Hill City Bride | Virginia Wedding Blog » wedding, DIY and travel blog for brides

Why I Love Small Ship Cruises {featuring Windstar}

Vacations are something I look forward to all year round. Truly, one week of holiday ends, I get back to reality, and then I’m already dreaming about where we are headed next. Whether you are celebrating an anniversary, honeymoon (yay!), or just want to get away together, I definitely would suggest looking at small ship cruises.

Although this post is sponsored in partnership with Windstar Cruises, all opinions and views are my own (and my husband’s). We took our first cruise on the Mediterranean Sea with Windstar 8 years ago, and we had an equally fabulous time on our second journey and truly love this cruise line.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon Journey

Earlier this year, my husband and I toured the Gems of the Leeward Islands on our second journey with Windstar Cruises on the Star Pride. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and here are some of the reasons why I love small ship cruises.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel HoneymoonThe Star Pride, which holds 212 passengers and left from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The People

Whether it’s the crew or the passengers, the atmosphere created by the folks aboard exudes joy. The staff seems happy, and they make a genuine effort to remember your name. Sometimes I ask a person’s name, and it exits my mind as quickly as it entered, so the crew’s capacity to recall is truly impressive.

I live in a small city, and admittedly, I get frustrated when our minor rush hour impedes my drive by 5 minutes. Then I remember that in big cities a commute can be expanded by an hour! That’s a good comparison for any line that appears during small ship cruises. Whether it’s a queue for the tender boat or having to wait to be seated for dinner, the lines really are miniscule. Plus, it gives you a chance to meet other passengers.

Speaking of passengers, another part I enjoy is being surrounded by like-minded travelers. Everyone on board desires the experience of a more intimate cruise, and having people’s purpose coincide with ours was a delight!

Another perk of traveling with Windstar Cruises is their open bridge policy. Guests are welcomed at almost any time (I say almost because there are times – such as docking the boat – when it is closed). My husband was especially excited about talking to the officers about the instruments and they were very kind about answering all of our questions.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

My husband, throughly enjoying himself driving the ship. No worries, it was on autopilot! 

The Ports

On our Gems of the Leeward Islands trip, the ports we visited impressed me. Because of the small vessel, we were able to get into areas that aren’t frequented by larger ships. This was especially nice once we got on land and didn’t have to contend with crowds from other ships.

I mentioned tender boats, and if you aren’t familiar with what those are, I’ll share. It’s actually a small boat that takes you from the ship to the dock. There were times when our vessel dropped anchor, and we took a 30ish passenger boat in and out of the port. It was fun to ride the tender and see the views it offered.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

Our tender boat docking in Guadeloupe, waiting to take us back to the Star Pride. 

The Play

When we did drop anchor, the days were filled with fun (weather permitting). Our Star Pride ship offered a Water Sports Platform complete with activities, such as waterskiing, kayaking, and a huge trampoline. They have an expert team of people that implement and oversee the sports, which is such a fun perk of Windstar’s small ship cruises.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

A view from the Star Pride out to the Water Sports Platform. 

Small Ship Cruises Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Destination Wedding Blog Travel Honeymoon

Windstar’s sister sailing ship (right) with the Water Sports Platform open. The Star Pride is in the background on the left. 

Bouncing (pun intended!) off of the swim platform idea is the Signature Beach Party. Ours occurred in St. Lucia, where they literally brought everything to shore – the food, the fun and the people (if you chose to do so!). Water sports were offered at the beach, and they had bubble cabanas and chairs for everyone to enjoy the seaside.

Whether you love history, boating or adventure, there are also a variety of excursions offered. Zip lining? Sure! My husband and I went with a small group to test it out. We had a great time whizzing through the rainforest while creating wonderful memories.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

My husband and I in the rainforest ready and excited to zip line in St. Lucia! 

Bonus: everyone gets their own snorkeling kit complete with flippers to sign out and use. It made for some extraordinary explorations on our own!

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

Me getting ready to enjoy my snorkeling kit in Martinique.

