My husband and I had never been on a cruise - and this was our first. We have traveled - just never on a ship.
We chose this particular cruise because the ship looked interesting - a sailing cruise ship with five sails! The ports were also intriguing and different - southwestern England, two ports in Wales, and two ports in Ireland. I had done my homework and had found that the Windstar has very positive reports. We started in Portsmouth, England and ended in Dublin, Ireland. We docked or moored every morning in a new port. And - by the way - it did not rain, anywhere.
Our cruise turned out to be an amazing experience; exceeding every expectation. The ship was very well appointed - it had the swimming pool, the hot tubs, the recreational water equipment for warm water cruising, Spa, well-equipped exercise room, bars, and a multitude of dining rooms. It was also comforting to travel in the designated rescue boats at times to transport passengers from ship to shore. It was nice to know that they are in working order! Our cabin was comfortable, well organized, and oddly spacious. It had lots of closet space and places to secure things - all within 188 sq feet.
All of the staff were exceedingly helpful and friendly at all times. The food was great and well presented; even more than I expected.
The ports of call were eclectic - most were places I had never heard of. They were all fascinating in their own right - lots of history, great local food and very friendly people. They were glad to see us and curious about our five-masted sailing cruise ship. A few had not seen a cruise ship in a while. Our ship was small enough to be able to come into ports that the larger ships cannot.
The shore excursions were well thought out. This was the first time our ship had ever been to these ports - and the first time in a long time that some of the ports had experienced a cruise ship. Although excellent, the shore excurions were understood by all to be too pricey.
This was an incredible trip and my husband and I have had really great experiences on this ship.
port #1 Portsmouth, England - departed from here We did not go on any tour here - independently took the train from tak London's Waterloo station to the "Portsmouth Harbor" station. It was an easy trip - and a short cab ride from the Portsmouth station to the ship.
port #2 Dartmouth, England - We went on a Windstar shore excursion here. We got our first taste of the history of southwestern England and the small towns/ports of England here - and it was fascinating - from the castles to the architectural details of the housing and buildings. The landscape was spectacular. The transition from tender to tour and back was seamless and easy. Went on a tour boat up the River Dart to Totnes, took a steam train back to Dartmouth, and a ferry across the harbor. This was a good place to take an excursion from Windstar, because we could not have arranged it all, independently.
port #4 Isles of Scilly, England - T This was our favorite port. We went out on our own here, with some of our shipmates. We set up our own tour with the boat association at the harbor. We ended up visiting three of the many Scilly Isles, all sparsely populated: Bryher (pop 92), Tresco (pop 180), St. Mary's (pop 1,666). It was all very walkable; easy. Tresco's Abbey garden was beautiful. Lots of history. It is easy to see why people from Great Britain vacation here. The weather while we were there was lovely, almost Carribean weather. We visited on a Sunday, and few stores were open on St Mary's,although I did find one where I bought a sailing shirt! I bought a book of Scilly Tales in a small little store on Bryher. Both stores opened for the cruise visitors.
port #5 Pembrokeshire/Fishguard, Wales - We went out on our own here with some of our shipmates. In Fishguard, we saw the lovely and locally created "tapestry" that re-tells the story of the signing of the Peace Treaty after the last invasion of Britain in 1797. It was located in a municipal building, upstairs, near/in their library. We took a local bus from Fishguard to St. Davids - and it was really fun. We traveled on one-lane Welsh country roads with local people. They were friendly and asked us repeatedly "Are you on the cruise ship we read about in the newspaper?" Traveled back to Fishguard with youth out of school - who were very well-mannered. In St. Davids we had lunch at a local pub - full of Welsh character. We took a tour of the exterior of St. David's Cathedral - very impressive. It is a functioning cathedral and there was a funeral happening at that time we were there.
port #6 Waterford/Dunmore East, Ireland - We went out on our own, visiting both the Waterford Factory and the Waterford Museum of Treasures. The Waterford Factory had a fascinating tour - and the Waterford Museum of Treasures was a small but important look at Ireland/Waterford history. We ate lunch at a local restaurant - where the proprietress knew all of her customers by their first name; great food.
I believe that small children were not encouraged to travel on this ship. I did not see any programs for them, and the ship was not outfitted to protect them.
Cabin 212, Wind SurfAlthough only 188 sq feet, it was well organized and had a lot of storage places. The bathroom was small but not cramped. We had 2 portholes - as did all of the cabins on this ship. No one had a balcony. No one had an inside cabin. The location was quiet - near the SPA, but I never noticed the traffic to the SPA. I never heard noises from any other cabins. Staff was good at making up the room daily, and turning our bed down at night. It was nice to get little chocolate hearts as we headed off to bed on our nightstand. It was a great cabin, great experience.
We walked up the hill and toured the great, historic, Pendennis Castle - learned the history of the Castle - and toured up and down the olde building. Great tour guide. Was interested to learn of how the Americans helped defend this port in WWII. The lunch options at the Castle included a quich - type meal that was created by the "girls" of Falmouth for the soldiers stationed there in WWI. It was very tasty. The views from the Castle were absolutely inspiring.The architecture of the town continued to interest me - so different from what we see in the USA.
Dublin is an incredible city with very much to see. We went on an off and on bus tour - and ended up at the old Kilmainham Gaol. There we had an incredible tour and lesson in Irish history. It has incarcerated both criminals and political prisoners. It is a must-see place for those who are interested in the political history of Ireland.
There is a lot to see in Dublin, and we should have allowed more time in this place. The light rail system has a stop within 5 minutes walking distance of where we disembarked from our ship.
We took an 'off and on' bus tour of the city. Our favorite experience - a tour - was of an old jail - the Kilmainham Gaol (Irish: Príosún Chill Mhaighnean), built in 1796; now a museum. It has been run since the mid-1980s by the Office of Public Works (OPW), an Irish government agency. Kilmainham Gaol played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed in the prison by the British and in 1923 by the Irish Free State Irish history was for us - and important focus in this tour.
We stayed in a hotel in Temple Bar on Fleet Street -- "Fleet Street Hotel." The breakfast at the hotel was a very complete and good one.
The Temple Bar area was invigorating, young, and full of Irish history. I suspect people were out into the wee hours of the night (on a Thursday!) but we went to bed. We enjoyed a great Irish dinner at a pub - and enjoyed true Irish musicians/singers. This area is worth second, third, and beyond visits.