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The Food on Windstar Cruises: What to Expect

The food (and drinks) on Windstar cruises is exceptional. Here is what to expect on your cruise and what you might find in each dining room.

Having just gotten back from my first ever Windstar Cruise, I wanted to write about the food. Windstar is the only cruise line endorsed by the James Beard Foundation, quite an accomplishment. That, to me, translates to some high-end choices, all included in the initial cruise cost. I didn’t have to pay for specialty restaurants (one dinner is included for all guests) and I didn’t have to get dressed up or make a specific dinner time. It is that relaxing and man… is the food excellent! Here is what to expect from the food on Windstar Cruises. 

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Candles

Hand-cut beef and market-fresh seafood are the Hallmarks of Windstar Cruise’s specialty dining room. The meal begins with a basket of bread and perfectly salted bread. It is so delicious. Then, the signature starters range from Caesar salad, butter-poached shrimp, New England clam chowder, and Season 14 “Top Chef” Annie Pettry’s tomato & watermelon salad, which is the one I chose. Red onion, ricotta cheese, mint, and a meaty heirloom tomato enhanced the chunky watermelon cubes and seasonal tomatoes. It was divine!

I chose a 6 oz. filet mignon with sides of roasted parmesan & prosciutto potatoes and creamed spinach for my main course. The steak was seared on the outside with crispy edges, had much flavor, and melted in my mouth. I paired my steak with the béarnaise sauce, creamy and wonderful. A trio of gourmet salts is available to enhance your chef’s creations. I also had sautéed asparagus and broccolini from my husband’s sides.

My favorite part of the meal was the creamed spinach because not many places can do it right. This one was the proper ratio of spinach to cream. I wanted more but was too embarrassed to ask.

Note: The side items are served in smaller dishes on the side. My steak was in the midst of a huge plate. I’m convinced that Windstar just likes to do dishes because we always had a table full of them. I added everything to my plate, so the picture was prettier. Don’t be surprised if your meal doesn’t get served looking precisely like this. 

Cuadro 44

Cuadro 44 is an eclectic Spanish tapas restaurant designed with James Beard Foundation-recognized Chef Anthony Sasso. It is the second Star Legend specialty restaurant. Cuadro 44 has a festive atmosphere but a hint of romance and sophistication. Reservations are required.

A few seats overlooking the kitchen are saved for guests, so you can watch the food being prepared by the talented and attentive staff and culinary team. We watched the chef and staff interact with those guests, and both parties were having a ball.

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My husband and I began our meal at Cuadro 44 with a few choices from the menu’s tapas (small plates) portion. They included croquetas, Iberico ham, grilled chorizo, and a potato tortilla with a parsley crème fraîche. They also served us a thick bread spread with quince paste. A few of the things we passed on were marinated olives and anchovies, charred Portuguese octopus, and a Catalan salad.

If you aren’t familiar with Iberico ham, it is luscious, expensive, and full of flavor 24-month aged pork leg from Southern Spain. It pairs nicely with the rich potato dish and Arborio rice balls. We enjoyed a glass of sangria with the appetizers, which can also be ordered by the pitcher.

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Eddie chose the Pork Belly with grilled leeks and pearl onions for his main course, and I picked Moroccan Cauliflower with hazelnuts and mint. My dish was a mix of cauliflower and broccoli, with lots going on, making it hard to decipher in the dimly lit restaurant. I just dove in and fell in love with every ingredient that married together perfectly with the rest. Don’t miss the Piquillo Peppers side dish; very original and yummy.

For dessert, we both chose Churros & Chocolate with a salted hot chocolate sauce that was to die for. Seriously, you may be licking the bowl on this one.

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Main Dining Room: AmphorA

Here is where Windstar differs the most from any cruise I’ve been on. The main dining room, AmphorA on the Windstar Legend, had the best food on the ship. Hands down, every meal was wonderful. And before we talk about the menu items, I need to mention that casual dress is acceptable, and you can come to the dining room whenever you want during operating hours. There are no early or late dining times, no standing in line waiting to be seated—this is anytime dining is done right. And the meals are served on Rosenthal china and drinks in Riedel stemware. Boom!

