It's All About the Boat
Europe - Western Mediterranean
FYIMy husband and I have never gone on a cruise in our lives. We have traveled widely, but never with a group. We have pretty high standards for food, lodging and wine, although we have experienced everything from $5 a night rooms in the Third World to Relais and Chateau lodging. We have also done some bareboating. That said, we give a thumbs up to the Windstar. It really is an "experience" and is probably vastly different from the large cruise ships.
We loved the idea of the boat being under sail. That means there isn't much deck room and all of the public spaces are tiny. If there is bad weather, the options for hanging out anywhere but your cabin are extremely limited.
The cabins are small, but we felt were efficiently designed so that nothing seemed cluttered. Staff was great and the cabins were quickly cleaned in the mornings. We got used to the port holes, but you will definitely feel the rocking of the ship, particularly in More
high seas. Wear a patch!
The food quality varied. Breakfasts were good and very generousfresh eggs, lots of fruit, croissants and smoked salmon. Lunch (which we had on the ship once) was surprisingly good. I ordered off the menu and had salmon in a buerre blanc sauce with fresh vegetables which was better than any of the evening entrees. There were a few instances when it seemed that the entire ships decided to eat at the same time, but the crew handled it well. We waited for a table (for two) just once.
Dinner, with several choices for appetizer, soup, salad, main course and dessert, is slightly above average with some hits on the really good side. The wine selections were below average (standard California mid-range) that were over-priced. Alcohol in general is expensive, with cocktails in the $10 range. There are "packages" and daily specials. They do allow you to bring wine on board the ship and charge a $15 corkage fee. That seemed a bargain.
The type of people on the cruise surprised us. We had hoped it would be a mature but adventure-minded group. However, there were older kids (around 10), party animals (and boy, did you know they were aroundtook up all the lounge chairs and generally made spectacles of themselves) who you would expect would be more at home on a Carnival cruise ship. The "informational" sessions about the ports of call was very minimal. It would have been interesting to have someone with some background in art history to give a quick third-grade level style class on some of the sights, since we were cruising through some important archeological sites in the Greek Isles.
We did a variety of things in port. We rented a car and used a map on our own twice and seemed to have done more than anyone else that we talked with. We paid for the cruise excursion once andalthough a bit on the cheesy sidethought it was worth it. We "missed the boat" one day and walked around the port city, which was okay, but not great. We did a private guide that was pre-arranged and felt that it gave us a very unique experience. The "day at sea" was pretty boring and you don't have many options except to eat and read (or watch a dvd in your room) or get up at the crack of dawn and place dibs on a lounge chair on deck and bake in the sun. (The pool is about the size of a large spait fit 2 to 3 comfortably.)
We didn't do the water sports from the back of the boat, since the two times they were available, we were on land.
We felt the good things about the Windstar definitely outweighed any complaints. With all four sails up as we sliced through the water, the Windstar may not be the biggest and flashiest way to go, but it certainly is the most romantic. Less
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