When you think of sailing the paradise waters of the Caribbean or the azure seas of the Mediterranean, what springs to mind? Beautiful food, great company and the chance to wander around the charming streets of a Greek village – or grab a beer at a beach bar in some far-flung corner of the West Indies? Few cruise lines can compete with Windstar when it comes to avoiding the crowds in these cruise hotspots. The company operates six small ships that exemplify a relaxed, personal service – that call at ports too small for bigger ships. Whether that’s on board the company’s 342-guest flagship, Wind Surf, the world’s largest sailing ship; or the 312-guest Star Legend, a ship that was built for ultra-luxury clients and is currently undergoing a massive renovation as part of the $250 million Star Plus programme.
While all of Windstar’s ships have their own characters, they all share one common theme: they are small ships operating in a market where vessels are only getting bigger. The diminutive proportions mean that Windstar can carry its guests to the remote destinations that won’t accept bigger vessels. Destinations such as Tahiti, where in 2022 Star Breeze will call at Mo’orea, Raiatea and Tahaa – beautiful French Polynesian islands that lie dotted across the Pacific Ocean. Guests will learn about local cultures, eat incredible seafood and use the ship’s water sports platform to swim, kayak or even water ski.
In the Mediterranean – a region full of famous destinations – Windstar manages to marry the major hubs, like Barcelona and Athens (perfect for connectivity out of the UK) with less visited towns like Messina, Argostoli and Delphi – and a cruise down the narrow Corinth Canal. An example of the intimate shore excursions offered include a trip to the Robola Winery in Kefalonia where you can sample the local drop and visit Kourkoumelata, a village that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953 and then rebuilt by a wealthy local – entirely in neo-classical style.
To attain perfection is a never ending task but Windstar has made massive investments in its fleet with the Star Plus initiative. The company will spend $250 million on three of its ships – Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride – to offer more comfort in-suite and more delight on deck. This is no normal renovation – it involves ships being cut in half and extended, upgrading engines to make them more environmentally-friendly and adding new dining venues that suit their salubrious surroundings. The Star Plus programme is one of the most complex ship projects ever undertaken – and will be completed in summer 2021.
There is no doubt that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years our industry has ever faced. However, as we look to the future, it’s important to remember that we will sail again. And, if your clients want to experience small ship sailing, in a luxurious but informal setting, then there are few companies more equipped to host them than Windstar.