Windstar Star Pride Blog – Small Ship, Big Adventure
I was unsure of what to expect when myself and Emma were invited to join Windstar Cruises Star Pride. All I knew was that I was excited to experience all the amazing things I had heard from fellow colleagues who had sailed with Windstar, or clients who had praised it and returned time after time. After five nights on board, we truly got to experience the Windstar way and now I see why their guests are so loyal. Here’s my account of our time on board.
About the ship
Windstar’s luxury private yacht-style ships cater for 148 to 342 guests – small enough to explore less visited ports of call and narrow waterways. Star Pride is an all-suite ship that recently underwent a $250 million renovation to provide more of what guests love, including a new spa, infinity pool and fitness area and two new dining venues.
Who is Windstar Cruises for?
Windstar Cruises is perfect for anyone who enjoys ‘laid back luxury’ that delivers all the aspects of five-star cruising you’d expect. There were lots of couples, groups and families with grown-up children on board. Sailing into the heart of destinations is ideal for those who like exploring new places – you can do as much, or as little as you like.
Ocean View Suite
Star Pride is an all-suite, ocean-view ship and its suites are stylish, comfortable and spacious. All bathrooms have recently been redesigned to mirror the atmosphere of the brand-new spa, providing guests with a private oasis within their room. Highlights of our room included the premium amenities such as L’Occitane products, comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton linens, which made for a better sleep than what I have at home and of course, the fully stocked mini-bar! Special touches included a welcome cocktail, fresh fruit and flowers, and at the end of each evening, a surprise was left on our pillows, ranging from chocolates to facts about the next port.
Star Pride really is a foodie’s dream; all meals including specialty restaurants are included and you’re free to dine whenever, wherever and with whoever you please! Windstar Cruises bring together some of the most talented chefs to deliver exceptional culinary experiences and this is apparent in EVERY dish. Breakfast and lunch were served in Veranda, which consisted of freshly prepared buffet-style dishes, pop-up counters such as build your own tacos and a speciality menu offering dishes such as eggs benedict and burgers. Throughout the day, casual dining such as Star Grill’s traditional grilled favourites and The Yacht Club’s coffee and bistro counter are available.
Of an evening, main restaurant Amphora serves gourmet cuisine and there are two speciality restaurants to enjoy. Candles is famous for its stargazing and steaks, while Cuadro 44 well-known for its intimate take on modern Spanish cuisine. There’s even an open kitchen in Cuadro 44, so you can watch the chefs prepare your food and chat to them about the ingredients – you really feel like you are part of an experience, and not just a meal! The food was some of the best I’ve ever had; not only did it taste incredible, but it was also presented and served perfectly, everything you’d expect on a five-star ship. Despite only feeding 312 passengers, the options were endless and you could see how much effort was put into the whole dining experience.
My top five favourite dishes:
Amphora – Lamb chops
Cuadro 44 – Octopus
Amphora – Lobster risotto
Candles – Filet mignon
Amphora – Pistachio and chocolate mousse
Things to do onboard
When we weren’t off exploring the beautiful ports-of-call Bordeaux, La Rochelle and St. Malo, we were making the most of everything the ship had to offer. During lazy mornings we stayed tucked in our beds watching TV on demand before making our way to breakfast. On the days we were up early, we watched the sun rise above the horizon in our waffle weave robes with a vanilla latte in hand from The Yacht Club – the perfect place to tuck into a book or one-of-many board games whilst enjoying panoramic views of the ocean.
Planned activities hosted throughout the day included destination talks, wine tasting, quizzes and more. Our sailing just happened to coincide with Independence Day and with a high ratio of American guests on board, the crew went above and beyond to mark the occasion. Bunting and flags were dotted around the ship, and the chefs had created a humongous celebratory cake. At the Star Grill, a music act performed the country’s classics, and a true party-style spread was served including cherries jubilee trifle. We naturally found ourselves gravitating towards other guests and hours passed by in whirlpools, or at the bar tasting our way through the cocktail menu.
After dinner, there was a wealth of entertainment from live duo performances at Compass Rose including salsa dancing and tribute nights such as Abba and The Beatles. There was also a Captain’s Fairwell where all the crew joined the deck to say goodbye (an emotional affair) over a band performance and cocktails, and the signature on deck barbecue which I’ll talk about later.
The Crew Talent Show deserves a special mention; it takes place in the Lounge where staff members throughout the ship combine their best talents and put on a performance for guests. From gifted singers and instrumentalists to traditional Thai dancers and numerical geniuses, the entire performance had me in laughter, shock or tears! I was blown away.
Unique to Windstar
Deck Barbecue – Our first night onboard was greeted with the once-a-cruise signature Deck Barbecue, where passengers and crew join the deck to feast on grilled favourites, witness the sailaway and line-dance into the evening. The barbecue offered a whole variety of delicious food made using fresh ingredients the chef purchased from Bordeaux Market that morning, including rotisserie meats, grilled fish, an enormous selection of salads and sides, and of course a whole charcuterie stand of cheese and meat to reflect and celebrate destination delicacies.
As we left Bordeaux, the horn sounded, and we watched on as the flag raised. Windstar Cruises uses 1492 Conquest of Paradise for as the background music for this tradition. The small-ship experience became apparent as we watched passengers socialise with one another into the night. A couple of drinks down, the traditional line dancing was announced, led by the Entertainment Host everyone – staff included – joined the dance floor to pull out their best moves (or at least try, in our case). With this being our first night on board, my impression started on a high, I loved watching the atmosphere transform into a wonderful evening which you could tell the guests and crew thoroughly enjoyed.
Open Deck Policy – I call this a ‘fan girl moment’ for those of you who love cruising. Windstar Cruises run an open bridge policy, meaning guests can stop by and speak to the ship’s captain and their crew. We took full advantage of this, stopping by most days to learn about navigating a ship, the equipment used and more about life at sea. We even got to catch up with Captain Ricardo Pinzon and witness a flock of dolphins, in my eyes these are moments that can only be found on small ships.
Watersports Platform – Another fun and unique aspect to Star Pride is the watersports platform where guests can enjoy complimentary equipment such as paddle boards, snorkelling and kayaking. Unfortunately, this wasn’t available in our ports of call but if this sounds up your street, the Greek Isles and Tahiti are the itineraries for you.
Wrapping things up, it would go without saying that every crew member made the voyage what it was. The service and attention to detail was exceptional. It was clear to me how much the 1-1 staff to guest ratio personalised the experience. From remembering your name and favourite cocktail, to getting involved with passengers during evening events, to the meaningful chats at the bar and on the Bridge with the crew, this was the most stand-out highlight to cruising on a smaller, five-star ship. You could tell how much the crew loved their jobs and the Windstar way by the enthusiasm and the smile on their faces.
Thank you for inviting us onboard Windstar Cruises, and for showing us why Star Pride is 180 degrees from ordinary!
Click here to find out more about Windstar Cruises or call our Luxury Cruise Experts today on 01246 819 819.