Part Deux? Yes! It is the Windstar Star Breeze’s (former Seabourn Spirit’s) second Inaugural Cruise since being purchased by Windstar Cruises. The first Inaugural Cruise was in May 2015, and was the first step in what I see as a very significant transformation of Windstar from a fun, super-casual, semi-sailing cruise on older ships to a legitimate premium to luxury cruise/power yacht experience. (Yes, the sailing ships are still part of the fleet, but my focus is on the power yachts.)
In 2015 I was very impressed with Windstar’s efforts to take the circa 1988 ship that needed lots of love and updates into a more modern ship. You can read my thoughts here: Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze Inaugural Cruise – Part II – The Transformation of A Cruise Line – Goldring Travel
But, to be honest, the three former Seabourn Pride, Spirit, and Legend needed a lot of work behind the scenes (which is, in part, why Seabourn sold them) and the economies of operating a 212 guest ship at a premium/luxury level with limited dining venues and older amenities was problematic. So Windstar’s owner (Xanterra) did two things: Attracted some of Seabourn’s best executives and decided on a Go Big or Go Home approach to modernizing the triplets.
And BIG Windstar did go! It has cut each of the triplets in half and added a midsection with 50 more suites, two additional restaurants, and, well, whole lotta replacements, refurbishments, and modernization behind the scenes from new, environmentally efficient engines to new bathrooms. Here are the details: Windstar’s Star Breeze – Major Extension and Modifications Underway! – Goldring Travel
So now I am fortunate to be one of the first people to see both the transformation of Windstar as a brand and its power yachts when I embark on the Star Breeze on June 19, 2021. The itinerary is definitely one of the more upscale Caribbean ones:
Sat Jun 19
But in this post-Covid-19 world, how do you get there? What will it be like on a cruise? Well, let’s get started!
In order to sail with Windstar, at least for now, you must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to embarkation and it will be giving each guest a Covid-19 antigen test prior to boarding (a negative result is obviously required). Windstar’s website says that you can purchase an antigen test prior to departure; something anyone flying back to the US will be required to obtain. (I think it should be included in the fare.)
And, St. Maarten requires a 72 or 120-hour rt-PCR test even if you are vaccinated. It may accept other tests, but as of now I don’t suggest determining which actually will work, so go with the most widely accepted one. It also requires you to complete an Electronic Health Authorization System Application and obtain mandatory Covid-19 insurance as part of the process. This sounds a bit confusing, but I will walk through the process in a later article.
Windstar’s website states that masks must be worn except when eating, drinking, or socially spaced…subject to “evolving guidance and to meet a destination’s requirements”. What that means when I board, I don’t know. But, again, for me, it is not a big deal because I would rather travel. However, I note that other lines, such as Celebrity, are not requiring mask-wearing. We shall see.
Another thing that seems quirky, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do: Windstar is requiring that if you go ashore you must take a Windstar tour. To me this makes no scientific sense, but as I have written: Governments have requirements and you can either live with them or stay home. I’m NOT staying home. And to be sure, it really isn’t that painful. NOTE: This policy is based upon Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) requirements which, in turn, is governed by the requirements of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
For example, at our first port of Road Bay, Anguilla for $55 you receive a transfer and the following: “Here you will spend the day at Elodia’s Beach Bar, a local, low key Caribbean style bar and restaurant on the more secluded end of the beach. You will have your own roped off area on the beach just for WindStar guests and will receive beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as a drink (mixed drink, beer, wine, soda or water) upon arrival. Shoal Beach is 2 miles long, so you can walk from end to end.” A fair price for a relaxed and nice day. What were you going to pay to do the same thing independently? And it is not like you are tied together, so it clearly is more form over substance. Note: There are plenty of snorkeling, shopping, and other tours as well, though each port has only a limited number of options.
But as you will note from the itinerary, the Marina will be open and available on each day so swimming, sailing, kayaking, etc. will be available.
And there will be the fantastic Windstar Signature Beach Party including a great barbecue. My updated documents say that Windstar is “taking our traditional and popular Beach Barbecue to a whole new level.” I am looking forward to seeing what level that is!
As I will be working (yes it is true!), I am going to be spending more time on the ship, exploring each venue from dining to bar to spa to suites so I expect the Marina is going to be a place I will be spending some time. Because of this I have not booked any tours and will be interested to see how Windstar deals with last minute shore excursion requests I may have. (Can you imagine me on the ship for seven days and not touching land, but once? After 1.5 years since I’ve been at sea I absolutely can!)
Now, how to get there. Honestly, from the western United States it isn’t easy. In fact, airfare winds up being about as much as I will pay to fly to Greece for my Seabourn Ovation cruise on July 17, 2021, and will take almost as much time!
As I have recently flown to New York City, any concerns about flying have been dispelled…at least for me. Things are pretty normal other than having to wear a mask (Is that really a big deal at this point?) and more limited beverage and food service (if any). I usually fly on United Airlines as I am a Million Miler, etc. However, getting to St. Maarten is not an easy task from Lake Tahoe, so United is out and American Airlines is in…and it is expensive and kinda inconvenient. My best connection is a red-eye from Reno, Nevada to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then, after a three-hour layover (where I have a booking at Minutes Suites – including with American Express Platinum Priority Pass – for a shower and then breakfast at the Centurion Lounge, it is on to St. Maarten; taking over 12 hours. Ugh.
Trying to have a closer to my normal United experience, I have paid to upgrade to Main Cabin Extra so I have bulkhead aisle seats, early boarding, reserved overhead luggage space and, well not much more; but every little bit helps. And I have to pay for luggage; a pet peeve. And, I should note, I used to be Platinum with American but its service, both before and during flights became so painful it lost my loyalty. Let’s see if anything changes.
And there you have it: The Preparing for a Cruise Experience. You remember them, don’t you? Yes, you do…and you want your own!