This is my second review of the "Star Pride" --- my first was the maiden voyage in 2014, immediately after the ship was acquired from Seabourn. I noticed several changes, almost all of which were positive.
Our cruise started in Colon, Panama and traversed the Panama Canal, with later stops in several small ports in Costa Rica. The voyage through the Canal was interesting, but not particularly scenic. Some recent passengers have complained that the Costa Rican ports are relatively unknown, but I really liked seeing the smaller venues that feature local culture and wildlife.
Like us (13 previous cruises), over half of the passengers were Windstar alumni cruisers. Also in attendance were the new Windstar President John Delaney, and several members of his executive team. I had the opportunity to spend some “quality time” with John, and found him to be attentive, engaging, and passionate about small ship cruising, with many ideas for improving the Windstar brand.
Prior to our embarkation, we flew into Panama City and stayed at the Bristol Hotel, located in the middle of the banking/financial district. Panama City is located on the Pacific coast, so we took an hour-long bus ride over to Colon’ on the Atlantic coast before boarding the ship. This might seem a bit odd, until you see that Panama City is a modern metropolis dominated by skyscraper hotels and high-rise office buildings, while Colon’ is mostly industrial, with little to offer tourists.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
All the food was great, with very few misses. I had Eggs Benedict every morning, along with a fruit smoothy, fresh-squeezed OJ, and some smoked salmon. For lunch, it took much will power to not over indulge myself on the bread pudding with vanilla sauce. One item that we missed from previous Windstar cruises was the daily chilled soup --- much appreciated in tropical climes. Dinners were consistently delicious. One secret I have learned over the years is that if you don’t like the daily dessert offerings, you can always get Crème Brulee from the Candles restaurant.
Indoor seating at the Veranda restaurant was a little limited, so we always ate outdoors. Since our first cruise on the Star Pride, Windstar has added a second covered seating area (where the pool used to be) to handle a larger crowd.
5 out of 5
All the Windstar yachts have a minimal approach to onboard activities, and the Star Pride was no exception. There are no Zumba classes, glass blowing exhibitions, or bridge tournaments such as might be found on larger vessels. Bravo! One traditional Wind Surf activity that was not offered was the afternoon tea time in the Compass Rose --- just doesn't have the same appeal indoors.
The two biggest events of the week are the Beach Party (on a private island) and the Deck Barbecue, featuring line dancing afterwards. Most dancing I saw all week! The Crew Show is also a favorite, as well as the Yacht Club reception for past Windstar guests.
5 out of 5
On previous Windstar cruises, the entertainment always included a 4-5 piece combo such as “Top Society”, plus a second duo, usually a vocalist and guitarist or keyboard player. Thankfully, on this cruise there was no large combo. Instead, there were two duos – D’Harmony and Mardi Gras. D’Harmony (guitarist Eric and vocalist Monique) were our favorites, by far.
3 out of 5
There were only a few youngsters on board, and they were the children of one of the ship's officers. They still seemed to have a great time.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
As always, the personalized service was terrific. In my opinion, this is a major reason why Windstar has such a dedicated following, and so many repeat customers. Wait staff addressed passengers by name, and were genuinely enthusiastic about posing for pictures. Bartenders quickly learned everyone’s favorite wines or drinks. Our favorites were Jocelyn, Shirley and Jesse, all members of the bar team.
I have learned that it is almost always best to buy wine by the bottle instead of by the glass, as the wait staff are happy to store it for later use, either at the bar or at meals.
5 out of 5
The Star Pride one of three (3) motor yachts purchased in late 2013 from Seabourn Cruise Lines, and then immediately refurbished. The ship holds just over 200 passengers. Most of my previous cruises have been on board the larger (325 passengers) Wind Surf sailing yacht , which has smaller cabins, but much larger public spaces. I confess that I am very partial to the Wind Surf, but I am warming up to the Star class vessels --- they each have their charms.
The ship has many features familiar to Windstar regulars: intimate "private yacht" ambiance, country club casual dress policy, attentive wait staff who learn guests' names seemingly overnight, and the open bridge policy. Cabins are all suites, with a minimum 50% larger footprint, larger marble bath, and a walk-in closet. The ship also features an aft sports platform for water activities, a small casino, and spa. Originally, the ship had two whirlpools (hot tubs) side by side on deck 7, plus an adjacent small pool, all covered by an awning. Windstar recently removed the pool, and replaced one of the whirlpools with a slightly larger “jet” pool. When the jet is on you can actually swim against the current, and when it’s off, 6-8 people can fit in comfort.
The Veranda restaurant has both indoor and open-air seating, and transforms into the Candles alternative dinner restaurant at night.
The AmphorA restaurant is on the lower deck, and is handsomely decorated, spacious and comfortable, but also can be quite noisy at dinner time. Best to ask for a window table, rather than one in the middle of the room.
The Lounge features a stage for entertainers and speakers, with theater type seating. Oddly enough, there is no bar in the Lounge, and so it is mostly used as a theater. The Compass Rose is located one deck higher, adjacent to the Casino, and has a very nice bar area and large dance floor. Unfortunately, it is completely indoors --- I really missed the aft ocean view from the Compass Rose on the Wind Surf.
The Yacht Club is located on the top deck in front of the Star Bar. It is a handsome room with great views and comfortable seating, and a large TV for viewing photos from the ship’s photographer. Coffee, tea and pastries are offered in the morning, with light sandwiches and snacks available later in the day.
Cabin / Stateroom
Great location almost amidships, directly adjacent to the Atrium, so just one deck and a few steps from Reception. Our cabin was on the lowest of the three passenger decks, and the least expensive. We had a nice large window, but no balcony. The cabin was spacious, with a nice seating area, walk in closet, and marble bath, plush towels, and L'Occitane toiletries. It seemed even larger because of the very low bed. However, the low bed also made it impossible to use for luggage storage (other than a carry-on). Although the cabins are at least 100 sq. feet larger than on the Wind Surf, the bed sits very closely to the desk, making it a squeeze to get by. A nice feature is the curtain that can be drawn between the bed and the sitting area --- very convenient if I wanted to read after my wife went to bed.
Visit the Bridge! The Bridge is usually open almost any time the ship is at sea. It is fascinating to see the electronics and navigational equipment, and to chat with the ship officers.
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