We are unapologetically cruise lovers. Big ships, small ships, and ships in between. Oceans, rivers, canals. We enjoy them all for different reasons, different occasions, and different experiences. We believe there’s a cruise that’s right for most every kind of traveler. It’s just a matter of considering your interests and preferences and matching them up with a cruise line and cruise itinerary that meets those preferences.

Knowing where to start, and the questions to ask may seem complicated. That’s why we continue to write about different types of cruising, different ships, different cruise lines, and different itineraries. And we go in depth, all in one story, so you don’t have to hop around looking for everything. You’ll find everything you need to know right here – cabins, food and beverage, pricing, itineraries, what we did, any mistakes we made, and all of our recommendations. Our goal is to help you make an informed cruise choice.

The Windstar fleet has six sailing ships – Wind Surf, Wind Star, and Wind Spirit (all Iconic Wind Class ships), and Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend (all All-Suite Star Plus Class ships). This was our first time sailing on Windstar, and we were excited to try this luxury yacht experience.

We sailed on the Star Breeze on a select 11-day itinerary that welcomed the Star Breeze to Tahiti, where it is now permanently based. While our itinerary didn’t go exactly as scheduled because of a looming cyclone, the modified version was a treat. When things go wrong, sometimes they go right.

So let’s get to it – here’s what we discovered sailing on the Star Breeze in Tahiti, French Polynesia. (NOTE: we received a complimentary sailing as media covering the ship and its relocation to Tahiti.)

The Ship: Star Breeze

Windstar’s Star Breeze is designed for luxury, intimacy, and adventure on the seas. The ship has capacity for 312 guests in an all-suite configuration and 204 crew members. The 1-1.5 ratio of passenger to crew member helps ensure the personal experience Windstar is known for. Star Breeze is now permanently based in Tahiti with several itineraries offered (see list of Tahiti itineraries here). 

Star Breeze was renovated as a part of the $250 million Star Plus Initiative that saw a large section added to the middle of the ship. This created additional suites, two new dining venues, a new spa and fitness area, and pool area. The ship decor reflects the sophistication of a private yacht, with plush bedding and marble-appointed bathrooms in every suite, sufficient public space so as to feel uncrowded, and those little extra things (often unnoticed) that create a welcoming ambience. 

The ship has eight decks, with decks three through eight available to passengers. Let’s take a look.

Deck Eight

Deck Eight is the topmost deck on the Star Breeze. This deck features the enclosed Yacht Club Cafe and Library, and the open air Star Bar and the Star Grill by Steven Raichlen. There’s also a comfortable pool area. We enjoyed relaxing around the pool, and it was a great spot for live entertainment, but we never did find time to dive into the pool.

Deck Seven

Deck Seven is primarily an open deck that overlooks the pool area. The spa and fitness center are also located here. At the back of this deck is the Veranda Restaurant which turns into the Candles Restaurant by night, with open air as well as indoor seating overlooking the ocean.

Deck Six

All of the Owner’s Suites are located on Deck Six, along with other categories of suites.  At the back of this deck is the Star Boutique, the Spanish restaurant, Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, and the bar, Compass Rose a relaxing ocean view. 

We were in suite 610 on this deck. This is a BS1 category cabin, a balcony suite, located forward (you can see a map of cabins here).The cabin was spacious, with a sitting area with loveseat, a walk-in closet and plenty of storage area, and a bathroom large enough to move about. For a small ship, this was a remarkably comfortable – and practical – suite layout.

Note, however, that the balcony is a Juliet-style balcony. You could take a small step out, or position a chair to straddle the opening gap and put your feet up. This is not a balcony suitable for table and chairs like you may be used to on larger ships.

Deck Five

This deck is primarily passenger suites across several categories. At the front is Star Breeze’s second whirlpool/hot tub. Reception, the Destination Office, Screening Room and Lounge are also located on this deck. Port talks and evening entertainment were held in the Lounge, and Reception was always staffed to answer questions or solve issues.

