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Windstar Cruises Alaska Review: A Luxury Sail through the Inside Passage

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Every morning, I would rise from bed, and walk to the curtains. I’d open them just a sliver – even at 6am, the sun was already high and the day was bright. And there it was: blue water – and blue skies! Though the forecast had called for rain the entire duration of our Windstar Cruise in Alaska and we packed with that in mind, good fortune smiled upon us. Almost every day of our journey through Alaska’s Inside Passage aboard the Star Breeze was clear skies and sunshine… exactly the kind of magic you need to make memories in this incredible place.

My recent Alaska cruise with Windstar Cruises gave me a chance to try something new: luxury sailing on a mid-sized ship. (Rather than the smaller ships I’ve previously cruised on.) It was a big step up from the often rough-and-tumble adventurous style Mr. V and I typically have when we visit Alaska. In addition to Xtratuffs and my go-to North Face, we packed nice clothes for dinners in the formal dining room.

Windstar Cruises Alaska Review Hero

In this post, I’ll share a detailed recap of my experience aboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze ship, including life aboard the ship, a peek inside the cabins, and the daily activities we did each day (in port, at anchorage, and at sea). By the end, I hope you’ll see that Windstar Cruises offers an unforgettable way to see Alaska for those who crave luxury, hate crowds, and still want to see the best that The Last Frontier has to offer.

Ready to dive into my Windstar Cruises Alaska review? It’s 5,000 words and very photo-heavy. It may take a while to load on mobile devices or those with slower internet – but I promise it’s worth waiting so you can see what our experience on Windstar Cruises in Alaska was like. (If you want to navigate to specific parts of the post, use the table of contents to jump to that section.)

In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Ełnena people and Lingít Aaní of the Tlingit people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

How to Choose a Windstar Cruise Itinerary

Windstar offers a number of Alaska itineraries (for 2023), so it’s worth breaking them down in one quick chart so you can get a sense of what they offer. I’ve listed them below from shortest to longest.

ItineraryDaysStart/EndPrice from (2023)Link
Scenic Alaska7Juneau/Vancouver
(or reverse)
$4,499ppHere
Alaskan Splendors11Seward/Vancouver
(or reverse)
$5,999ppHere
Islands & Inlets of the Inside Passage11Vancouver/Vancouver$5,299ppHere
Alaskan Glaciers & Prince William Sound12Seward/Vancouver
(or reverse)
$5,999ppHere
Aleutians & North Pacific Crossing14Tokyo/Seward$2,899ppHere

They also offer several cruise+tour options for 2023:

And two of their “Star Collector” cruises, aimed at loyal cruisers:

Of course, these details may have changed by the time you decide to book your Windstar Cruise to Alaska, so be sure to check the website for exact details and itineraries.

In any case, as you can see, there are plenty of options for cruising in Alaska with Windstar! Below, I breakdown our exact experience on the Alaskan Splendors itinerary, but you might wonder how to choose among the many options.

To help you decide, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I want to do in Alaska? This is the most important question to ask yourself – look at each itinerary and see which one(s) cover the specific ports and activities you most want to do.
  • How long do I want to cruise? Windstar Cruises in Alaska mostly range from 7-14 days; choosing a cruise tour option ranges from 11-15 days.
  • What is my budget? As you can tell, Windstar Cruises come in at a higher price point than the mega-ships. The prices above are per person, so keep that in mind while budgeting. (I also have Alaska travel budget tips and offer the Alaska Budget Bundle.)
  • Which dates work for me? Of course, you can only cruise when the ship is cruising! So double-check dates to make your final decision.

On our end, we chose to cruise in early June to take advantage of the great weather at that time of the year, and I really wanted to do a cruise that took us to Misty Fjords and Tracy Arm as well as Sitka (our favorite port in Alaska!). The first Alaskan Splendors itinerary of 2022 – which departed Vancouver on May 31 – was perfect for us.

