Windstar vs Viking River Cruises

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4.9   Excellent  

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4.9   Excellent 32 reviews  

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4.7   Excellent 41 reviews  

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I do not recommend Windstar Cruises, at least not onboard 'Windstar'. I rate it 3 stars.

"I do not recommend Windstar Cruises, at least not onboard 'Windstar'. The only reason I could see to sail with them is for the evening event in Ephesus, which was ...

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Most of the people on this 17-day river cruise was quite elderly and infirm. Therefore the complimentary excursions were painfully slow walking. Local guides mostl...

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About Viking River Cruises

Inspiring destinations, thoughtfully designed itineraries, immersive cultural explorations, state-of-the-art ships, fine cuisine, excellent service and remarkable value. All created with personal attention to every detail.

Viking River Cruises vs Windstar Cruise Line

Windstar cruise line vs viking river cruises: side-by-side brand comparison.

Compare Viking River Cruises vs. Windstar Cruise Line side-by-side. Choose the best river cruise stores for your needs based on 1,440 criteria such as newsletter coupons, Apple Pay Later financing, PayPal Pay Later, Shop Pay Installments and clearance page . Also, check out our full guide to the top 10 river cruise stores .

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The 5 Best Midsize-ship Ocean Cruise Lines in 2022

The best cruise lines for midsize ships, according to Travel + Leisure readers, strike a balance between big-time amenities and smaller crowds.

windstar cruises vs viking

Note: If you’re looking for our most recent recommendations, check out the 2023 list of our favorite midsize-ship ocean cruise lines .

Travelers have been eager to return to the seas, and many were particularly interested in sailing on vessels that achieved the delicate balance between big-time amenities and smaller capacities. Enter the cruise lines in the newly tweaked midsize-ship ocean category, which now includes ships with 300 to 799 cabins.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated individual cruise ships on their cabins and facilities, food, service, itineraries and destinations, excursions and activities, and value. Those assessments were combined to generate results for the cruise lines in six categories, including river cruising.

In second place is Seabourn, with its pair of 300-suite ships: the Encore and Ovation . (Seabourn's smaller vessels are recognized in the World's Best Awards small-ship category for 2022.) "Blown away by how nice the ship, food, and service were," said a reader who sailed on Encore.

Highly applauded as well, and in the No. 3 spot for 2022, is Silversea, in this category with its largest ship, the Silver Spirit . "There is a feeling of spaciousness in the ship layout," wrote one fan. "You can always find a place to tuck away and read or enjoy a private conversation."

In the No. 4 spot is luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises, noted by one T+L reader for having "above excellent" crew. Rounding out the top 5 is Regent's sister line, Oceania Cruises, which was praised for its cuisine. "Best food on the ocean and great variety," said one fan.

But it was Viking that stole the show among the best cruise lines for midsize ships. Read on for more about what makes the line so popular.

T+L readers rave about the consistency of Viking's vessels and their Scandinavian design. The ships have plenty of nooks and crannies that encourage socializing. Guests can indulge in afternoon tea in the Wintergarden or listen to a lecture by a historian in the theater. Adding oomph is the line's value proposition, with wine and beer at meals, shore excursions, and specialty dining all included in the cruise fare. "What you see is what you get," wrote one reader. "Straightforward, consistently high quality and value at every turn."

Score: 95.16

More information: viking.com

2. Seabourn

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 92.84

More information: seabourn.com

3. Silversea

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 92.08

More information: silversea.com

4. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.85

More information: rssc.com

5. Oceania Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.68

More information: oceaniacruises.com

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5 Best Small Ship Cruise Lines

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Cruises are amazing, but sometimes mega cruise ships can leave you feeling like cattle being herded through long lines at the buffet and at port debarkation. Smaller ship cruising is where it’s at — if you can afford it, that is. More intimate ships not only translate to fewer fellow passengers, but it also means you can visit lesser-known ports. Plus, you’re less likely to get lost on the way back to your room.

As part of our Best of Travel Awards, TravelAwaits readers nominated and voted on their favorite small ship cruise lines. Here are the results!

