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Elk Grove Citizen

Windstar Returns with Debut of Star Plus Class

Jul 06, 2021 12:00AM ● By David Dickstein

The Star Breeze is the first of Windstar's new Star Plus Class to get her sea legs. Photo by David Dickstein

Windstar Returns with Debut of Star Plus Class [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

“I’m super-hyped for crew and passengers alike to see this completely renovated 32-year-old rebuilt"

The loungers by the ship’s pool were no more than an inch off from being placed in a perfect row, but that wasn’t good enough for the hotel officer who used a crew member’s linear faux pas as an opportunity for some impromptu retraining. In the worker’s defense, he probably hadn’t performed that chore for well over a year.

The incident caught my eye while staring out a window of the Windstar Star Breeze’s fitness center, where this early-rising passenger was working off the scrumptious beef Wellington enjoyed the night before at the elegant Amphora dining room. When commended for his attention for detail, Hurbert Baudat Jacquet, a maître ‘d and trainer, said that making a good first impression with each guest every morning is vital to delivering on the luxury cruise line’s brand promise of offering “private yacht-style cruising that’s 180 degrees from the ordinary.”

Promise made, promise kept. The Star Breeze crew went above and beyond on a recent “inaugural” sail of this 32-year-old cruise ship. Inaugural isn’t a term often used in reference to a vessel over three decades old, but in a couple of ways the seven-day voyage embarked on a new era when it was finally unshackled from both a worldwide no-sail order and the northeast berth of the Port of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

The 312-passenger Star Breeze set sail with actual guests on June 19, and would have marked the cruise line’s jubilant return after a 15-month pandemic-induced hibernation had the 148-capacity Wind Star not raised anchor a few hours earlier in Athens. Where the Star Breeze gets the nod for milestone achievement is it was the official debut of a new class of Windstar ships.

Half of Windstar’s six-vessel fleet is being reclassified from Star to Star Plus. For the Windstar faithful, the extra word means there’s now more to love with the Star Breeze, Star Legend come September and Star Pride in November. The staggered rollout of these eight-deck sister ships involves expanding – or “stretching” – them by halving and inserting a new 84-foot midsection with 50 staterooms to accommodate another 100 passengers.

The added real estate raises Star Breeze’s gross tonnage from 9,975 to 12,969. Unlike for the more indulgent cruisers who put on a few pounds while sailing with her over the years, this weight gain is intentional. The results of the maritime makeover are evident from bow to stern on what is presently the flagship of Wind Star’s “$250-million Star Class Transformation.”


Cuadro 44, open only for dinner, is the most novel concept among the new dining options. On deck 6 in the former location of the gift shop is a small Spanish-influenced restaurant accented with whimsy by New York chef Anthony Sasso. Tapas worthy of note include the jamón ibérico featuring a 24-month-aged leg of pork raised solely on acorns in Southern Spain, and the pulpo gallego with charred Portuguese octopus. Vegetarians will savor the potato tortilla, perhaps the best frittata served at sea. Winning entrees include a salad take on gazpacho with calamari, the mint salsa verde-slathered lamb chops and a light, yet flavorful olive oil-poached bacalao. Only nit is a menu that poorly describes some of the items; what you read or are told is not necessarily what you get – a first-world problem if there ever was one.

Eclectic fare without a Spanish accent is found midship on deck 8 at the new buffet-style Star Grill, conceived by renowned grilling god Steven Raichlen. Flanking the two or three types of meat at the carver’s stations are a salad bar and dessert/fruit station, but guests may also order items more representative of the eatery’s name. The burgers are tasty, though inferior to Guy Fieri’s on Carnival ships. Situated under a sprawling canopy and adjacent to the spirited and refurbished Star Bar, this is a lovely spot rain or shine for grub and grog.

Rounding out the dining options, besides 24/7 room service, are the relocated and rebuilt Amphora main dining room for an exquisite dinner on deck 3 (the aforementioned beef Wellington and “no sugar added” desserts are sublime); a newly built space on 7 that doubles as Veranda for buffet-style breakfasts and lunches, and full-service Candles at dinnertime (the sea bass, lemon tart and views off the stern are to die for); and the refurbished Yacht Club Café for sweet and savory snacks washed down with barista-made coffee drinks.

Cabins & Crooners

Accommodations-wise, the grand owner suite with balcony is the ultimate, offering 1,374 square feet across three connecting staterooms for a total of three bedrooms and three and one-half bathrooms. The two suites that make up this new category are within the existing block, but you’d never know it from the completely refurbished interior. In fact, all cabins now have new bathrooms, bedding, smart TVs, carpeting and wallpaper, and in the pre-stretch staterooms, reupholstered furniture. The renovated cabins look just as sharp as the new ones; even where the splicing was done is seamless – a marvel in engineering and interior design.

Entertainment aboard the Star Breeze also has been upgraded. The professional singers still vibe with solo and duo acts, but now are showcased in the refurbished 124-seat Lounge with a live band. The first week’s shows were hampered with technical gaffes and opening week jitters, but troopers were the featured singers and affable entertainment manager Simon Candlish.

The vivacious Kat Relevo of the ship’s Philippines-based Fantastic Beats house band did justice to the challenging “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” movie soundtrack, and classically trained singer Kirsty-Rae debuted her “Viva La Diva,” a collection of songs from the recording world’s prima donnas. Steve Hollington was a standout with his tribute to Elton John – a spot-on showcase of singing and piano-playing talent down to his sequin COVID mask. More cabaret-type shows are expected to roll out across Windstar’s Star Plus ships, making better use of an existing theater of proportions non-existent on Windstar’s Sail Class yachts – the Wind Spirit, Wind Star and Wind Surf.

Other features on the spiffy, redesigned Star Breeze include a bigger pool, enlarged World Spa with brand new equipment (like at the water sports platform), well-stocked Star Boutique with branded merchandise and a more dramatically staged “Windstar Signature Sail Away” to Vangelis’ rousing “Conquest to Paradise.” Behind the scenes are four environmentally friendly engines that have replaced seven deemed by Windstar itself as “inefficient.”

Windstar President Christopher Prelog sailed on the landmark voyage out of Sint Maarten to join the crew in welcoming guests back and showing off the revamped ship.

“This feels really, really, really amazing,” he said. “I’m super-hyped for crew and passengers alike to see this completely renovated 32-year-old rebuilt. This is the result of a lot of work. Whoever knew that not operating a fleet is so work-intensive?”

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