Windstar Cruises: Alaskan Splendors Itinerary

Okay, now that you know what your options are and why we chose the Windstar Cruises Alaska itinerary that we did, let me break down each day of our itinerary so you can see what it’s really like.

Day 1: Embarkation in Vancouver

Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Vancouver

Our cruise set out from Vancouver, British Columbia. I took a bit of a gamble* and booked us flights arriving about 6 hours before departure. We arrived with plenty of time so took our transfer to the port and dropped off our suitcases. We then walked around and found a spot for lunch where we could see our ship, the Star Breeze, and admire the amazing weather.

Once we finished lunch, we went through a seamless embarkation process (SO easy!) and spent the remainder of our time pre-departure in our cabin. As we set out, we sailed under the Lions Gate Bridge toward Vancouver Island. We then began meeting fellow passengers at the bar, enjoying a cocktail as the world glid by.

For dinner the first night, we ate in the main dining room – Amphora – and retired to our room after a long day of travel (and with a little bit of time zone tiredness, since Vancouver is 3 hours behind Cleveland). We also turned in early as we were advised of an early start the next day.

*I say gamble because in 2022, flights were so often delayed and our connection was so tight that I honestly wasn’t sure we would make it. As it was, we had a short layover in Toronto but ran to make our second (on-time) flight to Vancouver, no problem.

Day 2: Sailing the Canadian Inside Passage

We woke before the sun to get coffee in the Yacht Club (Deck 8, forward), looking out as we approached Seymour Narrows. The sun rose over the misty hills and trees and I began to get that feeling: I’m home. (The Pacific Northwest always gives me that feeling, as does London.) The air smelled rich and crisp with the scent of trees and the water was calm… Blue skies followed us through almost our entire trip, including this day cruising up the Canadian Inside Passage.

As this was a day ‘at sea’ (i.e. entirely on the ship), we passed the day in a blissful haze of scenery, meals, and sometimes both – like at breakfast at Veranda (Deck 6, aft) where we ate breakfast in the open air. We also spent time reading in the sun on the forward deck (Deck 5) and made a visit to the bridge in the afternoon, where I spotted the first whale of the cruise! I also had a treatment at the World Spa, a full-service spa aboard the Star Breeze. (I didn’t take any pictures, but came away from my body scrub rejuvenated and relaxed – visiting the spa is the perfect way to kick off any vacation!)

We enjoyed another great dinner at Amphora before some evening entertainment; our entertainment director Grace Caudle serenaded us with a variety of show tunes before bed.

Day 3: Ketchikan

As you know, one of the reasons I cruise is to visit ports of call; I hate the cruise companies that lock you on the ship for weeks on end to ensure you spend all your money at the bar and boutique. Windstar is not one of those companies, and we made our first port of call on our second full day after departure. Our stop was in Ketchikan – Alaska’s “First” City, so named because it’s the first city you encounter when sailing northward (dating back to the gold rush era).

In Ketchikan, I booked an excursion to see the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show followed by a visit to Cape Fox Lodge and a small tasting menu there; Mr. V stayed on the ship to work a bit since we had cell service again (more on the wifi, below). This gave me a chance to see some of the “touristy” spots in Ketchikan before we met back up.

After my excursion, most people went back to the ship, but I knew we had plenty of time for another adventure. Mr. V and I met up and caught a city bus out to Totem Bight Historical State Park, where we were able to see more of the Native Alaskan influence in this part of Alaska. I’m planning to write a post all about Totem Bight at some point in the future since it’s a great little excursion in Ketchikan – even if you’re short on time.

It was a bit of a hurried visit, but we caught the bus back in time for a tasting and tipple at a brand new distillery – Uncharted Alaska – followed by dinner at a local restaurant that several people recommended, 108 Taphouse. There we had pints of Alaskan craft beer with burgers and a “traditional taco” on frybread.

Then it was back to the Star Breeze for the night; we were the last two guests to board the ship – something we’re rather proud of, as it means we made the most of our time in Ketchikan!

