As part of the wealthy and deep-pocketed Anschutz Corporation (owned by Philip Anschutz, self-made billionaire), Windstar is entering exciting and ambitious times under its new management team, many of them former Seabourn executives.
"Windstar is getting closer" their sales supremo Steve Simao told me. "Closer to the guests, and closer to the world." What that means in real terms is an attractive development of the onboard product, and a set of new and enhanced itineraries over the next 18 months.
More onboard programmes, lecturers, enhanced dining, local entertainment and magical moments will make a Windstar cruise more authentic and more memorable. Meanwhile the ships are small enough to sail closer in: up rivers, into the centre of towns and cities, exploring hidden bays and remote harbours, and avoiding the commercial container ports and busy transport hubs.
The watersports platform at the back is great for frolicking in the balmy waters of the Mediterranean and Caribbean, but can also be an excellent way to transfer into zodiacs or kayaks for wilderness explorations in Alaska.
In the Caribbean, there is a great opportunity for UK guests with a new 14-day round trip from easily accessible Barbados, on the lovely former Seabourn ship Star Breeze. This itinerary potters through the Leeward and Windward Islands with late evenings and calls at yachting favourites such as Pigeon Island, St. George's and Bequia.
In Northern Europe, new itineraries to the Baltic, Norwegian Fjords and North Cape are interspersed with a regular circumnavigation of Iceland and explorations of the British Isles. Meanwhile in the Mediterranean, magical favourites in the Western Med, Greek Islands and Adriatic never fail to capture the imagination on a small ship.
So what sort of person would choose a Windstar cruise? Well, obviously small ship aficionados will love the vessels - the small yachts with sails carry just 148 apiece, the lovely Wind Surf takes 310 guests, and the former Seabourn yachts each have a capacity of just 212. The ships appeal to unassuming independent guests, many of them quite active, who like the destination-focused itineraries with few sea days, lots of evenings in port, and an active shore programme including hiking, ziplining, or exploring by zodiac.
Fares come in well below the ultra luxury category, but of course they are not all-inclusive, giving you the option to pay as you go or take up a pre-paid drinks package at $58 per person per day (gratuities are also additional, at a recommended $12.50 per person per day).
We welcome new sterling pricing from Windstar, with particularly attractive options on certain itineraries appealing to the UK guest. Look out for fantastic bargains in Asia this winter, excellent fares on the short Norwegian Fjords cruise, and of course that great 14-day Caribbean option from Barbados.
Find out more: Request a Winstar Cruises brochure