WHY IT RATES: Between sailings on board the newly reimagined Star Breeze and an expansion of the award-winning Signature Expeditions program, tourists can look forward to traveling with Windstar Cruises for their upcoming 2020 vacations. —Mackenzie Cullen, Editorial Associate
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Boutique cruise line Windstar Cruises is pointing its compass “Down Under” to Australia and New Zealand for the 2020/2021 winter/spring season. The series of sailings will take place on what will be the newly renovated Star Breeze, an elegant, all-suite ship with balcony and ocean views, carrying just 312 guests. Windstar’s team of travel experts scouted and hand-picked the perfect ports for first-ever immersive itineraries to Australia and New Zealand.
“In our concerted and ongoing effort to be the small ship leader in destination delivery, I’m thrilled to introduce a completely different sailing region that further expands Windstar’s global footprint. Australia and New Zealand cruises will allow us to present these destinations in the most authentic way possible,” says Windstar President John Delaney. “We’ve had a tremendous focus on adding new destinations in recent years, with an 85 percent increase in new ports of call. Announcing cruises to an entirely new continent on small ship voyages, as only Windstar does them, is a major move for the company and exciting news for our guests who are seeking out new places to explore.”
The Australia and New Zealand cruises will be the second region where Windstar launches their award-winning Signature Expeditions. The program delivers intimate, expedition-style adventures and active enrichment, with kayaks and Zodiacs launched right from the ship in remote bays and hidden harbors. The rugged coastlines of the region will provide the perfect backdrop for the adventurous Signature Expeditions, which are currently available on Windstar’s Alaska itineraries.
A team of onboard expedition leaders sails on the cruise from beginning to end, providing in-depth insight and sharing an academic understanding of the destination while guiding optional shore excursions. For example, in Tasmania, expedition leaders will show guests the beauty of Freycinet National Park, one of the island’s most spectacular locations, on a guided hike to scenic Wineglass Bay.
With this debut, vast and diverse Australia will be more accessible than ever thanks to sailings like a Cairns to Melbourne itinerary, with stops in some of the country’s most iconic destinations including the Great Barrier Reef.
“Our cruises in Australia will deliver both the wild and sophisticated sides, exploring remote reaches like Middle Percy Island, as well as offering an overnight in cosmopolitan Sydney with time to see the famous sites there including the UNESCO Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Bondi Beach,” says Melissa Witsoe, Product Manager.
Witsoe and team scouted many of the new ports personally to hand-craft customized excursions and curated experiences. “Cairns to Melbourne is really rare as an itinerary — it’s a unique offering in the cruise world, and one of the ways Windstar will approach sailing in this region differently.”
Windstar’s long-awaited return to New Zealand cruising will be met with much fanfare, thanks to itineraries like a round trip Auckland sailing. “It’s incredibly comprehensive taking in both North and South Islands, all the major cities and quaint port towns,” says Witsoe.
Guests will enjoy overnights in Wellington and Christchurch, plus scenic fjord cruising and visits to smaller places like Art Deco-inspired Napier, a jumping-off spot for the much-lauded wine-producing region of Hawke’s Bay.
Other shore excursion highlights include the chance to experience an authentic Hängi meal and Maori show of traditional song and dance in Rotorua in the Hells Gate region, while in Dunedin, a wildlife cruise includes a farm visit with local Kiwi characters who are at the forefront of local conservation efforts.
For guests seeking the best of both worlds, Star Breeze will offer two cruises visiting a mix of both countries with sightings of kiwis, koalas and kangaroos in store when sailing between Auckland and Sydney. This cruise takes in classic locations, like Melbourne with an overnight, and small ports like Phillip Island with its hidden harbor, where Windstar guests can witness the region’s rare penguins in their natural habitat.
A postcard-worthy excursion includes a high-speed Catamaran cruise to Whitehaven Beach in Whitsunday Islands National Park for lazy hours on a beach considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful.
Another major draw for these six new itineraries sailing throughout Australia and New Zealand is getting the chance to sail on the transformed 312-passenger Star Breeze. This all-suite ship will soon undergo a comprehensive renovation as part of Windstar’s $250 Million Dollar Star Plus Initiative, a transformation of all three Star Class ships.
In addition to a gorgeous new pool and surrounding deck area, Star Breeze will debut two new dining venues for a total of five, offer a redesigned world-class spa and fitness center and 50 new suites featuring attractive new floor plans and a 3-bedroom/3.5-bathroom Grand Owner’s Suite, ideal for family travel.
Australia and New Zealand are known for remarkable food and wine, and as guests of the Official Cruise Line of the James Beard Foundation, Windstar guests will enjoy the finest cuisine in the region. Expect dishes from James Beard-affiliated chefs, immersive and delicious shore excursions, and fresh dining using products from local farmers, fishermen, vintners, and more.
Bookings are now open for Windstar’s Australia and New Zealand sailings in 2020 and 2021 with a total of nine departure dates available. Six new cruises Down Under set sail aboard Star Breeze and run from November 2020 through February 2021 beginning at $4,599 per guest, double occupancy.
Additionally, the 148-passenger Wind Spirit is offering the rare opportunity to experience the South Pacific trade winds on one of the world’s most iconic sailing ships. Currently based year-round in Tahiti, Wind Spirit is expanding its South Pacific reach in winter/spring 2020 and will also visit Australia.
Reservations are open for Wind Spirit’s two seven-day ocean crossings with plenty of time to enjoy the open seas from New Caledonia to Australia and a 16-day voyage from Australia to Indonesia, featuring visits to Cairns, Port Douglas, Thursday Island, Yirrkala and Darwin along Australia’s northern coast. Cruises are available as soon as February 2020 on Wind Spirit starting at $1,299 per guest for the Coral Sea Crossing.
To learn more about authentic small ship cruising with Windstar, contact a travel advisor or Windstar Cruises at 1-800-258-7245 or visit www.windstarcruises.com.
SOURCE: Windstar Cruises press release.