The 312-passenger ship provides an intimate experience
It’s not every day that a cruise ship is cut in half, stuffed with a new section, and welded back together—but that’s precisely what happened to Windstar‘s Star Breeze in 2021.
The three-decade-old ship underwent the “stretching” process as a part of the $250 million Star Plus Initiative. This expanded all three of Windstar’s Star Class ships to allow for 100 more passengers, two new dining venues, and space for four new engines per ship.
While I hadn’t sailed Star Breeze prior to its expansion, I can confirm that even at a 312-passenger capacity, the ship still feels exquisitely intimate. Here’s how my first voyage went.
There are no standard cruise cabins on the Star Breeze—it is an all-suite yacht, and each suite layout features separate sitting and sleeping areas.
The Star Suites—the newest accommodations in the ship’s recently-added midsection—make for stand-out lodgings. The interior decor is traditional but updated, with a light blue–and–gray color scheme and classic yacht-style details such as wood paneling.
You can choose between suites with large picture windows or Juliet balconies—I suggest the latter. Though the balcony isn’t large enough for furniture, it’s lovely to open the doors and feel the breeze (this is, after all, Star Breeze!). Bathrooms are impressively sized: There’s a double vanity with a spacious shower, and there’s also a walk-in closet.
Unlike the original suites, where the seating area is near the window, the new Star Suites have a bed near the window. I enjoyed this new layout, as it meant waking up to incredible views every morning—I didn’t spend much time in my suite, so I didn’t mind that the sitting area lacked those views. You can always book the original suites if you prefer the reverse layout.
Earlier this year, Windstar announced its planning to roll out two new specialty suites to Star Breeze this spring. The new lodgings are inspired by Windstar’s sister companies—The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the Sea Island Resort in Georgia.
Windstar has partnered with the James Beard Foundation, so its culinary program is an onboard highlight.
Two dining venues remain from Star Breeze’s original layout: the main formal dining room, Amphora; an almost-cavernous space on deck 3 that serves a unique menu daily; and Veranda, a breakfast and lunch buffet that transforms into an alfresco seafood-and-steak spot named Candles for dinner.
Its two new dining venues are the outdoor Star Grill, a casual barbecue joint and grill by Stephen Raichlin, and Cuadro 44, a specialty restaurant by Anthony Sasso that serves Spanish cuisine. Unfortunately, Cuadro 44 wasn’t open during our sailing—I took my trip in 2022—but we were able to sample some of its menu items during a wine tasting. (The wine tasting was a highlight in my book, thanks to the informative bartender.)
While all meals are included onboard Windstar ships, alcoholic beverages are not—you can buy drinks à la carte or purchase a drink package. There’s also room service, included in the rate, which I found particularly beneficial on mornings with early excursions.
Coming soon to the ship is a new plant-based menu, created in partnership with the National Health Association.
The expansion of Star Breeze made for quite a bit of outdoor space on decks 7 and 8, where you’ll find the pool, hot tubs, and sun loungers. In French Polynesia, this is a particularly welcome addition—on the few days I stayed aboard the ship, I parked myself on a pool lounger with a book and several rounds of fruity cocktails.
There’s also an expanded spa with a fitness center, thermal suite, and movement studio; a lecture hall for enrichment talks about each port; and the library-lounge Yacht Club. And at some ports—ones that require tendering to shore—the ship can open up its watersports platform, equipped with a trampoline, kayaks, and paddleboards.
Star Breeze is light on nighttime entertainment—nights usually wrap up on the earlier side, after nightcaps in the Yacht Club or outdoor Star Bar, or live music at the Compass Rose bar. On one evening, however, there was particularly lively line dancing on deck.
Star Breeze’s Dreams of Tahiti itinerary offers one or two days in each port, which provides ample time for excursions and on-your-own exploring. Excursions range from snorkeling—I recommend the drift snorkeling on Raiatea, where you float along a current that takes you over a coral garden—to 4×4 tours of cultural sites, vanilla plantations, and pearl diving communities. You can also take a helicopter ride around Bora Bora’s Otemanu, the famous craggy peak at the center of the island.
Windstar also has a private island, Motu Mahaea, off Taha’a, which guests can visit for free. There are beach loungers, a restaurant, and a bar on the palm-tree-filled island.
Excursions are not included on Windstar, and on some islands with limited infrastructure, there’s little to do on your own. As such, I spent a few days just enjoying the island views from the pool deck or playing around on the watersports platform. During our two days in Bora Bora, I explored two of the island’s famous resorts via day passes that visitors can purchase.
My first stop was the St. Regis Bora Bora, where day-pass visitors can dine at the resort’s four restaurants, take a dip in its two pools, and even book a treatment at the spa. During my all-day visit, the highlights were snorkeling in the Lagoonarium, an artificial lagoon filled with tropical fish—don’t forget to pop your head above the water to take in views of Otemanu from certain spots—and sunset cocktails with another stellar view of Otemanu.
The next day, I visited Conrad Bora Bora Nui, a hillside property on its own island. Here, day-pass visitors can also take advantage of all the property’s facilities, from the restaurants to the beach to the spa. If you can handle a pretty vertical hike, head to the top of the property to see views of Otemanu—or ask the staff for a golf cart ride to the top as I did. The beachside pool complex was calling my name, though, and I spent the rest of my afternoon in the water or napping in a cabana.
Cruises in French Polynesia are not cheap, but Windstar, and Star Breeze in particular, finds its niche with a mid-range price point, an upscale small ship, and a strong culinary program. But as the rate does not include alcohol, excursions, Wi-Fi, or gratuities, charges can add up quickly. You can offset this by purchasing the all-inclusive package, which includes unlimited alcoholic beverages, Wi-Fi (though note that it’s very slow and spotty), and gratuities priced at $89 per guest per day—you’ll still be on your own for excursions, though.
The price of Windstar’s Dreams of Tahiti voyage starts at $2,399. Find out more information or book your own trip here.