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I arrived in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, late on a sunny afternoon the day before my President’s Cruise: Captivating Canary Islands sailing aboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride. I was joining some 300 passengers on this 8-day jaunt from there to Lisbon, a new itinerary for the brand. “[Guests] were asking us to go to different places,” says Chris Prelog, President of Windstar Cruises. “The Canary Islands really have a lot of potential.”

The tiny town of Curral das Freiras on Madeira. (Photo by Lydia Gregory)

And see them we did. However, before we get into that, if you’ve never traveled on a Windstar cruise, you’ll need to know this is a very particular type of cruise—one that’s created a fiercely loyal following (Prelog: “We’ve had guests who’ve sailed over a thousand days with us!”)

All-Star Windstar

The Star Pride is an all-suite power yacht, the third and final of the brand’s Star Plus Class ships to undergo a massive transformation and refurbishment. It increased capacity by adding the award-winning Star Class suites, expanded the outdoor and indoor public spaces, upped its sustainability and efficiency credentials, added new dining experiences, recreated the spa and added an infinity pool. This yacht stands six decks tall and feels spacious while retaining an air of intimacy.

Star Ocean View Suite, similar to the one we called home for the week. (Photo by Windstar Cruises)

Beyond its good looks, however, onboard, you’ll soon find the 1-to-1.5 staff-to-guest ratio isn’t just about the numbers—it’s truly personal. For example, I lost my eye mask and can’t sleep without it. The Star Boutique didn’t sell them, so Julio, the salesperson, asked me to wait one second, rushed back to his cabin and returned with a sealed airline mask from his own stash!

“We are different to many other small ship operators [in that with] our crew, our guests, our advisors, we’re very personal. We can be reached any day of the week,” says Prelog. “I answer every email I get, whether it’s an advisor, guest or crew member. So, you are dealing with the people who are running the company, that makes us very personal.

“And I think it reflects also in the product on board, because the crew and guest interactions are on a very personal level, but so it is between the head office and the crew.”

Immersion Cruising

Because the ship isn’t the destination as occurs with the mega-ships, Windstar takes great care in ensuring its shore excursions are meaningful and strives to incorporate ports of call through the menus, gifts in your stateroom (a mini bottle of port and a honey cake one day, candied almonds the next) and guest presentations in the Screening Room.

We had calls in Lanzarote and San Sebastian de la Gomera, with overnights in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the lush island of Madeira (a personal favorite and “the Hawaii of Europe,” says Prelog). Our final stop was Lisbon. It’s gorgeous, so be sure to factor in some post-cruise days for touring.

Playa de la Cueva, San Sebastian de la Gomera. (Photo by Lydia Gregory)

The personal touch continues on land. Because the excursion groups are small, clients will find themselves sharing stories. In our case, Rebecca, the tour guide in Gomera, knowing I was Puerto Rican, explained that Columbus departed from there to the New World with ships full of Canary Islanders, who proceeded to colonize the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico—and that’s why our accent sounds just like theirs.

In Tenerife, we joined Executive Chef Stefan Vasilev and Sous Chef Alvyn Guillerte on a market run to buy fresh fish and local cheeses for Star Pride’s restaurants, then sat together for coffee and warm pastries.

Dining & Entertainment

All meals on board were a treat, between the James Beard Foundation chef-recommended selections at the main dining room, Amphora, the perfectly cooked steaks at Candles and the mouthwatering tapas at Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, head chef at the Michelin-starred Casa Mono in NYC. By day, Candles extends its indoor/outdoor dining as Veranda for breakfast and lunch, with the Star Grill on Deck 8 as another very popular option for those meals. Beautifully prepared plant-based options are available at every eatery, including room service. Of note: Ensure your clients don’t miss the traditional Deck BBQ. It’s a literal smorgasbord.

Yacht Club Cafe on Deck 8 is a favorite for light bites and socializing. (Photo by Windstar)

Though small, the ship had plenty of entertainment on tap, with live music and dancing on the pool deck or The Compass Rose, lively conversation at the Star Bar across from the Star Grill or a Crew Show at The Lounge. Think fun and sociable over rowdy and loud.

Advisors Are Key

Prelog says the best support Windstar gives to advisors is “listening because they always have very good ideas.”

“We make a lot of our decisions based on what they recommend to us,” agrees Senior Sales Director Dianna Rom, referring to Club 180’s top-selling advisors. “Because they know it best. They know how to manage their advisors and the guests that are coming through their advisors.”

“And we put a lot of things in working order as soon as we leave.” This is an agile company, in other words, with a refreshing lack of bureaucracy.

Windstar also recently announced two new developments: starting this month, all booking commissions will be paid 29 days prior to the cruise departure rather than after departure, and if you invest in becoming a Windstar Cruises Star Specialist, you can earn back the cruise fare of your eligible FAM trip in the form of a future commission payment. Of note: “We’re huge fans of solo travelers,” says Prelog (“a huge market,” adds Rom), and their vessels are ideal for buyouts—think weddings.

And finally…

Some hot tips to share with clients: There’s a soft-serve ice cream machine to one side of the Star Grill (a Prelog favorite); Deck 5 has a second whirlpool with a secret sundeck; and the spa facilities—heated lounges, steam room, dry sauna and jetted shower—are free to use even if you don’t book a treatment. I did: A decadent Elemis facial that left my skin glowing.

Oh, and the missing eye mask? Hidayat, our awsome Room Attendant, found it under my bed!

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