virtuoso global September 2020 Windstar’s Renovated Yachts Are Ready for 2021

Windstar’s Renovated Yachts Are Ready for 2021

Windstar’s Wind Spirit yacht calls on Moorea in French Polynesia.
Windstar’s Wind Spirit yacht calls on Moorea in French Polynesia.
Virtuoso travel advisors on the sailings to book now for next year.

We’ve got encouraging news for those who love cruising: Virtuoso data reveals that cruise bookings for 2021 are holding steady, and cruise lines are working diligently to introduce new health-and-safety measures that aim to keep passengers safe. Those who love setting sail are getting ready to return to the high seas, and many in-the-know Virtuoso travel advisors are recommending Windstar Cruises to their cruise-loving clients. With a fleet of six ships that range in capacity from 148 to 342 passengers, the line’s intimate vessels meet the current moment well – in size, safety, and adventure.
“On board [the Wind Star and Wind Spirit], you’re about 30 feet above the sea, often with 360-degree unobstructed views,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Nancy Cutter, who has cruised an impressive 34 times with Windstar. “For people who like to sail, there’s a feeling of majesty and power.”
Windstar is set to resume sailings in January (ships with fewer than 250 passengers aren’t held to the CDC’s No Sail Order, which is currently in place through October 15, but safety is a top priority for Windstar, so the line is adhering to the order regardless). Its fleet will be fully operational in 2021, complete with refreshed and expanded cabins and restaurants, a hospital-grade air-filtration system, and new itineraries that focus on remote and uncrowded ports. Here’s what’s in store for the coming year.

Upgraded Yachts

By next July, Windstar’s three all-suite Windstar yachts – the Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride – will reap the benefits of the line’s ongoing $250 million Star Plus Initiative reimagination. Each ship will be cut in half, and an 84-foot block will be inserted in the middle. The extension adds 50 suites, four new (and more efficient) engines, and two new restaurants. “Don’t underestimate the value of a new engine,” Cutter says. “It speaks to Windstar’s long-term sustainability goals and commitment to continue sailing.”

A rendering of the new Star Balcony Suites on the reimagined Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride.
A rendering of the new Star Balcony Suites on the reimagined Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride.

The new suites increase each Star Plus-class ship’s capacity to 312 guests – still intimate, advisors note, but with the much-appreciated addition of cabin variety, from the 277-square-foot Star Porthole Suites to the gorgeous, three-bedroom Grand Owner’s Suite with its own private deck. Most of the new cabins also alter the standard configuration, placing beds beside panoramic windows. “If there’s one thing cruising has taught us, it’s the joy of lying in bed in a balcony suite and watching the scenery drift past your open patio doors with unobstructed views,” Cutter says.
The Star Plus Initiative will also add two new restaurants to each yacht, bringing the total to five dining options per vessel. The eponymous James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author headlines Star Grill by Steven Raichlen, a showcase of global barbecue interpretations, from classic Texas brisket to Asian lemongrass pork and Danish smoked shrimp. Spanish chef Anthony Sasso of NYC’s Michelin-starred Casa Mono will partner on Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, which will feature a creative take on Spanish tapas, including Galician mussels, Valencian paella, and Madrid’s beloved chocolate churros.
After the Star Breeze returns to service in January, the Star Legend is scheduled to set sail in March 2021, with the Star Pride following in July 2021.

The Wind Surf at sea.
The Wind Surf at sea.

Doctor-Approved Health-and-Safety Updates

To ensure the well-being of its passengers, Windstar partnered with Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director of infection prevention at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases at UC’s Anschutz Medical Campus, who provided guidance on renovating the line’s air-filtration systems and establishing new cleaning protocols. Across the fleet, all vessels have been refitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that kill coronaviruses and other microbes. Anything not caught in the filters is destroyed by ultraviolet germicidal irradiation or UV-C light, the second step in the hospital-grade air-scrubbing system. (Not all cruise lines are using UV-C light technology, which sets Windstar apart.) Additionally, electrostatic sprayers sanitize onboard surfaces by spraying germ-killing solutions, another technique used by hospitals.
“They’ve done some really impressive things in terms of safety,” Virtuoso travel advisor Dana Daza says. “Each time a cabin turns over, they’ll completely sanitize it.” Embarkation will be staggered to ensure proper social distancing, and guests will be required to complete a health screening prior to boarding.  The crew, including additional medical staff added to each sailing, will wear masks.
“As a result of Covid-19, people will be looking for smaller-size ships and more-intimate experiences – and Windstar has always offered that,” Virtuoso travel advisor June Kleier says. “Now they’ve got additional medical staff, new air-filtration systems, expanded dining hours to limit the amount of people inside at once, and a lot of outdoor dining.” 

Rare Small-Port Access

After the Star Breeze resumes sailing in January in the Caribbean it will cruise to Central America from Miami in April, a first for the line. Windstar’s small ships excel in, as Cutter puts it, “slipping into small ports that big ships couldn’t dream of.” Its Central American itineraries demonstrate that access: The Star Breeze’s 11-day Miami-to-Colón, Panama, sailing that departs on April 22 calls at Roatán, Honduras (a must-do: snorkel the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef), Colombia’s remote Isla de Providencia, and Panama’s Bocas del Toro archipelago. An eight-day Colón-to-Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, sailing on the Star Breeze departing on May 2 transits the Panama Canal during the day and stops at the biodiverse Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.

Up close and personal: The Star Legend slips past glaciers in Alaska.
Up close and personal: The Star Legend slips past glaciers in Alaska.

“At smaller ports, shore excursions with limited-size groups take social distancing into consideration,” Kleier says. “You’re going off the beaten path in a destination – not doing touristy things.” She recommends a sailing to Alaska, where the Star Breeze will spend next summer plying the Inside Passage on a variety of 7- to 15-day cruises. (Guided Zodiac excursions and kayak adventures launched directly from the yacht and led by onboard Signature Expeditions experts will get passengers up close to nature.) “You’re surrounded by waterfalls, trees, glaciers, and whales, and you can get off the ship and kayak up close to everything in a way that you can’t do on larger ships,” she says.
Windstar has long partnered with the James Beard Foundation, which means passengers can expect impromptu culinary experiences. On a past port call in Montenegro, for example, the yacht’s chef invited Daza and other passengers to accompany him to the market in port to buy local grapes and asparagus. “I’ve been on Windstar ships where fishermen have come right up to the boat and the chef bought from them,” she says.
For culinary enthusiasts, Daza recommends an 11-day, epicurean-focused San Diego-to-Vancouver, B.C., voyage on the Star Breeze, with departures on May 24 and September 23. Along the yacht’s route, travelers will be able to graze at farmers’ markets and visit wineries easily accessible from ports. Daza adds that the domestic-focused itinerary is an ideal choice “for people who don’t want to go too far from home.” Wherever travelers decide to go, they’ll have peace of mind with Windstar.