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.”
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.