With its fleet of intimate ships (some of which have dramatic sails) and a friendly, almost familial approach to service, Windstar Cruises is also known for offering exceptional value for your cruising dollar.
This high-end cruising experience comes at a significantly more affordable price than you’ll find on the big luxury lines. We recently sailed onboard the Wind Surf and identified some ways to save on this already well-priced cruise line.
Look for Specials
Last-minute sailings with a few empty cabins, cruises in shoulder season when the weather might not be perfect, and repositioning cruises that start on one continent and end in another. All of these situations (on all cruise lines, not just Windstar) can lead to deep discounts. Find out about them by bookmarking Windstar’s specials page, and joining the email list. You’ll also find discounted Windstar cruises featured often on this web site.
A few things to keep in mind, though. Cruising last minute, especially if you’re heading outside of the United States, or flying into one city and out of another, can mean steep prices for flights. Make sure you take this into consideration when you’re booking.
Additionally, it doesn’t always pay to wait for a cruise (or anything else for that matter) to go on sale before you book. Windstar’s summer sailings, especially in popular destinations like Greece, can sell out far in advance, so waiting for a sale can mean missing out entirely.
Book a Bundle
Windstar operates one of just a few cruise ships sailing in Tahiti—a bucket list voyage if there ever was one. The line occasionally offers a special that lets you bundle your cruise with flights from the West Coast, plus a hotel stay. These packages start at $3,999 per person for a seven-night cruise, a good deal when you consider that flights alone can cost $1,000-$1,600. The other cruise line sailing in the region, Paul Gaugin, routinely charges more than $5,500 per person for similar packages.
Even without a special, always ask your cruise agent about bundling in flights, pre- or post-cruise hotel nights, transfers, and more. They may be able to secure prices that wouldn’t be available if you booked on your own.
Evaluate Your Shore Excursions Carefully
With smaller ships and limited numbers of passengers per ship, Windstar Cruises is able to glide into ports that you won’t encounter on a mega ship’s itinerary. Think picturesque Portofino, Jost van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, and the Thai island of Ko Kut. This also means that you’ll have on-shore options that you won’t see on other lines, and more options per port than you might expect at a variety of price points.
Think ahead here. More inclusive, longer, and generally more expensive shore excursions can be tempting because they ensure that you’ll see the most important sights within a destination, but maybe all you really need is a bus ticket into town or directions to the nearest beach. Knowing your travel style and needs here is key, and can save you money or a disappointing day in port.
Another money and sanity saving tactic is do some research on the port before you arrive there. Smaller, more remote ports may not offer rich sightseeing opportunities for those who like to explore independently. There may not be easily walkable roads, accessible public transportation, or amenities nearby. In locations like this, a shore excursion is a great idea. Your on-shore transportation is covered, and some include snacks or meals. It's the easiest and best way to see some of the more far-flung places that are common on Windstar itineraries.
Pay for Extras Before You Sail—Or Soon After You Embark
You’ll need to pay extra for alcoholic beverages, internet access, and laundry onboard Windstar Cruises. Doing so before your cruise, or quickly after you board, can save you hassle and money.
Beverage packages are offered in three tiers (at $32, $42, and $52 per person, per day, depending on what’s included) and can only be booked within the first two days of the cruise. Miss this window and you’ll have to pay a la carte for every alcoholic drink you enjoy. For those who enjoy a single glass of wine or beer with dinner, paying a la carte could be significantly less expensive than a package. Do the math before you board so you’ll have a sense of what option will save you the most.
Internet access can be among the most expensive extras on a cruise, no matter the cruise line. On Windstar, you can pay $60 for 200 megabytes of usage throughout your cruise, or $120 for 500 megabytes. You can also invest in an unlimited package (starting at $250 for a 7-day cruise and going up to $525 for a 15-day cruise). The unlimited packages, though, come with an important caveat. If you book an unlimited package before you sail, you’ll be able to connect two devices to the ship’s wifi. If you wait until you’re onboard, you can only connect one and will need to purchase an additional package for your second device. In this case, booking ahead can save a lot of money.
Reasonably priced laundry service can be added to your cabin for $8 per person, per day. This feels like a luxurious perk, whether your aim is to look sharp at dinner every night, or to simply leave the trip with a suitcase full of clean laundry. (Don’t underestimate how this can positively impact your mood when you arrive back home.) Pay for this package before or on the first day of your cruise to take advantage of this pricing. Otherwise, you’ll pay a la carte, per item, for any laundry you’d like done, which will certainly cost more than $8.
Figure Out Your Phone Plan
If you have an internet package, you likely won’t need to spend much time chatting with friends on the phone while you’re onboard. But if you know you’ll need phone access, it’s worth talking to your mobile carrier and seeing what they offer. You can make calls form your stateroom, but you’ll pay $7.95 per minute. By contrast, AT&T offers onboard calling for $3 per minute, and T-Mobile offers it for $5.99 per minute. These rates are expensive, for sure, but they beat the rate that you’ll get by picking up your stateroom phone and dialing.