Deck Four

Deck Four has passenger suites across a few categories.

Deck Three

The lowest passenger deck on the Star Breeze, Deck Three, is where all Star Porthole Suites are located. The main dining area of the ship, the Amphora Restaurant is located here, midship. There is also the Water Sports Platform, a retractable aft marina that is lowered when the ship is anchored and the conditions are right, to allow guests access to the sea including activities like kayaking, stand up paddling, floating trampoline, and float mats.

Dining Aboard the Star Breeze

While I like to fancy myself a foodie, I probably have a hard stop on too many ingredients to fully fall into that category. I jokingly tell Tony that I’m in my “season of yes” and that means making food choices that I might otherwise have skipped. 

Our expectations for food are reasonably basic. Fresh, flavorful, not too weird, and satisfying. Extra points for creativity, but we are not looking for Michelin-star meals every night. We’re more gourmand than gourmet. 

Windstar has a partnership with the James Beard Foundation, so our food expectations were high.  There are multiple dining venues on board, offering diverse menus curated by Michelin-star chefs, and inspired by regional flavors and international cuisines.

All dining options on board are included in the cost of the cruise fare, with no additional surcharge. It’s a great way to try out different cuisines that you may not be familiar with. We ate at all the restaurants. While we had some favorite spots and dishes, we give the overall dining experience very high marks.


Located on deck three, Amphora is the signature fine dining restaurant and the main dining room on the Star Breeze. The restaurant has a changing menu each night, offering a fusion of gourmet dining and local flavors. A number of choices are offered for all courses. You won’t need reservations in this main dining room. 

It’s open seating and we chose between a table for two and joining a party of others. Sometimes it’s nice to be sociable, other times we want a quiet dinner on our own. As my hearing loss has gotten worse, I’ve found that it can be exhausting trying to hear and follow conversations at large tables of six or eight. I’m most happy with a two or four-top which allows me to have a relaxing meal and conversation.

A few of our favorites: Tomato and Watermelon Salad, Grilled Moon Fish, and Osso Buco.

Cuadro 44

Cuadro 44, launched in partnership with Michelin Chef Anthony Sasso, draws inspiration from the culinary heritage of Spain and adds a contemporary twist. The name Cuadro 44 means Frame 44 in Spanish. When ships are built, they’re mapped out in sections called frames. Cuadro 44 is the frame where the restaurant is located.

The tapas-style menu encourages experimentation, and there’s plenty to choose from. 

A few of our favorites: Jamon Iberico, Pork Belly, Patatas Bravas, and Churros y Chocolate.

Compass Rose

Compass Rose is a lounge on Deck Six that offers handcrafted cocktails and a curated selection of wines, served with some quick bites. On some evenings, there is live music. 

During our time on the Star Breeze, we rarely found Compass Rose occupied. Whether it’s an overlooked spot, or guests preferred to be outside, I’m not sure. If you want some quiet time for a glass of wine and a book, this may be your spot.


The Veranda is an al fresco restaurant located on Deck Seven serving the ship’s buffet for breakfast and lunch daily. Breakfasts are mostly international fare, along with a dedicated egg station. There is a small menu of made-to-order items, just place the order with your waitstaff. Lunches have specific themes each day. 

We alternated between the Veranda and the Star Grill for breakfast. Both were fast and easy, just the way I like to wake up and start my day.


Come evening, Veranda changes into Candles Restaurant, featuring a traditional American steakhouse menu offering steaks and seafood. Menu options are cooked to order and are accompanied by a selection of delectable sauces and salts. 

We had dinner at Candles twice. Both times the weather was warm enough, and the wind calm enough, to enjoy dining by (faux) candlelight al fresco.

A few of our favorites: Butter poached shrimp, all of the steaks, and the gourmet salts (Hawaiian Black Salt, Smoked Applewood Salt, and Himalayan Mountain Pink Salt). We found it surprising that varying the salt selection often changed up the taste.

