Windstar Cruises Star Breeze
by Geri Bain
Windstar Cruises, which has three sailing ships and three motor yachts, has long been on my professional radar for its small ship, port-intensive sailings, so I was excited to experience the Star Breeze motor yacht with my 23-year-old daughter this fall on the 10-day Venetian Passageways sailing from Athens to Venice.
Less is more. Seeing our 218-passenger ship docked next to a nearly 2,000-passenger ship in Corfu was striking. “This is why we love Windstar,” one man told me. Like most fellow passengers I spoke with, his reason for cruising was to explore new places and “no waiting on lines,” not to have a ship-full of restaurant and entertainment choices. No formal nights; no assigned seating or time slots for meals. Plus Star Breeze took us places some of the larger ships couldn’t, such as cruising through the dramatic Corinthian Canal. I also liked the intimacy of a small ship, where we quickly felt like everyone on board was an acquaintance, if not a friend. Most were active, well-traveled couples aged 45 to 75, with a smattering of younger and older passengers, some friend groups and another mother-daughter pair. English was the official language on board, and most guests were from North America.
Informal sophistication. My daughter and I both liked the ship’s low-key ambience, although it might be a bit staid if she were traveling with a group of friends. While there is a small casino, entertainment consisted mostly of the well-attended, informative port talks, and two musical duos that performed in the lounge and at the Star Bar on deck. Our favorite evening was the lively Crew Show, with its cultural performances, surprising musical talents and hilariously kitschy acts; like the ship, the show was sophisticated yet light-spirited and informal, mirroring much of what we enjoyed about Windstar. Waiters and other crew addressed most passengers by first names and quickly got to know our preferences, and passengers could come up to the Bridge and talk to the captain almost any time they wanted.
The James Beard Connection: Windstar has a partnership with James Beard Foundation and while ours wasn’t specifically one of the line’s food-oriented sailings, the food was excellent with plenty of variety. We ate most dinners at the casually-elegant at AmphorA. In the evening, the indoor/outdoor Veranda breakfast and lunch buffet space morphs into Candles, a serene, under-the-stars dinner venue that we opted for twice, (reservations required; no added charge). There’s also an all-day cafe, the Yacht Club, with morning pastries and simple wraps, sandwiches and desserts until 5 p.m., as well as a limited, 24-hour room service menu.
Settling in. Our Ocean View cabin was spacious (277 sq. ft.), with a walk-in closet, a curtain-separated sitting area, and an indulgent marble bathroom complete with a tub and L’Occitane toiletries. Outlets (converters needed for U.S. travelers) were conveniently placed bedside and at the desk. There was also a flat screen TV with limited channels and movies. Around the ship, my favorite spots to savor the passing scenery were from the deck chairs or from one of the two whirlpools on deck. With more time at sea, we might have used the ship’s library, screening room and small gym (treadmills, weights but no elliptical) or splurged on spa treatments, but we were focused on the amazing ports of call, which included Athens, Nafplio, Kotor, Dubrovnik and Hvar.
Port time. We usually had a full day in port, and in some places, the evening as well, so we could usually take one of the morning excursions and then explore on our own. In most ports, we got our daily workout climbing one of the Venetian forts, which always rewarded us with spectacular views. One of the most fun excursions was an all-ship (complimentary) lunch at a farm where we learned about olive oil production and watched and participated in traditional Greek dances. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to experience Windstar’s drop-down watersports platform with its kayaks and other water toys. On this itinerary, it only opened when the ship has to anchor offshore and conditions are right—the good news was that in all but two ports we docked in town, usually within a short walk of a beach.
For more about this cruise, check out our “She Said; She Said” port postings, which begin with our pre-cruise stay in Athens. The Venetian Passageways itinerary is not being offered in 2018, but the line has several similar itineraries. To learn more, visit www.WindstarCruises.com
Geri Bain, a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.