I absolutely loved my Windstar trip to Costa Rica. We went Feb/March 2010. The Windstar was really beautiful. It was laid back, and the service was excellent. Average age of the passengers was about 50, but there were couples from 30's to 70's on board. Most people on board are couples with the exception of a very few people traveling with a friend. It is an active trip, and there is no elevator to go from floor to floor. Cabins are all the same with the exception of an "owner's suite". The difference in B cabins versus A cabins is that B cabins are on the lower floor. You will have to climb and extra flight of stairs to get to the public areas. This wasn't a big deal at all as it helps burn off calories from the food. It was an intimate group of about 100 people. We got to know most of the people on board, and it was a very friendly group. There were no children on the trip.
Embarkation was easy. We were on the boat with our paperwork filled out in less than 20 minutes. We were some of the first on board, and there was a snack (sandwiches, fruit, chips & salsa) on the pool deck. Dinners were served in the dining room or Candles on the deck every night. Most people were casually dressed for dinner. They refer to it as "casual elegance". Most men wear polos and khaki pants and women wear sundresses or pants. After the first night, I left my dressy shoes in the room and wore my flip flops with my sundresses. The only restrictions for the dining room are no jeans, sneakers, shorts, or T-Shirts. There were a few people in jeans towards the end of the cruise.
You will need plenty of clothes. It is very hot in Costa Rica in early March. I wished that I had packed more T-shirts, shorts/capri pants, and underwear because I had to get laundry done. Some people got the $89 for the week laundry, which wasn't a bad deal if you wanted to pack lighter. I took at least two showers every day, and on a few days I took three. Leave your jeans at home except for traveling, as it is far too hot to wear jeans.
The room: The bed was really comfortable. The shower had plenty of hot water with excellent water pressure. The shampoo/conditioner/shower gel was really nice. I normally don't use shampoo from hotels, but this was good enough to use. There is a convenient bar that spans most of the room that I ended up hanging up laundry on that I had done in the bathroom sink because I didn't bring enough clothes. Enough said... The vanity is really big, and there is a fold-out make up mirror that we only found on the last day of the trip. There is plenty of storage for clothes and shoes. There are bath robes that were very convenient. The towels were thick and big.
My complaints about the room are minor. The hair dryer was really, really awful. Bring your own, period. The vanity lights weren't the best for getting ready. The ones in the bathroom were fine, but you have to wait for the shower steam to escape. If I had known about the fold out vanity mirror earlier, this probably wouldn't have been an issue.
The gym was small. There were a couple treadmills, an elliptical, a bike, a weight machine, free weights, and some exercise bands. You can also walk the deck. If you are a morning person, I would recommend doing this early in the morning before too many people are out. It is also a great opportunity to see the gorgeous sunrises in the morning. I even saw dolphins out swimming next to the boat one morning when I was walking. On many days, you can swim off the back of the boat when the ship is docked. This was a really neat feature. You can swim out to a float that is tied to the ship. I wouldn't recommend if you are not a decent swimmer if the current is strong. There is a rope that you can use to pull yourself back in if needed. On some days, you can go tubing off the back as well.
The pool/hot tub were small. It is a sailing ship, so there isn't a lot of room for a pool. It is basically big enough to get in to cool off when you are lounging on the deck.
There is a bar in the lounge as well as a pool bar. The drinks were decently priced for a cruise ship. Some people complained, but I didn't see them as being too bad as I am used to NY prices. Martinis were around $8, and most beers were $5. The drinks did not seem watered down. They had an extensive wine list, and prices were the normal 100% mark-up from retail.
Debarkation was very easy. You didn't have to have your luggage ready until 6:30 AM which was really convenient.
We stayed two nights before the cruise at the Ramada Herradura in San Jose, which is recommended by Windstar. It was a decent hotel, but it wasn't really fancy. It was clean and safe. The shower head was too short. I am 5'7", and I had to duck down to wash my hair. Breakfast was included in the price. It was a nice breakfast with an omelet station and lots of fresh fruit. The pool was really big, although it was closed for cleaning when we were there.
We took a city tour in San Jose. It was reasonable (about $50), and it included lunch and a couple museum admissions. If you are coming into town the day before, I would personally recommend siting by the pool and relaxing rather than taking the city tour.
When you leave Costa Rica, you will have to pay an exit tax before you can check into your flight. It's around $20-$25, and it's better to pay cash (US dollars) as credit cards are charged like a cash advance. Almost all places in Costa Rica take US Dollars, although most change is given in CR currency so use small bills to pay. People were very friendly, and I felt very safe the whole time I was there with the exception of downtown San Jose. I didn't feel unsafe, although we were only out during the day in San Jose.
Ports: The ship left out of Puerto Caldera. There really isn't anything here but a small market. I couldn't even find somewhere to buy a bottled water or a soda. There was WIFI at the port, but it didn't work well at all. There is no need to arrive early due to the ship being small and nothing to do at the port. We took a cab down to Punta Arenas, but I wasn't impressed.
