For John Delaney, president of Windstar Cruises, the company’s “180-degrees from ordinary” slogan means guests “are not going to have the same experience that they would have on a larger ship. It means that we are literally striving to deliver the extraordinary.”
By operating six, intimate, 148- to 310-passenger luxury sailing and all-suite yachts, Windstar is able to leverage its small-ship advantage to provide passengers with superior service, diverse itineraries calling on less-frequented ports, and the chance to make meaningful connections with the crew and fellow passengers. It’s more than a major selling point for the line, it’s personal experiences and exclusive opportunities your clients will be able to touch, see and feel. Luxuries I was able to experience on Windstar’s first-ever President’s Cruise to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal aboard the newly refit, 212-passenger Star Pride.
Keeping it Fresh
Last year’s $4.5 million refresh of the Star Pride included a complete renovation of the ship’s two Owner’s Suites, as well as a nautically inspired remodeling of public spaces and dining venues. Your clients will spend a bit of leisurely time in their stateroom, so recommend they upgrade from a standard Ocean View Suite (64 cabins) to a Balcony Suite (36 cabins) with French-style balconies. Each of Star Pride’s 106 suites offer ocean views, an LCD flat-screen TV, DVD/CD player, mini-bar with complimentary soft drinks, L’Occitane bath amenities and a queen-size bed that can be converted into two twin beds.
In more recent news, Windstar has entered into an exclusive partnership with the James Beard Foundation giving guests access to JBF-endorsed cuisine, recipes and culinary demonstrations on every sailing.
“We tried three themed cruises with the James Beard Foundation last year, where we had one of their top celebrity chefs on board and built a great program around it,” says Delaney. While the James Beard Foundation menu items were not available during this particular sailing, I did have the opportunity to watch a JBF-powered culinary demonstration hosted by Windstar’s chef Rohit and executive chef Chet. The first dish they prepared, a citrus-cured Atlantic salmon with tomato-basil compote, was created by James Beard Foundation chef Michel Nischan.
But don’t think this means I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the perfectly portioned dishes at AmphorA, the ship’s main dining room serving international and fresh local dishes, and Candles, a reservations-only alfresco spot offering steaks and grilled skewers. On the contrary, each and every morsel of food that touched my lips, including the light bites served at the Yacht Club and breakfast items at the Veranda exceeded my expectations.
Did I mention every Windstar voyage includes unlimited access to the fitness center? If guests are not able to make their way to the gym, wandering between the Star Pride’s public areas—lounge and screening room on deck 5; casino and library on deck 6; and counter-current pool, whirlpool on deck 7—should somewhat mitigate those inevitable cruise pounds.
The real pride of Star Pride, and all Windstar vessels, is undoubtedly the crew. It’s Ram, the mild-mannered housekeeper who politely hangs your clothes up after you’ve left them on the bed in a rush; Gustavo, Windstar’s naturalist whose nightly port talks leave you fascinated and more connected with each destination; and Chai and Mary Jane, the receptionists who always ask about your day with the utmost enthusiasm, who make up the secret sauce that leave Windstar cruisers wanting more.
“When there are only 200 folks on a ship with 150 crew members, this wonderful kind of social magic happens and to me, that’s small-ship cruising,” says Delaney. “Our guests are incredibly well traveled, they have great life stories, they’re approachable, they’re down-to-Earth, they tend to be very affluent, but they’re very comfortable in their own skin.”
Many of the excursions on this sailing called for moderate to strenuous activity level and a bit of moxy, which my fellow passengers had no problem with. Not only did they enjoy taking a Zodiac ashore for wet and dry landings, but when it came time to hopping off towering wooden platforms into the rainforest canopy during a zipline tour at Corcovado National Park in Quepos, Costa Rica, they took the leap without batting an eye. When it came time for a much-needed dip in the beach mid-way through a dolphin watch in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, those same passengers were springing onto our boat’s slide attachment one by one and plunging into the water; and when it was time to work off some extra calories after a lobster-, paella- and roasted pig-filled Presidential Deck BBQ, they were boogying to “Y.M.C.A” like it was 1978. Rates include all onboard entertainment, unlimited use of all watersports equipment (kayaking, snorkeling, paddleboarding, water skiing, etc.), and all meals in all venues at all times, including 24-hour room service.
Windstar Cruises: windstarcruises.com