Viking Expedition Ship in Antarctica

1. Viking Cruises (Winner)

Viking Cruises is quite popular with our readers. Not only did the line top this category, but it also took home the gold for best Mediterranean cruise line . There’s plenty to love about this small ship cruise line. Viking does not allow kids under 18, does not have casinos or umbrella drinks, does not allow smoking on board, and doesn’t have formal nights to get gussied up for.

What Viking does offer is an  onshore excursion  in every port,  regional cuisine , and Wi-Fi. Luxe accommodations feature king-size beds, large showers, heated bathroom floors, private verandas, 24-hour room service, and more.

Touted as the “thinking person’s cruise line,” Viking also offers  culturally enriching  programs such as guest lecturers, resident historians, regional performance arts such as traditional Greek dancing, an onboard cooking school, and more.

“The team at Viking Cruises will make your stay so wonderful you won’t want to go home. Guests are often so pleased with their trips that they use their onboard discount to book a future Viking Cruise before they depart,” says  TravelAwaits  writer Judy Freeman. Read more about why she loves this cruise line in her article,  How To Make The Most Of Your Viking Cruise Vacation . And if you decide to book a Viking cruise, here are  five important things to do to prepare for it .

Windstar sailboat in St. Lucia

2. Windstar Cruises

Windstar Cruises is pretty pricey, but veteran cruiser Melody Pittman says it is worth it . Windstar small cruise ships host anywhere from 148 to 342 guests, allowing them to reach ports you may not see on other itineraries, including Tahiti, Kobe, Bordeaux, and  Honfleur .

Plus, Windstar is the official cruise line of the  James Beard Foundation , so you know you’re in for a culinary treat. Many of the high-end foods are locally sourced and specialty restaurants are included in your cruise fare. Read about Pittman’s favorite dishes from her voyage on the Star Legend . There’s also 24-hour room service and unlimited ice cream!

From scuba diving to visiting private islands, a wide range of shore excursions are available. Windstar also offers custom tours which can range from a solo trip to a carefully curated excursion for your group to see the sights with your own English-speaking guide. There are also culinary shore excursions!

Celebrity Constellation in the Bay of Kotor

3. Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises’ 12 main vessels carry about 2,000-3,000 passengers each, but they are still much smaller than, say, a Royal Caribbean cruise liner. Generally, the bigger the Celebrity ship, the newer it is and the more amenities it will have. Its older Millennium Class ships are more intimate.

A few tiny ships, which carry 16 to 100 passengers apiece, are based in the Galápagos, including the Celebrity Flora . This luxury mega-yacht features all-suite accommodations, two chef-inspired restaurants, and an optional glamping experience where you can sleep under the stars.

tiny Silversea Cruise Ship in the Indian Ocean

4. Silversea Cruises

Known for award-winning entertainment, butler service, and 24-hour gourmet dining, Silversea Cruises goes above and beyond all-inclusive and chauffeurs guests from their house to the airport and back. Airfare and pre-and post-cruise hotel nights are included, too!

In addition to iconic destinations, Silversea goes to off-the-beaten-track ports that only small ships can reach. Enjoy a complimentary shore excursion every day or customize your own. Silversea also offers expeditions to remote regions like Antarctica.

Enjoy butler service in every suite and a staff-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one. Champagne, wine, beer, and premium spirits are on the house, and tips are included, too!

pool area on Seaborn Cruise Line ship

5. Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn Cruise Line’s young, modern fleet boasts of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the industry. Intimate ships mean Seabourn can visit everything from marquee ports to hidden harbors where larger ships cannot go. Plus, with nearly one staff member per guest, the crew is able to remember guests’ names. All of the luxuriously appointed suites are oceanfront and come with a Personal Suite Host and Suite Attendant who can do anything from drawing you a bubble bath to assisting in arranging an in-suite cocktail party. Tipping is not required or expected and premium wine, champagne, and spirits, are included.

Related Reading:

  • 7 Best Caribbean Cruise Lines Our Readers Love
  • 7 Best Mediterranean Cruise Lines Our Readers Love
  • My 6 All-Time Favorite Cruises From A Self-Proclaimed Cruise Fanatic

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Laura Ray has lived in Atlanta, the Bay Area, SoCal, and Austin. After moving from Texas, she and her husband rambled about the Midwest in a camper for a couple of years before finally settling on 35 acres in their home state of Kentucky. When she isn't clacking around on the keyboard (cat in lap), you can find her practicing yoga, gardening, or playing the ukulele. This travel-lover's favorite destinations include Italy, the Greek isles, and Kentucky Lake.

