Luxury Hotels


Mark Symonds really wanted, when he was a teenager back in the English Midlands, to be an airline pilot. But a once in a lifetime migraine scuppered that. Next, how about the Merchant Navy? They took him, he left school, packed his bags and he was off, to Singapore and a new life.

For the last six years he’s been a Captain with Windstar, the luxury cruise company ultimately owned by Philip Anschutz, Colorado’s most successful businessman whose interests range from hotels (The Broadmoor) to trains, and sports to entertainment. He may be mature but he’s incredibly savvy when it comes to innovative investment. When he bought what is now Windstar Star Legend he sliced it in two, added a new centre bit and thus extended it from 134m to 159.6m, with capacity upped from 208 to 312 passengers. The ship, mind you, has been a chameleon since she was commissioned, in 1990, as Royal Viking Queen, since when she has also sailed as Kloster, Royal Odyssey and Seabourn Legend. Anshutz bought her in 2015.

As Captain of Star Legend, Captain Symonds works roughly three months on and three months off, when he catches up with all the DIY tasks his wife and 14 year-old daughter have been accruing. Sometimes they cruise with him, and the fact that the yacht is currently doing weekly schedules Barcelona to Civittavecchia, for Rome, and then back again makes proximity to UK definitely agreeable.

Onboard, Simmonds is automatically on the bridge for all movements in and out of ports – an open-door policy means the bridge is often a passenger point of contact. There are 225 passengers on this particular weeklong cruise, which more than justifies the company’s faith in attracting business during winter (90% of those onboard seem to be American).

Girlahead boarded Star Legend in Barcelona and she was immediately impressed by the friendliness of all the crew, and by her cabin – called, as in universal cruise lingo, a ‘suite’. See it, below. What makes in stand out is the colour scheme, taupe and soft teal, plenty of mirrors and pale wood. There is more than enough storage for two, whose typically-enormous suitcase can easily fit under the bed. Toiletries are L’Occitane. Temperature is easy to control. The bed, as was soon discovered, is amazingly addictive….. see Suite 608, below: