Line: Windstar Cruises
Built: Originally built as Seabourn Pride in 1988; refurbished and christened as Star Pride in May 2014.
Routes: Seven- to nine-night Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Greek Isles itineraries, May to October; 10- to 18-night Arabian Peninsula and Asian itineraries, November to April.
Couples who love the intimacy of small-ship cruising paired with Windstar’s resort-casual dress code (translation: no formal nights). The ship’s size also makes it ideal for visits to smaller ports that can’t accommodate larger vessels — often with longer stays, sometimes until 10 pm.
Anyone seeking multiple dining and entertainment options. Also, this is not a ship for families — kids must be 8 or older — or anyone who considers relaxing poolside or on a private balcony an integral part of the cruise experience.
- Newly refurbished and spacious suites feature marble bathrooms with double sinks and full-size tubs.
- At the Sail Away party, Windstar’s signature sail-raising ceremony has been successfully tweaked for this nonsailing vessel — admittedly to less dramatic effect.
- The on-deck barbecue becomes a lively dance party for both passengers and crew.
- Bike rentals are available in most ports, offering a fun way for passengers to explore on their own.
This power yacht — formerly Seabourn Pride — underwent an 18-day cosmetic nip and tuck in Barcelona, Spain, before kicking off its inaugural Windstar season in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Greek Isles. While Star Pride’s small size (212 passengers) mirrors the three other yachts in the fleet (148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit, and 310-passenger Wind Surf), it lacks something the other ships in the fleet proudly flaunt: sails.
The unfurling of yards of white canvas to the chords of “1492: Conquest of Paradise” is something repeat cruisers look forward to. To bring that experience to Star Pride, the company debuted a militarily precise hoisting of the Windstar flag by two white-uniformed staffers set to the same music. It’s not quite as dramatic as billowing sails, but it does provide a sense of continuity.
The ship’s itineraries visit a mix of major cities — typically bookending each cruise — popular islands, and lesser-known ports that aren’t overrun by megaships. In addition to Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, and Monte Carlo, Monaco, Star Pride calls on novel ports like Constanta, Romania; Nesebar, Bulgaria; Kotor, Montenegro; and Hydra, Greece.
Star Pride’s size translates to limited shore excursions — typically just three or four in each port — but they cover everything from museums to wine tastings to bike tours. When in Monaco, we suggest the excursion to the medieval hilltop village of Eze and the beautiful gardens of Villa Rothschild.
And if you enjoy learning about local wine and cuisine, such tours are offered on most itineraries. What’s more, in smaller ports you’ll have time to do an excursion in the morning and explore on your own in the afternoon.
If you cruise mainly to relax and read, however, don’t expect a luxury pool scene. The ship has a tiny, awkwardly located pool. The two hot tubs are slightly better, set midship within view of the wonderful Star Bar, while a third secluded hot tub is on Deck 5 forward. And although a planned dry dock in 2016 promises aesthetic improvements, not much can be done about the layout.
What Star Pride does have that Windstar’s other yachts don’t is spacious suites with large bathrooms. Standard cabins are 277 square feet versus 188 on the three sailing ships. And yet with re-imagined contemporary-style interiors by the same design firm that renovated Wind Star, Wind Spirit, and Wind Surf over the past two years, it all feels familiar — elegant yet comfortable with a color palette and fabrics that are refreshingly unfussy.
All 106 suites, refreshed in April 2014 just prior to the inauguration, have new furniture — except built-ins and beds — carpet, and draperies in a contemporary palette of light taupe with deep blue (or in some suites, pale green) accents, a queen-size bed with Euro Top mattress (most are convertible to twins), a sofa, and two chairs.
The rooms feature a flat-screen TV, CD/DVD player, minibar, Bose® SoundDock® speaker, walk-in closet with a safe and waffle-weave robes, and spacious white marble bathroom with dual sinks and a large soaking tub/shower — which may be difficult for some passengers to get in and out of. (If that’s a concern, book one of the six ocean view suites with a shower only or one of the four accessible suites). Toiletries are by L’Occitane, and linens are high-thread-count Egyptian cotton.
The only complaints: Suite doors are inches apart, so you hear neighbors coming and going, and a bulky chair creates a tight squeeze between the desk and the bed.
Star Pride offers four cabin categories: There are 64 ocean view suites (four of them accessible), each 277 square feet with a picture window. The 36 balcony suites offer the same square footage and have French doors that open to a Juliet balcony. Two classic suites, located forward on Deck 5, are 400 square feet and feature a bedroom and a separate living area with a forward-facing window and a cozy balcony off the bedroom; each has a port-inspired theme (Portofino and Mykonos) with color scheme and artwork to match.
The four owner’s suites, also port-themed, come in two sizes: 520 square feet with side-facing balconies off the living room, and 575 square feet with forward-facing balconies off the living room. All four have living and sleeping areas connected by French doors, two bathrooms, and a second TV in the bedroom.
There are two restaurants: Amphora — the main dining room — and Verandah, an indoor-outdoor eatery on Deck 7 serving a buffet at breakfast and lunchtime, and morphing into reservation-only Candles Grill most evenings.
Each morning in Verandah, you’ll find a good selection of fresh fruits and juices, smoked salmon, cold cuts and cheeses, oatmeal and other cereals, yogurt, and assorted breads and pastries. There’s also an omelet station and a small menu of à la carte items, such as eggs Benedict or French toast.
Verandah’s buffet lunches include about a dozen options: salads — from Greek to Thai-inspired — pasta or carved meat, and flavorful rotating choices, such as chicken curry, marinated scallops, braised duck legs, and salmon en croute. There are a half dozen dessert choices, including brownies, cheesecake, and pies.
Amphora. which has been redesigned with open seating, features a different menu nightly and a nice selection of wines. The kitchen excels most when it keeps things simple: lamb chops, seared scallops, and decadent truffle French fries. Many dishes are heavy on sauces and fried preparations: An otherwise delicious grilled barramundi was smothered in cream sauce and topped with a tempura-like “vegetable bundle,” and a skewered seafood appetizer was deep-fried and soggy.
Guests seeking less fat-laden dishes can ask for special preparations, but it would be nice if Windstar followed the lead of other lines and offered healthy options on the menu.
Candles Grill serves locally sourced grilled fish and certified Angus beef with a variety of sauces. It got rave reviews from other passengers on our sailing, but we couldn’t secure a reservation. Our advice: Book immediately upon boarding.
Where Star Pride’s culinary team truly excels is the on-deck barbecue, an all-you-can-eat feast of seafood (don’t miss the delicious lobster tail), roast suckling pig, seafood paella, and fire-grilled meats served buffet-style as the sun sets.
Tip: Remember: Star Pride’s pricing is not cocktail-inclusive; guests can charge as they go or purchase a beverage package for $108 per day per cabin.
Activities and Entertainment
By day, the focus is on exploration, but when the ship anchors offshore, guests can also swim, kayak, paddleboard, or water-ski from the water sports platform. There’s also a small spa, a gym, and a library with books and movies on DVD. On sea days, the Yacht Club — with its panoramic windows and coffee bar — is a quiet haven.
Come evening, the Star Bar serves sunset cocktails, while post-dinner entertainment is centered in the Compass Rose Bar, the small adjoining casino, and an entertaining vocal-piano duo. A five-member band plays the lounge nightly and backs up affable, baby-faced Captain Alan MacAry during his welcome and farewell cocktail parties. Since Star Pride has an open bridge policy, passengers get to know the captain here more than they do on other ships, and — since the ship is small and social — you can expect to get to know your fellow passengers, too.
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