  • Viking Ocean

Compare Viking to others...

By firstforty2012 , June 6, 2019 in Viking Ocean

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firstforty2012

Im  considering my first Viking cruise.  Im a veteran having taken just under 50 around the world.  My normal lines are Crystal, Azamara and Oceania.  How does Viking compare?  One thing I have noticed is dont call the sales line off the website unless you want to browbeaten into submission.  I have never had such rude, high pressure people speak to me about a cruise.

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Pushka

13 minutes ago, firstforty2012 said: Im  considering my first Viking cruise.  Im a veteran having taken just under 50 around the world.  My normal lines are Crystal, Azamara and Oceania.  How does Viking compare?  One thing I have noticed is dont call the sales line off the website unless you want to browbeaten into submission.  I have never had such rude, high pressure people speak to me about a cruise.   Comments?    

Maybe that just made the decision for you? I’ve just come from Orion. People onboard say it isn’t the usual Viking experience on this ship. I’ve only cruised with less expensive lines like Cunard, Princess and Celebrity. Some things Viking did better, eg the food. Other things the other lines did better. We found Orion to have issues with communicating to passengers. Almost like they don’t want to tell you bad news until there is no more time to wait. If you’ve cruised with Crystal I’m not sure that you should change. Oceania is reputed to have the best cuisine. I don’t know much about Azamara. 

Haha

Captain_Morgan

What is it that you like about Crystal, Oceania and Azamara?  Of my knowledge of those lines, in comparison to my experience on Viking i can say that Viking is probably more similar to Oceania in that the atmosphere is more relaxed (no formal nights, no pomp and circumstance) without the same focus on the cuisine.

Viking's ships are what I would describe as understated elegance in that they are nicely decorated with plenty of comfortable places to sit and just enjoy the atmosphere without feeling as though you're being herded from one attraction to the next.  The focus onboard is towards information sharing (ironic given the complete lack of information coming from their office on all things) by way of lectures and port talks which may or may not be your thing and of course these are also itinerary specific/dependent.  

Entertainment IMO is mediocre at best when it comes to the actual performances onboard in comparison to the larger production shows found on the mainstream line.  

The semi-inclusive nature of the product is nice too in comparison to other lines but keep in mind the included tours fill up fastest and more often than not they're a 'panoramic tour' which basically means a bus ride with a brief interlude to shop or look around but that's not always the case.  Of course its not the case with all included tours, but the bottom line is that you can't expect anything too spectacular for a tour you didn't pay extra for.  WiFi being included is a nice bonus as well provided you're not expecting to use it for more than checking emails, updating social media, etc.

As for the 'usual Viking experience', i think this is a case of the line experiencing what i call the 'Icarus Principle' where they seem to have been flying a little too close to the sun and now their wings might be melting a little.  Instead of perfecting the product on the first 2 or 3 ships, it seems the focus of getting more market share and brand recognition has taken precedence over consistency.

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Suggest reading the thread titled "Tell me why", which has almost 370 posts regarding the pros/cons of cruising Viking Ocean. Here is the link

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16 hours ago, Heidi13 said: Suggest reading the thread titled "Tell me why", which has almost 370 posts regarding the pros/cons of cruising Viking Ocean. Here is the link    

i highly recommend this thread as well. We have no experience with Crystal or Oceania. While we enjoyed our recent Azamara cruise, we found ourselves often saying, “It isn’t Viking.”  We do love, Viking, but we aren’t opposed to trying other lines if the opportunity presents itself. 

Have cruised both Regent and Crystal numbers times. Wonderful in all aspects. The main reason we are more Viking people, is we get very similar experience  at about HALF the price.

philw1776

Taken 2 excellent Viking ocean cruises and am about to take another fine cruise on Silversea (Silver Muse Alaska in August) which has small 600 passenger ships.  I'll do an updated compare & contrast after that cruise.

sleepybobo

4 hours ago, philw1776 said: Taken 2 excellent Viking ocean cruises and am about to take another fine cruise on Silversea (Silver Muse Alaska in August) which has small 600 passenger ships.  I'll do an updated compare & contrast after that cruise.

