Windstar Cruises Review: Navigating the High Seas in Style

Windstar’s small, elegant ships provide an intimate setting, allowing for its legendary personalized service and a close-knit onboard community. With destinations spanning the globe, Windstar Cruises caters to those seeking a unique, high-end seafaring experience.

If you’re looking for a luxurious cruise experience yet casual and reasonably priced, Windstar is for you.

I recently took a 10-night cruise aboard Wind Spirit to French Polynesia and was blown away by the Windstar Experience.

From the moment I stepped aboard Wind Spirit, I knew this would be a different kind of cruise. The intimate size of the ship created a cozy atmosphere where it was easy to make new friends and get to know fellow passengers.

With only 148 passengers, Wind Spirit is a beautiful five-masted motor sailing yacht that combines the traditional elegance of a tall ship with modern luxury amenities. The sleek ship with billowing white sails bring a sense of romance to the journey.

The other benefit of their intimate-sized ships is they can reach unique international destinations that other bigger cruise ships can’t. Are you in love yet?

Read on to discover our detailed Windstar cruise review.

woman in white hat on windstar cruise ship
Image Credit: Savoteur

Windstar Cruises Itineraries

Windstar provides itineraries that are distinct from many other major cruise lines. Their smaller ships can access more secluded ports, off-the-beaten-track coastal towns, providing a more exclusive experience.

Windstar Cruises sail to several exciting worldwide destinations, including:

  • Caribbean: Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands, French West Indies, Barbados, Tobago
  • Canada & New England
  • Indonesia
  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Europe: Western/Eastern Mediterranean including popular Greek Islands and Italian coast, Iceland, Northern Europe, Canary Islands
  • Greenland
  • Panama Canal
  • Transatlantic
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • Middle East 
  • South Pacific: French Polynesia, Tahiti
  • Wine and culinary-themed cruises in partnership with the James Beard Foundation

Most Windstar cruises last between 1-2 weeks, but Windstar also offers longer, more extensive itineraries, often labeled as “Star Collector” cruises. These generally take from 2 weeks up to 20+ days, providing a more in-depth exploration of the regions. For example, 25 days “Star Collector: Greenland Fjords & Canadian Maritimes

The longest itinerary offered by Windstar is the “Star Collector: Grand Caribbean Adventure, which is an unforgettable 55-day journey.

There are also short and sweet cruises available, like the 5-day “Barefoot Break in the British Virgin Islands” and the 6-day “San Juan & the Virgin Islands Cruise”.

windstar officers on deck in bora bora
Image Credit: Savoteur

Windstar Service

The Windstar crew-to-guest ratio is 1:1.5, and it shows. From the moment we boarded the cruise in Papeete, we felt the attentive, personalized service that Windstar is known for.

The onboarding process was incredibly quick and seamless. During my 10-night sailing, there were never, ever any line ups for anything!

Cold face cloths were waiting for us every time we returned onboard from day trips and the crew members went out of their way to make us feel at home. They greeted us with a smile whenever we crossed paths.

My mother, who accompanied me on this trip, had mobility issues and each time the staff and officers saw her coming to dine at one of the restaurants, they would always assist her to her seat. 

One of the unique features of Windstar cruises is the “open bridge” policy. This allows guests to walk right in to chat with the captain and officers on duty. It’s a pretty fascinating up close and personal experience that most cruise lines do not offer. 

Beyond this, the Windstar cruise ships have reception, a Star boutique, 24-hour room service, fitness room, a spa, a full-time physician and nurse, laundry service, Wifi, cell phone service, board games, and books.

Considering Windstar’s smaller cruise ship size, they have a surprisingly large spa facility with spa packages, including regional spa treatments like Swedish, Japanese Shiatsu and Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage.

Windstar Entertainment 

Come evenings, you can enjoy dinner and pre- and post-cocktails.

Musicians are aboard, playing tunes for evening dancing and background music. Most evenings, passengers either retire to their cabins or go up to the pool bar for a nightcap under the stars.

