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First a disclaimer. I have enjoyed five cruises on the Paul Gauguin and wanted a fair comparison between PG and the recently refitted former Seabourn ships. I understood the key difference between the two - PG as totally all inclusive and the Winstar Star Breeze as lodging, meals and non-alcoholic included - yet eager to compare the differences in service, food, entertainment, enrichment, excursions and overall ambiance. We chose the January 23 Costa Rica cruise as a fair seven day comparison cruise. The refitting of the ship's interior was exquisite. All soft goods were fresh and new. The cabins were especially well outfitted with ample size, a walk-in closet and great bathrooms. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the ship herself. A 1989 vintage, she shows clear signs of age and her operation sports dated mechanics (more on that later). She is in bad need of a complete haul out. Deck caulking was peeling. Some deck boards were actually rising up. Rust abounded with coats of new paint in some areas not hiding the deferred maintenance well. We could have ignored this lack of attention had it not been for the real problem experienced. Communication An old Sicilian proverb concludes with the observation: A fish rots from the head down. Though staff tried mightily to overcome the corners cut by upper management, the faults of lack of guest communication, actual dangerous attempts at tender boarding and return, and an aged set of mechanics made this cruise more akin to a thrill ride than a relaxing experience. Though every cruise has its high winds and rough seas, the Star Breeze has no ability to deal with normal swells at anchor due to a lack of adequate thrusters to combat swells and current. At anchor with only one bow hook and the Captain's choice to anchor in 140-170 foot waters, we experienced considerable listing in even moderate swells. On one especially adventurous tender re-boarding, the boarding ramp rose more than four feet up and down as the rubber zodiacs fitfully tried to approach the ship. Our tender motored for more than forty five minutes while the bridge crew tried maneuvers to settle the listing. After thirty minutes in subtropical heat and blistering sun, I had new appreciation for the plight of Syrian refugees! Thoughout the cruise, there was no explanation for the extreme listing at anchor, no announcements about the next day's itinerary, and no warning about repositioning or changes to excursions. Excursion processing was abysmal as upper management chose their manager to also serve as cruise director. I do not fault the crew below chief officer level for this lack of communication. The Indonesian and Filipino staff exceeded expectations coping with a very disorganized Senior staff. I would even grant the benefit of the doubt to all staff as I believe the real problem stems from upper management who obviously have not been on board since re-fit. While this review does have serious negative concerns, Chef Budhi, hospitality and deck service staff were top notch and attentive. They simply suffered through the lack of orientation to this new ship and proper training. Food was consistently good, but certainly not comparable to either the Paul Gauguin and miles below food preparation on Oceania. In the waters of the best fishing grounds in Central America, all fish were frozen, none fresh. Wine, though fairly priced, was only mediocre. Most have already commented on the lack of entertainment, but the two musical duos were outstanding in their effort to overcome a bad sound system with no sound engineer to keep the shows seamless. Microphones experienced constant problems, and some speakers on deck were actually blown. Thoughout the cruise, the swim platform was never lowered, even on days with modest seas. It was only the final day's beach party that passengers even saw the water toys and snorkel gear was never issued for the same reason. The stark contrast between the Paul Gauguin and the Star Breeze left us with more regret than meeting expectations. I know that there are loyal Windstar devotees, and it pains me to write a review more negative than positive, but I cannot recommend that anyone sail on the "new" old Seabourn ships until they receive a thorough haul out and improve on consistency and passenger communication. I don't expect that to happen until upper management is replaced by cruise experts who deliver that proper investment and training.

Communication is a great trait; wish Windstar understood the concept.

Wind Star Cruise Review by mediapro

71 people found this helpful
Trip Details
First a disclaimer.

I have enjoyed five cruises on the Paul Gauguin and wanted a fair comparison between PG and the recently refitted former Seabourn ships. I understood the key difference between the two - PG as totally all inclusive and the Winstar Star Breeze as lodging, meals and non-alcoholic included - yet eager to compare the differences in service, food, entertainment, enrichment, excursions and overall ambiance.

We chose the January 23 Costa Rica cruise as a fair seven day comparison cruise.

The refitting of the ship's interior was exquisite. All soft goods were fresh and new. The cabins were especially well outfitted with ample size, a walk-in closet and great bathrooms. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the ship herself. A 1989 vintage, she shows clear signs of age and her operation sports dated mechanics (more on that later). She is in bad need of a complete haul out. Deck caulking was peeling. Some deck boards were actually rising up. Rust abounded with coats of new paint in some areas not hiding the deferred maintenance well.

We could have ignored this lack of attention had it not been for the real problem experienced.

Communication

An old Sicilian proverb concludes with the observation: A fish rots from the head down. Though staff tried mightily to overcome the corners cut by upper management, the faults of lack of guest communication, actual dangerous attempts at tender boarding and return, and an aged set of mechanics made this cruise more akin to a thrill ride than a relaxing experience.

Though every cruise has its high winds and rough seas, the Star Breeze has no ability to deal with normal swells at anchor due to a lack of adequate thrusters to combat swells and current. At anchor with only one bow hook and the Captain's choice to anchor in 140-170 foot waters, we experienced considerable listing in even moderate swells. On one especially adventurous tender re-boarding, the boarding ramp rose more than four feet up and down as the rubber zodiacs fitfully tried to approach the ship. Our tender motored for more than forty five minutes while the bridge crew tried maneuvers to settle the listing. After thirty minutes in subtropical heat and blistering sun, I had new appreciation for the plight of Syrian refugees!

Thoughout the cruise, there was no explanation for the extreme listing at anchor, no announcements about the next day's itinerary, and no warning about repositioning or changes to excursions. Excursion processing was abysmal as upper management chose their manager to also serve as cruise director.

I do not fault the crew below chief officer level for this lack of communication. The Indonesian and Filipino staff exceeded expectations coping with a very disorganized Senior staff. I would even grant the benefit of the doubt to all staff as I believe the real problem stems from upper management who obviously have not been on board since re-fit.

While this review does have serious negative concerns, Chef Budhi, hospitality and deck service staff were top notch and attentive. They simply suffered through the lack of orientation to this new ship and proper training.

Food was consistently good, but certainly not comparable to either the Paul Gauguin and miles below food preparation on Oceania. In the waters of the best fishing grounds in Central America, all fish were frozen, none fresh. Wine, though fairly priced, was only mediocre.

Most have already commented on the lack of entertainment, but the two musical duos were outstanding in their effort to overcome a bad sound system with no sound engineer to keep the shows seamless. Microphones experienced constant problems, and some speakers on deck were actually blown.

Thoughout the cruise, the swim platform was never lowered, even on days with modest seas. It was only the final day's beach party that passengers even saw the water toys and snorkel gear was never issued for the same reason.

The stark contrast between the Paul Gauguin and the Star Breeze left us with more regret than meeting expectations.

I know that there are loyal Windstar devotees, and it pains me to write a review more negative than positive, but I cannot recommend that anyone sail on the "new" old Seabourn ships until they receive a thorough haul out and improve on consistency and passenger communication. I don't expect that to happen until upper management is replaced by cruise experts who deliver that proper investment and training.
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