by Jenna Gilson, Cruise Sales Consultant
Our trip began with an evening flight from London Heathrow. We checked in online and did the bag drop at the airport, where we had to present copies of our COVID-19 vaccine status. Masks were worn within the airport and for the duration of the flight, except when eating or drinking. We had already completed the health form required by the Spanish authorities, and those were checked, and the QR code scanned when we arrived in Barcelona. Everything was done very efficiently, and we were quickly free to start our holiday. We had booked a pre-cruise hotel located on Las Ramblas, which was a short taxi ride from the airport. The location is great for embarking any cruise, as the port is just a stone’s throw away meaning that after check-out in the morning we could just walk down to the port. Upon arrival at the port our cruise tickets and COVID-19 vaccine documents had to be presented and then we completed a health questionnaire and had a free antigen test. It was all very organised and after a short wait we were cleared to check-in and board the ship.
On the ship…
Masks were required to be worn at all times when in any indoor public space except when eating or drinking. I found the crew to be very good at gently reminding guests if they happened to forget to put their mask back on, and it quickly became very normal to wear the mask when walking around. I felt very safe with the measures taken throughout the cruise.
The first three ports on our voyage were in Italy, where we needed to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test for going ashore. This was communicated to us via a letter in our stateroom and we were told the times the ships doctor would be available to do the complimentary tests in the medical centre. It was very straightforward and took only a few seconds, we were then given printed copies of our test results prior to going ashore should we need to present these.
The Ship…and our accommodation
As we embarked Star Legend we were warmly welcomed and personally shown to our stateroom where we were offered a tour of the facilities and amenities before our luggage arrived.
The ship has been recently been stretched so that it now accommodates a maximum of 312 guests. Whilst being stretched, it also had a complete renovation and it really is looking lovely. As part of the renovation the staterooms and suites all have new bathrooms which feel very modern, and are equipped with L’Occitane amenities. We stayed in a Balcony Suite and I was really impressed by the size of the stateroom, it felt very spacious. There was a seating area with a large television, sofa and two armchairs which could be separated from the bed and rest of the room with a curtain. The walk-in closet was another nice feature. The balcony is more of a French balcony than a balcony you can sit out on, but it was nice to be able to open the door and let in fresh air and enjoy the views.
During the day, when we were not ashore, we spent much of our time on deck 7 which is the pool deck. It is a great place to relax with a good book. We also visited the Fitness and Motion Studio’s where complimentary fitness classes such as yoga and Pilates are held each day. Entertainment was also on offer during the day with hosted trivia quizzes, Name That Tune, dance lessons and a battle of the chefs. Sea days are also enhanced in selected ports with the opening of the retractable marina. When the location permits, the ships marina will open and guests have the option to use the complimentary water toys – such as kayaks and paddle boards – and there is also a huge inflatable pillow tethered to the ship that guests can use for jumping off of into the sea, or just for sunbathing on. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any ports during our cruise where the marina could be opened, but we did get a sneak peek at the water toys
Veranda is a restaurant located at the aft of the ship that has tables set up both inside and outside. It was he first restaurant we tried on embarkation day, with a table outside in the glorious Spanish sunshine with the beautiful views of Barcelona city. Although the restaurant is usually buffet style, as is the Star Grill, current protocols mean that the crew serve you. Veranda is open for breakfast and lunch and then is changed into speciality restaurant Candles in the evening.
Candles is a grill restaurant and was one of the dining highlights for ourselves. You need to make a reservation to dine here, but there is no cover charge. They have an amazing beef fillet steak mignon that comes with a choice of four sauces – Bearnaise, Chimichurri, Cabernet reduction and Chermoula – which the staff bring around once your steak has been served. The only other restaurant which requires reservations is Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso. The food in Cuadro 44 was so good we returned for a second visit later in the week. The menu offers a number of small plates which are served tapas style to share and some larger options for main course. A real highlight was the Jamon Iberico, and the Paella Croquetas served with a chorizo alioli. We loved the atmosphere in this restaurant.
Amphora is the main restaurant for dinner and is open dining. The menu changes each evening but there are some classics such as salmon and grilled steak that remain on the menu throughout the cruise. I found the food to be very nice with a good amount of choice on the menu. The previously mentioned Star Grill is located outside on deck 8 and was a popular place to have lunch, they also offer a burger bar in the afternoon. On several days there was live music here which provided a great atmosphere. For light bites throughout the day there is also the option of the Yacht Club Café which is located at the front of the ship and provides impressive views from the panoramic windows.
We also got to experience Windstar’s signature Deck BBQ which they aim to offer on every sailing – weather permitting. Tables were set up outside on deck 7 and we were treated to the most delicious freshly grilled food. After dinner the tables were cleared away and a dance party was held. This was a really special experience, to be able to dine under the stars and then enjoy live music while sailing toward our next destination.
During our cruise, we had the Unlimited Beverage Package included, which meant that in addition to our soft drinks and teas and coffees, we could also enjoy beers and wine – including sparkling wine – cocktails and our mini-bar, all throughout the day and evening, at all bars and restaurants. If you are someone that likes a few drinks throughout the day, it is definitely worthwhile adding a drinks package to your booking before your cruise, as the cost can add up by the time you have had a couple of glasses of wine with lunch and dinner, a few afternoon beers and some after dinner cocktails. Also, if you are sailing on a cruise in Europe, if you pre-book your drinks package before you board, you will avoid having to pay any EU-Tax which is added to your bill if you purchase beverages onboard.
Most evenings there was entertainment in the main lounge. We saw shows such as “An Evening of Broadway” featuring Grace, the Entertainment Manager, and “Songs We Wish We’d Written” with the whole of the Entertainment Department. The crew show was a real highlight and was really well received by the guests. The entertainment in the main lounge was often followed by the band, Infinite Groove, playing in the Compass Rose or the Delight Duo in the Star Bar on deck 8. We spent most of our evenings in the Compass Rose, where the band created a really fun atmosphere.
Our itinerary started in Barcelona, followed by a day at sea where we could just relax onboard, and get our bearings around the ship. Our next three stops were in Italy – Cagliari (Sardinia), Trapani (Sicily) and Messina (Sicily). Whilst we were in Italy the regulations stipulated that we could only go ashore as part of a Windstar shore excursion which you cannot deviate from. This was not a problem as there were so many interesting places to visit and a variety of shore excursions to choose from.
In Sardinia we were lucky enough to have a tour arranged especially for our group which was a Sardinia Highlights Tour. We were taken to see the salt plains which are home to many flamingos, before a brief stop at a glorious beach followed by a walking tour of Castello, the old part of the town. In Trapani we booked a tour to Erice, a local medieval, hilltop town. Other options for excursions included walking tours, cooking classes and even mountain biking. There was also the option to hire a private car with driver and guide.
Following our calls to Italy, our cruise continued on to Greece where we stopped at Argostoli, Katakolon, Chania and finally Athens. In Greece we were not required to be part of an organised tour, so only booked the one shore excursion in Argostoli, a four-hour tour that visited the Drogarati Cave and subterranean Melissani Lake. We were happy to explore independently in the other stops
All the shore excursions we took were wonderful, really well organised and really added to our appreciation of each port. There was a fairly good choice in all ports, and prices started from around $55.
Overall I had a wonderful time on the Star Legend. The crew were amazing, the food was consistently great and the ship was lovely. I would not hesitate to recommend Windstar for guests who are looking for an authentic, small ship experience.