When we spoke with the chef, he made a point of telling us that the galley welcomes special requests, with a day's notice. You might ask for Indian or Indonesian food -- or perhaps just some mac 'n' cheese if your tummy is feeling a bit homesick. We checked in with some vegan diners onboard who seemed very pleased with the special meals the chef was providing. Windstar has a catalog of 50 vegan recipes that they offer by request. We also spoke with a gluten-free diner, who felt she'd been well looked-after.
AmphorA (Deck 3): AmphorA, the main dining room on Star Legend, is generally open for dinner only (usually starting at 7 p.m.), with open seating. In Alaska (at least during June sailings), the venue also opens for breakfast and the occasional lunch because there's not enough indoor seating in the upstairs Veranda to accommodate everyone on inclement days when alfresco dining is not possible. It's a beautiful and comfortable room that's decorated in white and gold with cherry wood accents. There were plenty of tables for two and four as well as larger tables to accommodate groups. Service was generally good although, on a few occasions, our water glass went dry for longer than we would have liked.
Menus usually offered five starters, including a mixed green salad. Changing appetizers included smoked duck, vol-au-vent pastry with wild mushrooms, salmon tataki with cauliflower mousse, ceviche with coconut milk, panzanella (Italian bread and tomato salad) and escargots in cognac. There were also two soups every night.
A highlight of every evening are the two James Beard Foundation menu items -- one appetizer and one main course. Items come from chefs across the United States and might include a mushroom polpettine, chicken liver parfait or a tomato and mozzarella salad as an appetizer and seared sea scallops, marinated grilled lamb rack or cod with leeks and chorizo as entree options.
Including the James Beard Foundation choices, the five nightly main-course offerings featured fish, seafood, beef, lamb, pork, poultry and vegetarian items. Traditional dishes included rack of lamb, chicken cordon bleu and sole meuniere, while more creative options were lamb "lollipops" marinated in yogurt and tandori spices, a ridiculously good lobster risotto, smoked-paprika rubbed steak with blue-cheese butter, soba noodles in broth with julienned vegetables, biryani (an Indian rice dish) and melt-in-your-mouth langoustine tail served with a puree of ginger and apple. Vegetarian options included eggplant rollatini, veggie "meatballs" with parsnip puree and tomato broth and beet risotto with fennel, creme fraiche and Madeira wine. A trio of "Classics" -- grilled North Atlantic salmon fillet, grilled Black Angus sirloin steak and grilled free-range chicken breast -- were offered every night.
Typically two or three desserts are available (usually with one sugar-free), plus ice creams and a cheese plate. Some of our favorites were berry cobbler, a wicked chocolate bread pudding, tiramisu, sticky pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream plus a strawberry mille-feuille layered with custard.
When the venue is open for other meals, the breakfast offers the same a la carte menu as what's offered in the Veranda -- eggs Benedict, French toast, buttermilk pancakes and waffles. The lunch is more comprehensive with a small plates section of appetizers, soup, salads and hot dog, hamburger and chicken breast; a brunch selection of eggs a la carte, chicken soup, spaghetti, a turkey panini and fresh fruit; and a large plate selection that changes but might include fried calamari and octopus, beef bourguignon, chicken schnitzel and stuffed eggplant.
Veranda (Deck 7, aft): Buffet breakfast and lunch are served at Veranda, which features open-air seating both aft and directly in front of the restaurant in a covered area of Deck 7 (between the staircase and the restaurant). There is also indoor seating next to the buffet area, which can get crowded at peak dining times or in the event of unpleasant weather.
Breakfast is served from 7 to 9:30 a.m. For the first meal of the day, expect to find fruit and yogurt, a variety of breads and pastries, smoked salmon, cheese and cold cuts, oatmeal, porridge, cold cereals, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, roasted potatoes and a cooked-to-order egg station. We particularly appreciated the fresh orange juice, squeezed daily. Table menus inform passengers they can order items such as eggs Benedict, French toast, waffles, banana-chocolate pancakes and breakfast burritos from their waiter.
We liked that items that often suffer on the buffet line (glued-together pancakes, anyone?) were offered to-order. But if you're a grab-and-go type, this may frustrate you. We suspect that many passengers opted to order room-service breakfast, so we never found a last-minute mob scene here on port mornings.
The lunch buffet, usually open from noon to 2 p.m., offers a number of prepared salads, antipasti, a salad bar with more than a dozen components, three hot dishes and three sides; a chef-manned station for carving meat or making items like fajitas and stir-fries, cold cuts and charcuterie; and a selection of cheeses, fruits and desserts. There's also a tabletop menu to order fish of the day, burgers (beef, chicken or vegetarian), hot dogs and other hot sandwiches.
