Just Back: Windstar’s Revitalized Star Breeze

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18 Aug, 2021

We’d sailed on Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze prior to its recent Star Plus Initiative revitalization and we’ve just returned from experiencing the “new” ship. Our verdict? We really liked “the before” but we’re absolutely in love with “the after.”

Cut in half, with a 60-foot mid-section added, the 312-passenger Star Breeze is still intimate but larger. While it’s still a relatively small ship, it now has many new suites and public spaces.

This summer, Luxury Travel Advisor sailed on Star Breeze during a week-long voyage from St. Maarten in the Caribbean. Now, the ship is headed to Tahiti, where it will sail Tahiti/French Polynesia cruises from September 19, 2021 through March 31, 2022.

The vessel is the first to have received the line’s Star Plus Initiative updates ($250 million spent across all three sister ships) with these same updates now occurring on Star Legend and Star Pride. Yes, guests who’ve sailed on this class of motorized vessel — now with Windstar (and in a former life with Seabourn) will find familiar design elements — such as the spiral staircase in the ship’s atrium area. But they’ll also savor what’s new.

cruise ship

Fresh Look, More Suites 

Easy on the eyes, Star Breeze’s fresh, new look features soft muted colors — blue, tan and cream tones; new carpeting, drapes and curtains; and new mattresses, linens and pillows; for all guest suites. That’s not just for the ship’s 50 new suites, but also in existing accommodations and crew quarters, too. 

All accommodations also have received new flat-screen, wall-mounted TVs and a new entertainment system with movies, TV, account look-up, wayfinding and “service ordering” such as for room service. 

Of the new total of 156 suites, Luxury Travel Advisor would book either of two new 1,374-square-foot Grand Owner’s Suites, No. 640 or No. 641. They’re much larger two pre-existing Owner’s Suites forward and another two Owner’s Suites midship. 

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So, guests staying within those new Grand Owner’s Suites can relax within a roomy living area and dine in an adjacent dining space. The dining room table seats six, but the line routinely places only four chairs there (and will add the other two as needed), to enhance the sense of space. These Grand Owner’s Suites also have a roomy, separate bedroom as well as a bathroom with both a tub and a separate shower. They also offer a private balcony. 

While guests in all suites can order complimentary coffee via room service, the Deluxe Owner’s and Grand Owner’s Suites now have a self-serve Illy Coffee machine with coffee selections in their suite. Accommodations with the Illy machines include Nos. 431, 500, 501, 531, 600, 601, 627, 640 and 641.

Also new on the suite side are new Star Balcony suites, which offer separate living and bedroom areas — separated by a curtain. They’re similar in look and size to some existing accommodations, but instead feature a “flipped” lay-out. So, the king bed is placed closer to the small walk-out balcony, which is also new. 

That said, while the balconies offer a narrow, step-out space designed for soaking in the views and getting some fresh air, they’re not wide enough for a chair outside. Still, previously, they were French balconies. Interesting, Windstar created the step-out balconies by both pulling the balcony framing into the suites a bit and, at the same time, building out a bit more flooring. 

For guests perhaps upgrading for the first time from a premium to luxury ship, one entry fare level suite is the new 277-square-foot Star Porthole Suite, offering the same interior space as balcony and oceanview suites. Ten of these new category suites simply have large portholes rather than windows or a step-out balcony. 

Check Windstar’s website for the latest suite details on individual accommodations, as there are a number of variances. For example, some suites have pull-out sofas that convert to beds, others have sofas that don’t.  

In some bathrooms within the new section, large, tiled showers were added with no tub. Some guests desire that. That said, Luxury Travel Advisor toured many accommodations that still had both a shower and a tub. One thing that absolutely won’t change is Windstar’s commitment to two sinks in every bathroom. Those are found in every suite. 

Beyond more suites, Star Breeze also now has a new mid-ship stairway and a new mid-ship elevator that travels between Deck 3 and Deck 8.

cruise ship

New and Expanded Dining 

The added space created by the new mid-section also opened up the ship to several new dining options. Definitely make a reservation for dinner at the new 36-seat Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso. Located on Deck 6, this eclectic Spanish restaurant was designed in partnership with Sasso, a James Beard Foundation-recognized chef and 13-year veteran of the Michelin-starred restaurant Casa Mono. 

Cuadro is the Spanish word for “frame” and ships are constructed in frames. So, this restaurant’s location was Frame 44 when the ship was originally built. As for the cuisine, guests can expect inventive, modern Spanish dishes in an intimate venue with table seating. Some stools also grace a small dining bar that faces the open-air galley. Diners can watch the masterful chefs at work. Reservations are required but dining is complimentary.

What’s special? Hands-down, seafood-lovers should order the very tasty Pulpo Gallego, charred Portuguese octopus on the Tapas/Small Plates menu. It’s one of Cuadro 44’s most popular menu items. Others at our table raved about the Jamon Iberico, 24-month aged pork leg (from a pig raised solely on acorns in southern Spain.)