Following. I took VO twice. Enjoyed both times. I book a cruise to Alaska in May 2031 with Viking. So far, the reviews on the Alaska itinerary have not been great. I’d love to hear your comparison. 

Peregrina651

Peregrina651

Viking has done just two sailings in Alaska as of this writing and it seems from reports thus far that they are faced with a steep learning curve. 

lackcreativity

As much as we have enjoyed our three Viking ocean cruises, I have read enough on this site to know that they sometimes have had problems as they have expanded into brand new areas. They generally work quickly to improve the difficulties for subsequent cruises. I know that is not much consolation to the guests on the maiden sailings of these new routes.

Personally, we have only selected itineraries that are mostly familiar to Viking, with perhaps a new port or two added. Our last was Russia and the Baltic Sea, with St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Tallinn that are very familiar to Viking.   Visby, Sweden (a delightful stop) and Bornholm, Denmark ( room for improvement on the included tour) were the new ports. It was an excellent cruise. I honestly don't think I would select a first time sailing in a brand new area, in spite of my great satisfaction with Viking ocean and river cruises.

12 minutes ago, Peregrina651 said: Viking has done just two sailings in Alaska as of this writing and it seems from reports thus far that they are faced with a steep learning curve. 

We found that steep learning curve to be a weakness in Cuba, too.  To Viking's credit, the cruise director appeared to be very engaged with the customers on the topic. I gathered that Viking had bought into the government's / Havantur's tour proposals and listed them.

Several "light" or "medium" activity tours were anything but, for middle aged and older American tourists. 

molymoo

We have done four Viking Ocean cruises; two on the Star and two on the Sky.  On our first Sky cruise we felt that it just wasn't quite the same quality experience we had on the Star.  It was a new itinerary so that may have had some impact but the overall experience just wasn't what we had come to expect from Viking.  The problems were relatively minor but there was definitely a difference.  I noted the difference in my review and in communication with Viking directly and found that a significant difference when we boarded the Sky for another cruise about six months later.  The leadership team was different ... and a different cruise director (definitely an improvement).  It made a world of difference and things went very smoothly.  Hopefully things will improve on the Orion as well ... but be sure to (politely) note your observations to Viking directly ... we can only commiserate here, not solve problems.

And yes, I will be communicating directly when we return. In the meantime I’m making dot points of the facts only and the conclusions will be obvious. 

Its understandable there is a learning curve involved with a new itinerary. And that to some extent we are guinea pigs, a phrase I heard from others on this cruise, multiple times. We were however, still paying the same premium rate as a well bedded in cruise. 

"Live from...."

Quick response without writing a book!' (in my opinion)

Viking Ocean-great ship-perhaps our favorite from a ship standpoint. Food just a bit above average-nothing special. Service on ship was great, in dining room, not so good. Like the casualness of ship. Pretty decent entertainment. Lectures were outstanding. 

Silversea-ship just average but everything else was spectacular. Food was amazing in main dining and speciality restaurants. Entertainment was quite good especially for a small ship. Service matched every other aspect. The worse meal was excellent and it got better! Loved daily champagne delivery. Only negative, I hate dressing up but would do it again for such a good cruise. 

Regent-was real excited to sail Regent and perhaps my best description was that it was underwhelming. Ship was OK, nothing special. Service was quite good both on ship and in dining room. Food could be pretty good and pretty bad in same week! Not much attention paid to things like "rare', medium rare, etc. Excursions were included (I usually do my own) and that was the high point. They were excellent. For the price differential, I'll probably not sail Regent again. Just wasn't worth it.

Windstar-Loved this line also. Was on sailing ship. Great service, food. Not much else on board so I feel Windstar is best for port intensive itineraries. Will likely sail their "motor yacht" later this year or early next year. 

Bottom line-cruising is fun. It's all good!

