Civitavecchia and Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star

Welcome aboard Windstar Cruises' newly refitted Wind Star! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Welcome aboard Windstar Cruises’ newly refitted Wind Star! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I embarked Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star in Civitavecchia – and discovered an entirely new, updated version of one of my favorite cruise lines.

Since I sailed aboard the line’s Wind Spirit in 2011, the line has embarked on a massive fleetwide refurbishment so extensive that I am hard-pressed to find any areas of the Wind Star, Wind Spirit’s sister-ship, that haven’t been changed.

The Wind Spirit's attractive reception lobby, Deck 3. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The Wind Spirit’s attractive reception lobby, Deck 3, in 2011. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

The new lobby aboard the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The new lobby aboard the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The entrance lobby has been completely re-done, and is now graced by a central work of art that changes colours at various intervals. The old dining room has been gutted and entirely modernized, and the Lounge has been given its very own Extreme Makeover with new furniture, wall treatments, flooring, lighting, and even ceiling panels.

New seating areas in the main Lobby on Deck 3. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

New seating areas in the main Lobby on Deck 3. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The ship's refreshed passenger corridors feel like a boutique hotel or an upscale ocean liner. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The ship’s refreshed passenger corridors feel like a boutique hotel or an upscale ocean liner. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The onboard Library and Internet Center. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The onboard Library and Internet Center. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Carpeting throughout the ship has been re-done, and now looks lush and luxurious. Stairwells have had new carpeting laid down and new wall treatments installed. But the most significant alteration may very well be Wind Star’s passenger stateroom corridors, which now resemble that of a boutique hotel. Gone is the institutional lighting and high-traction carpet; replaced instead with plush colours that accent the magnificent wooden wall treatments that border each stateroom.

New headboards and lighting grace every 188-square foot stateroom aboard the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

New headboards and lighting grace every 188-square foot stateroom aboard the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Check-in aboard a Windstar ship couldn’t be easier: you arrive at the pier, undergo a simple security check, and then step onboard. Cold towels were offered to each guest as they came onboard, and Captain Pedro Pinto and Hotel Manager Jason Parker were on-hand to personally welcome everyone onboard. Final check-in is completed in the ship’s Lounge, where complimentary champagne and mimosas are waiting. A far cry from what guests aboard the other, much larger ships docked at the port of Civitavecchia had to endure today!

My stateroom, located nearly all the way forward on Deck 2, has also benefitted from Windstar’s recent refurbishment plans. At 188 square feet, the refit left some of the room’s nicest nautical features – like the yacht-style bathrooms, with their compartmentalised shower and toilet stalls – intact.

The bathrooms aboard Wind Star needed no real refurbishments; they're still some of the best-designed in the industry. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The bathrooms aboard Wind Star needed no real refurbishments; they’re still some of the best-designed in the industry. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The list of new features added include fresh carpeting and new headboards with more stylish light fixtures: dual lamps that feature their own positional reading lights. Bottled water – provided in reusable containers – is now complimentary, along with the non-alcoholic contents of the mini-bar.

Among the nice touches present in my stateroom aboard the Wind Star that so many lines are eliminating: a bowl brimming with fresh fruit; a single fresh rose; and hand-made chocolates at turndown. The line still gives out fantastic leather keycard holders to their guests, and they’ve even upgraded the complimentary tote bag that each guest receives in their stateroom before their first port of call.

The staff and crew of the Wind Star greet guests in the Lounge during our Welcome Aboard presentation. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The staff and crew of the Wind Star greet guests in the Lounge during our Welcome Aboard presentation. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

An Unlimited Laundry Package is available for $109 per stateroom, which seems very reasonable if you have a lot of clothing you’d like to have washed. There is also a Premium Beverage Package that is available at a cost of $108 per stateroom per day, which seems a little excessive. Individual drinks on Windstar are actually very reasonably priced – the Sangria, today’s Drink of the Day only cost me $6.25 – so considering that, you’d have to drink a lot to make the Premium package right for you.

Departing Civitavecchia, Italy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Departing Civitavecchia, Italy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

But I am truly taken with just how extensive the overall enhancements Windstar has made have been: I just had another walk around the ship and, aside from bulkhead walls and perhaps the decking, I can’t find a single thing aboard the Wind Star that hasn’t been touched by these changes. Signage is brand-new, as are the photographs in the hallways and corridors and even the computer stations in the Library, which has a small selection of books and DVDs that can be checked out free of charge.

