Return to Paradise: Embarking Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze

Windstar spent millions of dollars transforming Seabourn Spirit into its Star Breeze. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Windstar spent millions of dollars transforming Seabourn Spirit into its Star Breeze. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Today marks the start of my third outing with Windstar Cruises, but my first journey aboard its newly-acquired “power yacht”, Star Breeze. You might know Star Breeze better by her former name: Seabourn Spirit. Windstar recently acquired Seabourn’s original trio of ships, Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend in a fantastic coup that saw the popular sailing line double its passenger capacity virtually overnight.

Atrium Blues: nearly every square inch of Star Breeze was heavily refitted by Windstar Cruises. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Atrium Blues: nearly every square inch of Star Breeze was heavily refitted by Windstar Cruises. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

But that’s not to say that Windstar left these ships alone. Instead, the line injected a ton of cash into refitting them – to the tune of nearly US$9-million apiece – into the image the company has been cultivating for itself since its 2011 acquisition by Xanterra Parks and Resorts. And after voyages aboard Wind Spirit to the Baltics in 2011 and Wind Star to the Mediterranean, I’m happy to say that while Star Breeze may lack sails, she offers everything that Windstar guests have come to love and appreciate about the line.

My journey began yesterday with a full set of flights down to San Jose, Costa Rica. After a restful overnight stay at the San Jose Marriott Costa Rica, I joined my fellow guests in setting out for Star Breeze today in the port of Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.

Hola! Welcome to the Marriott San Jose Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Hola! Welcome to the Marriott San Jose Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Two things impressed me about my pre-cruise stay: one, the Marriott representatives were on the ball, handing me an envelope with details about my transfer time from the hotel to the ship, along with information about the dreaded Zika Virus that has been making the news as of late. You have no idea how rare that is; more often than not, the promised “transfer information” simply fails to materialize at the pre-cruise hotel.

The kind of resort that invites you to linger, the Marriott San Jose Costa Rica is a superb place for a pre-cruise stay. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The kind of resort that invites you to linger, the Marriott San Jose Costa Rica is a superb place for a pre-cruise stay. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Windstar Win No. 2: Organization. Rather than trying to get 200 guests from the Marriott to the ship (a two-hour drive away) en-masse, Windstar arranged for guests to be taken on three separate coaches staggered approximately 30 minutes apart. This ensured the crowds were manageable, and gave guests the personal space they’d expect on a product like this. Our guide, Jose, who accompanied our coach from the hotel to the ship this afternoon, was a fountain of knowledge – and one of the better guides I’ve encountered.

Check-in at Puerto Caldera is a bit involved: this is a busy commercial port that also doubles as a cruise port. Upon arrival, luggage has to be offloaded into the terminal and swept by the local police force and their sniffer dogs. Once that’s done, guests are taken in two separate waves off the coach to claim their luggage in the terminal, which is then searched by hand. Following that, you’re led over to the dock gate, where your passports are checked against the ship’s manifest before approval to walk the 500 or so feet to the Star Breeze is granted.

Welcome to Costa Rica! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to Costa Rica! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Transportation to Star Breeze was done in waves, on comfortable motorcoaches staggered 30 minutes apart from each other. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Transportation to Star Breeze was done in waves, on comfortable motorcoaches staggered 30 minutes apart from each other. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Final check-in details couldn’t be easier. You walk up the gangway and embark the ship. You’re handed a cool towel and a cold drink, and are directed to the main showlounge on Deck 5 aft to complete the final check-in formalities. Keycards in hand, you’re welcomed to your suite – which, confusingly, is numbered with absolutely no correlation to the deck you’re on.

Example: my Category S3 Oceanview Suite, 303, is located on Deck 6. On most other cruise ships, your suite number also indicates your deck number – but not so here. Is it a Windstar thing? Nope – I’ve come prepared. Old issues of Cruise Travel Magazine show the same deck arrangement for Star Breeze, as Seabourn Spirit, when she entered service.

My Category S3 Oceanview Suite on Deck 6 measures 277 square feet. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

My Category S3 Oceanview Suite on Deck 6 measures 277 square feet. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

On the plus side, when you find your suite, prepare to be impressed. My Oceanview Suite is 277 square feet, but it feels substantially larger thanks to a great layout that includes a full seating area near the window complete with a plush couch on one side and two chairs and an end table on the other. In the center: an oversized coffee table. With three separate lighting options, this is the ultimate seaside reading nook.

The reverse angle: looking back towards the bathroom, closet and entry door in S3 Oceanview Suite 303, starboard side, forward. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The reverse angle: looking back towards the bathroom, closet and entry door in S3 Oceanview Suite 303, starboard side, forward. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Infinitely Cozy: the sitting area in my category S3 Oceanview Suite. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Infinitely Cozy: the sitting area in my category S3 Oceanview Suite. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Windstar has made significant changes to suites onboard following the transfer of Star Breeze from Seabourn last year. New fabrics, furniture and soft furnishings have been added. Windstar replaced the headboards, and added new direct and indirect light sources in the form of bedside lamps and reading lights. Carpets have been redone. Furniture is new. Drapes have been swapped out. In essence, you’d never know your suite is coming up on the anniversary of its third decade in service.

Walk-in closets are part-and-parcel on every Star Breeze cruise. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Walk-in closets are part-and-parcel on every Star Breeze cruise. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

On the bathroom front, expect a spacious, marble-clad bathroom complete with a tub-shower combo and a dual vanity sink. Shelves are available on either side of the vanity, with additional storage behind a mirrored glass panel located on the inside of the room opposite the sink and door. Toiletries are Windstar-standard: French-milled L’Occitane products grace the bathroom in every suite category.

Star Breeze features marble baths in all of her accommodations. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Star Breeze features marble baths in all of her accommodations. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Bathrooms feature dual-vanity sinks....Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Bathrooms feature dual-vanity sinks….Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

..and French-milled L'Occitane toiletries, which grace each suite category aboard Star Breeze. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

..and French-milled L’Occitane toiletries, which grace each suite category aboard Star Breeze. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

At 440 feet in length, Star Breeze holds just 212 guests total; not so far off from the smaller, motor ship yachts Wind Star and Wind Spirit, each of which carry up to 148 guests. If you’ve sailed with Windstar before, you’ll know the act of setting sail is no ordinary departure: on Windstar, it’s a true event, accompanied by the raising of the sails to the thudding Vangelis score from the film 1492: Conquest of Paradise.

There’s just one problem: Star Breeze has no sails.

Overlooking the Bow: Star Breeze marks a decided contrast between her and the cargo ship awaiting shipments from a line of 18-wheelers. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Overlooking the Bow: Star Breeze marks a decided contrast between her and the cargo ship awaiting shipments from a line of 18-wheelers. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Cargo operations in full swing at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Cargo operations in full swing at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Star Breeze Face, as viewed from Deck 5 Forward. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Star Breeze Face, as viewed from Deck 5 Forward. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze continues tomorrow from Quepos, Costa Rica! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

Comments are closed.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!