Star Grill

The art of grilling meets the high seas in this restaurant with renowned grill master Steven Raichlen. Offering a global smoky menu, the menu changes daily, and includes dishes with international flare – Korean, Peruvian, American – and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – served buffet-style. For lunch and dinner, there were always two or three main choices (grilled, smoked, rotisserie), along with a variety of sides and salad options.

We often ate breakfast in the Grill, alternating between it and the Veranda. We usually had lunch here, and it was in rotation for dinner. Dress is casual, so shorts and beach hair were no problem. This is great grilled and smoked food. Tony is a big grilled meat fan, and there were lots of choices that made him happy. 

A few of our favorites: Dinosaur Ribs (barbecued prime rib bones – so very good), Brined Smoked Turkey Breast, and all the smoked ribs.

The Yacht Club

Located on Deck Eight, the Yacht Club is a dedicated retreat from the main areas of the ship. The sophisticated ambiance, featuring plush seating, elegant décor, and an expansive outdoor terrace goes well with their offerings of early morning continental breakfast, afternoon tea, and espresso served with sandwiches and wraps.

Room Service

Room service on the Star Breeze is available around the clock. A breakfast menu tag can be hung on your door before retiring, or order from the lunch, dinner, and all-day choices from your room. Got the midnight munchies – no judgment – just call for room service.

Cabins on the Star Breeze

The Star Breeze offers 156 suites across 13 categories, all with views of the ocean. Each suite features plush amenities like L’Occitane bath products, waffle weave robes and slippers, a fully stocked mini bar or refrigerator, fresh fruit and more. All cabins on the Star Breeze are called suites because the sleeping area and living area can be separated by drawing a curtain in between.

Cabin selection is always a balance of budget and personal preferences. We strongly recommend choosing the best cabin your budget allows.

It’s easy to dismiss cabin selection saying that you’ll never be in it, so it doesn’t matter. This oversimplifies the choice. A more spacious cabin may make you want to be in it more, whether that’s enjoying breakfast in your room, a nightcap looking out at the ocean, or feeling sea breezes come in through your balcony. Plus, an upgrade cabin often comes with value-added amenities. Look for special pricing, and take a close look at the additional amenities offered in each stateroom category. When you do the math, you can determine the true value of what’s included and where you get the most value. 

Since I emphasize value luxury travel, I recommend that you think about the experiences and amenities you most value in your travel experience. You want to have budget to spend on what you value most, whether that’s a top of the line cabin, a magnificent bottle or wine, or a bucket list voyage. ANY cabin may be better than NO cabin.

Our personal approach is to book the best that cabin that our budget allows. Sometimes we can splurge, other times we can’t. For us, the ship and cabin is as much a part of the cruise experience as the destination. For others, it’s much less of a consideration.

You do you, as the kids say.

Owner’s Suites

The four Owner’s Suites are located on Deck Six, two forward and two aft. Each offers 575 square feet of space with a separate living room, dining area, bedroom and bathroom with a bathtub. These suites have a private veranda. The suites come with a variety of added services including priority boarding, free internet service, wake up call service with a beverage of choice, and more.

Classic Suites (Sea Island and Broadmoor)

The classic suites have up to 530 spacious square feet, with ocean views from each room. The living rooms come with forward facing windows and French doors that open into private verandas overlooking the ocean.

Deluxe Suites

One Deluxe Suite each is located on Decks Four, Five and Six, midship. With 468 square feet of space, these suites come with an ocean viewing French balcony, an additional third berth, and a queen bed which can be converted into twin beds.

Balcony Suites

There are four types of balcony suites spread over Decks Five and Six. Each of them has 277 square feet of space and comes with an open living area which can be curtained off from the bedroom. Some suites have queen beds which can be separated into twins. These suites have French balconies.

