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Wind Star Ship

I'm at the end of the Tauck Treasures of the Mediterranean cruise and want to post my thoughts about the Wind Star ship while my memories are fresh.

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In about 1976, when I was in the beginning of my career, I upgraded from a 1962 Volkswagen Bug to an almost new Honda Civic hatchback. The Civic was a good reliable car but it was basic. It had roll up windows, a manual transmission, AM radio, and rubber floor mats – no air conditioning. But it got me where I wanted to go and it was very reliable. The designers could have made it more basic, like a military vehicle which has only the absolutely necessary features and functions, but they didn’t. They tried to make it attractive as well as reliable, while still meeting their chosen price point.

I drove that car for many years and then sold it to my sister who passed it along to each of her kids as they reached driving age.

Twenty-five years later, I bought a Mercedes S-430. Very different car, with lots of creature comforts, automatic transmission, electric windows, air conditioning, nice interior, air suspension, etc. But, like the Honda, its function was just to get me where I wanted to go, perhaps in greater comfort.

The Wind Star story is similar when compared to one of the luxury cruise lines, such as Crystal, Seabourn, Silversea, or Regent Seven Seas. The Wind Star was built in 1986 and was probably built to the standards of luxury at that time. But that was 38 years ago and what is considered “luxury" in a cruise ship has moved on.

The regular cabins on the Wind Star are small, the bathrooms are very small, and there are just port holes to the outside – no balconies. Closet space is limited. It’s like the Honda Civic – it has everything you need, but nothing extra.

The ship itself was designed to a similar minimalist ethic. For example, there’s no elevator, just stairs to go between decks. To reach the Veranda restaurant you must go outside. I don’t know what they do if it’s raining. [Side note: I asked what they do if someone has mobility issues. They said they tell that person not to book on this ship.]

Being small, the ship moves quite a bit more in rough weather.

It has all the required things, a restaurant, a lounge, a coffee bar, a gift shop, etc. And the staff has been excellent.

The ship has been renovated recently, 2018 I think, but there’s a limit to what you can do in a renovation. It would be difficult to reconfigure the cabins to make them larger, for example.

The ship does what it was designed to do, get you to the various islands and ports on your itinerary.

In the end, it all depends on what you want. The Wind Star can provide a nice cruising experience, but it cannot provide the luxury experience you’d get on one of the modern luxury cruise lines.

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    Added note: The Wind Star now uses StarLink for Internet access which is much faster than the older technology that used geosynchronous satellites. But there was a problem – StarLink blocks access to iCloud and OneDrive (and a few other services). I assume they do that to limit the amount of data that flows through their network.

    But blocking access to OneDrive is a serious problem. The way OneDrive works is that you have a pseudo file on your computer – sort of just a file name. When you access that file, OneDrive quickly downloads the file to your computer.

    If you’re like me and use a computer on a cruise, this means that I can’t access some of my files.

    I understand why they do it, but we need to know in advance that we’re going to be blocked so we can make sure that needed files are on the computer or on some external media.

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    Mike: Good info. Enjoy the rest of your cruise.

    When do you sign up for your next Wind Star ship cruise? 😂

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    Mike: Well written review, love the analogy. Thank you for posting. I always enjoy reading your blogs.

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    edited May 11

    We found the Wind Star quite "adequate." It was nice enough, plenty nice for us. We've only been on one cruise ship and that was with Disney. I spent a few years sailing around on my uncle's big gray "floating airports" and Wind Star is way above those!! :o:D Within the Tauck realm, I would put the Windstar at least one step above the Isabela II that plies the Galapagos, but like Wind Star, it worked for us.

    A note about the "regular" cabins on Wind Star- except for the Owner's suite, all cabins are identical. They only differ by location.

    As to any future renovations, while I doubt they can or will do something as extensive to Wind Star, but look what Scylla did to a number of their river boats, or what Oberoi has done with Philea- they totally gutted the interior and reduced the number of cabins so the new ones are almost twice as large. Granted Philea is little more than a floating barge. At the extreme, look what Windstar did with their three Star Series boats- cut them in half and added a new 25m sections along with making other major upgrades! This practice is not uncommon in the cruise ship industry. So, no renovation is outside the realm of possibility. With the exception of cost or cost-benefit, they can do almost anything. We can always hope. :)

    Windstar- Star Breeze

    Silverseas- Silver Spirit

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    Mike - Thank you so much for the detailed description of the Wind Star.  I think I will continue travelling with Silversea or Tauck river cruises.