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    Day 4: Misty Fjords

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Misty Fjords

    We awoke the next morning to quite possibly the best weather I’ve ever seen in a place called “Misty” Fjords. I’ve previously visited Misty Fjords National Monument as part of my Uncruise in 2017, but the weather was very appropriate to the name then – it was also in early May, which may have contributed to that situation.

    I knew already that I wanted Mr. V to join me for a Signature Expedition in Misty Fjords; more on these below, but in short, I wanted us to go kayaking. This is what I did during my last visit to the area, and I know it’s the best way to see the fjords (up close and personal!). We were assigned to a morning kayak, which was perfect as the tide was reaching its peak and we got to explore a lot under the bright morning sun.

    Best of all, we rode a skiff to/from the kayak start/end point, so we also enjoyed a short skiff tour thanks to Lauren, who was/is part of the Star Breeze expedition crew but we previously knew from our Uncruise in Hawaii.

    We spent the rest of the day admiring the scenery and soaking up the sun – this was seriously such a beautiful day in a place that doesn’t see many of them.

    As the boat set sail back out of Misty Fjords, we had dinner at one of two signature restaurants aboard the Star Breeze: Cuadro 44. This is a Spanish tapas-style restaurant that has limited seating and only opens a few nights each cruise. I preferred the tapas over the entrees, but the entire meal was delicious.

    Day 5: Wrangell

    Another day, another Alaskan community to explore! As we approached the halfway point of our Alaskan Splendors Windstar Cruise, we made port in Wrangell. You might recall that I’ve been to Wrangell before – twice, actually, first with Uncruise and again in 2021 with Alaskan Dream Cruises.

    I’m becoming quite a fan of Wrangell and wanted to try something different this time. We were the first ones off the boat (first off, last on!) to grab breakfast and coffee in town – this is how we ensure some of our travel dollars go into the local economy, especially in smaller communities.

    Then, while Mr. V caught up on work, I set out on a jet boat tour up the Stikine River; this was something I’d heard about during our last visit but we didn’t try. I was assigned to a boat captained by Brenda from Alaska Charters and Adventures; she brought local photographer Ivan Simonek along for the journey, and the two regaled us with stories of living in a small Alaskan community and the history of the region.

    We made our way up the Stikine, stopping at a Forest Service cabin and passing several waterfalls. Our destination was Shakes Glacier, up the Shakes Slough which branches off the Stikine. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way, as there was still ice in the lake, but we did enjoy smoked salmon and wine while admiring the scenery before turning back to Wrangell.

    Back on land, I met up with Mr. V and we walked around a bit before departure. We’ve already explored a lot of the main sights in Wrangell like climbing Mt. Dewey, visiting the Wrangell Museum, and visiting Chief Shakes Longhouse, so we just walked around downtown before stepping back aboard the Star Breeze and setting sail. We had dinner at Amphora again this night, another three-course delight.

    Day 6: Juneau

    Another day aboard the Star Breeze – another sunny day, too! The halfway point of our cruise took place in Juneau, another Southeast Alaska destination I feel like I’m finally getting to know better.

    We disembarked and walked around a little bit – plus had our own small food tour visiting some of our favorite spots like Deckhand Dave’s and Tracy’s Crab Shack. Then we made our way back toward the docks, where three huge mega-ships were tied up – it was a busy day in Juneau (as most are during the summer).

    Mr. V had a special request for our excursion in Juneau, and wanted to take a helicopter ride up onto Mendenhall Glacier. Who am I to say no to him? We met up with our tour group and transferred up to the airport. After a safety briefing, we boarded a helicopter and set to the skies. Our helicopter ride was about 15 minutes each way, and we had about 30 minutes to explore the glacier with guides. While I would have liked to spend longer on the glacier, it was a nice experience all the same.

    Back down near sea level, we spent the rest of the day exploring Juneau. In particular, we met up with a few Juneau locals – a blogger friend, Elizabeth, and her partner – for drinks and snacks. We visited both Devil’s Club Brewing Company (an old fave) and Amalga Distillery (a new find, with their guidance).