Ocean View Suites

Five types of Ocean View Suites are spread over Decks Four, Five and Six. With 277 square feet of space. No balcony, just a large picture window, but you’ll be able to lie on your bid and see the ocean.

Star Porthole Suites

Located on Deck Three, Star Porthole Suites come with three traditional sailing porthole windows overlooking the ocean. You won’t be able to sit in your cabin and look out these portholes, they are high enough that you’ll need to stand. With 277 square feet of space, some rooms can also be converted into twin beds upon request. These are entry level suites, 

Tahiti Itinerary

Our 11-night itinerary of Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands started in Papeete, Tahiti. It was set to include stops in Fakarava, Rangiroa (both in the Tuamotu Islands), Taha’a, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Huahine, and Moorea, before returning to Papeete. There were also a couple of sea days. It was a great mix of exploration and relaxation.

Mother Nature, however, had other plans for us after our first stop in Fakarava.

There was a cyclone a-brewing, and our captain made the decision to re-route us well away from any possible problems. We headed more than 900 miles northeast of Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands!

Cyclones and other serious weather issues sound scary. But on the ship, it didn’t feel scary at all. For us at least; I’m sure the Captain and crew had their hands full. We were made aware of a potential problem, advised what steps were being taken to avoid the problem, had a full briefing explaining the situation, and felt well informed and excited about our detour to the Marquesas. I didn’t know then, but eventually discovered all the things to do in the Marquesas Islands.

Cyclone be damned! We had a great time! 

Here’s more about the stops we did make.


Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia and is located on the northwest coast of Tahiti, the largest island in this remote South Pacific archipelago. With a population of around 27,000, Papeete is the largest urban center in French Polynesia. The waterfront is a great place to see the city full of activity – colorful boats bobbing in the harbor, the silhouette of Moorea island on the horizon, and locals selling fresh fish and tropical fruits at the Marché de Papeete market. Papeete is also known for its vibrant streets, lined with palm trees and colonial era buildings, and boutiques and cafes that dot the city center.

Papeete is not only a gateway to the natural wonders of French Polynesia but also a cultural melting pot, where Tahitian, French, and other Pacific Island influences blend together. Traditional dance performances, music festivals, and art exhibitions showcase the region’s rich heritage and creativity.

Pro Tip: Plan to arrive in Papeete a couple days early. Not only is a great way to start the cruise in a relaxing way, but it’s a built in way to avoid stress from flight delays. Our flight was substantially delayed, reminding of us how important it is to plan for that type of cushion. 

We stayed at the Hilton Hotel Tahiti (more information and rates here). It’s a beautiful property with a lovely pool area, perfect for relaxing after an overnight fight. There are restaurants on property, and it’s a short walk across a sky bridge to a small shopping area with more restaurants and a market. Tahiti is an expensive destination, and rates at the hotel reflect it, but this was a bucket list destination for us and worth the splurge. Depending on time of year, rates will be in the $400+ range, more during the high season. 

We took an uber from the hotel to the cruise port, about a 10-15 minute trip, cost about $20 depending on exchange rate.

Embarkation was easy. We dropped out luggage with porters, filled out a health form, received a welcome gift of flowers and went through the check in process. Then it was onto the ship to check out our cabin. Bags arrived later that afternoon, and we explored and enjoyed some festivities until it was time to set sail.

Fakarava (Tuamoto)

Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago. It is a blue lagoon (which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), dotted with motu (islets), that stretches over 430 square miles. Rotoava, the main village has colorful houses lining the shore. A boat trip can take you to Tetamanu, a motu renowned for its pink sand beach.

Fakarava is a popular kayaking spot, with stingrays and reef sharks patrolling the territory. This atoll also witnesses the migration of humpback whales from July to November. 