Each evening brings a new show of sorts and once per cruise is a crew talent show.

Windstar cruises are geared towards adults, so you won’t find any kids’ areas or child activities.

What was most surprising was how much entertainment the Captain himself provided on the cruise! Captain Tom Schofield is a natural public speaker, and he charmed all of the guests with his quick wit and comedic announcements.

pool on windstar cruise ship
Image Credit: Savoteur

Amenities on Windstar Ships

Founded by New York-based Karl Andren in 1984 as Windstar Cruises, the company built sleek yacht-style sail-cruise ships.

The first ship, Wind Star, debuted in 1986 and was followed by Wind Spirit (1988) and Wind Surf(1990).

In 2014, Windstar expanded their offering with the former Seabourn Pride (renamed Star Pride) and in mid-2015 with two more Seabourn ships – Seabourn Legend (now Star Legend), and Seabourn Spirit (now Star Breeze).

Star Plus Motor Yacht Amenities

The Star Cruise Ships (Star Pride, Star Breeze and Star Legend) carry 312 passengers with 156 suites, including ones with private French-style balconies. There are also 4 wheelchair-accessible cabins and a total of 3 elevators on board.

On the top deck, you can find the swimming pool and sun deck area with comfortable loungers. And for ultimate relaxation, there are three hot tubs on deck.

All Windstar public areas include a mini-casino with gaming tables and a few slot machines, dining venues, a main lounge, Yacht Club (observation lounge) with bar, nightclub (Compass Rose), a screening room, a library, a fitness studio, spa and Star boutique.

The highlight is the water sports platform with complimentary water toys that is available on all Windstar cruises and can be deployed in suitably calm water when anchored.

Wind Surf Amenities

Wind Surf is the largest ship in Windstar’s fleet and has a total of 8 decks, accommodating a maximum of 342 passengers in 171 staterooms and suites. The ship has 2 elevators, a mini-casino, a library, a fitness center, two swimming pools, and two hot tubs on the deck.

Wind Surf underwent a significant renovation of public spaces and suites, including an expanded lounge with a new light and sound system for stage performances. 

Wind Spirit & Wind Star Amenities

Wind Spirit, an identical twin to Wind Star, is an elegant-looking part-yacht, part-cruise ship with towering sails above the deck.

Wind Spirit carries up to 148 passengers and has 74 staterooms.

Both ships have a swimming pool deck with a hot tub and open-air bar, library, casino, fitness center, Star boutique, and other usual Windstar amenities, including the popular water sports platform.

Unlike the Star Class fleet, you won’t find any suites with balconies or wheelchair-accessible rooms on Wind class sailing yachts.

I’m happy to report that as of the date of writing, the Wind ships have begun major transformations and are undergoing much needed renovations. Truth be told, Wind Spirit was looking tired and was in need of a facelift which she is now receiving. 

The renovations will make a big impact on these beautiful ships. 

stateroom on windstar cruise ship
Image Credit: Savoteur

Review of Windstar Cruises rooms

Star Plus Cabins

On the Star Plus vessels (Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend), all cabins are essentially suites. They’re more spacious than the Wind ships and feature walk-in closets, large marble bathrooms with one or two basins, and ample storage space.

My favorite feature is the large walk-in closet that illuminates automatically when you open the door. Other items include wooden hangers, a personal safe, an umbrella, a wall-mounted clock, and a barometer.

The decor is eye-pleasing, with neutral shades of cream, pops of royal blue, and beautiful artwork. You can choose from suites with private verandas, balconies, or ocean-view suites/staterooms.

Wind Class Cabins

All Wind Class cabins face outside with double portholes (which don’t open). The decor is inviting, with a pleasant mix of rich woods, natural fabrics, and soft furnishings.

The cabins are nicely equipped with all the essentials and are surprisingly spacious. The bathrooms are compact, with a teakwood floor in the central section, granite countertops, open shelving, toiletry cabinets, and a magnifying mirror.

