Windstar’s upscale but low-key attitude and style were apparent from the moment my husband and I stepped onto Windstar's Star Pride. We were guided to the lounge, given a glass of bubbly, and checked-in for our 9-day mediterranean cruise within a matter of moments. With only 212 guests, the trend of no lines and no fuss had begun.
On a small ship the staff become a big part of the experience. The staff on the Star Pride were friendly and approachable and made every effort to make guests feel welcome and at home. From the cabin stewards to the servers, I found all to have a desire to please. We took the crew up on Windstar’s Open Bridge policy, and the officers were happy to give my husband and me a personal tour and answer our questions. They even let me pose at the controls for a photo opp.
We cruised the Venetian Passageways itinerary from Athens to Venice on the one-year new Star Pride. The Pride was the first of three new ships to sail under the Windstar flag, post-Seabourn ownership. Sister ships, Star Breeze and Star Legend came out in 2015, and the Star Pride will undergo additional refurbishment in 2016 to finish modifications in line with the Breeze and Legend transformations. These are the three motorized “power yachts” in the Windstar fleet, joining the sailing ships Wind Spirit, Wind Star and Wind Surf.
The Star Pride is cozy but not too small, and there are many nooks and crannies to discover and enjoy. The Yacht Club was perfect for an early morning latte, and Compass Rose was great for a pre-dinner drink and to enjoy live music. The Star Bar was a natural gathering place for those returning from excursions to catch up with other passengers on their day.
One of my favorite attributes of this ship was the cabin size, which is 277 square feet. It felt more like a hotel room than a ship’s cabin. Anyone wishing an even more spacious cabin can take a Classic Suite or Owner’s Suite (400-575 square feet). Our bed was a very comfortable queen, and our suitcases easily fit under the bed after we unpacked our bags into the walk-in (that's right...walk-in!) closet. The bathroom had two sinks, a soaking tub with shower, and plenty of space in the medicine cabinet. We had a Balcony Suite (French balcony, to be accurate), which was perfect for gauging the day’s weather and enjoying Adriatic sunsets.
The best part of being on a small ship is visiting small ports that the large ships cannot reach. We had one stormy day that made visiting the unprotected port of Hydra not possible, so we went to Nafplion instead. In Nafplion we discovered a beautiful little seaside town, and hiked up to the Palamidi fortress (1,000 steps up to an amazing view and tired legs). Less nimble ships often add a sea day because they don’t have port-flexibility. Windstar did not disappoint with this alternate port.
Experiencing the Corinth Canal from the 440 foot Star Pride was a spectacular highlight. Larger ships are not able to navigate the Canal, and it would be a shame to miss this! We could practically reach out and touch the rock. One of my favorite ports was Kotor. For the breathtaking approach of the fjord-like Bay of Kotor, we chose the bow of the ship. Shortly after pulling into port we were walking into town with the Executive Chef to the local market. He was on a mission to buy produce for the next day. We watched him haggle over price and choose only the best and freshest ingredients (I knew to order the mushroom risotto in the dining room because I had watched him choose the prize fungus of the market).
Our Private Event (a complimentary excursion for all Star Pride passengers) was in Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Albania. Before we left the ship for this excursion, one of the founders of Butrint National Park came onboard and gave a talk in the lounge. He gave fascinating insight on starting a park of this scale from ruins in a communist country. Our guide on the motor coach, as we traveled through the beautiful landscape, told us what it was like to grow up in communist Albania. When we arrived in Butrint we were treated to a performance by a local flutist in an ancient amphitheater, and then led on a tour through the ruins. This was easily our most interesting port. It was breathtakingly beautiful and culturally interesting.
The other ports on this itinerary were Athens, Itea (Delphi), Katakolon (Olympia), Dubrovnik, Hvar and an overnight stay in Venice. There is so much to see in Venice that the overnight stay was welcomed and needed. We were sad to leave the Star Pride, but glad to be in Italy! Contact me, Nanci Browning, for more details on this itinerary or if you would like help finding the best cruise for your next trip.