We didn’t take an excursion in Fakarava, we opted to wander the island and soak up the relaxing vibe. We had excursions planned on the other islands, so planned for a more relaxing pace (little knowing things would change). There is a road along one side of the island that leads to a lighthouse, perfect for walking or biking. While we initially planned to walk to the lighthouse, we got sidetracked with a path that veered off to the other side of the island,. here was a dramatic difference between the windward and leeward side of the island.

Marquesas Islands

Surprise – we went to the Marquesas!

The Marquesas Islands are located around 932 miles northeast of Tahiti and are made up of 15 islands. While some islands remain uninhabited, others, like the island of Nuku Hiva (you’ll also see it referred to as Nuka Hiva) and Hiva Oa, are centers of Polynesian culture.  

Despite the effort required to reach these remote shores, the journey to the Marquesas is well worth it. You don’t need to wait for a cyclone to create a detour, some of the Windstar French Polynesia itineraries now include this remote archipelago. Not only is it an adventure into one of the world’s most remote natural environments, but will bestow you with bragging rights among your most well traveled friends.

We took a 4×4 tour on one island, and our tour guide gave us a nice introduction to the archipelago. The fourth season of Survivor (2001) was filmed in the Marquesas.  The tour was put together at the last minute when we needed to detour, and it was a bang-up job for the last minute. I expect there will be other excursion choices now that the Marquesas are part of a regular itinerary. 

On another day we opted to visit the Paul Gauguin Museum, which pays tribute to the famous painter and his time on Hiva Oa. After visiting the museum, we checked out the village, then headed to the beach. That tropical water was calling to me.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora, also known as the “Pearl of the Pacific”, is a volcanic, mountainous island ringed by a vibrant coral reef. The encircling turquoise lagoon is home to powder soft white sand beaches dotted with luxurious overwater bungalows. Adventure seekers can climb Mount Otemanu, the island’s dramatic dormant volcano, for panoramic views, or explore ancient Polynesian temples (marae).

Beyond the postcard perfect scenery, Bora Bora boasts a rich cultural heritage. Polynesian traditions thrive here, evident in its intricate tattoos, and local crafts like pareos (sarongs) and tifaifai (woven quilts). Visitors can also explore local villages and learn to weave coconut leaves into traditional hats or indulge in a traditional Polynesian massage.

There were organized excursions on Bora Bora, with lots of water activities. I consider myself a non-swimmer, but I LOVE tropical water. So while I knew I wanted water time on Bora Bora, I didn’t want to book an excursion and be at the low end of the skill set and stress about it. There were probably options that were more beginner-oriented, but we opted to find a beach where we could spend the day and chill out. For $5/person (each way), we caught a shuttle from the port to Matira Bech, the only public beach on the island. It was about a 10-minute ride. The beach was sandy and the water warm, it was perfect. 

This was one island (the other was Moorea below) where the excursion desk could have been more helpful. I know that the push is to sell the excursions offered onboard. I also know that sometimes passengers want to do their own thing. We talked to staff on a couple of occasions as we tried to figure out where to find a beach and they were, unfortunately, unhelpful. From a dismissive “Google it” to conveying erroneous information (easily checked by a quick search), and one occasion “we can’t tell you for legal reasons.” This left us disappointed. Windstar has been sailing in French Polynesia with regular stops in Bora Bora and Moorea, so I’m not sure why this information wasn’t readily available for passengers. Maybe it was an unfamiliar crew, maybe it was the stress of the re-routing, or maybe something else. This was the only time when we felt Windstar didn’t live up to its reputation and our expectations.


Close to Tahiti, only ten nautical miles away, Moore is distinct in its own right. Sure, it has the expected serene landscapes, pristine beaches, and azure waters, but it offers a more tranquil ambiance than its neighboring island. Moorea is known for diverse marine life, luxurious overwater bungalows, and tropical fruit plantations.

We wanted another beach day in Moorea, so took to the internet to discover what options we had. (See note above about not getting a lot of information onboard.) We found two options – a public beach near the Sofitel Kia Ora and a private beach (admission fee) at the hotel resort. We opted for the public beach, figuring if we weren’t happy there, we’d walk over to the resort and pay the fee. 

