Aboard the Windstar Star Breeze

Mykonos has it all: Beaches, seafront dining and shopping, for starters.

Mykonos has it all: Beaches, seafront dining and shopping, for starters.

The Star Breeze joined the Windstar fleet last April; it’s one of the former beloved small Seabourn yachts, which was revamped to the tune of $8.5 million, a move that overhauled its public spaces, dining rooms and suites.

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As the couple who has sailed Windstar 13 times described the line to us on our first day on board, “It’s the people you meet.” While at first we were sure she meant us, after a few days of sailing the Star Breeze we realized she had been talking about the mellow vibe on board that’s generated by other repeat visitors who know how to relax in the private yacht-like environment (the ship holds just 212 passengers). On Windstar vessels, room stewards and waiters call guests by their first names, an unusual policy in the luxury sector. At first, it seemed jarring but as we relaxed day by day, we grew to like it. And the dress code is “elegantly casual;” for example, it’s suggested men wear lightweight trousers and short-sleeved dress or polo shirts for the evening and women put on resort wear or cocktail dresses, no formal garb here. All the same, everyone looks great on Windstar; these are people who love life and clearly sail to enjoy it even more with others of a similar ilk.

The Owner’s Suite on Windstar’s Star Breeze has a fabulous seating area with large windows.

The Owner’s Suite on Windstar’s Star Breeze has a fabulous seating area with large windows.

Life on board: With just 106 suites, no stateroom is far away from the public space. We loved that our sixth floor accommodation (No. 307) was close to an elevator, which got us to wherever we wanted to go virtually within seconds, either to the fourth floor for disembarkation, or to Candles, an al fresco dining area that screams “romance,” thanks to its lovely lighting and open-air view of the stars which made easy to prolong our enjoyment of each port (there’s nothing like the Greek Isles or the Turkish Riviera for lovely views). Note: Reservations are required for Candles, which serves steaks and seafood. There’s also a spa on board with neat treatments, such as an “Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow” body polish and an “Aroma Stone Therapy” massage. It also offers specials on certain days, such as a combo of three abbreviated treatments for $109. Stretch, ab-toning and yoga classes are provided daily.

Unique Touch: We were also fans of the marina, which Windstar opens on certain days for guests to enjoy swimming and kayaking just off the ship.

Dining Al Fresco is a tranquil experience on the Star Breeze.

Dining Al Fresco is a tranquil experience on the Star Breeze.

Fine Food: We loved that in each port, Chef Rohit Dimri went to the local food markets to stock up on provisions, in some cases walking 45 minutes each way. His takeaways included sea bream and other local fishes; in Turkey, he brought back great spices. Dining options on the Star Breeze are always evolving, since Dimri walks through each dining room every night to see what people are enjoying. He says seeing the delight on their faces makes him jazzed and inspires him to take that sometimes long walk into town the following day. Food is a serious matter on Windstar. All baking is done fresh every single day and the process begins at 1 a.m. every night.

Accommodations: All suites include an LCD flat-screen TV, DVD/CD player, safe, minibar with free soft drinks, wireless Internet, Bose SoundDock speakers, L’Occitane amenities, hair dryer, vanity desk, magnifying mirrors, Euro-Top mattresses, luxury bedding, Egyptian cotton towels, waffle-weave robes, slippers, alarm clock, fresh fruit and flowers. Ocean View Suites are 277 square feet in size. There are two Owner’s Suites, which are 575 square feet and two Classic Suites, which are 520 square feet.

The Star Breeze Yacht Club has a coffee bistro, computers and lots of lovely lounging space.

The Star Breeze Yacht Club has a coffee bistro, computers and lots of lovely lounging space.

Favorite Hideaway: The Yacht Club (which was formerly an observation lounge) on the top deck is a large public space (think chic coffee bar and reading den) with computers for guest use and comfy, yet formal seating with floor-to-ceiling windows all around.

In Kusadasi most visit Ephesus but there’s great shopping in this Turkish port for rugs, leather and cotton.

In Kusadasi most visit Ephesus but there’s great shopping in this Turkish port for rugs, leather and cotton.

Special Treat: A signature Windstar touch is to provide a private event for its passengers. On our cruise, we were wined and dined in Rhodes at a private facility where we enjoyed Greek food and dancing; it wasn’t long before just about everyone was taking part in the sirtaki dance à la “Zorba the Greek.” It was a swell evening in a unique setting with free flowing wine and beer, as well as buffet-style dining in abundance, with highlights like baked gemista (tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice), papoutsakia (eggplant stuffed with beef and tomatoes) and seafood kritharoto (a seafood medley with orzo pasta). For dessert, there were traditional Greek favorites, such as galaktoboureko, baklava and kataifi. Did we mention the chocolate pie? Yes, please. Nice Touch: Windstar schedules the exclusive evening event to avoid clashes with daytime tours, so you won’t miss a thing. Note: In Rhodes, our choice was shopping. We found that the Euro being nearly on par with the U.S. dollar made for some fun retail therapy and so we spent the afternoon buying beautiful lace tablecloths, jewelry and ceramics. Within the walled city there are no cars, making it easy to amble from one boutique to the next and to sit and have a refreshing coffee while watching for one of the famous Greek cats who live in town and are fed by many.

Cats and More Cats are found throughout Greece and Turkey, most fed by the general populace.Also in Port: Mykonos is an easy town to navigate, there are seafront “tavernas” aplenty (we liked Kavos and had fresh fish, olives and tzatziki, natch!) and unique boutiques along the winding streets. Santorini is stunning, but we suggest booking a tour or transportation ahead of time to get you up the very steep hillside, which is usually traversed via tram or donkey. During the high summer season, there were six other ships in port (some of them huge), meaning there were crowds and crowds all trying to get up that hill.

Pictured: Cats and More Cats are found throughout Greece and Turkey, most fed by the general populace.

A highlight of our cruise was Bodrum, where we got to sail on a privately chartered “gulet,” that’s a wooden sailing yacht that cruised from bay to bay and anchored in a cove so we could swim in the shallow waters and then jump back on board to dry off in the sun. Provided by Sea Song Tours, it was a true luxury experience, with attentive service and a terrific seafood lunch that was waiting for us after we swam in one inlet. Our takeaway? It doesn’t get any better than this.

Note: Other changes to the Star Breeze as part of its $8.5 million revamp include a “counter-current” pool and whirlpool and the addition of four feet on each side of the outdoor Star Deck, which now allows spacious outdoor dining under the stars. A former club space is now “Compass Rose” and the former card room is now a screening area where passengers can watch films. 

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