We have sailed on Crystal, Viking Ocean & River, & Oceania.  We love Viking and were especially impressed with the Orion crew when we sailed from Auckland to Bali this past Feb/Mar.  Our other Viking Ocean was the Baltic which also was great.  We did the Mediterranean w/ Oceania (Riviera) and they were great as well.  We feel that Viking and Oceania are comparable.  Food is very good on Viking; Oceania food is exceptional especially the specialty restaurants and their Terrace Cafe.  We loved our Asian cruise on Crystal but found the formal dress requirements of the main dining room to be too much(we prefer to be more casual) and found a number of Crystal passengers to be quite rude and the epitome of the 'Ugly American'.  We have four more Viking cruises booked and one Oceania between Dec 2019 through April 2021.  Our decision is usually based on the itinerary that we see.  We really like that Viking handles everything - flights, transfers, excursions, pre & post extensions.  In fact, heading home from Bali, American canceled our flight from Hong Kong to the US two days before the flight due to the 737 Max issue via email and just left us hanging(told us to contact our TA).  I emailed my TA who contacted Viking Air (and then I worked w/ Viking Air via email w/ a 15 hour time difference) to re-book the flight back to the US.  I felt if that I didn't have Viking Air handling the re-booking w/ American, that American would not have been as receptive.  Viking Air really went the extra mile to work everything out quickly.  We like most of the included Viking excursions (even if they are just panorama tours).  We opt for more in-depth Viking excursions if interested.  It's worth exploring!

_alan_

Glad that Viking Air helped you out.  They didn't lift a finger to help with our AA cancellation from Chicago to Venice.  Even suggested we accept what AA offered a spot on a flight with no assigned seats.  I know that we won't be using AA again.  I'm in doubt about using Viking Air again.  

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orchestrapal

Since we have limited our cruising out of NY and NJ we have also been limited to cruise line choices.

While Crystal would be our first choice closely followed by Oceania Viking was the only line available at the time we wanted to cruise. We took a very nice b/b and found the ship and our suite excellent but the food several notches below that of our favorite lines. Service was fine although far from what we have become used to. Don’t expect luxury and you will not be disappointed.

Kingofcool1947

Kingofcool1947

On 6/7/2019 at 1:42 PM, sleepybobo said:   Following. I took VO twice. Enjoyed both times. I book a cruise to Alaska in May 2031 with Viking. So far, the reviews on the Alaska itinerary have not been great. I’d love to hear your comparison. 

Alaska is definitely not  VO’s strength.  

Princess, Holland America, have excellent itinerary  .  Oceania as well for Alaska.

Overall,  Oceania is my cruise line of choice.  Have booked 7 future cruises with Oceania.  IMO, Overall, Oceania is that good over VO.

Thanks

1 hour ago, Kingofcool1947 said:   Alaska is definitely not  VO’s strength.   Princess, Holland America, have excellent itinerary  .  Oceania as well for Alaska. Overall,  Oceania is my cruise line of choice.  Have booked 7 future cruises with Oceania.  IMO, Overall, Oceania is that good over VO.

Yes, I found that out for myself last month. Certainly the lowest rung on the pecking order and frustrating to see Carnival and it’s ilk having a berth while we had to tender, a process that Orion handled extremely poorly. You’d expect they have it down to a fine art but nup. And don’t get me started on Vancouver embarkation where we didn’t have even have a berth for boarding until well after 5.30pm. 

In hindsight while we loved Explorer Lounge for viewing on still evenings, Princess and HAL have Alaska down pat, and the more expensive lines like Regent Seven Seas also do Alaska well but obviously more expensive. Viking was the only ship that had to tender and we had to tender three times plus embarkation. 

We were on Viking Orion from Tokyo to Vancouver so also experienced Alaska with Viking. There were quite a few tender ports including disembarkation. We found our time at Hubbard Glacier disappointing as the ship was a long distance away unlike on a previous cruise. We have reflected on our first Viking cruise and although we enjoyed our time on such a beautiful ship, we have decided the standard of food and the lack of choice and quality of included wine do not compare favourably to what is available on Oceania. 

1 hour ago, sunnies said: We were on Viking Orion from Tokyo to Vancouver so also experienced Alaska with Viking. There were quite a few tender ports including disembarkation. We found our time at Hubbard Glacier disappointing as the ship was a long distance away unlike on a previous cruise. We have reflected on our first Viking cruise and although we enjoyed our time on such a beautiful ship, we have decided the standard of food and the lack of choice and quality of included wine do not compare favourably to what is available on Oceania. 

