For those of you who want 'the scoop' and are waffling whether to cruise on this type of ship - here's a summary:
1. Don't book if you're disabled, seriously. There's elevators, but they don't go everywhere, and ALL PORTS were TENDERED. The tender at times is a challenge to get into/out of. And a lot of the ports require walking, have hills, or focus on water sports.
Also, the captain did an incredible job in keeping that vessel stable in the swells that we had, but it's not a 130k ship, so of course there's more movement.
2. Don't book if you're looking to nag at everything that's less than perfect and 5-star - they do an awesome job but it's not Regent or whoever they are. Also no formal gowns here. The destination talks will not be done by highflying scientists.
3. Don't book if you need constant entertainment, shopping, exotic stuff to do and if you must spend your time using wifi..
They make many stops so the shop is often closed (-by law-), many people are active and go to bed early, and there's no flowrider, climbing wall or ice rink :] Wifi is expensive and slow, TV very limited.
Perfect if you love reading or watching DVD's or lie out on deck and relax.
4. While not formal, they WILL send you to your room to change if you wear shorts to dinner. They let the flip-flops slide...
5. Smoking is very limited (thank God!) - so if you are a smoking-in-casino type, probably not the ship for you.
We booked this Windstar cruise just a few months prior to departure since our planned St. Maarten vacation had to be changed due to the hurricane damage.
Due to the date, the price was right and we wanted to try a small ship.
Went from the airport directly to the pier since we had seen San Juan before.
We had not booked a transfer with Windstar which was probably a good idea since we would have waited at the airport for everyone to arrive, and instead we could embark and enjoy our cabin.
Of course embarkation in San Juan is a breeze (it even was on the 960-passenger Viking Star), more so on a ship with only 212 passengers. It took all of 10 minutes to walk to the check-in area, get our ship's card and our photo taken at the gangway.
Our room (lowest category) was incredible - the largest we've had, a true suite with comfortable sofa, a window sill you can sit in/on, 2 more chairs and accent tables..
the bathroom...! double sinks, marble, deep tub/shower... wow. TV turns to sofa or the bed.
We don't do much drinking or entertainment, so can't comment on bars etc, but the library was great, you can take books or DVDs to watch in your cabin.
Service is unsurpassed - everybody knew our name by day 2 or 3, and nothing was too much of a bother. Even though breakfast/lunch are buffet, they will bring you anything you ask for that could be available.
Very mixed bunch of passengers, age, backgrounds and otherwise, from kids, to boozing rednecks , to gay couples, families, groups, elderly, people from US, Canada, Australia, Fiji, India, Cuba... even an autistic girl who was just a joy to be around. Everyone was lovely with her.
We didn't do their shore excursions since (except for the unplanned St.Kitt's stop) they were quite expensive - perhaps due to the small group sizes. Ports, see below.
Several of us became "Windstar converts" others will probably not return. That depends whether it's a good fit for you or not.
Most everything since the hurricane has been fixed up again.
Nice fort and old town, had done that before.
Pigeon Island w/BBQ very nice except for the drop-off at the beach. Many people had trouble getting in/out of the water.
Anse Mitan is not very touristy which is good.
Anse Mitan's beach lacked shade, there was not much else in port.
Beautiful, quaint, many French people! Nice for (an uphill) walk, small stores, and several restaurants. Loved it!