The Palate

I can’t say I’m a culinary expert, but one thing I enjoy is eating local and experiencing unique flavors. This really shone through in the dining options. We were able to have semi-personal time with the chef as he did a demonstration (showing us how to make popcorn soup!) and later led us on a tour of the galley. It was so interesting to see how things worked behind the scenes. The bartending staff even got in on the fun and did a mixology demonstration (and tasting!) on the deck.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

We enjoyed time with the chef during our tour of the Star Pride’s galley.

Small Ship Cruises Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Destination Wedding Blog Travel Honeymoon Mixology Drink

A fun blue drink the bartenders showed us how to make. 

One thing I especially enjoyed was learning how adamant the chef was about the culinary arts while serving on a small cruise ship. Due to the size of the passenger list, he was able to curate his own menu and also craft dishes created with foods he had purchased on the island that same day if he so desired. I loved that our menu slowly took on its own life day after day. And it was delicious!

The Pace

Now that I am back to real life, I can honestly say that I enjoy the pace of being on small ship cruises. We felt in no rush to get anywhere. We slept in. We ordered room service. We lounged on the decks with a book. We even learned about nature as we saw flying fish spring up out of the water.

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

Small Ship Cruises featuring Windstar | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog Destination Travel Honeymoon

Our lovely room – #305 – on the Star Pride, our home for 11 days on the Caribbean Sea. 

It was so refreshing to have the intimate atmosphere of a small ship cruise as my husband and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary. Where to next? I have my sights set on the Barcelona to Rome route, but no matter what route we take, I know that a lovely time is ahead.

Also, my phone was literally dying, but I was able to snag a quick video after our trip of the size comparison between a 2850 passenger ship and our 212 passenger one. Small ship cruises make a big difference!

Curious about my other travels? Just click here to read more. Also, be on the lookout for upcoming posts about the 8 Caribbean Sea islands we visited during our cruise. I can’t wait to share this amazing trip that would be perfect for a honeymoon or celebratory travel!

If you would like more information about Windstar Cruises, be sure to head to their website here or call one of their travel experts at 1-855-614-5687.

  • Iya - Louisa - Looks like you had a lovely time! I would love to go on a cruise one day. ☺️

  • Joline - We’ve never considered taking a cruise but reading about small ship cruises might just change our mind! We didn’t even realize this option was out there. It’s just the right pace we like.

  • Jennifer - Yes! It’s such a GREAT option. Truly! It’s like a luxury hotel that takes you to the most amazing places. We’ve done big boat cruises, which was perfect for us and the kids – but for us as a couple? I much prefer the small ship cruise option. It’s so fun and memorable!! 🙂

  • Komal - I haven’t even heard of this place wow! It’s been ages SK ce I went on a cruise and this one seems lovely!

  • Alison Rost - I think small ships give you a more personal experience especially since there are fewer people on the ship. It’s perfect for people who enjoy their quiet time.

  • Amiekay - I love cruising but have never been on smaller ships like the one you describe here but I think you’ve sold me on trying one out. I love the intimacy you describe and how you get to see behind the scenes; that would never happen on a larger boat!!

  • Jennifer - Yes, so true! I loved it so much. It’s really a different experience to have a small boat. Windstar actually offers a lot of great deals – keep a watch on their site! <3

  • Amalia - I’m so curious about cruises holidays, glad I found your post! I want to go in one but a bit more cosy and this one they you did with Windstar Cruises just seems like exactly what I want! Will have a look into booking, X

  • Jennifer - Oh yay! They often run specials and have destinations all over the world. It’s such a lovely journey no matter which one you choose. <3

  • Eileen - I’ve been on big cruise ships, but I’ve never been on a smaller boat. Your experience sounds amazing and I’d love to try it out!

  • Luci - That does look like a really nice cruise to go to. If I ever go on a cruise I’ll have to check them out. I’d like to go on a small cruise rather than a large one.

  • Jennifer - I would definitely suggest doing so. It’s so fabulous! 🙂

  • Kelly Edgar - Your cruise experience looks and sounds so amazing! Those locations look so dreamy to. What a wonderful adventure.

  • Adriana - OMG this looks so amazing! I haven’t been on a cruise but I like the idea of a small cruise.