Cuadro 44’s entrees range from Moroccan Cauliflower to Cod, from Lamb Chops to Pork Belly and Pescado de la Playa (summer gazpacho, seafood salad and cucumber oil). Vegetable sides include grilled mushrooms, Poblano Peppers (fried green peppers) and Piquillo Peppers (roasted red peppers). For dessert, we couldn’t resist the Churros y Chocolate, but the presentation of cheese looked creative and savory too. 

cruise ship

Another new eatery is Star Grill by Stephen Raichlin, a grill master, prolific cookbook author and host of his own PBS show. Atop the ship, this grill is nestled in an open-air, covered section adjacent to Star Bar. It has its own galley with a grill, smoker, rotisserie and more. Not to be missed is the tasty, melt-in-your-mouth brisket. Other offerings include a range of fresh fruits, myriad salads, tasty sides, marinated meats, spit-fired chickens, pastrami, yummy hamburgers and much more.  

Windstar has also expanded and completely redesigned the Veranda Restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch. With more ocean view and outdoor seating, this casual eatery offers a good selection of buffet-style items, as well as freshly carved meats and chef-prepared pasta or stir-fry wok dishes. Both at Star Grill and Veranda Restaurant, guests can walk up to the buffet areas and food stations to check out the dishes, but servers will plate the guest’s meal and deliver it.

In the evening, Candles (which is a part of Veranda restaurant) unfolds as a beautiful, romantic setting for al fresco dining with fine steaks and grilled skewers served course-by-course. The venue has a new deck, new canopy, glass railing and enhanced lighting. Candles’ menu also was expanded and upgraded. 

Many adventuresome folks on our cruise couldn’t resist the bragging rights as they sampled two new menu choices — a massive, 40-oz Tomahawk Steak or a 30-oz Porterhouse Steak. The server nicely displayed a box with steak knives for guest use, and three different sea salts were on the table for flavoring. 

Not a steak fan? Seafood options at Candles include Moroccan glazed shrimp with brown onion fried rice (recommended) or the double barreled seafood spear on another.

The 224-seat Amphora is the open-seating dinner venue; its locale within the ship was shifted with the addition of the ship’s new mid-section. Amphora also received new acoustical enhancements (for a quieter dinner experience), new wine walls and new chandeliers. 

cruise ship

A pleasant place for a coffee or sandwich is the Yacht Club Café, an all-day snack bar. In guest suites, complimentary 24-hour room service is available. 

During our cruise, the door-knob room service menu (which guests put out before going to sleep at night) for breakfast was essentially one thing: A plate of pastries, muffins and croissants, plus juices and hot drinks. That said, Windstar is working on an expanded door-knob breakfast menu (including eggs and more) to debut in early 2022. 

New Pool and Larger Spa

Previously, Star Breeze lacked a proper pool in the way that many guests desired. Now, it has an elevated pool that allows guests to take in views of the pool deck, surrounding waters or a nearby destination. In addition, the pool deck area was rebuilt with new showers and a new whirlpool. A second new whirlpool is located on Deck 5 forward. 

Other changes in public spaces include a new, much larger Star Boutique; that was created by removing the casino (totally gone from this ship) and library. Instead, the former library’s books, videos and games were moved into the Yacht Club, which has the same look and feel as in the past. In addition, the popular Compass Rose lounge was refreshed and it also gained more space with the casino’s removal.

cruise ship

Spa fans will find a lot to love about the new Star Breeze. Its World Spa has been redesigned and enlarged with a new gym overlooking the deck. Windstar also added a Motion Studio for yoga and other classes, a new Relaxation Room and a new Barber Shop (joining the spa’s beauty salon).  

In addition, World Spa now has four treatment rooms, an increase of one treatment room, plus a new steam sauna and regular sauna. Plus, a new “experience shower” can accommodate one person or a couple with changing lights and multiple spray jets. 

As for entertainment across the ship, Windstar has always known how to produce top-deck “fun.” On one evening, its guests had a ball dancing the night away to “live” music under the stars. It was a hoot to watch as crew members and even the hotel director showcased their freestyle dance moves to such decades-past hits as “YMCA” or “Footloose.” Other top deck programming included a celebratory Sailaway party. 

Entertainment in the theater was hit or miss, though. We absolutely loved the vocal talents of Kat, an extremely talented crew member who could easily vie for the top prize on “The Voice.” That said, from our perspective, some of the theater shows needed refreshing, and Windstar says it’s working on that. For example, elements of the former Elvis show will be incorporated into a Legends show.

cruise ship

Stellar Crew Performance

Luxury Travel Advisor cruises on a lot of luxury ships, most with stellar service. Still, Star Breeze’s crew was tip-top — delivering A+, friendly, personalized service that was “a cut above.” Crew called guests by name, had an anticipatory approach and were proactive on the guest’s behalf. 

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