We flew to Barcelona five days before our cruise and stayed in an apartment we rented. We had used miles to upgrade to Business Elite on Delta, and the extra for the upgradeable ticket was definitely worth it, as we were rested and able to hit the ground running when we landed in Barcelona.
We boarded the Wind Star on October 20 at about 1:30 PM. We immediately saw some of the cruise from our May 2006 trip from Istanbul to Athens, and, amazingly, they remembered us by name!
Embarkation was smooth; we were handed champagne and appetizers and shown to our cabin, where our luggage had already been delivered. The cabins are small, but very well-designed, with plenty of cupboard and drawer storage, but not quite enough hanging clothes space. The bathrooms are well-laid out and although big enough for only one person at a time are efficient.
There was a new chef onboard who was East Indian and that influence was apparent in the menu offerings. The food was always well presented, served at the appropriate temperature, and delivered timely, but it wasn't as good as on our first cruise. My husband is allergic to legumes, including peanuts and lentils, so menu selections were a particular challenge for him, given the heavy use of legumes in Indian foods. Another odd thing I noticed on this trip, but not on the prior one, was that it was quite obvious when the Chef was serving dishes using "leftovers" from the prior day. I'm sure it's a fine thing to not waste food and that many lines do this, but I've never noticed it on any of the other four cruises we've taken.
We visited Cartagena, Almeria, Cadiz (from which we took a shore excursion to Seville), Ceuta (Spanish Morocco - rough seas got us into port 5 hours late so the shore excursion was canceled; a pity, but Morocco deserves a trip of its own anyway!), Portimao and ended up in Lisbon, where we had also rented an apartment for another five days. With the exception of Portimao, the tour guides were excellent. The young lady there was knowledgeable, but she absolutely wouldn't stop taking for even a few seconds and kept repeating the same things over and over and over to the point that one passenger offered to strangle her! I think the passenger was kidding, but I'm not absolutely certain. ;-)
Although the crew was constantly cleaning, things did not sparkle, primarily because the ship is showing her age and was fully ready for the 3-week drydock that was to take place immediately after our cruise. The other two ships in the line have already undergone extensive refurbishments and at least according to the pictures I've seen are lovely.
The Wind Star earns many points for her crew; each and every person was helpful, courteous, attentive and friendly. We had a new cruise director and hostess (a couple I believe) and both were vast improvements over the folks who had those rules when we sailed the prior year. The music was truly awful - a lone musician who sang and played the keyboards. His repertoire was miniscule and by the third day we had heard every song he knew several times. He was, without a doubt, the weakest link!
We had been eager to see what, if any, changes had taken place since the line was sold to Majestic. The only things we noticed are that gratuities are now added automatically to your bill - we feel this practice is just fine, particularly since Wind Star pricing is quite good for the quality; and, bottles of water were provided free to those leaving the ship for shore excursions. The year before we had to pay $2-$3 per bottle, which we thought was ridiculous given the cost of the shore excursions.
With respect to fellow passengers, it seemed to us that we were younger than many of those onboard. No children and not many people under the age of 50, as nearly as we could tell. Another thing to bear in mind on ship of this size is that since there are so few passengers (less than 150), larger groups have quite an impact on the overall experience. Each time we've sailed on the Wind Star there was a large group (25-50 people) and they made their presence known.
Finally, the very thing that makes the Wind Star so terrific is the reason I couldn't do more than a 7-day trip on her or the Wind Spirit: the gym is really tiny (maybe this changed in drydock?) and there no way other than using the treadmill to actually walk on board.
But for a one-week trip, it is quite lovely and seems to us to be a good value for the money.