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Windstar Cruises review
Explore unique destinations on an intimate ship with a relaxed vibe.
Get up-close-and-personal with boutique ports and small seaside towns that larger cruise lines miss. These ships can feels more like an adventure on your own private yacht than a resort at sea, without flashy evening shows or daytime water parks.
Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).
Windstar Cruises are excellent for world travelers that would like to get up-close-and-personal with seaside towns that larger cruise ships can’t access. But if you’re looking for an all-included luxury experience, or just want a little more to do during days at sea, find the cruise that’s right for you.
Windstar Cruise reviews and complaints
Case study: Karen's experience
For my first cruise, I went with Windstar for a seven-night Athens, Greece round-trip cruise on the Wind Star ship. Absolutely delicious food — but the entertainment was severely lacking. As a first time cruise passenger, I was starting to get a little bored a few days in and yearning to get off. For the adventurous type, I would advise going for a normal holiday in Europe over being on a cruise — it’s much cheaper and you will have a much better sense of adventure.
About Karen’s cruise
Ship sailed: Wind Star
Where do Windstar Cruises’ ships depart from?
Miami and San Diego are Windstar’s main US departure ports, but it also embarks from dozens of cities scattered around the globe.
Windstar currently sails from:Baltimore, Barbados, Barcelona, Bermuda, Charleston, Copenhagen, Dover, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Honolulu, Jacksonville, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Mobile, New Orleans, New York City, Norfolk, Port Canaveral, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, Tampa, Tampa/St.Petersburg, Vancouver, Venice
Windstar Cruises destinations
From ocean crossings to adventures through the Panama Canal, Windstar offers some of the most interesting routes in the biz. Even world-weary travelers who feel like they’ve seen it all might find a spark of wanderlust browsing Windstar’s itineraries. It also offers themed cruises for foodies and Gran Prix super-fans.
Here’s where it sails to:Alaska, Bahamas, Baja Mexico, Canada and New England, Eastern Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, Southern Caribbean, Transatlantic, Western Caribbean
Who owns Windstar Cruises?
Windstar Cruises is independently owned and operated by The Anschutz Corporation. In fact, this is a feature that sets it apart from the pack. While industry giants like Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean — who owned 68% of the market, combined, in 2017 — tend to focus on continuously building bigger and flashier ships, Windstar funnels its resources into curating small group shore excursions that leverage the guidance of local residents, and itineraries that offer authentic insight into each location.
Why you should (or shouldn’t) cruise with Windstar Cruises
Windstar Cruises is best suited for active travelers in search of unique itineraries and immersive port adventures. The experience onboard is fairly casual. Staff calls you by your first name, and forgoes formal nights that require cocktail dresses and suit coats.
Windstar Cruise focuses on the destination, rather than onboard extravagance. Look elsewhere if you’re hoping for nonstop entertainment on deck, late-night parties and lots of organized activities during days at sea.
Small ships dock at niche ports
Every suite has an ocean view
Water sports that include kayaking, boating and swimming while docked
Excursion groups are small
High-quality food is often locally sourced
Partnerships with James Beard Foundation provides special chef demos, beverage pairings and market tours
Fewer crowds on the ship and at port
Cruisers pay for gratuities, alcoholic drinks, Wi-Fi and shore excursions
More expensive than larger cruise lines
Ships can feel old and outdated
Fewer amenities and facilities than on bigger, resort-style ships
In 2018, Windstar Cruises was voted Best Small Ship Cruise Line in the Conde Nast Reader’s Choice Awards. In 2019, Crystal Ocean Cruises beat it by just 0.11 points.
Traveling during COVID-19
The CDC continues to advise caution when traveling within or outside the US, However, it no longer requires self-quarantine or a COVID-19 test for fully vaccinated domestic travelers as of April 2021. International travelers need to get tested three days prior to flying out of the US and within three days after returning, even if you are fully vaccinated. It recommends that you delay travel if you’re not fully vaccinated to protect yourself and your family from getting or spreading the virus.
If you’re planning a trip outside the US, bear in mind that many countries have placed restrictions on US tourists. Check the US embassy website for updates before booking international travel.
Frequently asked questions
To create or modify a Windstar booking, call 877-382-3713.
To get in touch with Windstar’s corporate office, call 206-733-2703.
For brochures and other promotional material, call 800-824-8636.
Windstar charges $12 per person, per day to cover gratuities, charged to your online account. Additionally, 15% gratuity is added to all bar purchases.
The dress code aboard Windstar Cruises is pretty lax. It only asks that passengers refrain from wearing jeans, shorts or T-shirts in the dining room and lounge at night. Consider packing khakis, collared shorts, sundresses, skirts or nice pants for evenings aboard Windstar ships.
Latest Windstar Cruises deals
Cruise in elegance and luxury on worldwide Windstar Cruises starting at $1,099
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