    Then we parted ways before enjoying dinner at SALT. This is one of Juneau’s best restaurants downtown and one I wanted to visit to fill out a forthcoming post about where to eat in Juneau.

    We were – once again – among the last passengers back aboard the ship before we sailed onward again.

    Day 7: Haines & Skagway

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Fast Ferry to Skagway

    For our next day, it was a bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of day. The Star Breeze made port off the shore in Haines, but the vast majority of passengers (myself included) then boarded the Haines-Skagway fast ferry to visit Skagway instead. (I’m not sure if it was an issue of moorage or what; the itinerary says Haines, but if almost everyone visits Skagway, I think the itinerary should include Skagway instead with a fast ferry to Haines. Anyway!)

    Once in Skagway, we all went straight onto a historic city tour, followed by a ride aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. In 2022, the ride was truncated so that we only went 20 miles up the tracks to White Pass and then returned back to Skagway – but much like the abbreviated Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali, I think this is well worth it even when shortened. The ride is insanely scenic and one of the best train rides in Alaska (and a bucket list ride for any Railfans).

    Back in Skagway, we had a few hours before our fast ferry back to Haines, so I struck out on my own immediately. I’m working on a post about what to do with a short time in Skagway, but I personally grabbed a snack at Klondike Doughboy (cinnamon sugar frybread, be still my heart!), did a tour at the Red Onion Saloon, followed by a trip to Alderleaf Artworks (seriously, such a cool souvenir), and had lunch at Skagway Brewing Company. If I had managed my time better, I might also have made it out to the old Klondike gold rush cemetery, but it’s probably better as I didn’t as the weather got foul while waiting for the fast ferry.

    After that ferry ride, I met up with Mr. V in Haines to walk around a bit before re-embarking the Star Breeze. We made a visit to Port Chilkoot Distilling for a tasting and cocktail, and also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the American Bald Eagle Foundation to see the rescued birds there.

    Then it was back to the boat under tumultuous skies and over choppy seas. (I am returning to Haines later in 2022 so will have more travel resources for Haines soon!)

    For dinner, we ate at the other specialty restaurant aboard the Star Breeze, Candles. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sit outside due to the weather, but I had an amazing dish of “Bang Bang Cauliflower” that convinced me to try a few more vegetarian dishes during the remainder of our cruise.

    Day 8: Tracy Arm

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Tracy Arm

    Backtracking southbound down the Inside Passage, we awoke in Tracy Arm Fjord, under blue skies once again. (Thank goodness we left that quintessential Southeast Alaska weather behind us in Haines and Skagway!) It was another day to experience one of Windstar Cruises’ Signature Expeditions, and this time I wanted us to take the zodiac tour toward Sawyer Glacier. (This is quite similar to the experience I loved at nearby Dawes Glacier in 2017.) Funnily enough, we actually visited Sawyer Glacier during our cruise last year, so we got to see the same glacier twice, two years in a row!

    Our zodiac tour was led by Simon, the expedition team leader, and we were the first ones to leave the boat. It was a great, brisk ride in the chilly Alaskan morning air; we learned all about glaciers and fjords and admired the rich blues on the river of ice. We also spent time talking about icebergs and the wildlife in fjords, which is perhaps surprisingly limited – though when you realize how little vegetation there is, it makes a lot more sense.

    Back aboard the Star Breeze, we had the remainder of the day to relax. Lunch was one of Windstar’s traditional meals, served on the top deck under the open sky. It was followed by line dancing with the crew, another Windstar tradition.

    In the afternoon, Mr. V and I took advantage of the hot tub and pool since the sun was still shining, then admired the fjord and glacier views as we cruised back out of Tracy Arm and across Frederick Sound toward Sitka. During dinner, we started to spot lots of Humpback whales – in the same area we saw them last autumn! It was an awesome way to wrap up the night.

