Windstar Cruise Review – The Star Legend
In the summer of 2017 we decided to do something we thought we would never do–take a cruise. We found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to travel to somewhere fun, but had absolutely zero time to plan a trip. On a whim, we started looking into cruises to see if there were any smaller ships out there that might cater towards our love of good food, need for adventure, and desire to experience unique destinations. After an exhaustive search we found, and booked, a Windstar cruise. So naturally, we also needed to write a Windstar cruise review.
Windstar Cruise Review – The Star Legend
To kick off this Windstar cruise review, here is a tour of our room–an Ocean View Suite 3 (cabin 321):
The Rooms on the Star Legend
One of the first things we considered when researching cruises were the staterooms on the boat, both how comfortable they would be along side how many were on the boat. The Star Legend had 106 staterooms (compared to 1,000 to 2,000 staterooms on a typical cruise-liner). We felt as though our cruise was at about 85% capacity, so that translated into around 175 passengers and 150 crew. That’s almost a 1:1 ratio!!
Most of the rooms on the Star Legend are fairly similar. The ship boasts all-suite rooms, meaning each room has a separate living and sleeping area. The biggest distinction in rooms is their position on the ship and if they have a balcony or not. Our room was mid-ship and on the upper passenger deck and did not have a balcony. The mid-ship placement reduced the amount of roll in rough seas, but the lack of balcony meant that we were not able to enjoy the ocean breeze in our room. We didn’t regret not booking a balcony room, but we were a bit frustrated by the amount of salt residue that built up on the large window throughout the cruise. This made it hard to enjoy the ocean and scenery from our room as we cruised along.
Overall, the rooms aboard the Windstar Star Legend were very comfortable. The living space was a nice was comfortable and we enjoyed having it whenever we ordered room service (which is included!). The bed itself was very comfortable and the slight rolling of the boat put us to sleep in minutes after a long day of exploring. The bathroom was good sized for any hotel, probably massive for a cruise ship. The only complaint about the room that we had was the proximity of the desk to the bed. If someone was sitting at the desk it was very hard for a second person to pass by without crawling over the bed a bit.
Food and Dinning (and Booze) on Windstar Cruises
One aspect of taking a cruise that we were most worried about was the food. The horror stories of endless buffets abound on the different cruise forums. The food aboard the Windstar Star Legend was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the cruise! They do not mess around. In hindsight, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Windstar is the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation.
Breakfast aboard the Star Legend
Breakfast was served most days (weather depending) on the Veranda on deck 8. The spread for breakfast was expansive, and given everyone was trying to get off the ship early to explore the port, it was combination of buffet, egg station, and made to order. Anything you could possibly consider having for breakfast–from bacon to burritos–was available. I gravitated towards smoked salmon, fried eggs, and a hearty helping of pork in some form or another. I also snagged a churro or two when the wife wasn’t looking.
For those early mornings, breakfast was also available on the room service menu. A few mornings we wanted to disembark early to catch the empty streets and morning light. We ordered off of a very similar menu to the Veranda restaurant and food always showed up exactly when requested from the night before.
Lunch aboard the Star Legend
To be honest, we did not eat lunch on the ship often during our Windstar cruise. We were too busy exploring the destination we were anchored at to bother. That being said, we did spend a day at sea and one or two lunch hours on the ship.
The Yacht Club (deck 8, forward) had coffee, cookies, and sandwiches all day long. We often stopped in there for a late afternoon snack. The Veranda served a more formal lunch (buffet + off menu) that we found more than acceptable.
Dinner aboard the Star Legend
Dinner is where Windstar really starts to shine. Most nights, dinner was served in the Amphora restaurant on deck 3. We never had to make a dinner reservation there, and we always had the option of sitting with other guests or sitting alone.
The menu always had a local flair along side other more standard western options. We learned later that the ship sourced some of it’s provisions from the local ports. This gave additional color to the menu that you would be unlikely to find on a traditional cruise ship. In fact, if you get up early enough, you can join the head chef as he shops the local market for specialty items!
Each dish was cooked to order and beautifully prepared. Coming from major culinary cities, we were pleasantly surprised and completely satisfied with the dinning aboard the Star Legend.
Dinner Under the Stars
Being a smaller cruise ship, the Windstar Star Legend has a lot of flexibility when coming to dinning options. When checking in for your cruise you have the option to make a reservation at “Candles.” Depending on the weather this would mean dinner either at the Star Bar (deck 8/good weather), or on the veranda (deck 7/bad weather). The menu was steak house focused and very well prepared. If you have a day at sea, this is a great way to add a little excitement to that day’s meals.
Each Windstar cruise also has an on-deck BBQ. On the day of the BBQ the ship will likely be docked a bit longer than normal (ours stayed in port until 11pm). While it can be tempting to get dinner in whatever port you are visiting, the BBQ aboard the Start Legend is not to be missed! Steaks, chicken, lobster, crab legs, salmon, (epic) paella, and deserts for days!!!
We had a blast during the BBQ getting to know our cruise mates a bit better and eating a truly grand feast. As a cherry on top, the crew always performs a “talent” show after dinner that is good entertainment to say the least.
Windstar Cruise Alcohol Package: Is it Worth it?
The Windstar cruise beverage package can be purchased both when booking and during the first two days aboard. The beverage packages are priced per-person, but both people staying in a stateroom must purchase a package. The prices range (at the time of writing this) from $32 to $52 (USD) a day.
