Review: “Dreams of Tahiti” cruise on Windstar’s Star Breeze

Just say the word, “Tahiti,” and, for many, it instantly evokes images of serene islands rising from sparkling waters in every hue of blue, palm trees swaying over pristine, white sands. Having just returned from our first time there, I can tell you it’s just as you imagined.

Pam and I made the 7,000-mile-plus, one-way trip from Florida to Tahiti’s capital city, Papeete, in two segments: Miami to San Francisco, then aboard French bee’s nonstop flight from San Francisco to Papeete.

We were in French Polynesian to take the seven-night, “Dreams of Tahiti” cruise on Windstar’s Star Breeze, the power yacht that just replaced Windstar’s sailing ship, “Wind Spirit” after a long run serving the Society Islands (the collective name for the 118 islands that comprise French Polynesia).

As a cruise line, Windstar has cruised here for almost 40 years, and one of the reasons Star Breeze was brought in is that she more than doubles the guest capacity of Wind Spirit, an indication of how in-demand Tahiti is as a cruise destination.

In late 2022, we took a Caribbean holiday cruise on Star Legend, the sister yacht to Star Breeze, so we were very familiar with the layout. We learned the previous cruise to ours had encountered stormy weather, which forced it to miss several ports of call (November to April is the rainy season). Fortunately, the Tahitian gods were smiling, and we had near-perfect weather the entire time.

Boarding and Disembarkation: 10/10

Guest capacity on Star Breeze is 312 — there were 254 of us on this cruise — so getting on and off the ship is relatively painless, one of many advantages to small ship cruising. One word of advice: Boarding commences at 1 pm, so no reason to get there early and wait in their shaded baggage area. Located some 1,200 miles south of the equator, halfway between Australia and Los Angeles, expect it to be hot, and humid.

You can make advance arrangements with Windstar if you need transport to the airport, and they also offer a post-cruise, three-night stay at Moorea’s Hotel Manava Beach Resort and Spa, which several people from our cruise opted to do. Uber hasn’t come to the islands yet, but taxis are plentiful. Be aware most don’t take credit cards, so you’ll need cash (American money is accepted pretty much everywhere) or Polynesian francs.

By the way, if you do arrive early — and many flights do — there is a large shopping market near the dock, as well as restaurants and bars.

Design and Appearance: 10/10

While Windstar’s power yachts like Star Breeze are almost 30 years old, it looks new. It had a major makeover a few years ago that added a whole new midsection and other upgrades, plus it is routinely refreshed every two years.

Getting around its eight decks is a “breeze,” so to speak. Most days, you’ll be topside on decks 7 and 8, where you’ll find the Yacht Club, a lounge with panoramic windows — perfect for relaxing, reading, meeting friends or enjoying coffee and light snacks from the bar. Also on these decks are the pool and hot tubs, the Star Grill and bar and plenty of seating.

Aft on deck 7 you’ll find the Veranda, serving breakfast and lunch for dining inside or al fresco. One deck below is Compass Rose, hosting nightly entertainment, and on deck 5, the multi-purpose Lounge. The main dining room is Amphora, located on deck 3.

Just like a yacht, the vibe here is relaxed and informal. Capt. Terry and his officers circulate freely among the guests — they even an open bridge policy, and you are welcome to visit and chat with the officers on duty. Clothing-wise, you can dispense with the formalities. Country club or island chic is the order of the day — in the heat you’ll want to dress for comfort.

Stateroom: 9/10

It’s an all-suite ship, and ours was a balcony stateroom on deck 6. Like many older vessels, it featured a step-out, French balcony that let in the Polynesian trade winds. Our upgraded bath had double sinks and a walk-in shower. There was a walk-in closet, along with a seating area beside the bed.

While there were both American and European plugs, as well as USB connections, as always, we pack a power strip for our electronics. There is a nice selection of choices on your stateroom TV, including in-demand movies/TV shows and music.

Sono, our stateroom attendant, refreshed the room twice daily. One of the nice “extras” Windstar provided were samples of local Tahitian products, such as vanilla sandalwood soap (vanilla is a major crop in the islands), Monoi Tiare moisturizing oil, made from the tiare flower (the Tahitian gardenia), and perfume made from Tapanier flowers as we could “indulge in the enchantment of your French Polynesian experience when you return home.”

Note you won’t receive a copy of the Daily Planner on your bed — it’s available digitally on the Windstar app or your stateroom TV. If you need a hard copy, guest services can provide it.