    Day 9: Sitka

    It was three-quarters of the way through our Windstar Alaska Cruise where we finally awoke in the place we had most looked forward to… Sitka! If you talk to me at all about Alaska, I’ll quickly share that my favorite places are Denali and Sitka – I’ve been blessed to visit both many times, and usually with great weather.

    This day was no exception; the sun was shining all day long! Rather than booking a guided excursion, Mr. V and I opted to do it our own way. For some reason, our ship was anchored out in Sitka Sound rather than at a dock, so we had to take our tenders to reach land; we brought everything we needed for the day with us to avoid making that trip more than once.

    On land, we spent time exploring downtown Sitka – which was entirely open, unlike our last visit toward the end of the 2021 season. We stocked up on our favorite Alaska salt (which I’ve included in the Alaska Box in the past), bought new books as souvenirs, and went inside St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

    We then attended a performance of the Naa Kahidi dancers at the cultural center, which is something I wanted Mr. V to experience – and see for myself since it was closed due to the pandemic during our last visit. We then met up with a friend of mine from growing up in Alaska and his family, for lunch at Ludvig’s Chowder House near the Sitka Sound Science Center (where my friend works).

    In the afternoon, we set off on another adventure: we took the city bus out to the Heart Lake Trailhead near Fortress of the Bear (another Sitka must-see, but one we already have) and made the through-hike past Heart Lake and Thimbleberry Lake. We missed the bus I had scheduled us to catch back to town, but wandered up to Whale Park to read our new books for a while ’til the next bus came.

    We then had time for a quick snack at Sitka Pel’meni before catching our tender back. While waiting, we spotted dozens of bald eagles and it gave Mr. V a chance to snap some incredible photos before we made our journey back to the boat. (We were once again among the last to return!)

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Sitka Rainbow

    As we set sail from Sitka, a huge rainbow appeared above town, a good omen for a safe journey onward… I also took it as a sign that maybe our jokes about moving to Sitka should be taken seriously! Once on the open waters beyond Sitka Sound, the waves began to pick up, so we had an easy night of dinner and early bed since I’m so prone to seasickness.

    Day 10: Day at Sea

    I’ll be honest, I don’t think I shot a single photo this day beyond dinner. After feeling a bit queasy departing Sitka, I made sure to take Dramamine all day to combat any seasickness I might feel. However, it was nice to take a day of rest to relax in various parts of the ship we enjoyed spending time in as our itinerary began to wind down.

    As mentioned, we enjoyed yet another amazing dinner in Amphora this night, before turning in. As I usually have trouble sleeping when there’s wave motion, I was also feeling a bit tired and an early night was exactly what I needed before another day of adventure.

    Day 11: Kenai Fjords

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Aialik Glacier

    Our final full day aboard the Star Breeze was spent in Kenai Fjords National Park. As this is one of the parts of Southcentral Alaska that I know well, I was curious as to what the crew had planned. Rather than cruising around like some of the day cruises, we anchored near Aialik Glacier the entire day. The expedition crew put out kayaks and skiffs, and we had the chance to explore the fjord near the face of the glacier – from a safe distance, of course.

    I opted to go on a solo kayak excursion and was paired up with a fellow passenger. In our kayak group, we paddled into a few sea caves, and along the face of the glacier. We spotted seals and sea otters, and even a small group of Orcas on their morning patrol for breakfast in the area. It was an idyllic way to spend the morning, especially our last one.

    Back on board, I spent some time in the sauna and steam room in the World Spa area. This is free for all guests, but I hadn’t tried it yet – and discovered that I loved cycling between the two and the pool outside to cool off.

    The rest of our afternoon was leisurely before we set sail out into Kenai Fjords to begin making our way slowly toward Seward. (Actually, the distance is quite short, so we had to head out to sea a bit to pass the time.) Before dinner, the entire crew was presented to us in the Lounge, all waving flags to represent their home countries – and the incredible diversity of the Star Breeze crew.

