Like the rest of the cruise industry, Windstar Cruises was swept up in the cruise market storm following the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19), being forced to suspend its fleet and cancel sailings for the majority of this year.
Along with this, Windstar had no choice but to postpone Star Plus – its groundbreaking initiative to transform three of its all-suite Star Plus Class ships, including Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride, first announced at the start of last year.
This was a result of the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Italy (where the renovations were due to take place) having to close for several weeks and reduce its workforce dramatically to ensure the safety of employees once it reopened, due to the pandemic.
Fortunately, things are starting to get back on course for Windstar Cruises (and indeed the rest of the cruise industry), as it recently announced that its newly revamped ship Star Breeze will be setting sail on 2 January 2021 to the sun-soaked Caribbean.
Following this, Star Legend will be taking on some of Star Pride’s itineraries in 2021 until Pride has similarly completed her transformation. She is due to resume sailings in Europe in July 2021.
Windstar has ensured that no expense has been spared on the complex renovation project, which will see a new 84ft mid-section built into each ship to allow for the addition of 50 new suites, two new restaurants, an elevated pool, a reimagined spa and fitness centre, a new retail shop, new bathrooms in all suites and more improvements.
Discussing the initiative, Windstar Cruises president, John Delaney, said: “The $250 million Star Plus Initiative is the most complex and comprehensive small ship lengthening, engine replacement, and renovation project undertaken in cruising.
“The slightly larger ships and new enhancements will significantly build upon the signature onboard environment Windstar is famous for.”
Windstar Cruises has been teasing us over the last few months with videos and renderings of the work being done on Star Breeze, which was fitted with its lengthened profile back in April that will see the cruise ship’s capacity increase to 312 guests (up from 212) – almost matching the capacity of Wind Surf.
However, the cruise line has insisted that “the initiative is not about getting bigger”, but about offering its guests “more of what they love about Windstar Cruises” in terms of amenities and facilities. Even with the extra space, the ships will still remain under the 350 capacity and will therefore still retain that small-ship feel for which Windstar is known and loved.
And in a post-Covid world, we anticipate that even more cruisers will be seeking out cruise ships with more space and fewer passengers, making the Star Plus initiative very much ahead of its time.
Along with the 50 new suites, which have been configured with the bed by the window or balcony, the ships will also feature the new Grand Owner’s Suite, which boasts three adjoining individual suites to create a three-bedroom, 3.5-bath suite, separate dining room and living room areas, an entertainment bar, a central balcony and additional balcony in one of the bedroom suites.
Totaling an impressive 1,374sq ft, the combined three-bedroom suite can accommodate up to seven guests, perfect for extended families and friends. In addition to the new guest suites, all bathrooms in existing suites will be renovated in the same design.
Renderings released by Windstar earlier this year also revealed an inviting new infinity pool, along with a reimagined Veranda restaurant with a new layout and additional seating, which will no doubt prove invaluable for social distancing post-Covid.
Speaking of which, in preparation for the restart of sailings, Windstar recently announced its new Beyond Care programme in partnership with the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Centre, to ensure the health and safety of guests and crew.
The latest measures include the introduction of HEPA air filters, enhanced cleaning and sanitisation procedures, and expanded dining times and venue options.
New pre-trip protocols for guests include a pre-departure questionnaire, a health screening prior to embarkation and there will be staggered arrival and departure times at check-in and disembarkation in ports to reinforce social distancing. Guests will also be requested to wear masks when travelling to and from the ships.
Main dining venues will operate at 65 per cent capacity, while specialty venues will operate at 60 per cent. The crew will be required to wear masks, have their temperatures checked twice daily, and adopt the new “Windstar Wave” hand signal – a W made with one’s index fingers and thumbs.
Tenders, motor coaches and smaller boats will operate at 50 per cent capacity and will be cleaned between each use.
Visit windstarcruises.com/starplus for more information.