Every time I go to the Cruise Critic homepage, I am amazed to see how highly rated this ship is by the members. Today, I decided to go to the individual member reviews because we had quite a disappointing experience on this ship in 2000. I've been curious to see how things could have improved that much to give this ship such a good rating. I don't know how the ratings on Cruise Critic are arrived at, as it appears from the actual member reviews that many of the things that bothered us, are still unimproved in 2004.
Our cruise began in Istanbul, and ended in Athens, and the itinerary was exquisite so certainly nothing to complain about in that category. Yes, as one member noted, there seemed to be big discrepancies in how much people paid for this cruise so one should strike a very good bargain when purchasing their tickets.
It started off rather badly, when other cruise lines had people waiting in the lobby of the hotel to check people in. Windstar did not. We were never contacted by the cruise line and received a call at 8 am the next morning asking why we had not placed our luggage in the hallway the night before. We were still asleep and had absolutely no idea we were to do that. No one had contacted us at all. We hastily packed and went down to the lobby, where we sat in a group that waited a long time for our bus to arrive to take us to the dock. At the dock, we had to ask where to go. No one from the cruise line there to direct us.
The cabins are very small, and we had the misfortune to be placed in one that we had to move out of on the second day. We didn't notice it when we first came on board, because the ship's engines were not running at the time. We spent most of our first evening exploring the ship, dining and later returned to our cabin where we discovered a deafening whine that apparently comes from the proximity of this cabin (and others) to the ship's turbines. We barely slept that night, but when we called guest services the next morning, they weren't at all polite and acted as if we were the first people who had ever complained of this. The steward who helped us move all our things told us this happens all the time, and that they are very aware of which cabins are problems.
The food was very unsatisfactory almost all of the time. We lived in Europe at the time and were shocked at the lack of quality in the preparation of the food. No excuse for this. The open seating policy created an awkward situation several times, particularly at breakfast, when often there was no place to sit down. Don't go on this cruise if you expect elegance as portrayed in the brochure. Casual attire was the dress of everyday, every evening. Polo shirts and khakis at dinnertime. If that's what you want, that's great. But that was not what the brochure suggested.
Yes, they close off the decks very early in the evening. We went out for a stroll one night before dinner and found them roped off and crews busy hosing them down. There are not a lot of places to go on a ship this small.
If you get seasick, beware. We hit very rough seas going into Athens on our last evening and almost no one showed up for dinner. The worst I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Our cabin on the lower deck had its porthole underwater (Yes, underwater!) It was creepy.
Worst of all was a domestic disturbance that happened in the middle of the last night on board. I tried to help out, calling for assistance and could not reach anyone after hours. Couldn't even find a steward in the hallways. I ended up getting the ship's doctor out of bed. She wasn't at all pleased and her handling of the situation was less than appropriate.
We left ship with a very bad taste in our mouths. We will not be travelling on Windstar in future.