Examples of salads included pasta salads, Caesar salad with beef or chicken, corn and pecan salad, Hoisin duck salad and Thai cucumber salad. Hot buffet dishes ranged from beef stroganoff to rabbit stew, minute steak and grilled chicken. Dessert included cookies (oatmeal, peanut butter or chocolate chip), two flavors of ice cream, petits fours, a pie, cheesecake or fruit tart, and a warm offering, such as bread pudding.
Wait staff was usually plentiful at Veranda during both breakfast and lunch.
Candles (Deck 7): In the evenings, Veranda converts into Candles, a romantic steakhouse and seafood emporium where you can dine alfresco while watching the sunset. Reservations are a must, and passengers are only allowed to dine here once per cruise unless tables are going empty (get on the waitlist if you crave a repeat visit).
A previous reviewer noted that there was some engine noise when the ship was sailing, but we didn't find this bothersome. Glass panels above the rails do a good job of blocking wind; however, if either of these things might be an issue for you, you might want to make reservations for one of the evenings when the ship is in port late.
The menu is the same each evening, with starters including beet salad with goat cheese, walnuts, mint and honey; a wedge Caesar; prosciutto-wrapped shrimp with apricot barbecue sauce, served in shot glasses; and a roasted portobello mushroom with olive tapenade. Mains are lamb chops, Black Angus filet mignon, Black Angus New York strip steak, a massive veal chop, seafood skewer, grilled sea bass, herb-crusted chicken breast, fish of the day and a vegetarian item of the day (which is different from AmphorA's veg offering).
Three sauces are offered with the mains, and there's a choice of five side dishes (the roasted potatoes with Parmesan and prosciutto are worthy diet-busters). For dessert, you can order red velvet cake, creme brulee with a chocolate twist or sugar-free orange panna cotta.
Our dishes were well conceived and prepared, with steaks cooked exactly as ordered. The intimate size of the venue assured a good wait-staff-to-guest ratio, and our server was top-notch.
Deck Barbecue (Decks 7 and 8): Windstar throws a heck of a party in the form of its once-per-cruise deck barbecue. For the best view of the entertainers and the crew line dance after the dinner rush, grab a table on Deck 8 near the Star Bar. You'll have a terrific view of the pool/hot tub area, which is covered with wood flooring and transformed into a stage from which one of the ship's duos performs. If you're a chowhound, stick to Deck 7 where the buffet is arrayed.
Signature items include seafood paella, roast suckling pig, grilled lobster tails paired with grilled steak, grilled marinated chicken, sauteed local fish and two kinds of crab. Cold offerings included a selection of breads, salad bar, grilled vegetables and other antipasti, prosciutto carved from the leg, stuffed avocados, cheeses and fresh fruits. The dessert buffet featured brownies, croque-en-bouche (a mountain of little cream puffs held together with caramel), cheesecake, several flavors of mini-cupcakes, lemon bars, sponge cake layered with strawberries and whipped cream, plus additional varieties of cakes.
Yacht Club (Deck 8): The Yacht Club is a central meeting place on the ship. Head there in the mornings for a coffee and continental breakfast (pastries, bread, yogurt/granola parfaits). In the afternoon you'll find cookies, desserts (mini-cupcakes, cheesecake, chocolate tart) and seven creative sandwich options like apple, Brie and turkey on a croissant, roast beef and cheddar cheese on a ciabatta roll or a tomato, fresh mozzarella and pesto panini. All the sandwiches can be heated on a sandwich press, if you desire.
Room Service: Complimentary in-suite dining is available 24/7. We called for room-service breakfast almost every morning because it was so pleasant to eat in our spacious cabin. The food was delivered hot, and we never had a mistake in our order; although on port days, it tended to take more like 40 minutes for the food to arrive rather than the promised 20 to 30 minutes.
The breakfast menu includes standards, like eggs any way accompanied by bacon, sausage and potatoes, oatmeal, a granola-yogurt parfait, bagels with smoked salmon and fruit. On the fancier side, the Nutella-stuffed French toast and eggs Benedict were particularly good.
Midday and evening menus include a soup of the day, salads (Cobb and Caesar), burgers and sandwiches and dinner entrees from AmphorA -- plus a decadently good chocolate cake. Late-night snackers can order items including quesadillas or popcorn. When we called one night for hot chocolate, the person taking our order asked if we might like some cookies, too. Yes, please!