My only complaint is that the bathroom lighting isn’t strong enough to apply make-up. However, the vanity desk in the cabin has more powerful overhead lighting.

Wind Spirit and Wind Star offer 73 Deluxe ocean-view staterooms and only 1 ocean-view owner’s suite.

Wind Surf offers four different types of accommodation: 18 ocean-view suites, 2 bridge suites, 1 officer’s suite, and 150 ocean-view staterooms. Each cabin has two portholes.

An Officer’s Suite gives you the chance to stay in the heart of the officer quarters hidden right behind the Bridge. It may be an ideal option for honeymooners. Each has a bedroom, a separate living room, and a marble bathroom with a Jacuzzi-style tub, two basins, a separate toilet, and a walk-in closet.

A nice touch is a basket of fruit replenished daily on all Windstar cruises.

If you’re packing for a Windstar cruise, you won’t have to worry about bringing towels and basic toiletries. Speaking of packing, check out our 7 to 14-day cruise packing list that will make your cruise preparation a breeze.

All Windstar suites include:

  • queen-sized bed with fine Egyptian linens
  • L’Occitane toiletries
  • cotton towels (changed twice daily)
  • robe and slippers
  • interactive TV
  • fully stocked mini-bar
  • safe
  • direct dial phone
  • hair dryers
  • 110/220 power outlets
  • fresh fruit
  • Wifi (available for purchase)
dining room on cruise ship
Image Credit: Savoteur

Dining on Windstar Ships

Delicious cuisine is a high point of a Windstar cruise, and the good news is that beyond “no shorts in the dining rooms,” there’s no real dress code. Most men don’t even bother with a sports jacket at dinner.

AmphorA

AmphorA is the main dining room on all Windstar ships. It features elegant decor with glass chandeliers and panels, creating a sophisticated atmosphere for dinner.

The restaurant is open only for dinner and offers a multi-course menu featuring international and regional specialties. Vegetarian and gluten options are also available. It operates on an open-seating basis. It means no reservations are required. Just show up when you’re ready.

During my 10-night cruise, I didn’t have to wait for a table once. It is definitely one of the perks of traveling with Windstar.

Veranda

The Veranda is a casual buffet venue for breakfast and lunch on all Windstar ships. It has both indoor and outdoor seating. In addition to the buffet, you can also order a few items from the menu.

It was lovely to sit outside every morning and enjoy the view of the port we anchored in that morning.

Candles Grill

At night, the Veranda transforms into the reservations-only Candles Grill, which offers delicious steak, grilled seafood, and more.

Stella Bistro

On the Wind Surf, the Stella Bistro is a specialty French restaurant with a four-course menu, fantastic desserts, and an extensive selection of wines. 

Cuadro 44

One of the latest additions is specialty restaurant Cuadro 44, which you’ll find only on the Star Plus vessels – Star Pride, Star Legend, and Star Breeze.

The 38-seat dinner restaurant specializes in modern Spanish cuisine. If you like tapas, you’re in for a treat. 

Yacht Club

Each of the six cruise ships also has a Yacht Club lounge. It’s a great place to hang out or read a book. Each morning I would grab a latte and walk a few laps on the upper deck before heading to breakfast.

Star Grill

Star Plus ships have the alfresco Star Grill serving traditional grilled and barbecued favorites for lunch and dinner, and there’s a small salad bar there, too.

Barbecue on Deck

The once-a-week evening barbecues on the Pool Decks are wonderful parties under the stars, with a beautifully designed buffet and (often) a Caribbean-style band adding to the special atmosphere. It is a highlight of every sailing.

All Windstar cruises include non-alcoholic drinks and bottled water. Alcoholic beverages cost extra unless you get an all-inclusive package.

woman on jet ski in bora bora
Image Credit: Savoteur

Windstar Excursions

Windstar Cruises offers more than 2,000 excursion options (at additional cost) designed to give guests an authentic local experience in each destination.

