We are frequent travelers, but not frequent cruisers. Our only other cruise was a couple of years back on the Norwegian Jade in the Western Caribbean. We enjoyed it enough to want to cruise again, but wanted a smaller-boat experience. We're so glad we chose Windstar for this cruise, and we will definitely sail with them again if we have the opportunity.
The size. The cruise experience on a small boat if definitely the one for us. With about 180 passengers and about 150 crew, the feel of the ship and the great service really suited us. We are active, mid-60's and travelling with another couple. It was relaxed but with enough activities to keep us interested.
Embarcation. Smooth, easy, efficient. We were in our rooms within an hour of boarding.
Dining. We were very happy with the quality of food and drink as well as with the service from dining room personnel, wine steward, and all involved. People could not have been more helpful or attentive. The quality of the food at dinner was fine dining all the way. The menus were varied and interesting. Usual choice was among at least 5 appetizers, 5 entrees, 5 deserts. The chef was wonderful - we ended up walking with him into town at one of the ports as he and his assistants walked to the market for fresh fresh fish and produce. He makes an effort to include local product, and the effort shows. Delicious food all around. People used to larger ships might not be happy with the lack of many dining venues, but we were never bored.
Cabin. Seemed very large to us for a cruise ship. Well-appointed. Our steward was stellar.
Crew. Everyone - captain, chef, maître d, bar staff, wait staff - made us feel like part of the family. They could not have been nicer.
Itinerary - Lisbon to Barcelona. We had never been to Portugal or Spain before, so we didn't know what to expect. We loved this itinerary. Definitely plan to spend extra days in both Lisbon and Barcelona if you can - loved both cities. We took several of the cruise port trips and we were glad we did. The local guides were excellent and the tours interesting. We particularly enjoyed Malaga, Seville, and Palma.
Minuses - hardly any. The exterior of the ship is showing a bit of age and needs some TLC. The casino is teeny-tiny (not surprising for a ship that size), but my husband enjoyed losing money there anyhow. :) Couple of glitches with the heating/air at the beginning, but they worked them out quickly. If I were on the ship for a longer cruise, I might miss the lack of varied dining venues, but not on an 8-night.
As I said, we're now Windstar fans and looking forward to our next opportunity to cruise with them.