A little sail-away Sangria. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

A little sail-away Sangria. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

One thing that has remained constant, though, is the spine-tingling theme from 1492: Conquest of Paradise that is broadcast over the loudspeaker at every departure. You can tell who is a repeat guest here aboard the Wind Star: those of us who clapped when the song began to play and we pushed away from our berth in Civitavecchia.

Wind Star was one of the smallest ships in port today, but she commanded maximum attention from the guests aboard everything from SeaDream II to Adventure of the Seas as two tugs guided us out into the Mediterranean. Guests on other ships came to the railings to look, watch and wave as we left.

Dinner at Candles is a must on any Windstar Cruise, particularly in the warm-weather of the Mediterranean. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Dinner at Candles is a must on any Windstar Cruise, particularly in the warm-weather of the Mediterranean. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Dining outdoors is a true event on the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Dining outdoors is a true event on the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There was one thing on my bucket-list to do tonight: make dinner reservations at Candles, Windstar’s intimate poolside outdoor dining venue. Only 20 people can dine her each evening at either 7:30pm or 8:00pm, and you can only do so once per cruise in order to give all the guests the opportunity to experience this fantastic venue.

Bon appetit! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Bon appetit! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I remember the food at Candles being quite good two years ago, but dinner tonight absolutely knocked my socks off. I chose the chicken souvlaki with rosemary potatoes and lemon-herb asparagus and was impressed at how fresh and flavourful it was. Other entrée options included steak, lamb, sea bass, and skewered prawns.

Service was top-notch throughout, and the views looking out over the stern of the Wind Star were unbeatable. Best of all, it’s complimentary. This is one experience that those booked on Windstar cruises shouldn’t miss; plan ahead and book early when you get onboard; spaces for certain evenings can go fast!

Diners in Candles as darkness falls on the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Diners in Candles as darkness falls on the Wind Star. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

In the last fading embers of light, the Wind Star picked up speed. Tomorrow, she will take us to Portoferraio on the Italian island of Elba. Two years ago at this time, I was aboard the Wind Spirit heading for Oslo.

To see first-hand how far the line has come in 24 short months has proven to be nothing short of astonishing, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of the voyage unfolds.

This isn’t cruising; this is yachting, Windstar-style.

Still Ahead: Seven Days of Yachting the Riviera! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Still Ahead: Seven Days of Yachting the Riviera! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow as we arrive in Portoferraio, Italy aboard Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

13 Responses to Wind Star Live Voyage Report – Day 1

  1. Kim says:

    Wow this looks amazing! It looks like something I would actually like now! Cannot wait to read more.

  2. Awesome to be sailing the seas with you again, Aaron! As always, you draw the reader directly onboard!

  3. Jane Deaton says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Did Nice to Barcelona on the Wind Star in July and signed up for Rome to Greece next May also on Wind Star. It’s pure heaven!

  4. Marta says:

    Love the Windstar Cruises, going yachting in the Windsurf soon!

  5. Jane & Brian Deaton says:

    Say hi to Gonzalo, Montse, Jason and Mike (bartender). Nice to Barcelona a few weeks ago. Rome to Athens in May 2014

  6. Jane & Brian Deaton says:

    Say hi to Gonzalo, Montse, Jason and Mike. Back next MY

  7. Jan Lederer says:

    Sailed on this particular voyage twice … just a wonderful cruise…enjoy!!

  8. Aussie Mark says:

    Gave me shivers to see all this beautiful on-board detail again.

    Can’t wait to book another cruise with you.

  9. jim says:

    I am looking at the Windstar Glitter & Glam of the Rivieras
    Barcelona to Rome on the Star Pride or Wind Surf June 2014. Has anyone gone on these ships recently? Or has anyone cruised the Barcelona to Rome itinerary? I would love some feedback, thanks.

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Hi Jim,

      Apologies for the delayed response to your question. Star Pride is sailing at the moment as Seabourn Pride, and won’t be transferred into the Windstar fleet until next Spring. The itinerary you’ve chosen, though, is a fantastic one. Honestly, it’s tough to go wrong in the Mediterranean. You should have a great experience on either Wind Surf or Star Pride – it just depends what sort of vessel you’re looking for. Star Pride will have no sails, but she will have a bit more on the amenity front.

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