San Juan Del Sur - Nicaragua We took the 8 hour all-day tour. It leaves early (around 8 AM) and goes to a craft market, volcano, and a tour of Granada City. You will spend about 3 1/2 hours on the bus round trip. The craft market was less than impressive with junky souvenirs. The volcano is an active volcano. They actually park the buses in backward so they can make a quick escape if needed. If you decide to take this tour, wear comfortable shoes so you can walk to the top of the stairs at the volcano. The volcano was the best part of the tour, although I don't think I would do it again in hindsight. Grenada City was pretty, but there were tons of beggars, including small children. I didn't feel entirely safe in Nicaragua. If you want to pick a day to stay on the boat, I would suggest this day.
Playa del Coco: We took the canopy zip line tour. I had a blast. Many people zip lined, including 20 to 70 year-olds. If you have not zip lined but want to, this is a fun trip. We walked around town a little when we were done. There are cheap internet cafes here if you want to write home.
Quepos: We walked into town in the morning. It was HOT. In retrospect, I would have taken the $2 cab as we were covered in sweat by the time we walked the 1/2 mile into town. There are plenty of souvenir shops in town. We had a great lunch at at a Mexican restaurant. In the afternoon, we took the river tour. This was a nice low-key activity. Monkeys climbed on the boat with us. We saw a lot of different wildlife on this tour.
Bahia Drake: We took the 6 hour rainforest hike. I would not recommend this tour if you are not in decent shape. The hike to the waterfall was fairly strenuous and requires a decent amount of agility to climb and walk over rocks. It was extremely hot. When we reached the waterfall, many people had worn their swimsuits under their clothes and got in the water. I jumped in wearing my clothes because I was sweltering and didn't bring my swimsuit. You will most likely get your shoes wet going over streams, so be prepared. On the hike back from the waterfall, it rained which caused the howler monkeys to howl. This was a really cool experience. We also saw scarlet macaws on the beach portion of the hike. In my opinion, the description of this activity is not well explained on the excursion descriptions. I do not recommend this to anyone who is not in shape.
Curu: We took the 2 hour wildlife tour. Personally, I do not recommend. It was a waste of money. We were walking on roads that cars were driving on. It wasn't exactly a nature hike. We did see some monkeys. Don't waste your money on the tour. You could walk around yourself.
Tortuga Island: I didn't go out as I burn very easily. This is the beach BBQ. Most people seemed to enjoy it. Almost every people got off the ship. I enjoyed a quiet lunch and sat in the shade on the deck. After a very active week, I needed some down time.
Food: The food was really good. There were always healthy options, and I never felt like I over ate. They will cater to your dietary preferences. There were always plenty of vegetarian options. If you don't like the selections on the menu at dinner, you can always order a mixed green salad and grilled fish/steak/chicken with a baked potato or other side.
Breakfast always had a buffet that had yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal, and pastries. The croissants were heavenly. The homemade smoothies at breakfast were one of my favorite things. You can get eggs made to order, including egg beaters or egg white omelets. You can also order off the menu with choices like french toast and eggs benedict. They also had continental breakfast by the pool if you want a smaller breakfast or more coffee.
Lunch was a buffet with a different featured cuisine every day. There were menu options to order as well (hamburgers, grilled fish, sandwiches). The Indonesian buffet on Sunday was excellent. They will cater to your preferences. I wanted grilled fish one day, but the fish of the day was tuna which I don't like. Instead, they brought me an very nice grilled piece of salmon with steamed vegetables.
For dinner, you have two options: dining room or Candles (outside deck dining). If you eat at Candles, you do not have to dress for dinner and can wear shorts/jeans/t-shirts. Candles menu is smaller and is a virtuous option if you are trying to eat healthily. You have a salad course with two or three options. The cobb and caprese salads were both good. Main course is grilled steak (including fillet, NY steak, etc.) or grilled fish (seafood skewers, fish of the day, salmon). Dinners come with dessert if you like. Homemade strawberry sorbet was one of my favorite desserts.
Dinner in the dining room was a five course meal (appetizer, soup, salad, main course, and dessert). My favorite dinner was orange roughy with a caper sauce. All fish is local and fresh with the exception of shellfish and salmon. The soups were always very good. My favorite was a spicy Thai hot and sour soup. Most of the desserts were just OK in my opinion, but some were better than others.
Room service was very quick and always very good. A couple mornings, we ordered coffee and pastries because we were leaving early for excursions, and they arrived within 5 minutes of ordering. We ordered lunch a couple days when we were late coming back from excursions. The fish (mahi) and chips was excellent. Other options included club sandwich, hamburger, grilled chicken salad, wings, and a cheese plate. Dinner could be ordered from the nightly dinner menu, although we didn't order dinner from room service.
Do not miss the deck party evening. They have a beautiful buffet with outside dining on the deck. Buffet includes appetizers like shrimp cocktail and stuffed avocado. There were grilled lobster tails and carving stations for pork and beef. It was really a fun night.
In summary, this was really a beautiful trip. I would definitely go again. The service was excellent. The food was good without being excessive. Don't miss the sunsets on the deck with a cocktail before dinner. My favorite excursions were Zip Lining, Boat Tour (monkeys), and the Rainforest Hike (very active).