  • Akamatra - I would love to go on cruise anywhere! But hubby gets really sick on water and so this isn’t happening for us. Love your photos!

  • Jennifer - Ug, yes! I once got sick, but I’m ok on the cruise ships. There were a few people with those patches on to stave off nausea.

  • Elizabeth O - This cruise looks so relaxing and romantic. I find a cruise is like a lovely adventure, if you dont get seasick at least!

  • Scott - We haven’t done any small-ship ones (yet), only large ones. Although…we have been looking at a couple that go through Europe. Maybe soon!

  • Jennifer - We did the Windstar one where it goes from Istanbul to Athens. It was a FABULOUS trip. They have so many that go through Europe also. Take the plunge! 😉

  • Paula Tran - This sounds like such a great time. I really want to go on a cruise someday and your post convinced me that smaller cruises are the way to go.

  • matthew - The cruise looks so cool; i have’t gone on a small cruise before, will definitely try this someday.

  • Ann F. Snook-Moreau - My husband and I are going on our first cruise next month. It’s a large ship, but if we like it we might try a small ship the next time!

  • HilLesha - How fun! I have only been on a cruise once and that was a few years ago. It was exciting, but a bit overwhelming, so I’ll probably go on a smaller cruise ship the next time.

  • Jennifer - Yes! The smaller ships are more relaxed and WAY less overwhelming. 🙂

  • Jennifer - Aw! Just having a getaway is fun. <3

  • Jennifer - They really are! <3

  • fashionandstylepolice - That bed looks amazing. I would love to go on a cruise one day. Maybe when the kids are older.

  • Jennifer - Ours are a bit older, and it’s a perfect time to do so! 🙂

  • Candice - Oh man what an awesome ship. I’ll have to pass this on to my sister. She takes cruises all the time!

  • Anna - I had the luck to try a small yacht when I lived in Dubai with my husband, it’s an incredible experience. It wasn’t a long trip, more of a sightseeing but I absolutely got the feeling while reading your post.

  • London Mumma - I have never been on a cruise before god knows why as I hear its the best way to see the world or should I say open ocean.

  • David Elliott - This looks like such a marvelous cruise. I really want to go on one soon and I have never been. I love the water sports platform. Sounds like it would be a ton of fun.

  • suchi - That does look like a really nice cruise to go to. Need to check them out!!

  • Stephanie - My mother in law loves small cruise ships. She finds them so much more personal

  • Chelsea - I’ve always wanted to on a cruise but the thought of be out at sea on a ship but petrifies me so much. I’m not sure why either. I really need to overcome though as I’m missing out! Maybe a small ship cruise would be better for me

  • Blair Villanueva - One of my favorites is cruising, and the advantages of sailing with smaller ships is so much better. You’ve got the chance to mingle with the crew and more prioritized services for sure!

  • Mary Nicole Galbraith - This sounds like such fun! I am a cruise addict, I hate flying, so cruising is my favorite form of travel. I’ve never done a small ship cruise like this before, but I’m going to have to add it to my travel wishlist! Sounds like such a fun experience.

  • Ashley | Honey & Pine Co - I’ve only ever been on one small ship cruise and it was a blast. Most of the time we’ve gone on big cruise lines but the little ones are so much more of a personalized experience.

  • Jennifer - So true!! And I love the name of your business. Honey & Pine sounds lovely and homey! 🙂

  • Jennifer - It really is! Thanks for stopping in, Mary! 🙂

  • Michele Dennis - I have never went on a cruise before, mainly due to a fear of open waters and not being able to see the shore…lol! However, I’ve always wanted to go on one. I think I’d like to start out small like a sunset dinner cruise and maybe work my way up from there. You really make the small ship cruises sound so nice and personable!😊

  • Cianie - I would loveeeee to travel with you! You always post some amazing photography!

  • Iva Ursano - Never ever ever never in a bajillion years will you get me on a cruise, let alone small ship cruise…hell no!! But I’m glad you loved it and had fun!..lol

  • Jennifer - Whaaaaat?? You seem fun and adventurous. It really is an amazing time. I definitely know they aren’t for everyone, though. I get it! 😉

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