Amphora features a changing daily menu, typically including a steak, chicken, lamb, pork, fish, and a vegetarian entree.

Of all the appetizers I ate on my week-long cruise, the chicken liver pate with crackers pictured here was the best. I’m still dreaming about how good this pate was and how good the pickled onions worked with it. A close runner-up was the twice-baked goat cheese soufflé—so luscious and pungent.

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Other noteworthy appetizers at AmphorA were the ceviche, Polpettine meatballs, and crab-cake with fresh radish slices. The layered mushroom puff pastry app was one of the best. Mushrooms must be prevalent in St. Maarten and where the ship gets its bounty of food because we had a few choices of mushroom-based dishes at every meal. That pleased me to no end.

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AmphorA’s soups and salads changed daily, but French Onion Soup and Caesar salad were staples. My husband loved the Caesar salad so much that he had it every night. Variation isn’t always the key in his mind.

For main courses, there are five to six choices nightly. Let your server make recommendations; they taste everything. We took their word for it often. The grilled filet of branzino with potato confit and herb-roasted chicken and truffle risotto were both delightful choices for my non-beef eating hubby. I chose steak dishes many nights because they were great cuts of meat with yummy sauces. The pork tenderloin and butter-poached lobster tail were other dinners I greatly approved of.

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I was hosted by Windstar cruises on a familiarization cruise to write this and other articles. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.

Dinner, Then Dessert

Let’s talk pasta. Often cruise ship pasta is dry and uneventful. The exact opposite was true on Windstar; even after two servings appeared basic, they were both delicious and addictive. I was 100% pleased with my pasta choices each time.

If I had to pick my two favorite dinners, they would be the pesto pistachio pasta dish (the green one shown below) and sliced beef over potatoes. I 10/10 recommend the Indian meal, too.

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And then for dessert—most cruisers favorite part of the meal. I think we had a creme brûlée and a soufflé daily, and both were divine. The tiramisu was another good choice; light and fluffy, plus not too sweet. My favorite desserts were the mango topped milk chocolate mousse (AmphorA) and dark chocolate ganache bar with sea-salt caramel ice cream at Candles. It was decadent and glamorous, plus it tasted every bit as special as it looked.

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In-Room Dining

Room service is available 24/7 on the Star Legend. There is a breakfast menu, lunch and dinner menu, and a few items on the late-night menu. Eddie and I ordered Chicken Quesadillas one afternoon, which arrived within 20 minutes. The quesadilla was loaded with chicken and cheese, plus had sides of salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. We were pleased.

Other items on the room service menu were Cobb salads, hand-cut turkey club sandwich, crab/spinach/artichoke dip, a cheese plate, and several more.

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Breakfast Option: Veranda

The Veranda by day, Candles by night (though elevated with tablecloths and lights) is where Star Legend guests are served breakfast and lunch. It is located at the aft of deck seven.

When the Veranda breakfast menu features Eggs Benedict, I will order that the majority of the time. The Windstar culinary team knows how to make perfectly poached eggs and damn good hollandaise. The specialty menu also had waffles, French toast, and pancakes for those craving sweet dishes.

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Or, you can go through the buffet, always a good and quick way to do breakfast. There were areas with sliced meats, cheeses, fruit, granola, smoked salmon, and yogurt. Another part offered a bounty of pastries, biscuits & gravy, and any bread you could ever want. Cooked-to-order eggs and omelets were a highlight, as was the unlimited fresh-squeezed orange juice.

The Star Legend waitstaff will fill your plates from the buffet offerings. I was thrilled to have turkey sausage as a healthier breakfast meat option, while bacon and sausage links, breakfast potatoes, and hash browns were also available. The Brits should be pleased because the beloved baked beans were also to jazz up the European morning dishes. These ladies in my picture made sure that every need was met each morning, with plenty of coffee, juice, soda, and tea.

