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It was approaching midnight and nearly everyone onboard had retreated to quieter corners, but not me and my five new friends. The most musically inclined of our group brought us to the lounge, where we gathered around a piano, equipped with cocktails, while he played a spontaneous concert. I nearly forgot I was onboard a commercial cruise ship sailing the Mediterranean until an executive from Windstar Cruises entered the room. He offered us a round of drinks and then proved to us that, in his past, he was a talented choir singer.
These moments can’t be pre-planned in a daily itinerary. They happen organically, when everything is in the right place. And that’s how I found the Wind Star — freshly renovated as part of the Star Treatment, an $18 million investment in the fleet by new owners Xanterra Parks & Resorts. The lounge, the dining areas, the corridors, the guestrooms, the casino, the Wind Spa, the library, the pool bar and the public atrium met the goal of the multi-million-dollar, top-to-bottom refit: to give the ship a more contemporary, casual and elegant look.
One of the best places to see the changes is the dining room, now christened the Amphora restaurant, an ode to the ship’s Greece and Turkey itineraries. With its focus on good food, wine and atmosphere, as well as a new variety of furniture and Venetian glass lighting, Amphora provides a breezy dining experience that had return guests — and staffers — raving. At the Verandah for breakfast and lunch, food follows a market-fresh model, and round tables and new wooden blinds ensure that, even if you opt to sit indoors, you can enjoy a panoramic ocean view. The lounge was designed to feel more open and, with a piano bar and more private seating areas, it’s an attractive place to convene. More physical changes abound, including brightening touches to the guestrooms and brand-new sails.
Also adding to the Windstar experience is a reinvigorated effort to engage with each destination, which is reflected by itineraries that mix authentic, off-the-beaten-path ports and must-see cities. The line is also strengthening its travel agent efforts with its new travel agent center that lets agents take care of the details so that clients can enjoy their experience. Memorable moments include the sail away which, at certain ports, means viewing the unfurling of the sails to dramatic music and mimosas; the dinner barbecue and show, where all 148 passengers mingle and dance; and passenger access to the bowsprit, a rare onboard opportunity to appreciate the sea and the sails.
“Windstar’s objective was to give an updated version of a very comfortable place where you can relax, enjoy the people you are with and feel special,” said Hans Birkholz, CEO of Windstar Cruises. “That’s what a Windstar cruise has always been about — that place you can go and feel good in a casual, yet elegant way.”