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    Everyone is comfortable with different types of vacation. We are in the definitely never go on a big cruise ship again. It sounds as if Windstar would be great for us and we loved the Isabella ll.
    Just recently, friends of ours went on a Silverseas cruise round Japan, partly because they were going with relatives who go with Silverseas all the time. They would normally travel independently. Their take on the experience was that all people seemed to be focused on was what clothing and jewelry everyone was wearing and what would be served at the next meal and everything they could ask their butler to do for them.
    Our friends were disappointed at the limited experience they got of Japan because so much time was spent sailing around it instead of being there and that being around the coast limited the sites that could be reached in a sensible amount of time before they were on the ship again. They joined us after their tour on our group vacation and stacked their ‘cruise’ attire, tuxedo and cocktail dresses etc under the bed and relaxed and had a riot of a time on our boat of 45 people and enjoyed seeing all the local people on our excursions and joining in with them at a fraction of the cost of a Silverseas cruise.

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    British: I agree with you. I can’t imagine taking cocktail dresses and dripping with jewelry on a trip.

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    edited May 11

    Smiling Sam: Mike: Good info. Enjoy the rest of your cruise.

    When do you sign up for your next Wind Star ship cruise? 😂

    Nothing planned on a Wind Star ship at this time. The most important thing when choosing a tour/cruise is the itinerary. I would do another cruise on a Wind Star type vessel, but if the itinerary was the same, I’d choose a more modern vessel.

    We like Regent Seven Seas for cruises. They had a cruise in the same area, but the Tauck itinerary was better.
    One of the highlights of the cruise was the dinner at the Library at Ephesus. There's limited space in front of the Library so a larger ship would have to make the dinner a limited excursion. Wind Star made it available to everyone the boat (about 130 people).

    I’m almost finished my blog of the trip and will post a link to it when it’s finished.

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    Yup Ephesus (in the day and dinner at night) was fantastic! I wish Istanbul, Bodrum and Rhodes were still in the itinerary.

    If anyone is interested, I attached the brochure from the old (2015) Treasures of the Aegean.

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    Alan - of the three places you mentioned, all were nice (I did the tour in 2011 - my first Tauck tour), but Istanbul, IMO, is by far the biggest loss. I would likely consider Istanbul to be a 'Must See' location.

    Mike, Noreen - We found the Windstar to be quite enjoyable. If the weather was less than spectacular then maybe I would have a different opinion.

    Here's a few shots of life topside during our tour.








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    Patmos was at best ho-hum and Monemvasia only slightly less so, especially when compared with Istanbul, Bodrum and Rhodes. It was still a good trip.

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    edited May 12

    We have been on all of Wind Star’s boats for a total of nineteen cruises. The “Star” ships are really nice with many “cruise ship” amenities, but our favorite is the Wind Surf … the worlds largest sailboat (MSY) … and it does have a sister ship the Club Med II. The Wind Surf is similar to the Wind Star except it is three times as big … and it has elevators. It carries around three hundred passengers. The brochure says more but that is with a person in every bunk, and there are rarely three people in a stateroom. The Wind Surf does have suites that are up to 370 square fee. But, this is a motor sailing yacht, it is not a ‘cruise ship’. It is not for everyone. There is definitely a big difference between “sailing” and “cruising”. On a Windstar boat you rarely stand in line for anything.


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    British - We have sailed with Silversea many times and this year we will take five trips with them.  I would definitely agree with your friends that people in general dress up.  However, they have two restaurants where you can wear shorts all day and not dress up.  I haven't found (thank God) that people care about how you dress and no one discusses jewelry or food.  Some will mentioned their favorite restaurant as Silversea has anywhere between five or more restaurants depending on the ship.   However, I've noticed that there were middle aged men in tuxedos in the evening and most of them were very attractive and I was informed by a single lady that they were employed by Sivlersea and they were called "gentlemen hosts".   This was a real surprise to me.  I guess we are fortunate to have found very nice down to earth people not only on Silversea but Tauck.  I'm sure both companies have snobs and we try to avoid them if possible. 

    Sam - The smallest cabin on Silversea is 345 sq.ft. and goes up from there.  Tauck largest cabin Category 7 is 300 sq.ft. and the WindStar is 188 sq.ft.  I don't think I would enjoy a cabin this small but we are happy to hear how much you enjoyed it!   Wonderful pictures of you and Nancy.