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Veranda has indoor and outdoor seating, with most of our cruisers always dining outside. Use caution when the winds are strong as things tend to blow away or spillover. As you can see, the indoor table setting is beautiful and still afford views of the incredible scenery.

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Lunch option

Veranda had a few main course choices, various salads, side dishes, and carved gourmet meats daily. This was in addition to a whole counter of other items that I never made it around to see and a host of toothsome desserts.

The Indian meal with Chicken Tikka was a crowd-pleaser, but the best lunch dish I heard talked about around the ship was the Mexican lunch buffet. This taco, tortilla chip, or bowl option had several types of meat, refried beans, cheese, cheese sauce, and an arsenal of fixings; all made to order.

If you see Moussaka, be sure to indulge in this very pleasing Greek dish.

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Don’t worry. You won’t be without calorie-laden gourmet desserts or sugar-free options at any time during the cruise. I preferred the lunch-time small portioned sweet treats to the dinner servings because I could try two or three and not feel guilty about having more than one typical portion. Pictured here were my favorite after-lunch options. The iced chocolate brownie (or cake) was sensational, and the daily mousse, light and fluffy, and who can pass up a classic creme brûlée? Windstar, thanks for adding to my waistline on my vacation, and I genuinely mean that.

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Star Grill

Though I never made it over to the Star Grill (by Steven Raichlen), the menu sounded great. Star Grill is across from the Windstar Legend’s outdoor bar. I did catch a photo of a cheeseburger (plus bacon) with fries going out to a passenger for you to see.

Several times, I eyed the daily quiche and rotisserie chicken, but the lunch buffet always won out. Thanks, Windstar, for having an outdoor lunch option and some easy eats and tasty-sounding salads as an alternative option.

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Coffee Bar: Yacht Club Café

An almost hidden gem is the Yacht Club Café, on deck eight forward, past the outdoor bar. The café is open from 6 AM to 6 PM and offers assorted coffee drinks, teas, and about a dozen selections of things like smoothies, fruit cups, granola, and biscotti. Speaking of biscotti, you’ve got to try one. It looks like a glazed strip of bacon, possibly topped with pecans or something, but is truly biscotti. A little chewy, not too much sugar, and crunchy goodness are the best ways to describe this tasty little nugget.

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There are also cakes, puddings, and other assorted dessert choices in the Yacht Club Café, which can be enjoyed in the beautiful library with seats overlooking the ocean. It was my favorite place to be on the Star Legend. I spent plenty of time reading, doing social media, working puzzles, playing games, and chatting with other passengers there.

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A Special Windstar Offering

As if Windstar wasn’t feeding us well enough, they went to the extreme with a beachside bbq luncheon for all guests on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. From steel-drum music to a miraculous spread of grilled meats, tofu skewers, macaroni & cheese, vegetables, seafood paella, fruit kabobs, cookies, and more, nobody left hungry.

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I cannot imagine how much trouble it was to tender (ship by small boat to a pier from our cruise ship anchored in the ocean) every dish, utensil, tablecloth, and food item to shore to serve us. It was much appreciated and very fun, plus the food was quite tasty.

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Drinks

Windstar has two choices for saving money on drinks during your cruise. Topmast Discoveries Beer & Wine Package will run you $49 per day/per guest, or for $10 more per day, you can upgrade to the Captain’s Exclusive Beverage Package.

Topmast is a package with 33 varieties of intriguing wines by the glass and domestic and imported beer. The Captain’s Exclusive also includes the glasses of wine and beer, plus cordials, aperitifs, cocktails, and liqeuers—even the good stuff. A big surprise is that you can even drink from your stateroom mini-bar with this option at no additional cost.

Both packages also offer 30% off bottled wines. Wine regions include Spain, Italy, France, New Zealand, Chile, USA, and more.

To say we ate well, meals fit for kings and queens, on the Star Legend would be an understatement.

Check out these posts for fun things to do at cruise ports:

Guide to Packing for a Cruise

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Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

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