Charting a new course with Windstar 0
First-rate service and casual luxury is even available on shore excursions with Windstar. (Robin Robinson/QMI Agency)
My first small-ship cruise was aboard a Windstar "sailing yacht" that carried 312 guests.
The Wind Surf was the largest in Windstar Cruises' three-ship fleet. Her two sister ships - Wind Star and Wind Spirit - carry only 148 guests each.
After previously sailing aboard liners with upwards of 2,500 passengers, I loved Wind Surf's intimate ambiance, human-scale restaurants and bars, casual luxury (no formal nights), and the ability of the small ship to sail into hidden harbours and out of the way ports such as Bequia, a speck of an island belonging to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
But, like many companies, Windstar changed hands a couple of times in the 2000s, underwent some difficulties, and eventually fell off my radar.
Now its new owner - Xanterra Parks and Resorts - has pumped $18 million into refurbishing the fleet from "top to bottom," says Dan Chappelle the cruise line's new v-p of sales.
Wind Star's renovations are complete, while Wind Surf and Wind Spirit's staterooms have been refurbished and the redo of their public areas will be complete this fall.
"With the exception of the hulls, everything is brand new," Chappelle said, adding the new owner wants to reclaim Windstar's "niche" as a "luxury sailing yacht experience."
Along with the new teak decking, upholstery, art, lighting, wall coverings, window treatments, etc., Windstar is also taking its dining "up a notch," Chappelle said. An executive chef has been hired, menus and wine lists have been revamped, and more on-deck dining will be offered.
In addition, the cruise line is offering two-for-one cruise fares on most 2012 voyages booked before Sept. 1, 2012, plus an intriguing-sounding lineup of itineraries for 2013. These include the Greek Isles and Turkish Delights, Islands of Italy, Yachting in the Riviera, Footsteps of Faith, Casablanca and the Canary Islands, Yachtman's Caribbean, and Passage Through Panama.
For details, see your travel agent or contact Windstar at 1-800-258-7245 or windstarcruises.com.