As they say, you only get once chance for a first impression. This being our first cruise with Viking after cruising with Princess, Celebrity, and Cunard. For us, Viking didn’t work out. It’s the most we have spent on a cruise and while we loved aspects of the ship, and we agree that most of the crew works very hard, we’ve also found that to be the case on the above cruise lines. So while a Viking River Cruise is in our sights, to Egypt, we have decided to look for other options for Ocean cruises. We have contacted Viking about the multiple issues but the response has been “We are sorry” but they didn’t actually  address many of the other real issues we experienced and raised with them, including whilst on board and afterwards, last month. So disappointed, we thought Viking would be our new cruise provider. 

Pushka, we thought we would book another Viking cruise whilst on board. However,   the amount of illness on this cruise did dampen our enthusiasm and we did not book. Viking did try and minimise the spread of the virus by monitoring hand washing and removing salt and pepper shakers in the buffet. Unfortunately the serving tongs for self service were used by many!! In comparison, staff serve passengers in the buffet on Oceania. 

Rodmanb294

On 6/6/2019 at 2:26 PM, Pushka said:   Maybe that just made the decision for you? I’ve just come from Orion. People onboard say it isn’t the usual Viking experience on this ship. I’ve only cruised with less expensive lines like Cunard, Princess and Celebrity. Some things Viking did better, eg the food. Other things the other lines did better. We found Orion to have issues with communicating to passengers. Almost like they don’t want to tell you bad news until there is no more time to wait. If you’ve cruised with Crystal I’m not sure that you should change. Oceania is reputed to have the best cuisine. I don’t know much about Azamara. 

Cruised with Oceania Sirena this past April from Buenos Aires to Rio... Food and Service beyond compare...  Have experienced RCCL, Celebrity. Princess, Holland American, and Seabourn.. This will be the first time with Viking on the Orion, Bangkok to Bali Nov 29...   Hope things improve before I get there...  Might be the one and only time for Viking...  But on the positive side.::. Experience tells me that sometimes the crew makes all the difference..   Turnover could be a problem... will just have to wait and see.

On 6/18/2019 at 8:49 AM, Rodmanb294 said:   Cruised with Oceania Sirena this past April from Buenos Aires to Rio... Food and Service beyond compare...  Have experienced RCCL, Celebrity. Princess, Holland American, and Seabourn.. This will be the first time with Viking on the Orion, Bangkok to Bali Nov 29...   Hope things improve before I get there...  Might be the one and only time for Viking...  But on the positive side.::. Experience tells me that sometimes the crew makes all the difference..   Turnover could be a problem... will just have to wait and see.

The cabin crew and in all but one restaurant were excellent on the Alaska cruise. However I’d like to see a huge improvement in all aspects of tender management - it was like Orion had never used its tenders before and which I know is not correct - and in communication with people. Certainly pre cruise, when everyone knew there were major issues but we heard nothing from Viking until a couple of days before departure. And I’d also suggest that unlike Celebrity Cunard and Princess, other than a small stand at Portside , there is nothing offered whilst still on land, like a drink or towel, hot or cold depending on the climate. There are no “welcome back” messages until you are back on board and trying then to deal with all the scanning and just get to a lift. Too late by then. Especially if you’ve just done the tender process. Also because we had to tender so much, we completely missed the somewhat hidden down ramp to get to the tender berth at Juneau. We had to ask a Juneau Port person where to find the small entrance to it. Why was there no Viking presence? A red flag? When we walked down the ramp there was no tender just yet and just a port person sitting near by. 

Yesterday we just booked a Celebrity Cruise in Aqua class. Yes there is a casino but we will just not go to it. Yes there will be photographers but we will just avoid them. There will probably be kids but there are plenty of places for them to go. Art auctions - not too bad on Celebrity and will simply avoid. No formal nights in Aqua class. We can already see and book excursions a year out as well as restaurants. We have already had a phone call from Celebrity about an issue we had with the booking - they called me in Australia from the US after I’d sent them an email the day before. Celebrity handles tenders very well. We know which ports will be tendered and can plan accordingly. There will be more people but there are plenty of places to hide. Spa is included in Aqua. And it has a dedicated restaurant that we like. We have therefore moved on. I’d like to try a more exclusive ship other than Viking next time but just not in the right financial space yet. 

Viking punted? Viking does some important things well, but many lesser things, especially on new itineraries, not so well. 