    We enjoyed one final dinner at Amphora with a friend we made aboard, Joseph – it was a lovely, champagne-soaked dinner in the best way possible. Then it was back to our cabin to pack up and retire one last time in Cabin 518.

    Day 12: Disembarkation in Seward

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Review - Seward

    On our disembarkation day, we rose early to ensure our luggage was out by the required time, then spent the remainder of our morning wandering around the ship – punctuated by one final breakfast at Veranda, of course. (This was the busiest we ever experienced anything on the ship, as everyone was having breakfast at the same time; other than that, we never felt crowded or that any part of our experience on the Star Breeze was “busy.”)

    When our group was called, Mr. V and I bid adieu to our cabin and made our way down the gangway. We crossed through the port building and out into the sun; our Windstar Cruise was at an end, but we still had a day to explore Seward!

    Rather than booking a transfer through Windstar, I decided to plan the day on our own. We spent it kayaking with Sunny Cove, eating at our favorite spot in Seward – Seward Brewing Company –, and rode the Alaska Railroad up to Anchorage before our flight departed that night.

    Windstar Cruises Alaska Excursions & Activities

    Windstar Star Breeze Cabins (Peek Inside!)

    One reason I wanted to cruise with Windstar Cruises in Alaska this year (2022) is that it’s the first full season they’re cruising with newly updated ships. Specifically, the Star Breeze was part of a $250 million rennovation program, which added and expanded cabins, redesigned common spaces, and made the ship more luxurious. I’m fairly certain through reesarch that our cabin – 518 – was one of the cabins that was added during this process.

    Cabin 518 is a Balcony Suite; all Star Breeze cabins are suites following the “Star Plus Initiative” which updated the ship. As you can see, we had a king-sized bed, plus an entire seating area with a couch and two chairs.

    We also had a small Juliet balcony that you could step out onto; this was a lovely aspect of the room that allowed us to feel more immersed in the grand scenery gliding by as we cruised around. (It also made for some very fun Instagram Reels!)

    Our cabin was beautiful, and more than spacious enough for two people. Of course, as a ship(/boat), you’ll always end up in each other’s way – unless you have separate rooms, closets, and bathrooms from your travel companion! Nevertheless, we were very comfortable for our 11-day cruise and had enough drawer and storage space to feel like we were able to truly unpack and settle in.

    One other aspect I liked but didn’t photograph was the bathroom: it had a bath/shower combo and double vanity. This definitely helped us not feel like we were always in one another’s way – and makes me wish we had a double vanity at home!

    Windstar Alaska Cruises Prices & Cost

    As you might have gotten from the chart I shared at the top of this post, Windstar Cruises is certainly more costly than the major cruise companies like Princess and Norwegian that offer “screamin’ deals” on cruises and pack you in with 2,000+ (okay, 5,000+) fellow passengers. The price point is also generally on par with what you’ll pay on smaller ships cruising in Alaska, like Uncruise and Alaskan Dream Cruises.

    For comparison, an equivalent 2023 cruise on Windstar to the one that we did is currently priced at $7,199 per person for the same suite category. A similar cruise on a small-ship provider ranges from $6,770-$7,170 per person (port fees inclusive).

    However, Windstar does not include some things that the smaller ships do – for example, that same small-ship provider offers their equivalent to Windstar’s signature excursions and all-inclusive bar. Signature excursions on Windstar range from $45 (for a guided hike) to $229 (for a zodiac tour), and the all-inclusive package is $49 per day. For a direct comparison, then, the total cost of Windstar Cruise in Alaska compared with a similar small ship one is about $1,000 more (11 days of all-inclusive alcohol + one hike, one kayak, and one zodiac signature excursion).

    A small ship is a very different experience than a mid-sized ship like the Star Breeze though. So the question is: is this extra cost worth it?

    For travelers who love the added space and luxury, plus the five-star hospitality of Windstar Cruises, absolutely. For those who are more price-sensitive or adventurous, probably not. As I mentioned above, if you have the budget for a Windstar Cruise, it’s just a matter of finding the perfect itinerary for what you want your Alaska experience to be.