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    edited May 13

    If you need a bigger room, the Windstar “Star” ships like the Star Breeze came from Seabourne and they are all suite ships. Windstar cut them in half, stretched them, and totally rebuilt them. They are basically new ships. On our most recent cruise on the “Breeze” they upgraded us to a suite that was over five hundred square feet.


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    Noreen - I think you're making an apples to oranges comparison when you compare room sizes on a Silverseas CRUISE ship with a Wind Star SAILING ship. The better comparison would be a Silverseas ship with a Ponant ship. Ponant rooms top out in the 500 sq. ft. range. The smallest Ponant room is smaller than the 345 sq. ft. you sited for Silverseas.

    For us, the room is to sleep in and get ready to tour in. For relaxation, on the ship during a tour we spend our time in the restaurants, bars, lounges, or on deck.

    In the case, of the Greece/Turkey tour there was only one day where you spent time at sea during the day (the cruise day to get to Istanbul). The rest of the time the cruising was from dinner time through the next morning. There were a couple of days where I got up to watch us arrive in ports at sunrise. Most of the pictures I posted above when from the day cruising to Istanbul. As you can see the weather was fabulous. Spending the time on the deck was great. If the weather was terrible or the seas were very rough perhaps I would have appreciated a larger room.

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    I'm on the opposite end of that spectrum. I see the ship as just a way to get between ports. What's important to me is the place where I live between ports. I want a fair-sized cabin, and I appreciate a decent sized bathroom. The new Regent Seven Seas ships have large cabins, and the bathroom has two sinks, a tub (which we never use) and a good-sized walk-in shower. We did a Regent cruise along the African coast recently and had a cabin that was big enough to host another couple for a room service dinner. That would have been impossible on the Windstar.

    I have no interest in the bar (don't drink or gamble) and the restaurant is just to eat in. We’re not pool people. We spend most of our leisure time in our cabin, reading or working on my computer. Judy sometimes uses the spa for a massage.

    I have similar requirements for hotel rooms - clean, fair-sized room, walk-in shower (I hate tub showers) and decent Internet access. We rarely use other facilities in a hotel.

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    Mike - ...working on my computer.

    When you commented on the internet issues on the boat, I knew this wasn't going to be one of your favorite tours.

    Just curious, if the Regent Seven Seas ships were exactly as you described, but with Wind Star quality internet how would your impressions have changed? Based on what I get about your likes, having a comfortable place with good quality internet is near the top of your 'desired' qualities for a tour. Am I perceiving things correctly?

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    edited May 13

    Actually, the Starlink Internet access on the WindStar was good - it was much faster than the geosynchronous satellite access that was the “state-of-the-art” a year or so ago. But what StarLink did was to block access to several important Internet services, including iCloud, OneDrive, DropBox, Carbonite, and a few others. You don’t expect that when you get Internet access.

    I expect that Internet access will be just a pipe that provides access to wherever I want to go on the Internet. If someone is streaming movies, I can see limiting the amount of data given to that person, or warning that streaming services will be blocked. Not being able to watch a movie is different from being blocked from data services that are required for normal operation.

    And if you were going to block those services, the guests need to be warned, in advance, so that they can make arrangements to get the data they need in a different way.

    As I commented earlier, my requirements for a hotel room – or a cabin on a ship – is that it be comfortable and sufficiently large, with a decent sized bathroom – extra points for two sinks and space to put things near the sink – a walk-in shower, good Internet access, and a coffee maker in the room or a coffee machine within a reasonably short walk.

    Both Regent and Windstar have a coffee shop, but I had to walk a couple of flights of stairs on Windstar. If no coffee maker in the room I go to the coffee shop as soon as I get up and get a cup of coffee for both Judy and me to drink as we get ready for the day. Carrying two cups of coffee while going down stairs is awkward. On Regent, I take the elevator and that’s difficult enough – just to press the buttons.

    But to answer your question directly, yes, high speed Internet access has always been a very important requirement for a hotel room. That was true when I was working and needed to do work related things, and now when I use it to research places we're going on a tour and to update my blog. I find it really valuable to know a bit about a place before I visit it in person.