The beach was perfect. Quiet and uncrowded, we spent the better part of the full day there. It’s about a $30 cab ride to get to the beach and we recommend arranging for a pick up for the return trip.

An even better option, though, one we learned from new friends met on the ship, is to book a stay post-cruise on Moorea. Pack up most of your luggage (this is the last stop before returning to Papeete), shuttle to your resort and drop of your bags, then enjoy the beach resort there. You can return the next day via ferry, which operate often from Papeete, with much less luggage in tow. It’s a brilliant idea, and one that we’d try on a future visit. Plus, I’d get an overwater bungalow stay that’s been on my bucket list for far too long.

The Price

Cruise pricing is full of special offers. You’ll find lots of bundling, two-for-ones, and special discounts. Keeping up with cruise pricing can be a full-time job!

You’ll need to do your own personal research to evaluate what’s important to you on any cruise, and the price point that is comfortable for you.  Armed with that information and knowledge, you can book directly with a cruise line or use travel agents with good cruise knowledge.

A quick look at pricing for 2024 Windstar sailings in Tahiti and French Polynesia show fares starting around $3,000 for a 7-day cruise and $4,800 for an 11-day cruise (both include airfare). Longer itineraries that include the Marquesas are also available. You can view Tahiti itineraries here. Pricing options include air, an all-inclusive package (drinks, wifi, and gratuities), or only the cruise.

A few words about gratuities.

I believe that people should be well paid for providing good service. It is a cost of doing business for a company and a cost of travel for the cruiser. I wish that gratuities were included in Star Clipper pricing (and every cruise line pricing) because it lets prospective passengers see the full price right up front. Transparency is important to me. (Creating artificially low prices that don’t really exist makes me crazy.) 

I love knowing that the crew is fairly compensated. It suits my travel ethos, my personal ethics, and I love knowing that I won’t be nickel-and-dimed on board. Constant upselling is tedious. And while gratuities were not included on the Star Breeze there was NO upselling getting in the way of cruise enjoyment. If you wanted to buy something, great. If you didn’t, equally great. It created a relaxing atmosphere consistent with the tropical vibe. Suggested gratuities are $12 per person, per day, which can be pre-paid or billed to your onboard account.

Is a Windstar Cruise in French Polynesia Right for You

We believe that there’s a cruise for everyone, it’s just a matter of matching up your preferences for size and type of ship, onboard features and amenities, and itineraries. I love all types of cruises and all types of ships, having some favorites of course, and I love discovering new cruise lines, new ships, and new itineraries.

If you like the romance and sophisticated luxury of an all-suite yacht, without any pretentiousness, the Star Breeze is an ideal ship for you. It’s a casual and relaxed ambiance, yet still has features often found only on large ships (multiple dining venues, pool, theater). Windstar has been sailing in Tahiti for over 36 years, so they have solid expertise in this part of the world. Despite our Mother Nature-caused changes, and a few minor hiccups onboard, we still heartily recommend Windstar in Tahiti. In fact, I love a do-over on the itinerary so we have a chance to visit the skipped islands, use the water sports platform, eat heartily at their infamous beach barbecue, and enjoy their beyond ordinary special events. Oh yeah, and book an overwater bungalow stay before flying home.

Tahiti not on your to-visit list? Windstar also operates itineraries in Canada and New England, Caribbean, Latin America, Mexico, Europe, South America, and the Mediterranean. They also have trans-ocean crossings.


We received a complimentary cruise for the purpose of reviewing the Star Breeze in French Polynesia. Windstar respects the integrity of independent storytelling and reporting, and has no exerted influence over any coverage. The content of this post reflects our personal experiences and opinions.

Tony Manzanares contributed photos and opinions to this post.

For Pinterest

Save to your favorite cruise boards and to plan your next cruise vacation.