I don’t have a lot to add to my reflections after my last article. But I do have to add this: I am truly impressed that Windstar – the (now not so) little cruise line that could – is succeeding and doing so in a big way.
With all of the issues in the cruise industry in this Covid (or kinda post-Covid) world, where excuses, apologies, and upended plans seem to be ubiquitous, Windstar is pushing ahead with three truly transformed power yachts and delivering the varied luxury experiences its diverse clientele desire.
Here are my articles on this cruise, the Inaugural Cruise of the Star Pride after her stretch. Keep in mind that my raves are on the first cruise for most of the staff and crew in over two years and on a ship with new restaurants and facilities they haven’t ever serviced before. It was impressive!
I have tried to check myself to see if my overall glowing reviews are based more on my long relationship with Windstar’s executives, or my long love for the triplets, or the lack of frustrations (and worse) with another cruise line, or if Windstar is really doing that good of a job. And when looked at objectively Windstar is really doing that good of a job.
The happy and motivated staff just makes things so easy…the way it is supposed to be. When you are greeted with a shy smile or an “I got you!” without a word being said, you can’t but be happy and relaxed. It is a far cry from the faux smile from a stressed server that makes you feel like you are placing an order rather than joining in an experience.
Similarly, I have found the quality of the cuisine to overall be excellent in quality, presentation and diversity. As I have noted, Windstar does not focus on dishes with 20 elements, but rather on the simple elegance of extremely well-prepared food. Whether it is Duck a l’Orange in Amphora, or a Veal Chop in Candles, or Peruvian Spiced Smoked Chicken at the Star Grill, or Grilled Octopus at Cuadro 44, you will be dining on some of the best cuisine at sea…served with a warm, caring, smile, but maybe not the flare or formality that some cruise lines provide (and some guests prefer).
By the way, I did eventually do my Hamburger Test. The burger, bun, and garnishes were perfect. One thing that drives me crazy is a burger that is smaller than the bun and Windstar’s burgers are the exact size! Another is a thin burger, which cooks faster, but if it is worth the wait, thicker is juicier and better. To nit-pick, the cheese wasn’t fully melted (but it did cover the burger). My only real complaint was the French fries, which are no longer the thicker steak fries, weren’t hot and not really presented well. Overall: A-.
I also attended three (3) wine tastings during my seven-day cruise; two open to everyone at no charge and one that was by private invitation (again, no charge). Windstar made an effort to have quite a number of local wines (locally sourced during our cruise) along with some truly premium wines…and those local wines usually were available throughout the ship. It is of worthy note that Windstar has what I would call a Small But Mighty Wine List. It is extremely well-curated and is expanding more and more over time. I did notice more quality California wines (not my favorites) supplementing the broad European and South American offerings.
There was also a small group Shopping with the Chef – a bit of a challenging affair with various governmental regulations associated with Covid, but Windstar got it done and made it fun!
As the ship is essentially new in so many ways, it looks and feels new and the public spaces are both beautiful and function well. (Furniture that looks good, but isn’t comfortable is a sore point with me, but fortunately not an issue here.)
The standard French Balcony suites – both the new Star Balcony and the original Balcony – are beautiful and are either actually or essentially brand new, with wonderful new bathrooms; all with double sinks. Most have a walk-in shower, but there are a few original suites with bathtubs. I’ve stayed in all three configurations and find the walk-in shower to be much preferred since I don’t take baths.
Whether you prefer the bed by the window/balcony (Star Suites) or by the entry door (Original Suites) is a personal preference that I have discussed before. But one thing I wish Windstar would address is the lack of charging ports by the bed in the original suites. (The Star Suites have both charging ports and outlets.) Because of my business and my children’s proclivity for having some sort of emergency seemingly every time I go away my phone is always on…even when I am sleeping. I get around this minor issue by using a power pack and then recharging it with the USB charging ports located in the wall unit opposite the bed.
One thing to note is that there are no big production shows…unless you consider the Crew Show near the end of the cruise. There is a talented quartet and a talented duo that perform throughout the ship, at the Star Bar, the Compass Rose, and the Lounge. But if you prefer the small ships, this is more than enough entertainment as you probably will be more entertained by your traveling partners and fellow guests.
A surprise that actually needed to be pointed out to me – as I erroneously figured it was just the logistics of repositioning – is that Windstar is being creative with its timing in port. On this cruise, we arrived in Gythion, Greece at 7:00 AM and left at 1:00 PM (just before siesta). This was combined with arriving the next day at Corfu, Greece at 1:00 PM and departing at 9:00 PM to give guests a relaxed afternoon, followed by a relaxed morning, while having more than sufficient time in port. We arrived early and left early in Argostoli, Greece so we again had a relaxing afternoon onboard, but then in Cagliari, Sardinia – a port with so much to do and great beaches… and where the famous Windstar Deck BBQ was held (so no seas do deal with) – we didn’t depart until midnight. Not relaxed enough? The last day was a sea day!
Are you ready for a Windstar cruise on its power yachts? How about joining me on the 2022 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruise traveling through Turkey, Greece, and Israel on October 2, 2022? UPDATED: The 2022 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural Cruise on the Windstar Star Legend – October 2, 2022 . There are only a few spots left!
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