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It may have been when I was snorkeling above a stingray or when I saw the sun rise over Bahia Drake. Perhaps it was when I spotted a puffer fish from my paddleboard that I decided, “I could get used to this.”
Relaxation rolled through me in a constant wave while I was on Windstar Cruises’ Costa Rica & Panama Canal sailing onboard Star Breeze last month. New components to the seven-day itinerary include nighttime passage through the Panama Canal, onboard presentations from a Costa Rican naturalist and a complimentary full-day event on Isla de Coiba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Altogether, it’s a luxurious tropical ocean adventure that even a staunch land lover won’t want to disembark from.
The 212-passenger Star Breeze, originally a Seabourn Cruise Line ship, joined Windstar’s fleet of power yachts in mid-2015 after an extensive $8.5 million renovation to all of the ship’s public spaces, dining venues and suites.
The 277-square-foot balcony and oceanview suites provide passengers — who tend to consist of affluent, active couples ranging in age from 40 to 70 — more than ample space to linger. But for those who wish to be social, the ship’s small size naturally creates a sense of intimacy. This makes it nearly impossible not to make a few new friends, who will no doubt invite you to join them for dinner.
And dinner is an affair in itself. Main dining room Amphora serves an international menu that changes daily. On any given night, meal choices vary from lamb lollipops and duck a l’orange to maple-glazed salmon and seafood risotto, with at least three dessert selections. Chef Budhi Thakut looks for any opportunity to go onshore to source local fruits and fish to surprise guests with a special creation.
The outdoor deck of Veranda, the ship’s breakfast and lunch venue, is transformed at night into Candles, the ship’s more romantic, by-reservation-only dinner spot serving mainly seafood and steak, with family-style sides to share. One night, after ordering my steak medium-rare, I was thoroughly impressed that it was cooked perfectly and that the chef stopped by our table to make sure everyone’s meal was made just as they had asked.
This kind of dedication to satisfaction can be found in all aspects of the Windstar experience. My room steward, Puji, cheerfully greeted me by name every time we passed in the hallway, and I noticed that servers were quick to learn each passenger’s preferences — even simply that one guest favored sparkling water over still. When I ordered room service, available 24/7, my order was read back to me, and a follow-up call was made shortly after delivery to ensure everything was correct.
All suites onboard the 212-passenger Star Breeze feature ocean views, 24/7 room service, LCD flatscreen televisions with DVD players, L’Occitane toiletries, Bose SoundDock speakers and more. // © 2016 Windstar Cruises
Star Breeze joined Windstar’s fleet of power yachts in mid-2015. // © 2016 Windstar Cruises
Guests have complimentary access to the onboard fitness center, and a selection of free daily classes with the onboard fitness instructor are also available.// © 2016 Windstar Cruises
New this year to the seven-day Costa Rica & Panama Canal itinerary is nighttime passage through the Panama Canal. // © 2016 Windstar Cruises
Star Breeze docked in Panama for two nights, giving guests the opportunity to explore Panama City and the hip Casco Viejo historic district. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
The onboard, full-service WindSpa salon and spa offers treatments including massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, acupuncture and haircuts. // © 2016 Windstar Cruises
Guests can sip libations from Star Bar on the outdoor Star Deck, which was expanded by 4 feet on each side. // © 2016 Windstar Cruises
Lunch venue Veranda offers expanded outdoor seating, along with a courtyard and garden wall. At night, it transforms into dinner spot Candles. // © 2016 Windstar Cruises
Guests will take in many incredible views during Star Breeze’s sunset sail-aways. // © 2016 Michelle Juergen
To balance out the delightful meals, a bevy of complimentary activities are offered onboard.
Guests can sweat in one of several daily classes with a fitness instructor and then kayak, paddleboard, swim and more off the ship’s watersports platform, open when weather and swell size permit. Those looking for something more low-key can relax in the counter-current pool and whirlpool; sip a latte in the Yacht Club, a quiet, spacious coffee bar with incredible Nutella croissants; rent books and movies from the onboard library; and enjoy nightly live music. Passengers can also partake in shore excursions and blissful treatments from Windspa for an additional cost.
A truly relaxed, comfortable atmosphere is present onboard Star Breeze, and the staff takes immense pride in pleasing guests while also letting their charming personalities shine through.
After the events of each day wound to a close, I stood on the ship’s bow and looked up at the brilliantly starry sky, perfectly content to take in the Earth’s beauty in such peace and luxury.