    But even if Regent had the old geosynchronous satellite access and Windstar had Starlink without the limitations mentioned, I'd still take Regent for the better cabin and ship amenities. I can get by with the Internet access that Regent offers.

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    Mike - Thanks for the detailed explanation when the gist of the answer as you pointed out was in

    "But to answer your question directly, yes, high speed Internet access has always been a very important requirement for a hotel room."

    One further question. When you say "... and now when I use it to research places we're going on a tour and to update my blog. I find it really valuable to know a bit about a place before I visit it in person."

    I get the part about updating your blog, because it appears you like to do that to a degree in real time (your posts are appreciated - lots of great information).

    The part about doing research on places before you visit in person I don't get why the internet in a hotel room or on a ship is important for this. I'd think that you would have researched everything that you are visiting well in advance of leaving for a tour, probably even before you'd sign up for a tour. I totally get doing the research, but by the time you are on the tour it seems like the time for almost all of the research is past.

    Anyway keep posting your great blogs. They are fun to look at.

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    edited May 13

    I don't research in as great a detail before a trip as I do during the trip. On this trip, we visited Monemvasia, for example. I knew a little about it before we left but on the ship, the night before we landed, I did a lot more research, including finding pictures and maps of the area. One problem with research too early is that I forget what was where - the ports get confused in my mind. When I do it "just-in-time" I'm more likely to remember things when I'm on the excursion.

    [Added note: to get around the Starlink limitations, I had to use my smartphone as a hotspot. That is, I turned Wi-Fi off on my phone and turned hotspot on. Then I connected my computer to the hotspot. That allowed me to download the files I needed through the cellular connection. But that ate into my cellular data allocation to the point where I exceeded my cellular data allocation a few days before the tour ended.

    Starlink can't block access to all those sites for their normal customers - they'd never be able to sell the service. I think it was done for cruise ships to reduce the charge to the cruise ship (the ship may be charged based on the amount of data). I expect it will have to be Windstar that fixes the problem, not Starlink. What Windstar could do is offer an "enhanced Internet" service for a fee that would remove all of those blocks.

    Statlink is basically a very good service, much better than the geosynchronous satellite service, once they remove the blocks to those needed services.]

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    Many (most?) of the "sailing around the world on my sailboat" YouTube bloggers have switched or are switching to Starlink.

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    Addressing the Silversea post many posts above. Quite a while ago I saw a post on you-tube by Lisa and she did a whole you tube episode on what to wear on a SilverSea Cruise! I was fascinated about it and so I watched the 10 minute documentary on the suggested wardrobe for a SilverSea cruise. I dress very well but immediately thought such a cruise would not be for us, i.e. picking semi-formal cocktail dresses and a gown as well as a tuxedo for men! The interesting thing about this you-tube was that both the husband and wife wore coordinating dinner clothes. That would not happen with my hubby in this lifetime but good for them.

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    Whatever size ship my job is to fetch that first cappuccino and maybe a pastry or two. This little device makes it a lot easier and it folds flat for packing. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07V5CRLR1/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1

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    Folsomdoc, please pick up my espresso on your way, thanks.

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    Whatever size ship my job is to fetch that first cappuccino and maybe a pastry or two. This little device makes it a lot easier and it folds flat for packing. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07V5CRLR1/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1

    That's a good idea. Never thought to look for something like that. Thanks for posting.

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    I seriously needed that carrier on our Douro cruise when the ship didn't have cup koozies. That was a fun trek back to the cabin.

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    Great suggestion Folsomdoc. My husband always goes for the coffees and this will make the delivery back so much easier. It’s in my Amazon cart.

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    We have been on many Silversea cruises and have five more this year. My husband doesn't own a tuxedo and I have no gowns. I have nice dresses and slacks with some dressy tops but this is it. The only men that seem to wear tuxedos are the "gentlemen hosts' '. Most people dress like we do on Tauck dinners to castles and special restaurants but that is about it! We wouldn't enjoy cruises that are stuffy and Sivlersea is not in my opinion.

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    I've traveled on Silversea and on Regent Seven Seas. Never got too dressed up. Wore a coat to dinner, often without a tie. Women wore nice clothes but nothing too extreme. Never noticed any women with lots of jewlery but wasn't looking, either. When I'm with my wife, I only have eyes for her :)

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    MikeHenderson - When I'm with my wife, I only have eyes for her :)

    🤮

    Just kidding - Happy wife, happy life. 😂

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