    FAQ About Windstar Cruises in Alaska

    Here are some common questions that travelers have about Windstar Cruises and how the company is operating right now (2022-2023). If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them here in addition to answering you.

    • Is Windstar Cruises good for older travelers? Absolutely! Windstar Cruises does an excellent job of accommodating older travelers and those with limited mobility, making it possible for them to experience every aspect of life onboard and almost all excursions.
    • Is Windstar Cruises good for families/kids? Personally, I’d say no. Windstar could be good for families with older teen children, but I think younger children will feel bored quickly with life on the ship and might get sideways glances from travelers who are on Windstar for a quieter experience.
    • Is Windstar Cruises all-inclusive? As I’ve mentioned, no Windstar Cruises is not all-inclusive. There are packages you can add to increase the amenities you receive on the ship, but Signature Expeditions and off-ship expeditions will always have an additional cost.
    • Does Windstar Cruises have an app? Windstar Cruises does not have an app, but they do have an excellent mobile website that can be accessed on the ship wifi network even if you don’t purchase the wifi package. This allows you to see the daily program, restaurant hours, excursion details, and staff information.
    • Is Windstar Cruises cruising right now? Yes, Windstar Cruises has been cruising in Alaska since resuming operations in late Summer 2021.
    • Are vaccines required on Windstar Cruises? What about masks? You are required to show proof of vaccination to board your Windstar Cruise anywhere in the world. Masks are not required for guests, though are encouraged in common areas.
    • How does Windstar Cruises handle quarantine? In the event that staff or guests test positive, they will be quarantined to their cabin and provided with room service for all meals for the duration of their cruise. (On longer cruises, this policy might change, so be sure to inquire if you’re doing a 10+-day cruise.)

    Final Thoughts on our Windstar Experience

    Overall, our Alaskan cruise with Windstar Cruises was unforgettable. Sailing through the stunning scenery literally never gets old, and we had the chance to both visit smaller Alaskan communities by making port and anchor in more remote areas to explore the vast wild spaces of Alaska’s Inside Passage.

    The Star Breeze is a beautiful ship – as Mr. V says, “she has good lines.” Both indoor and outdoor spaces are beautifully designed and wonderfully maintained by the deck department and hotel hospitality staff. Literally, I never saw anything dirty, broken, or poorly maintained – I saw plenty of maintenance ongoing, but as someone who’s lived on a boat, I appreciate that Windstar has a focus on maintenance rather than waiting to provide repairs.

    Speaking of hospitality, I can’t rave enough about our cabin stewards and the incredible wait staff. Almost all of the crew knew our names within the first 24 hours, and got to know what we preferred such that it truly felt like we had our own private crew – exactly in line with what Windstar Cruises is aiming for when they claim that you can say you’re going onto “my Windstar yacht.”

    The main thing I would change if I could wave a magic wand for Windstar Cruises would be to bake the cost of the all-inclusive drink package, plus the cost of Signature Expeditions, right into the overall cost. I heard this feedback from guests when I discreetly* inquired how their cruises were going, and I think Windstar wouldn’t suffer for that “increased” cost – it would make the whole experience seem more luxurious and truly all-inclusive.

    *I did not reveal to any guests that I was a travel blogger, instead focusing on my work in space/science communications, since this allows me to have more natural conversations with fellow travelers. (People get weird around the media!)

    I hope this helps answer some of the questions you might have about cruising with Windstar in Alaska, and helps make easier your decision to commit to this unforgettable experience. Have any other questions about my Windstar Cruises Alaska review? Let me know in the comments below.

    Mr. V and I were hosted aboard Windstar Cruises as guests, though did pay some costs as part of our experience. This post was published as part of our partnership agreement.

