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Compared with some of the huge cruise ships one sees at Manhattan’s Hudson River docks, Star Pride looks like a yacht. Of course, it isn’t just a yacht; this ship has more than 100 passenger cabins. Not many more than 100, though; the exact tally is 106.

Windstar Cruises, which recently topped Travel + Leisure World’s list of the best midsize-ship ocean cruise lines, operates six small, all-suite ships that call at more than 80 countries in Europe, both coasts of North America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Asia, and Tahiti. The cruise line offers passengers a strong focus on destinations, including immersive experiences, and superb cuisine, thanks to daily menu changes, attention to local dishes, and its much-coveted partnership with the James Beard Foundation, which participates in culinary-themed cruises. So last week, when Star Pride made a stop in New York City, this reporter took the opportunity to tour and taste the ship’s offerings.

Grand Caribbean Adventure
“Our company has added 150 ports in two years,” said John Delaney, president of Windstar Cruises, in a conversation with this reporter. That means new itineraries all over the world, such as Star Collector Voyages that feature longer sailings with hand-crafted excursions. Examples include Star Pride‘s 14-day Lovely Leewards (San Juan to San Juan) and 14-day Comprehensive Lesser Antilles (also San Juan to San Juan). FYI, the longest of the Star Collector Voyages is a nearly 2-month Grand Caribbean Adventure aboard the Wind Surf, the world’s largest sailing ship.

Asked to name the smallest Caribbean island any of his ships visit, Delaney said, “Barbuda!” Then he talked knowledgeably about the extraordinary bird colonies there and its astonishing comeback after 2017’s hurricanes. Tours for Star Pride passengers, he added, feature small groups for a true immersive experience.

The James Beard Connection
Clare Reichenbach, president of the James Beard Foundation, talked about her nonprofit’s partnership with Windstar Cruises, which she praised for its attention to quality in food and wine, local ingredients and authentic dishes. Some cruises have a special culinary theme, such as Wind Pride’s James Beard Foundation: Windward Islands Surf & Sunset (San Juan), during which Beard Award winners chef Jose Mendin and sommelier Tiffanie Barriere lead tastings, tours of markets, chef demonstrations, and a special wine-pairing dinner. Reichenbach also emphasized the Foundation’s commitment to the advancement of women in the food world, sustainability, and eliminating food waste.

I also took a private tour of the cabins (suites, really) with Wilhelm Steinbrunner, the hotel GM, and came away with a few thoughts:

  • The cabins are so well kept and refreshed that they seem to be new. The baths, which have showers, are smartly designed with double sinks—a blessing.
  • Much like the ship’s culinary and shore excursion programs, these cabins are designed for adults, notwithstanding the couches in the living rooms. Granted, one might be able to fit a child or two in one of the Owners Suites, but better to think of Star Pride as an adults-only ship—for sophisticated adults, at that.
  • Some of the suites have balcony seating, but the wide panoramic windows on many of the suites may be actually provide your clients with more pleasure.

    (Photo credit: Eric Vitale Photography)

Before disembarking, I tried several of corporate executive chef Graeme Cockburn’s canapes, including a rich but light meatball-shaped mushroom sphere on polenta. Like the other canapes I tasted, it was a reminder that when this cruise line’s president tells you that gastronomy matters, he means it.

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