Windstar's Star Pride: A Photo Tour
As Yogi Berra might have said: You gotta know about Windstar Cruises to know about Windstar Cruises. The small cruise line has just six boats, the largest of which carries just 212 passengers. The line has such a loyal following that some 50% of passengers aboard each sailing are repeat customers—that percentage rises to 70% on many Alaska sailings—which means that a small group of insiders is enjoying these voyages. So what makes Windstar's small ships so popular? When the Star Pride was in New York, I went aboard to take my own look around. Most of the following photos are mine, though I did borrow a few from the line to give a fuller picture of the ship.
Windstar Star Pride: the hull
Those who do know about Windstar will probably be surprised by the look of the Star Pride. When the line first debuted, it made its name in sailing oversized yachts with full masts and sails. Those sails never actually propelled the vessels, but they sure looked purty when unfurled, and gave the cruise line a far different ambiance than its competitors. In 2014, the line expanded when it bought what is today the Star Pride from Seabourne Cruises. It is a power yacht, but is not a full-masted ship like the originals in the Windstar line.
Windstar Star Pride: central staircase
The hallmark for the decor of the Star Pride is luxury in miniature. Here is the handsome, but small, circular staircase at the center of the ship. It makes quite the impression, but it spells bad news for cruisers with mobility impairments: There are no elevators on board the boat.
Windstar Star Pride: skylight
At the top of the staircase is a skylight that floods the interior of the boat with natural light. It's also the most-Instagrammed feature on the boat.
Windstar Star Pride: boutique
Right behind the central staircase and next to the reception desk is this eensy-weensy boutique, which sells necessities for the type of well-heeled passngers who book this boat. Products include designer sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, gold jewelry, and lots of jaunty, patterned silk scarves.
Windstar Star Pride: suite
The Star Pride is an "all-suite" ship, which means that the majority of cabins are set up in the configuration shown in the photo: a bedroom when one first enters, followed by a diminutive living room lit by large windows, or, for 36 of the guest rooms, a glass door leading to a Juliet balcony. The standard suites measure 277 square feet, with upgraded suites coming in between 400 and 530 square feet. Most publications describe these digs as having an "understated elegance" to them. I would translate that to "corporate bland." Rooms are done up in subdued colors of the type you'd find on business suits, although in textiles of a good quality (Egyptian cotton sheets on the beds) and very comfortable mattresses. In their favor, rooms have been designed for maximum usability and come with lots of shelf space, a good number of electrical outlets, and a protective cover for the bed (pictured) to be used when the suitcase is set atop it for unpacking.
Windstar Star Pride: suite bathrooms
One small bathroom is set next to the entry door of each suite. It is clad in marble and features a double sink and a combo tub/shower.
Windstar Star Pride: Owner's Suite
Windstar announced plans to upgrade all of its cabins to the style seen in this owner's suite bedroom. It's a hair more stylish, with a more vibrant navy blue, and patterns that have a bit more angularity to them. Frankly, it doesn't seem like that much of an upgrade to me, décor-wise, but new soft products (rugs, blankets, curtains) will look spiffier.
Windstar Star Pride: Owner's Suite living room
The living room of the Owner's Suite features lots of burnished woods and a view off the bow of the ship (there are two such suites). As in all the suites, fresh flowers and a fruit bowl full of goodies are refreshed daily. In the Owner's Suites, the bedrooms are set in the living room, well away from the door to the corridor, which likely makes them quieter. These suites also feature private balconies with deck chairs.
Windstar Star Pride: The Compass Rose
This multipurpose lounge offers a 180-degree view off the bow of the boat. A wraparound balcony is just outside the windows pictured here. Cushy chairs and sofas mean it is a great place to curl up with a book. Breakfast pastries and coffee are served here in the mornings; at night, that serving station turns into a bar.
Windstar Star Pride: spa, salon, and gym
The Star Pride has a gym so crowded with equipment that I couldn't get a decent photo of it. Space is too tight for a yoga class, but gym rats will be glad to see the new elliptical machines, recumbent bikes, weight machines and free weights. Pictured here is the onboard spa. In nearby rooms are saunas, steam rooms, and a few treatment rooms. Once again, the spaces were too little for me to be able to get good photos.
Windstar Star Pride: The Library
This is a photo of half of the library, a space filled with both books and DVD. In the other half you'll find chairs, desks, and computers for guests hoping to destroy their vacations with work (we've all been there, haven't we?). The work area is flooded with light, which may make laboring away on holiday a bit more palatable.
Windstar Star Pride: casino
Off the main communal area (it serves as both a dining room and a place for nightly entertainment) is this small sliver of a casino. It, along with the spa and library, are what differentiate this boat from Windstar's masted ships. Having a bit more room on the Star Pride than on those original vessels means there can be more entertainment options.
Windstar Star Pride: main lounge
I very much like the way slanted wooden slats are used both as decorative features and to shade passengers from the midday sun. The half-moon shaped main lounge (pictured is a corner of the room), a multipurpose space, is used for lectures, entertainment, and nightly dining.
Windstar Star Pride: main lounge, set for dinner
Windstar upped its game significantly in 2016 when it partnered with the James Beard Foundation. This has given it access to top chefs around the United States, some of whom periodically sail the line's boats, conducting culinary demonstrations.
Windstar Star Pride: the food
Even when the celebrated James Beard Foundation chefs aren't personally aboard, their recipes are being used. The ship's culinary staff prides itself on the sophistication of the cuisine and on how it reflects the foods of the areas being visited. This is a photo of the meal served to us at a recent port tour when the Star Pride was docked in New York City after making a run up the coast of New England to Canada.
Windstar Star Pride: the bridge
When the ship is not in port, passengers are welcome to stop by the bridge any time they like. Pictured is third officer Jack Ebbage, a young Scotsman. He happily chatted with us about why the ship has both a magnetic and a gyro compass, which areas of the world are hairiest to navigate through (Asia, because of all the small fishing vessels), and what is the most commonly asked question he gets from passengers ("Is that the real steering wheel? It's so small.")
Windstar Star Pride: pool deck
In the center of the ship is an itty-bitty swimming pool sided by a small hot tub and surrounded by lounge chairs. Not seen in this photo: an outside bar, but it's there. Alcohol incurs an additional fee on Windstar, though there are reasonable packages that passengers can purchase for unlimited drinks (the lowest-priced one costs the equivalent of two to three purchased drinks per day).
Windstar Star Pride: deck
When the pool area gets too crowded, cruisers can go up one level to this other lounge deck. It's also a sweet place to scan the horizon for the next port. In recent years, Windstar has added more than 150 new ports to its ever-expanding list of itineraries. Because its ships are so small, this includes many moorings that mainstream cruise lines simply can't use because of their size, like Alaska's Misty Fjords National Park, or Indonesia—an exciting prospect for the crew, many of whom are from there.
Windstar Star Pride: hot tub
There's an additional hot tub in the stern of the boat, perfect for sundowners as you sail off into the sunset.
Windstar Star Pride: recreation platform
All of Windstar's boats have a special platform that can be lowered into the water, allowing guests to swim off the side as well as engage in such water sports as kayaking, sailboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and more. It's an unusual perk and is very popular with passengers.
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