If a cruise ship launches without any passengers on board, does it make a splash?
Seattle-based Windstar Cruises hopes so – because the small ship cruise line is delighted to share some good news in 2020 and digitally showcase the renaissance of Star Breeze, an all-suite yacht that was cut in half and lengthened with the addition of 50 new suites, two innovative restaurants, a reimagined spa/fitness center, enlarged pool and deck, new bathrooms in all suites and new efficient engines.
Capacity increased from 212 guests to 312 – still small enough for visiting small ports and hidden harbors around the world – although the ship won’t be welcoming passengers until 2021.
While Windstar has temporarily suspended operations, renovation work on its three Star Plus Class ships moved forward, with Star Breeze as the first to emerge from a $250 million Star Plus Initiative that also includes sister ships Star Pride and Star Legend. The two ships will join the fleet later in 2021, following their completed Star Plus transformations carried out by Fincantieri at its shipyard in Palermo (Italy). Fincantieri is regarded as the leader in major cruise ship renovations, particularly for this kind of highly complex undertaking.
“We’re delighted to take delivery of Star Breeze, the first ship completed as part of the Star Plus Initiative at Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo,” said Chris Prelog, president of Windstar Cruises. “These three Star Plus Class yachts offer more amenities we know our guests want, while still being small enough to travel the narrow waterways and visit the small ports we’re known for.”
Prelog emphasized the additional work and investment into this yacht and others for health and safety features as part of the new Beyond Ordinary Care program. Star Breeze is outfitted with new HEPA filters and UV-C light technology, and the rest of the fleet will be outfitted with these updates and more before returning to service.
Here’s what’s new on board:
New Dining (Outdoors in Particular)
One of the most anticipated developments in Star Breeze’s renaissance is the addition of two new restaurants: one an outdoor barbecue concept with grilling guru Steven Raichlen and the other a Spanish small plates restaurant from Anthony Sasso, one of the youngest chefs to be recognized by the Michelin Guide.
Star Grill by Steven Raichlen embraces the al fresco setting and ocean views with drinks like Strawberry Pimm’s Cups and Raspberry/Melon Slushies. From the smoker, Tea Smoke Duck and Coffee-Crusted Prime Brisket with Chipotle Molasses Barbecue Sauce will impress guests, along with grilled selections such as Shrimp on Sugarcane with Mount Gay Rum Sauce. Vegetarians won’t be ignored, including choices like Planked Camembert with Pepper Jelly, Pecans and Grilled Bread, Mexican Grilled Corn, Falafel Burgers, and Grilled Eggplant Salad.
On Deck 6 at Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, guests can expect a curated collection of Spanish staples, all with a modern twist. Menu items range from Galicia’s Pulpo Gallego to Valencia’s Fideos Mar y Montaña, with decadent desserts including Madrid’s famous Churros y Chocolate. A chef's counter overlooking an open kitchen lets diners observe the cooking process, and a Spanish-centric wine and cocktail list completes the experience. The restaurant seats just 38 patrons at maximum capacity.
At Veranda restaurant, where guests are served breakfast and lunch daily, there’s a new coffee station, as well as more outdoor and ocean-view seating. Veranda transforms at night into another concept called Candles, Windstar’s reservation-only steakhouse. Dinner is served outdoors, under the stars and candlelight (thus the name), unless weather prohibits. Candles will debut a new menu on Star Breeze with a jaw-dropping 40-ounce Beef Bone-In Ribeye Tomahawk Steak, as well as a 30-ounce Bone-In Porterhouse Steak. Both are Linz Heritage Certified Black Angus, carved tableside, and require a small upcharge. (Note that dining across Windstar’s fleet is included in the cruise fare, with no additional upcharges beyond these individual items.)
A True Spa & Fitness Center
Star Breeze now has a completely re-imagined and enlarged spa and fitness center to invigorate active guests. The workout equipment is made by Technogym, an Italian company known for its cutting-edge designs. The spa menu features regional spa treatments and destination-themed therapies as part of the World Spa by Windstar program. Massage therapists and beauticians will be using products from Elemis, a luxurious British body and skincare line.
More Deck Space / Outdoor Amenities
The yacht now has a large pool and hot tub on an elevated top deck, offering outstanding views, along with expanded outdoor deck areas for relaxing and sun-bathing.
There are 50 new suites featuring new suite categories and open floor plan configurations, as well as two brand-new, larger Owner’s Suites. These combine suites to create up to a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite – the first of its kind in the cruise industry. Every suite on board will feature all-new bathrooms.
Important, But Less Flashy for Guests…
There are new, state-of-the-art, efficient engines and diesel generators, plus a new elevator mid-ship, making access to all decks easy from anywhere on board. There’s a comfortable tender loading area located mid-ship and two new 90-passenger tenders that will ferry guests to port when yachts are at anchor. In addition, staff and crew areas and accommodations were expanded and upgraded.
COVID and Cruising
Recently the brand announced a new Beyond Ordinary Care program, which is a multi-layered strategy with key hospital-grade elements: HEPA filters and UV-C ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to filter and disinfect the air, plus electrostatic sprayers to sanitize all surfaces throughout the yacht. The company worked with the Anschutz Medical Center department of epidemiology to design a multi-layered approach that takes the best practices in science, technology and behavior together, and believes this comprehensive program to provide a healthy environment on board will also give travelers (both avid Windstar guests and new ones) confidence to book when paired with a Travel Assurance Booking Policy that gives flexibility to make plans and update them without fees if things change.