These excursions are unique and exclusive to Windstar. What the cruise line lacks in onboard entertainment and amenities, it more than makes up for in choice of ports and destinations.

In order to provide a truly personal experience, Windstar limits shore tours to small group sizes.

Some popular excursion options include:

  • Culinary tours: guests can explore local markets and learn about traditional local specialties, as well as enjoy tastings of local cuisine or cooking classes.
  • Cultural experiences: these excursions offer a glimpse into the history and traditions of the destinations.
  • Outdoor adventures: for those seeking more active excursions, there are options for hiking, biking, kayaking, and more.

My favorite excursion was an e-biking tour on Fakarava, led by a local who has lived on the island for over a decade. It was an extraordinary experience and a very small group of six allowed the guide to impart his knowledge and personal stories.

kayaks, floating mat, tube in ocean
Image Credit: Savoteur

Windstar’s Water Sports Platform

One of the most popular features of a Windstar Cruise is the water sports platform.

The ships carry a variety of watersports equipment, which can be accessed from a retractable water sports platform (deployed only in calm waters).

All Windstar boats offer complimentary windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, and snorkeling gear. Scuba diving is available for a fee.

Relaxing and floating on the floating mat is also super fun.

Heading to the ship’s marina after an excursion to cool off was one of the absolute favorite parts of my Windstar cruise.

Windstar Cruises Reviews: Pros and Cons

PROS

  • smaller crowds
  • stylish yacht-style ships and rooms
  • lesser-known cruise ports 
  • good food onboard, accommodating special dietary requests
  • water sports platform with complimentary water toys
  • friendly staff
  • good value for money
  • exceptional service

CONS

  • Wi-Fi is not included in the basic package
  • the swimming pool is tiny
  • limited cruise activities or entertainment available
  • limited amount of top deck chairs
windstar cruise ship wind spirit
Image Credit: Savoteur

Final Verdict

After reading other Windstar cruises reviews, people praised seamless embarkation and delicious food that can accommodate special dietary needs. 

Another major benefit of Windstar cruises is fewer crowds and an extensive selection of exciting worldwide cruise destinations. The onboard experience is enhanced by a friendly staff, personalized service, comfortable cabins, and complimentary water sports.

However, there are some drawbacks, such as the additional cost of Wi-Fi, a tiny swimming pool and limited cruise activities and entertainment. 

If you like to be entertained 24/7 and want glitz and glamour, Windstar isn’t the best choice for you. But if you like to have a drink, dance with your partner, listen to live music, wander around the decks, and relax, you’ll enjoy Windstar. 

Overall, I rate the Windstar experience as a great luxury cruise that won’t break the bank. Windstar also made it to our list of the best cruises.

Before you leave, check our other cruise-related articles:

American cruise ports

Ultimate guide to Alaskan cruises

Top 10 romantic cruises

Must-have cruise essentials 

Detailed cruise packing list 

Windstar FAQ

What is the best Windstar ship?

If you’re looking for an iconic sailing experience, the Windstar yachts (Wind Star, Wind Spirit, or Wind Surf) are ideal. These ships are perfectly suited for tropical destinations.  

On the other hand, the Star Plus ships – Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend have more spacious suites, amenities, and dining venues.

Star Fleet is better suited for colder destinations like Alaska, Iceland, and Northern Europe.

The cruise line carefully matches each ship to your choice of destination, ensuring a satisfying experience.

Are Windstar cruises expensive?

Although Windstar is a luxury cruise line with a smaller, intimate size, the cost is relatively affordable. You can choose from basic and all-inclusive packages. Check destinations and pricing.

What is the average age for a Windstar cruise?

Windstar appeals to mature adults. Average cruisers tend to be well-off, down-to-earth, well-traveled, and aged between 30 to 65.

Are Windstar Cruises adults only?

Windstar Cruises accommodates guests of age 8+. Although children are allowed on board, the cruises are tailored toward adults and don’t have any kids’ areas. 


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Travel Writer at Savoteur | + posts

Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.