So when Star Breeze appeared in London in September, reminding us of a different era when members of a trio of 214-guest yachts used to arrive in London under the Seabourn flag, it was like seeing an old friend comfortably installed in your front room after an absence of some years.
Now firmly established in the Windstar fleet of six (three sail-assisted, three 'power yachts'), the ships are set for a completely new lease of life in line with the ambitions of their deep pocketed owner - watch this space for more news.
Bad luck for Windstar that the magical evening they had planned, sailing under Tower Bridge and meandering down the Thames, was scuppered by strong winds, so we stayed put in the Pool of London, and very beautiful it was too. A lavish barbecue was prepared, with Executive Chef Graeme Cockburn (interviewed on this website last year) very much in evidence, and when we had finished eating, a space was cleared alongside the oversized plunge pool for a Windstar 'special' - crew line dancing.
If the idea makes you cringe - stop it! It is a most endearing occasion and encapsulates the Windstar style. Crew from all over the ship appear to take part, some as expert and nimble on their feet as professional dancers, others completely out of their depth but laughing and joking with their companions.
A brace of awkward British cadets appear, decked out in their single stripes and looking supremely embarrassed as only a Brit can - but they are soon caught up in the fun. Passengers stand by looking interested - the dancers have a fine eye for who is just waiting to be asked to join in, and slowly the group of dancers grows, with crew and passengers intermingled in a joyous bonding experience which establishes relationships for the whole of the cruise.
So what is the Windstar difference? They talk about itineraries (well planned and enticing by the way); accommodations (comfortable and spacious); food (always good, often excellent); watersports from the marina (a great treat, weather permitting). But for us, it is all about the unique style as demonstrated by the line dancing - totally relaxed, laidback, unpretentious, fun-loving, low key. This is the ship's style, and in our experience, also the style of the guests. Not dressy, interesting company, very well travelled, and always itching to get ashore and explore.
If you are intrigued by Windstar but still not sure, give us a call. There are often opportunities in the off season to try it out at a bargain price, and if you like it, great itineraries are on offer, with a wide range of winter choices in Asia (not just South East Asia but also China and Japan); lots of Caribbean options, as well as the Panama Canal and Costa Rica; and a whole range of different voyages in Europe, including the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords and some remarkable circumnavigations of Iceland.