Food: 9/10

Star Breeze offers a full range of dining options, including two specialty restaurants — Candles and the Spanish-themed Cuadro 44 — plus the main dining room, Amphora. There’s also the more casual breakfast/lunch venue, Veranda and the eclectic Star Grill on deck 8. Candles and Veranda share the same space, aft on deck 7, and feature both open air and inside dining (Veranda by day and Candles at night). It’s a good idea to make your specialty reservations after you board.

The menus offer something for every taste and do a good job of incorporating local favorites as well. Windstar has a partnership with the James Beard Foundation, and menus feature a James Beard selection as an option.

Light snacks are available in the Yacht Club and soft-serve ice cream is adjacent to the Star Grill. I liked to start my day with Swedish Pancakes in Veranda, and end in Amphora, where the food is uniformly excellent. When late night hunger strikes, there’s room service 24/7 as well.

Excursions: 10/10

While enjoying a five-star vacation at sea is a destination in itself, guests are here to experience everything French Polynesia has to offer, and Windstar’s excursion lineup has something for everyone.

As you would expect, water sports are front and center, with many opportunities to snorkel in some of the world’s most beautiful, crystal-clear waters. Other high-interest tours include visits to black pearl farms, vanilla plantations, white sand (and black sand) beaches and sightseeing/shopping.

Along with the excursions, Windstar does an commendable job of highlighting the local culture. We were joined on our cruise by Pearl, a Tahitian cultural ambassador, who entertained and educated us about the islands, as well as Tihoti, who spoke about the rich history behind Tahitian tattoos.

Windstar also staged two highlight events on private motus (islands): A beach BBQ and a fire dancing demonstration and sunset dinner. In both cases, it was a first-rate experience for the guests.

Service: 10/10

With a crew/guest ratio that approached 1:1 on this cruise, we felt pampered. For anything we needed, someone was always close at hand to assist. Special kudos to the Maitre d’ Hotel, Karnick, who took great care of us in Amphora (coincidentally, he also served in the same role on our Star Legend cruise) and Sono, our stateroom attendant. Guest Services was also a big help for guests who needed assistance with WiFi.

Entertainment: 9/10

When it comes to small ship cruising, guests have to adjust their expectations. Typically, you don’t find big stage productions, Broadway shows or even casinos. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be entertained after a day of excursions.

Star Breeze featured nightly entertainment in Compass Rose, the lounge/bar area on deck 6, where the house band Aplooza played guests requests and on one occasion, performed a tribute to The Beatles. Pearl also played here as well, offering up music from her native Tahiti.

On one day of the cruise, the Tahitian group The Mammas and The Pappas played while Tahitian women created wrist corsages for the ladies from tropical flowers and demonstrated how to wear a pareo, the traditional wraparound skirt found in the islands.

For water sports enthusiasts, one of the ship’s most popular features is the Water Sports Platform aft on deck 6. Here, guests are welcome to swim, paddleboard, kayak or just chill on a float while Star Breeze is anchored off one of the islands. Now this really is how the other half lives on their yachts.

Overall Rating: 9.6/10

For guests who want to immerse themselves into the culture of these storied islands, Windstar draws on their long experience here to create unforgettable memories. You’ll discover each island visited — from Tahiti and Moorea to Riatea, Huahine and Bora Bora — has its own unique charm and personality.

By including several overnights, you’ll have an opportunity to do some exploring on your own. Don’t miss sampling the local fruits and cuisine — we bought coconut bread from a street vendor and it was the best bread we’ve ever had. Although Tahitian and French are mostly what’s spoken, English is also widely in evidence as well, and the islanders themselves couldn’t be more warm and welcoming.

Your fare includes everything except alcohol, gratuities, laundry, shore excursions and Internet. If you need extra pampering, there’s is a full-service spa onboard, where I treated myself to a shave and facial.

There’s no better way to see this magical place than on a boutique cruise ship — make that, yacht — like Star Breeze. One visit and you’ll be under its enchanted spell.

PHOTOS credit Gerry Barker

  • Star Breeze
  • Snorkeling in the island’s pristine waters
  • Visiting a motu (private island)
  • One of the pearl farms
  • Waterfall at Faarumai on Tahiti
  • Example of a pareo
  • Scene of the beach BBQ
  • Fire dancers perform for guests
  • Beach on Moorea, with Windstar anchored in Cook’s Bay

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