Windstar Cruises Tips For Travellers. How You Get The Most Of Your Time On Board?
Windstar Cruises is a small yacht-style cruise line, catering for travellers who want a small ship experience without too much formality. It is a luxury line but offers a more casual approach than many of its competitors in the category. In this article I share my advice and tips on how to make the most of your time on board once you have decided to go cruising with Windstar.
Is Windstar Cruise Right For You?
Before you find out how to make the most of your time on board, I recommend you read my article about what Windstar Cruises offers and who it is most suited for (http://www.tipsfortravellers.com/windstar-cruises-tips/), and watch my video on the same topic (https://youtu.be/WbStdyWr2fk).
What Do You Need To Know To Get More While On Board?
#1: Fairly Relaxed And Informal
The ships are small, for example the Star Breeze, Star Pride and Star legend hold just 212 passengers. There are 150 crew members and so they will quickly recognise and get to know you. You will be called by your first name, and service will be friendly and relaxed. Whilst efficient, the crew will take time to talk to you and learn your quirks and likes, and adapt to your needs and preferences.
The dress code is casual. Officially it is “country club casual”, but the only real request is not to wear jeans or shorts in the restaurants for dinner. Some people do get dressed up more smartly for the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell but overall it is casual and informal. There are no formal nights or themed parties. You should pack accordingly and bring clothes you enjoy wearing and feel most comfortable in.
Excursions are not included in your fare with one important exception: the Destination Discovery Event. One of these is held on every cruise and the entire ship attends for free. For example, on my Star Pride “Gaelic Explorers” cruise from Edinburgh to Dublin we had an afternoon and early evening tour of Fort George in Scotland, followed by a ‘beating the retreat” ceremony with a pipe band and Scottish dancers. Drinks and canapés were provided.
To get the most from excursions I recommend:
- Review the excursions on the Windstar website and pre-book the ones that you really want to do. Once on the ship check through the booklet of tours in your suite to check if there have been any changes and if you still made the right decisions.
- Attend the Port Talks to get information, tips and ideas on what to do and the best excursions for you.
- Check the Activity Levels for each tour to ensure you select one that falls within your limits.
- Check the cancellation deadline. It is usually 24 hours before the tour. This ensures that you can cancel any before incurring cost if you change your mind.
- Budget for them!
- Use the port leaflets available from reception and the shore excursions desk if you want to self-tour as it has tips, advice and maps. There will usually also be a local tourism stall or representative at or close to where you dock and the location of this will be given in the port talk and guide sheet.
#3: Know what’s included in the fare
Understand what is covered so you can budget for things that are not.
- Meals, including room service and dining in the Candles specialty restaurant.
- Soft drinks, juices and coffees.
- Destination Discovery Event.
- Transfers to and from the ship. You can book these before your cruise and departure transfers will also be sold on the ship during the cruise.
- These are auto-added and will be around $12 per person per day.
- Alcoholic drinks. You can buy beverage packages ranging up to $54 per person per day to cover these. You can bring a maximum of two bottles of wine per suite for consumption in there per cruise. Other alcohol will be held until the end of the cruise.
- Wi-Fi. Packages are available ranging from a 200mb email package for $60 up to $250 for unlimited access.
- There are also packages for this.
#4: Dining options
The main dining room is the stunning AmphorA. It is open-seated dining and you will almost always get any table configuration you want. I asked for and always got a table for one when I requested it.
On colder cruises the AmphorA is used for all meals, while on warmer routes the Verandah is used for breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet, but there are also some a la carte options. For breakfast that includes pancakes, French Toast and Eggs Benedict. You can also order eggs cooked to order or omelets. At lunch the menu includes dishes like hamburgers and fish and chips.
The dinner menu is large with five starters, two soups, six main courses (as well as some classics that are on every night) and then four desserts and cheese.
The Verandah becomes Candles in the evening. This is a steak and seafood restaurant and you need to pre-book as it has limited seating. There is no added charge. You should be able to visit at least once during your cruise. It is popular so book as soon as you board.
There is also 24-hour room service, informal snacks in the Yacht Club and there will be a Windstar Signature BBQ one evening. These are best on warner routes as it is held out on the open deck and food is cooked outside. On colder routes it is held in the AmphorA.
Watch my video tour of the Windstar Star Pride
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/31GzNU-sOFA
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/31GzNU-sOFA
#5: Check Mix Of Docking And Tender Ports
A tender port is where the ship docks out at sea and small boats are used to ferry guests in. You should check the mix of docking and tender ports when looking at cruises as there is greater risk of not being able to get on land with tendering if the swell is too great. For example, on my “Gaelic Explorers” cruise, which called at many small places around the north of the UK, we lost a few stops as the weather made it impossible to tender.
It is also a good idea to consider doing an excursion at these ports. The tours are given priority for tendering and, if you are self exploring, you may have to wait some time before you are able to get off the ship.
#6: Limited Entertainment
Being a small ship you should not expect lots of entertainment and activities available. You should expect to be more self-sufficient than expecting to have lots of options available. There will, however, be a range of activities and events and they increase on sea days.
The Daily Program delivered to your cabin every night details the next day’s events and activities. You should review and ensure you know when things take place as not every event is announced over the loudspeaker system.
These are the sorts of activities you are likely to have on your Windstar cruise:
- Music duos. They perform in the Compass Rose and Yacht Club before and after dinner.
- Occasionally when staying in port late some local entertainers may be brought on board to provide some regional entertainment.
- Guest Lecturer, usually talking about the history and culture of the region.
- Crew events like a line dancing party and crew show. There is no production show or other shows at night.
- Workshops and demonstrations. On my cruises these have included a Towel Animal Making, Cocktails Mixing and Cooking.
- Galley Tour.
In addition the ships have a small casino, shop and a library with DVDs and books. The in-room TV has a number of international channels and movies. There is also a Spa and Fitness centre and in warm regions, if docked outside a por,t the Watersports Deck at the rear of the ship is opened to allow guests to swim, kayak and go on RiB boat rides.
Like most cruise ships, there are restrictions on where you can smoke. There are limited places outside only which, for example, on the Star Pride were at the Star Bar and behind the lounge.
The Windstar experience is informal and casual, and to get the most of your time on the ship you should aim to get into that mindset and relax. The ships are luxury and food excellent and some describe it as being like and behaving more like you are staying with friends. To get the most of your time on board make sure you know what to expect and what is and is not included in your fare. Then you can relax into a less formal and stuffy environment for your vacation and enjoy the sights and ports.
Watch All My Windstar Videos
These include videos of advice, ship and cabin tours. You can watch them all by clicking “play” in the player and they will all play, or on my YouTube Windstar Playlist at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs3662YkgOgqBhNMsjfukuSy9HSS_YGd9
Additional Windstar Reading:
- Windstar Star Pride “Gaelic Explorers”: http://www.tipsfortravellers.com/windstar-cruises-star-pride/
- Windstar Star Breeze “Venetian Passageways”: http://www.tipsfortravellers.com/windstar-cruises/
Disclaimer: I travelled as a guest of Windstar Cruises on their 8-night “Gaelic Explorers” cruise on the Star Pride from Edinburgh to Dublin in June 2017
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