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Windstar Cruises History: Through The Ages

Windstar Cruises is a cruise line that has been providing high-quality cruises since it was founded in 1984. The company started out with just a single ship to its name, but has since grown to include a fleet of six luxury vessels.

Despite its growth, Windstar remains committed to providing an intimate and personalized cruising experience for all of its guests. In this article, we'll be taking a trip through the history of Windstar—from its early years right up to the present day.

Humble Beginnings

Windstar's first ship was the Wind Star—a sleek, 4-masked motor sailing yacht that could accommodate just 148 passengers. The ship was originally launched in 1986, immediately drawing praise from passengers for its intimate size and elegant design.

In the years that followed, Windstar added two more sailing yachts to its fleet: Wind Song (1987) - a now scuttled 4-masted motor sailing yacht with a capacity of 159, and Wind Spirit (1988) - an intimate, 4-masted motor sailing yacht with a capacity of 148.

By now you may have noticed a trend - Windstar's first three ships all had 4 masts. This was a major selling point for the company, and to this day, Windstar is the only cruising line to offer 4-masted sailing yachts.

Windstar Cruise Star Legend History Viking Crew

Turning Heads

By 1988, Windstar Cruises was making a name for itself as a provider of high-end, luxury cruises. The company's vessels were turning heads, and its reputation for providing an intimate and personalized cruising experience was growing.

This reputation caught the eyes of executives at Holland America Line (HAL), who decided to purchase 50% of Windstar. HAL—a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation —is a major player in the cruising industry, and the acquisition gave Windstar the resources it needed to expand its fleet.

With backing from HAL and Carnival Corporation, Windstar Cruises decided it was time to scale up their fleet with the purchase of a massive ship—the Wind Surf .

Coming in at 14,745 tons, Wind Surf may be small when compared with most modern cruise ships. But for Windstar, this ship was almost three times larger than their previous largest vessel. The Wind Surf could accommodate up to 342 passengers and a crew of 210.

This purchase marked a major turning point for Windstar, as the company now had the resources to compete with other luxury cruise lines.

Major Setbacks

It hasn't always been smooth sailing for Windstar. 

In 2002, the Wind Song was anchored in French Polynesia near the island of Tahiti. Suddenly, an electrical fault sparked a fire in the engine room and forced all 127 passengers and 92 crew members to evacuate to lifeboats. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The French Navy eventually put out the fire and towed the ship to Papeete. Inspections revealed that the ship would be so costly to fix that it was not worth repairing. The ship was towed out into the open ocean and scuttled. It now rests at the ocean floor about 10,000 feet below.

In 2007 HAL and Carnival Corporation sold Windstar Cruises.

Windstar Cruise Wind Surf History Viking Crew

Modern Renovations

Now under new ownership with the Xanterra Group, in 2014 Windstar announced that it was purchasing three new vessels to join the fleet.

Star Pride (1988) - a 362-foot motor yacht that can accommodate 212 passengers; Star Breeze (1988) - a sister ship to Star Pride ; Star Legend (1990) - a sister ship to both Star Pride and Star Breeze

In 2019 Windstar Cruises announced its Star Plus programme, to renovate the Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend —as they were originally built in the late 1980s they were starting to show their age.

The renovations included the addition of new suites, staterooms, restaurants, and lounges. After the renovations were complete, the three ships emerged as modern luxury vessels that are on par with any other ship in their class.

Where is Windstar Today?

Windstar Cruises is a luxury cruise line that is known for its intimate sailing experience and elegant vessels. The company currently has three motor sailing yachts— Wind Star, Wind Spirit, and Wind Surf —and three motor yachts— Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend .

Windstar has continued to grow in popularity in recent years. The company is regularly ranked as one of the best cruise lines in the world by publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

Viking Crew have had a long association with Windstar Cruises, and are proud to be their Crewing Partner for almost 30 years.

For further details on an exciting career with Windstar Cruises please visit our dedicated webpage: www.vikingcrew.com/windstar-cruises

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windstar cruises vs viking

Windstar Cruises is growing again with 2 new ships

Gene Sloan

Small-ship specialist Windstar Cruises is finally back in growth mode.

