard so many complaints about some other cruise lines not only being less so, but actually hiding information from the guests. That is simply outrageous. Windstar has been very forthright with the captain making clear explanations for everyone to hear and in a manner that has – from what I can tell – put most everyone at “ease”. Bravo!
Windstar’s “Nice. Easy” is also very apparent when checking on me and making sure I am comfortable. I have been receiving nice notes and check-ins from Windstar folks both on the ship and in the (virtual) office. Chris Pelog, Windstar’s president and my longtime friend, also gave me a call. We had a few laughs – what are we going to do, cry? – and also discussed the various protocols and their effect on operations. We are in this together and everyone having a positive attitude is the best way to deal with Covid and its scientific, emotional, political, and operational fallout.
If I have a complaint, this is it: When I order my meal from room service (from any dining venue on the ship), please don’t call me a bit later and ask me what dessert I want! That is a tough call to say “No” to. Overall, I have been really good about it, but I have broken a couple of times. Such complaints, right?!
To digress a bit, science now says that I should isolate for five days from when symptoms appear and if I am negative I should just wear a mask for the next five days. However, I have never had symptoms! And since my close contact was on Monday and I am vaxed, boosted, recovered from Covid and was wearing a KN95 mask, if I was going to be infected it most certainly would have shown up days ago. But the agreed policy is the agreed policy. And because this isn’t about me, but rather assuring other 160+ guests and the crew are safe and able to have their best experience, I – without question – am following the rules with a very positive attitude. My being difficult with all the other elements Windstar has to deal with really doesn’t help anyone. (And I must note that at least one non-guest did start to show symptoms on Day 2 of isolation, so isolating on a ship is a very good idea!)
Enough of that stuff. Now back to my Star Breeze Experience!
Yesterday, I was in my suite, balcony doors open, and, at the time, hoping the clouds and rain would clear for all the crew and guests to have a fantastic BBQ on Motu Mahaea, Taha’a…which they kinda did other than the brief downpour right when the BBQ was to start. Ugh. The island is too far from the ship for me to see anything…anything other than the zodiacs transporting guests and noting there was no mad rush to get back to the ship early.
Speaking of BBQ, I am trying to moderate my eating and drinking since, unusual for me, I am essentially sedentary. Of course, what I consider “moderating” and what others do can be significantly different!
I order my lunch from the Star Grill. One day was Spicy Chicken Wings that were truly outstanding and an unusual – but tasty – take on Eggplant Parmesan. No dessert!
Another was Jamaican Jerk Chicken (which was just OK), but had a hamburger as backup.
For dinner, on Night 2 I was going to order Seafood Fettucine and Duck Confit for dinner and was just waiting for Amphora to open so I could order it. (Eating great food is a highlight of an isolation day!). But then I received a call from Milton, the Hotel Director. He told me not to order dinner because the chef was making me a special dinner but he couldn’t tell me what it was. It was to be a surprise.
I am sure I have told you about the “Windstar Wonderful” moment (I made that phrase up, so I don’t know you want to be looking for it again. LOL) I was blessed with. If not…When I was on the Inaugural sailing of the Star Breeze in June I was speaking with Steve Simao, Windstar’s VP of Sales, about a book that really got me thinking about food and wine: Red Wine with Fish. I mentioned that I lost my copy and could not find another one. Two weeks after the cruise, guess what Windstar had delivered to me: A copy of Red Wine with Fish. Since then it has been sort of an inside joke between us.
Well, my special dinner made by Windstar’s chef was a fantastic “Red Wine” (2012 Pepper Bridge Cabernet) with an amazing “Fish” delivered for my dinner.
The wine was so good I did break down and order a cheese plate afterward.
Last night I had two wonderful dishes. I started with perfectly prepared Fettuccine with Truffle Essence followed by Bang Bang Cauliflower. Really excellent!
Other than eating, working and writing articles, what am I doing? I found that I can place one of my suite’s really comfortable chairs partially on the French Balcony so I have taken a nice couple of naps with the breeze and sounds working their magic.
Being in the suite for so long has caused me to pay a bit more attention to the In-Suite Entertainment System. There are, of course, some good aspects:
However, I have found a few misses that Windstar needs to improve; especially as a true luxury cruise product.
Overall, my suite is in excellent condition. I did go over the details during my June 2021 cruise, if you are interested, but briefly: The towels are thick, plush and a good size, toiletries are L’Occitaine, my mini-fridge is stocked with a variety of airplane mini liquors, mixers, sodas and beers (replenished for me on request), nice glasses are also provided (which I think are from the Seabourn era) and two bottles of water are refreshed every day.
One quirk: There is no 110 volt outlet or USB charging port by the bed.
The bathrooms, while not the largest, are brand new with a fantastic walk-in shower (some with bathtubs do exist) and large double sinks.
Having given the occasional chairs and sofa a good workout while in isolation I can attest to them being both attractive and comfortable.
Hopefully, my next article will cover more of French Polynesia and the out-of-suite Windstar Experience.
Part VI: Mid Cruise Perspectives