This was the same cruise that dsyoung422 was on, so many comments are similar.
The cruise was supposed to start in San Juan and we flew down the night before as independent travelers. I guess that was the first mistake as the first we ... Read More
This was the same cruise that dsyoung422 was on, so many comments are similar.
The cruise was supposed to start in San Juan and we flew down the night before as independent travelers. I guess that was the first mistake as the first we knew that the itinerary had changed was when we arrived at Muelle1 (Pier #1) in San Juan at 1:10pm (boarding was at 1:00pm) and there was NO SHIP! I called the main office in Seattle who told me there was a paperwork problem and to go to the Sheraton in Old San Juan to meet some Windstar reps. The kind taxi driver took us about 50 yards to that Sheraton, where the bellmen told him the Windstar people had left and were probably at Muelle 4. He then drove us over to Muelle 4 where two local Windstar people handed us a sheet of paper explaining the change and claiming that the "Vacation Planner team in Seattle contacted all guests and their travel agents to advise of this change"...well, we found out on returning home that they had sent out an email the previous day when we were already in transit. They should know that communication has not occurred until confirmation has been received and when traveling not everyone has access to email.
Anyway, the two reps at Muelle 4 told us to go to the Sheraton Convention Center (not the one Seattle had just directed us to) to arrange to get on one of the two charter planes to Sint Maarten. The long suffering taxi driver did just that and we found the Windstar reps in a little office. They advised that we were assigned to the 7:30pm charter and the bus for that would leave at 4:30pm. I expressed my concern at the lack of communication, to which the response was to say that "Mister Ulf" would be along shortly and to take it up with him. Mister Ulf (apparently the customer service manager for the cruise, Ulf Rademaker) duly arrived and when one of the other prospective passengers expressed concern that we would not be on board until very late and whether there were any plans for providing dinner told them "Don't worry, we won't let you go to bed hungry" and proceeded to bury his nose in a laptop. Windstar had provided a "hospitality room", but this had obviously been set up for lunch for the first charter plane and by 2:15pm consisted of unrefrigerated cold cuts and stale bread...really sanitary.
When 4:30 rolled around, a scrum formed to get on the one overloaded minibus, leaving some to be abandoned waiting for a replacement minibus. Checkin was not bad to the Miami Air charter, but proceeded very slowly. Then there was a 2-hour wait for the departure time during which most of the passengers found something to eat at their own expense at the airport. Meanwhile Mister Ulf arrived in the departure area and spent his time in conversation with other crew members, avoiding the passengers seemingly at all costs. Arrival and Immigration in Sint Maarten were surprisingly rapid and we were then loaded on another bus to get to the ship. After a long scenic trip across the island, we arrived at the cruise terminal to find that there was nobody to meet us and escort us in and down the pier. Someone finally turned up and escorted us to the ship where we had to go through the usual check-in, which was overloaded as everyone was arriving at once. The customary safety drill was then held, and by the time that was over it was 11:00pm. I asked reception if there was any food available, and they told us that the dining room would be open for another 15 minutes. It was in the dining room that we found out that drinks were being comped for the rest of the day...more good communication, they could have told everyone that at check-in!
Now we were finally on board. The itinerary was supposed to be San Juan - Culebra - St Barths - Montserrat - St Maarten - Jost Van Dyke - Virgin Gorda - San Juan. What we got was St Maarten - St Barths - Antigua - Montserrat - St Maarten (again) - Jost Van Dyke - Virgin Gorda - San Juan. Missing Culebra was a disappointment but understandable in the circumstances and moving St Barths from Sunday to Saturday was probably a plus as most of it is closed on a Sunday.
Ports in order visited:
St Barths - we have always like this island and Saturday was better than Sunday would have been. You are tendered ashore here and we noticed that the tender crews seemed poorly skilled at handling the twin-engined tenders compared to other small ships we have been on. They appeared to be being trained by one of the officers, but did not seem to be paying much attention. The drinks were still being comped on this day...not that any notice was given other than one brief announcement.
Antigua - added because of the changed itinerary. This was a docked location, so no tender issues. On a previous visit, we had been anchored off Falmouth near Nelson's Dockyard in the south of the island and that would have been much nicer and less exposed to the incessant "marketing" at the cruise pier in St Johns.
Montserrat - If you don't take a tour here (we didn't) this was pretty boring.
Sint Maarten - (again) - tied up to the pier, so access is good. The toilets on the ship went out of action for about an hour, but they appeared to be pumping out the black water tanks at the time, so we assumed that was the reason (more on this later). Sint Maarten seems to be all about shopping.
Jost Van Dyke - not much to do here as a tender access port. Unfortunately, the toilets went out of action again for the whole ship at about 10:00am. After lunch, they were still out of action and when my wife asked if there was any progress or projected fix was told about 2 more hours. She remarked that it might be a good idea to have an announcement, the reception staff commented that that was a decision "for the stripes"...amazingly within a few minutes the captain made an announcement that it would be about 2 more hours (it was a bit less in the end)...but why was it not announced right up front instead of just locking all the public access toilets? More non-communication.
Virgin Gorda - This is the beach party location that is also used by the older Windstar ships and by Sea Dream. The food at the beach was good, but the 200+ passengers seemed to overload the facilities and the sand fleas and mosquitoes were voracious. Unfortunately, the tender service did not extend to the Bitter End Yacht Club.
San Juan - Disembarkation was delayed, presumably by customs/immigration..again no announcements as to what was going on. We were on a late flight, but would have been pretty anxious if we had been on the first batch of passengers with an early flight.
Food on the whole was OK, but appeared to "benefit' from the Indian chef's native foods - almost all the menus had a curry flavor choice included. Breakfasts were OK, but the setup of the buffet is not conducive to good flow of people. Lunch is quite limited and the one time I ordered a hamburger, I found out after 25 minutes that the grill was broken and it would take another 10 minutes to arrive...again communicate. The main dining room was pleasant and we had no troubles with being assigned a 2-spot if we wanted it. Wine service was slow (understaffed) and not that helpful. The one night of the deck BBQ was rained out and set up in the dining room instead...the best food of the cruise! We eat in the alternative restaurant (Candles) one night; this is set up as a steakhouse and tries to serve that way. The food was good, but the service was amateurish, with long waits between the main plate arriving and sauces and sides appearing...and one of the sides appeared wrong and cold.
Entertainment was two different singing acts, both quite pleasant and one very accomplished (Vice Versa) and to our taste.
Service was in general mediocre - not for want of trying by the staff who really wanted to please, but they just seemed to be lacking in supervision, and the supervisors appeared to be taking more time to preen around in their uniforms than pay attention to the actions of their staffs.
We had booked on this Windstar (we had been on Wind Spirit many years before) to see how it compares to SeaDream, acknowledging the lower price and fewer inclusions. Unfortunately, the lower price point does not in our minds compensate for the poor performance of the company in communication and supervision, so, absent a compelling itinerary we are unlikely to be back. It's a shame as the ship is a nice size, the cabin comfortable and the low-key entertainment was a pleasant addition. Read Less