Windstar President Chris Prelog on Wednesday said the brand would add two new vessels by the end of 2026 — a 33% expansion of its fleet that would end a decadelong drought in new ship additions.

"This is going to allow Windstar not only to grow but to go back to favorite destinations where we have been before and explore new destinations," Prelog told cruise writers at a press conference in Miami Beach, Florida.

For more cruise news, guides and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

Prelog called the acquisition of the two vessels from another company "an amazing opportunity" that would allow Windstar to double the number of ships it operates in French Polynesia, one of its core markets.

The press conference took place at Seatrade Cruise Global, the cruise industry's annual meetup at the Miami Beach Convention Center. More than 10,000 executives from cruise lines, shipyards, suppliers and destinations attend the event.

2 new all-suite ships

windstar cruises vs viking

Windstar is acquiring the two new vessels from Portugal-based Mystic Invest Holdings, the parent company of small-ship operator Atlas Ocean Voyages , Germany-based Nicko Cruises and several other brands.

The first of the vessels, to be called Star Seeker, is a still-under-construction, 224-passenger vessel that Mystic was originally building for its Atlas Ocean Voyages brand to operate under the name World Seeker.

The ship was to be a sister vessel to the three Atlas Ocean Voyages vessels currently in operation: World Navigator , World Traveller and World Voyager .

Mystic was building the ship for Atlas Ocean Voyages at a shipyard in Portugal that it also owns.

The second vessel Windstar is acquiring is a 4-year-old ship in the same series that Mystic has been chartering to expedition cruise specialist Quark Expeditions. Currently operating for Quark as World Explorer, it'll be renamed Star Explorer and also have room for 224 passengers.

Related: The 2 types of Windstar ships, explained

The two vessels will join the Windstar fleet in December 2025 and December 2026, respectively, after the addition of several signature Windstar elements to each of them.

For example, both of the vessels will get water sports platforms, something that isn't currently part of their design. Water sports platforms are a signature feature of Windstar vessels.

Other changes to the current design of each of the vessels will include adding a new pool and a two-story spa. Windstar will also add a whirlpool to the bow of the ships.

A helipad that is currently part of the design of each of the ships will become a large Owner's Suite, with a wraparound balcony.

Like the three ships of similar design currently sailing for Atlas Ocean Voyages, the new Windstar ships will be all-suite ships where most rooms come with either a private balcony or a window wall that slides open to create a balcony-like space.

Windstar said each of the ships would have an Amphora dining room, a Windstar signature, and a more casual Star Grill. Each of the vessels will have a no-extra-charge specialty restaurant and offer 24-hour room service, too.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Windstar ship

As is the case for all of the vessels in the series that have operated for Atlas Ocean Voyages and Quark, the ships will have ice-strengthened hulls that allow them to operate in icy polar destinations such as Antarctica and the Arctic's Svalbard Archipelago. But in response to a question from The Points Guy, Prelog suggested the line didn't have plans to deploy the ships to the most remote parts of the polar regions.

That said, the ice-strengthened capabilities of the ships could be of value when sailing to places such as Greenland and Alaska, Prelog said.

First new Windstar ships since 2015

windstar cruises vs viking

Windstar last expanded its fleet in 2014 and 2015, when it added three small motor vessels that were formerly operated by Seabourn.

Windstar currently operates six ships — the three former Seabourn vessels, all of which have been significantly renovated and lengthened over the years to have more cabins and venues, as well as three sailing ships.

Related: Don't miss these loyalty perks when booking a Windstar cruise

During Wednesday's announcement, Prelog said the addition of the two Mystic vessels would allow Windstar to send one of its sailing ships, the 148-passenger Wind Star, back to French Polynesia starting in 2027. Wind Star will join the 312-passenger Star Breeze in sailing year-round in French Polynesia, a major expansion for Windstar in the region.

Prelog on Wednesday did not say where the new Star Seeker and Star Explorer would sail. But he said itineraries and pricing for the first of vessels scheduled to debut, Star Seeker, would be announced in June.

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    This was a major selling point for the company, and to this day, Windstar is the only cruising line to offer 4-masted sailing yachts. The History of Windstar Cruises; the Star Legend - Viking Crew Turning Heads. By 1988, Windstar Cruises was making a name for itself as a provider of high-end, luxury cruises.

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