We took the Rome-Venice cruise (Capri, Messina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, and Hvar as ports of call) as a 5th wedding anniversary. I had read reviews, which gave me opposite opinions, so I was certainly worried about the condition of the boat.
There was nothing to worry about! Everything was excellent, and as a traveling machine (I spend more time in hotels, planes, boats, and trains than at home), I am really picky.
First, the condition of the boat: It was sparkling. They clearly were paying attention to keeping the varnish new, and everything clean and dusted. The carpets had a stain here or there, but seriously, that's the worst of it.
The stateroom: WAY bigger than I expected, but it's still a cruise ship. Still small, but very functional, and for a Category B, very spacious, and the bathroom was very fancy, with marble and L'Occitane products. The bed was incredibly comfortable, moreso than the hotels that followed, sadly. My husband loved that our portholes (remember no balconies on this ship) were down close to the water, but I know some may not like that. We did - it was a unique perspective.
The decks: For 300 people, you have so much room on the decks, there's no reason for a balcony! We really enjoyed how uncrowded the ship was (it wasn't quite full, but probably 3/4 capacity), and every afternoon and evening we enjoyed cocktails on the deck. If we'd had a balcony, we wouldn't have used it.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Super easy, and fast. We took a private car (split with some new friends - thanks, CruiseCritic!) from Rome to get there, which was very easy. Keep in mind that there are shuttles at Civitavecchia now, and you can't go right up to the boat even in your car. Thanks for the welcome drink, Windstar, and so grateful we could sleep in just a touch on the last day (no long lines like the big ships). However, be forewarned that once you're off the ship, it can be crazy - Venice is a nightmare. Not their fault, but important to know.
The clientele: We are in our early thirties, so were were afraid there'd be no people our age. In fact, we found a pack of about 3 other couples to join in our fun, in addition to a few more couples on their honeymoons who came and went. There were truly groups of all ages (except children - none of those). We loved meeting others on the boat - mostly American, but a healthy dose of Aussies, Kiwis, South Americans, and a few Europeans. What great fun finding dining companions each night - a different experience with different groups!
The service: Impeccable - everyone remembered our names after about a day or two. Wine you don't finish is corked, and though your drinks are not included, I found that the difference (versus an inclusive cruise, and also versus the inclusive package they offered) was in my favor with Windstar. However, I am a young, petite woman (read: don't drink huge amounts, and also haven't ventured into extremely pricy wine snobbishness yet) - so some may not find this true.
Excursions: Skip 'em. I planned all my own, and they were so fun that we wound up with an immediate line of people joining on to our own excursions. The options are limited through the ship, but you will find fun by planning your own. Great ports, and loved using the ship's tenders. Great ports!
The food: Delicious, every meal - it is a cruise, so you expect excellence. The food was not 5 star, but decidedly 4-4.5 star. I enjoyed every meal, and nothing was too fussy. Breakfast was available for on-demand griddling, lunch was delicious with broad options, and dinner (four restaurants on such a small ship - amazing!) rivaled some of my favorite restaurants. Keep in mind, though, I prefer a *fun* dining experience - not a *fine* one. It is NOT casual dining, but not quite up to the Ritz Carlton, which makes it more relaxed and not so fussy. Do wear pants, gentlemen.
The entertainment: Music every night, in two locations. Nice to have the backdrop, but the best parts were definitely the staff shows! Hilarious! And yes, they have STAFF SHOWS!!
Overall: I never want to cruise with any other line again. There's nothing better than sitting on the deck with a few of your new best friends, watching those sails unfurl, with a cocktail in your hand, and Croatian mountains as the backdrop. Stop worrying, just book with Windstar...and take me, too!