The $52/day package includes beer, wine, and cocktails. The other packages include only wine. If you are a connoisseur of wine, the package likely makes sense. If you are spending multiple days at sea, the package likely makes sense. However, if you are looking to party 24/7, you should probably look for a different cruise.
We couldn’t make the math work on the beverage package.
Windstar Beverage Package: Break Even Analysis
Assuming each person has a two glasses of wine with dinner, a cocktail before, and a cocktail after that is a total of 4 premium drinks onboard per day. With tip, which the beverage package doesn’t include, that’s about $12 per drink. That’s $48 per day with zero restrictions on what you order.
In reality, you will drink more on some days and less on others. If you drink from the mini bar it will be cheaper than the actual bar. If you utilize your two bottles of wine you can bring aboard yourself you will only pay a cork fee.
The break-even number of drinks per day per person (aboard the ship) looks to be about 6 for the beverage package.
An easier way to think about it is, how many drinks do you normally have with dinner on a Saturday night? If the answer is less than 6, the beverage package will only cost you money. If the answer is more than 6, I’m not here to judge….. just buy the beverage package.
Our Cruise Mates aboard the Star Legend
The destination, the ship, the food, and the cruise mates; those are the attributes (in that order) that we used to select our cruise. We zeroed in on Windstar based on the destination and the ship. The food aboard seemed reasonable (and it exceeded all of our expectations). The last aspect were our cruise mates. Cruise can often cater to very different age ranges. The range includes people looking to party, families looking for an easy vacation, and older folks enjoying their retirement. We were looking for quite and relaxing, but adventurous.
Our cruise included a few families with adult children, a handful of young couples, a majority of what would likely be called “empty nesters,” and significant number of retirees. The average age across all guests was probably around 40.
We were on the younger end of the spectrum, but really enjoyed the company of our cruise mates. We made fast friends with a handful of other couples and always felt welcomed by every guest. Everyone aboard seemed to have an interesting story to tell. Everyone was a traveler at heart.
Windstar Cruise Attire
When reading through other Windstar cruise reviews one thing I would have liked a little more information about was the appropriate attire aboard the ship. So I thought it might make sense to include an entire section on attire in my Windstar cruise review.
I knew that dinners were all “smart casual,” but they seemed a bit more formal than what I could consider smart casual. While we were never under dressed, I would of enjoyed having a few more options when it came to attire. Two pairs of nice pants and three dress shirts were not enough for a 10-day cruise. We ended up utilizing the ship’s laundry service mid-week to refresh our wardrobe.
Windstar Cruise Destinations
Every destination is different and you’re likely looking at a different cruise than the one we took, but in general, Windstar seems to do a nice job choosing destinations. Our cruise left from Rome, Italy and made port in Sicily, Montenegro, Croatia, and finally ended in Venice.
Windstar does an excellent job of adding ports that larger boats simply are unable to access. One example of this on our cruise was Kotor, Montenegro. Probably one of the most beautiful ports we visited, the ship had to navigate a narrow fjord that larger ships simply would not be able to pass through. We entered the bay of Kotor at sunrise. Here is a cool time-laps of video of our entrance.
Windstar Cruise Service
The service aboard the Star Legend is one of the aspects about Windstar that really sets it apart from other boats. To kick things off, we had a dedicated room attendant that did not change during the cruise. As soon as we arrived our room attendant greeted us and introduced us to our cabin. He learned our names quickly and actually scheduled our room cleanings with us as to not disturb us. He was probably responsible for about 6 to 8 rooms, so he was always close by.
Given the size of the boat, by midway through the cruise we were on a first name basis with many of the crew members. More importantly though, everyone on the crew seemed genuinely happy to be there. Many of them came from larger cruise ships and shared stories from living aboard those massive floating cities. We left with the impression that they all enjoyed their jobs, and thus delivered a higher level of service.
One of the other aspects of the cruise that we really enjoyed was Windstar’s open bridge policy. If you wanted to check out the bridge of the ship and chat with captain you were actually invited to do so. The bridge crew often has the most up-to-date information about the weather or when the ship will be arriving in port. Stopping by to chat with them is a great way to get this information and learn a little more about the ship. The Star Legend had a few chairs on the bridge specifically for passengers to sit and hang out in.
The only service aboard the Star Legend that wasn’t great was the internet service. To purchase internet service aboard the ship it was about $250 for unlimited access on one device for the duration of the cruise. Given that the internet service was satellite based, the pricing did make sense. The service itself would cut in and out every now and then and you had to specifically log devices on and off. We brought our Skyroam Wi-Fi hotspot with us hoping to pick up some cell services while cruising, but only found a good connection while we were at port. That being said, the Skyroam was invaluable while exploring the different towns and ports!
The Bottom Line on a Windstar Cruises
Windstar cruises are certainly not the cheapest cruise on the market, but they are definitely unique. The fact that many of the staff aboard the boat had spent considerable amounts of time on large cruise ships suggested that Windstar was doing something right. After taking our Windstar cruise we began to look at cruises in general in a new light. We felt like we were window shopping for destinations to visit again and spend more time exploring.
Our cruise was adventurous, relaxing, and very well executed. We would certainly sail aboard a Windstar ship again.
If you have any specific questions about our experience aboard the ship, feel free to leave them in the comments below. We’ll be sure to respond to each and every one of them.