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In a sea of ever-bigger ships, Windstar Cruises takes pride in being the smaller alternative that lets its guests live large — by transporting them to tiny harbors, hidden coves, and shallow lagoons that are inaccessible to other vessels. Known for the casually elegant vibe on its six intimate ships (which accommodate just 148 to 310 passengers), an exceptional culinary program developed in association with the James Beard Foundation, and carefully crafted on-shore experiences in dream destinations ranging from Alaska and Tahiti to Northern Europe and Central America, Windstar has an authentic approach to small-ship cruising that sets it apart from the crowd.

Windstar Cruises offers exceptional value. You’ll find the amenities you’d expect on a luxury cruise — personalized service; excellent food; small, beautifully designed ships — plus a fun, relaxing atmosphere, and without the steep price point.

The Ships

A fleet that began with a trio of modern sailing ships — 148-passenger Wind Star and Wind Spirit and 310-passenger Wind Surf — which truly offer a wind-in-your-hair experience, has evolved with the addition of three 212-passenger motor-propelled vessels: Star Pride, Star Legend, and Star Breeze. Voted the Best Small Ship Cruise Line by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, Windstar creates an onboard experience that's fun, unstuffy (no formal nights) and refreshingly welcoming.

Suites and staterooms on the six Windstar ships all offer an ocean view, so there's no missing out on the scenery while you're still in your PJs. You'll find ample space to unwind, either in the standard 227-square-foot Balcony and Oceanview Suites of the motored ships (each featuring a marble bathroom with a full-size tub as well as a walk-in closet) or the cozier yet exceptionally well-designed 188-square-foot staterooms of the sailing ships (suites are double the size for those who enjoy more space). Plus, each ship has a special water sports platform, so you can kayak, paddleboard, snorkel, sail, and much more right from the ship. Equipment use is complimentary. The common denominator: all six ships deliver a carefree at-sea experience that leaves guests refreshed, relaxed, and convinced that cruising doesn't need to have a Vegas-at-sea vibe to be fun.

The Food

When America's preeminent culinary organization teams with a cruise line it's a good bet that guests can expect memorable dining experiences. Windstar recently announced an extension of its partnership with the James Beard Foundation through its 2021 sailings. Six culinary-themed cruises — which bring renowned chefs and beverage experts onboard for demonstrations, dinners, and unique food-centric shore excursions - are planned each year and in 2018 will include Spanish Symphony aboard Wind Surf in June, Norwegian Splendors aboard Star Breeze in August, and Hidden Harbors of the Côte d'Azur aboard Wind Surf in June.

Windstar's focus on fresh, seasonal cuisine, under the direction of executive chef Graeme Cockburn, means ingredients are sourced daily in ports, prepared into local dishes bursting with flavor, and served in four onboard restaurants. Plus, open seating means you can dine when you want, and with whomever you choose.

The Service

Aside from having a staff-to-guest ratio of 1-to-1.5, Windstar ships also offer the kind of personal service with a smile that will leave you smiling, too. Your waiter will deliver your café au lait to your breakfast table practically as you arrive and know at dinner that you want your salad dressing on the side. Your bartender will recall that you prefer Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay or like your martini with extra olives. They remember you — and when you think back to your Windstar cruise vacation, you'll remember them.

The Destination Experience

Cruising into the postcard-perfect harbor of tiny Portofino, Italy, with Windstar feels like arriving on your own personal yacht. And, as in all ports, the shore excursions — such as a scenic walking tour to a local wine and cheese tasting — feel authentic and unscripted, and provide endless opportunities to get to know the locals. Windstar itineraries are designed to take advantage of its ships' unique ability to visit smaller ports and deliver a more immersive experience — all without the crowds that you'll find in larger ports. There are local food markets to explore in charming seaside towns in the Mediterranean; rejuvenating volcanic springs to soak in in Costa Rica; traditional smoked herring and beer to sample in Bornholm, Denmark; and the only settlement of Tsimshian people in the United States to visit in Metlakatla, Alaska.

The Onboard Camaraderie

While there's much to love about Windstar's ships, three things truly capture the onboard experience: the convivial spirit of the Compass Rose bar, especially during a sunset sail-away; the culinary spectacle of the Signature Onboard Barbecue with its smorgasbord of fresh seafood and dancing under the stars; and the pride on display during the crew show, when you just might discover that your shy cabin steward can sing like a contestant on The Voice. Plus, the ships' Open Bridge means that you can step right up to your captain and crew and ask questions, and even learn a few sailing tips. If you're looking for ordinary, look elsewhere. A Windstar cruise aims to take you places you never expected.