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    I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

    7 Comments

    • Karl Madeo

      Hi Valerie,
      I was happy to find your blog as my wife, Linda, and I will be on the Star Breeze starting one week from today…so your informative descriptions and lovey photos were greatly appreciated as we prepare. We depart from Juneau for a seven day cruise ending in Vancouver. Linda and I are retired and this will be our first Alaska trip, though we had a wonderful Northwest trip three years ago through Olympic National Park, Vancouver Island, then on to Jasper and Banff. What a spectacular corner of the world!

      I do have one question. I didn’t notice any reference to Covid, so was just wondering about what the atmosphere was on the cruise. I believe masks aren’t required on the ship. Is that right? Were people masking anyway, or do most people act like it’s over? We’re fully vaxed, and I don’t want to give the impression that we’re overly uptight about Covid precautions…but we’re just wondering what to expect.

      Oh, btw…we’re starting out from Ithaca, NY so will be flying cross country, but have one night in Seattle and one in Juneau before embarkation…so we should have enough buffer to be safe from the airline craziness…we hope!

      Thanks for your excellent blog!

      Karl

      • Avatar photo

        Valerie

        Thanks for reading, Karl! I actually do mention it a little bit in the FAQ, but was writing this post to be a bit more evergreen.

        So on our sailing 6 weeks ago, crew wore masks at all times; 95% of passengers never wore them. We did have several crew members who ended up in isolation due to testing positive during our cruise – but as far as I know, no guests ever tested positive.

        If I can provide some advice, I recommend packing 1-2 antigen tests with you (like the free ones from the government). If you start to feel unwell, you can self-isolate and test yourself in your cabin. If you come back negative, you can then feel more confident not continuing to isolate. (If you feel unwell and go to the sick bay to test, I’m pretty sure there’s a protocol to follow until and even if you test negative!)

        Given the current numbers, I personally would wear my mask more in the hallways and dining spaces than I did six weeks ago, but would also spend a lot more time dining outdoors – on the back deck at Veranda/Candles and up at the Star Bar.

        I hope this helps, and have a great trip!

    • Patrick

      Thanks for this great review! I have two more detailed questions I’m hoping you can answer.

      First, how late in the morning (specific time) on disembarkation day were you allowed to stay for breakfast in Veranda? I’m trying to figure out if they send you off right at 8am or allow you to have a more leisurely morning? Also, how long did the process take from breakfast table to feet on pier?

      Second, it’s not clear if you purchased the all-incisive package. If so, did you have to sign chits with every round of drinks or not?

      Thanks!

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        Valerie

        Thanks for reading, Patrick. Regarding your questions: disembarkation is early and you can’t stay on for a leisurely breakfast. We had breakfast at 7:30 since it’s buffet style in the Veranda; disembark begins at 8am and our group window startet at 8:30, but we ended up killing time in our cabin before our group number was called. I didn’t have to sign anything for drinks, just give them my cabin number when I ordered.

    • Donna Olesh

      We went on the same Alaska cruise on Windstar in August. Wow, we had an entirely different experience.
      It should be clearly noted that your trip was paid for by Windstar. The physical ship was lovely and crew was outstanding. However, it should be noted that the balconies are not really balconies. One person can stand on it…there is no sitting area. I think that took a lot of passengers by surprise. We did not have a balcony because we did our research before we sailed.
      For example, passengers on our cruise said that they had merely 45 minutes in Skagway before they had to get back on the train. The WI-FI was undependable. No announcements in the room. Daily schedule of events was on app or cabin TV. You could request written copies. Attendance at most activities was sparse. The entertainment and activities were sorely lacking and you can see that by reading most reviews. The pricey “excursions” on kayaks and zodiacs left a lot to be desired….very little to see that can’t be seen from the ship.
      I won’t continue but people booking cruises really need to read former passenger’s reviews to get unbiased information.

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        Valerie

        Thanks for chiming in, Donna.

        I definitely had feedback similar to yours about parts of the experience (especially regarding the wifi and signature excursions), and do disclose that I was hosted in-part by Windstar for my trip.

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