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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
First, we are a French Canadian couple in our early 50’s from Montreal. We sailed 5 times with Celebrity prior to sailing on Wind Surf for the first time in 2013. We have since sailed 7 times with them, all in the Caribbean with cruises ... Read More
First, we are a French Canadian couple in our early 50’s from Montreal. We sailed 5 times with Celebrity prior to sailing on Wind Surf for the first time in 2013. We have since sailed 7 times with them, all in the Caribbean with cruises on the Wind Star (1) Star Pride (2), Star Legend (1) and Wind Surf (3). What we love about Windstar is the small ships, the fact you can do things independently easily, the relaxed dress code, the food, which keeps getting better, and last but not least the great service staff which goes out of its way to make your cruise memorable. This was our first cruise back on a sail ship after 3 cruises on the motor yachts. We did Classic Caribbean itinerary from Feb 2nd to 9th as we had done the Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary twice already and did not like the fact they had changed some of the stops in the BVI. In the end we really enjoyed this itinerary with Barbuda and Dominica being new stops for us. The weather was just about perfect and seas were the calmest of all our cruises. We noticed the demographics of this cruise were probably a little older than our previous Windstar cruises with a good majority of guests over 70-75 but this did not hinder in any way our enjoyment as fellow Windstar passengers are all fairly active and well travelled. Finally, we travelled with another couple for which this was a first cruise on Windstar and likely not their last. Another great cruise with Windstar Booking: We booked just over 2 months ahead by pure accident as we typically wait for annual Christmas Sale as we feel prices get better closer to sailings (we always go for lowest priced cabin as location is not necessarily important to us). We called the company directly (we do not use a travel agent) to inquire about availability and they said that there was a promotion for Canadian residents with a $500 discount on the cruise price. I could not find this special on their website and the timing of my call was perfect as this special did not last very long. The 4 of us each got the $100 referral OBC which in our case was applied against our drink package purchased when we got onboard. We were assigned room 153 at front of ship and we were “upgraded” to 141 more in the center a few weeks later. Our friends were also upgraded from 103 to 122. Windstar also offered a 20% discount on the price of internet, drink package and laundry if all taken together prior to cruise which we did not take as we did not care for the ship’s slow and expensive internet (we had access to a good roaming package which we used most of time as we were always close to islands). Embarkation Although we typically fly in the day before, our schedule did not allow for such luxury this time around. Our plane landed in SXM at 16h30 on departure day (ship’s departure scheduled at 19h00) and we got out of the terminal around 17h15. Cabs were plentiful and we ended up sharing one with another Canadian couple on same flight that was also boarding the ship. Cab ride was $30 for the 4 of us and took 30 minutes. We boarded the ship at 17h45 and check-in was swift at front desk given our tardiness . Sail away was on schedule at 19h00. Not the ideal situation for travel but things worked out nicely. We were told our cruise was fully booked, so around 310 passengers on board. This was not an issue throughout the cruise as the Wind Surf remains very spacious with nooks and crannies for everyone. Cabin: We were in 141 and our friends in 122 (both added to Wind Surf stateroom sticky forum). Cabins are well designed with plenty of storage if required. 141 was quiet and had no issues although on 3 occasions, we had to call maintenance to fix our toilet as vacuum system had problems and toilet risked overflowing. In all 3 cases (one time at 3 am) the problem was fixed quickly by maintenance staff. Our room attendant was attentive although we did not have any special requirements. Reusable water bottles we refilled every day (one with flat water, the other sparkling) and our ice bucket was kept full with ice every day. Our friends in 122 complained about regular banging noise which we suspect was due to some gangway or tender equipment hanging above their room. We were also wondering how we would find going back to the smaller sail ship staterooms after experiencing the larger suites on the Star ships on our last 3 cruises. Well it wasn’t an issue as the rooms are very well designed and we were really only in our room to sleep or change over for dinner. We did not use room service nor laundry service this time. Bathroom was compact and well designed but starting to show its age. Occitane toiletries are provided in all rooms. Bars and Entertainment: Drinks were mostly taken outside at Compass Rose or Pool Bar. Did not go to Lounge except for Talent Show but band seemed competent. Bar service was always good. Duo at Compass Rose was OK and had guests dancing and when finished around 11pm, guests would come in to plug IPad playlists in system to keep party going a little longer. This happened a few evenings with people dancing a little past midnight. A lot of fun. Food: Again food was a highlight. We ate at Amphora 4 times, one time each Candles and Stella Bistro and Deck BBQ on the late night in St-Kitts. Menu was varied although gluten free items remain limited (our friend suffers from gluten intolerance and we were just more sensitized to his diet challenges throughout the cruise). Breakfast was good with buffet or a la carte items available. Couple of things we noticed were the poor quality of orange juice which in the past was freshly squeezed and now is a watered down Tropicana version and the fact there were no fresh peeled orange slices on the buffet whereas these were always on buffet in the past. We had good lunches at Veranda when we made it back in time from the island as the venue is only open from 12h00 to 14h00. We were late a few times and had to settle for food at Yacht Club. Lunch should be extended to 14h30 to accommodate those with dietary restrictions as the menu at the Yacht Club, while good, remains limited for them. Service in the dining rooms at dinner was fast and efficient (sometimes too fast) with meals lasting 1.5 to 2 hours. We mostly had dinner around 8pm and never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table and by the time we were finished, most of the time we were the last table in dining room. Menus were varied with several fish, meat and vegetarian dishes and all 4 of us were impressed by the quality and presentation of food. Deck BBQ food was great although lobster was a little chewy. We did not do the Dining Under The Stars (offered twice on our cruise) as it was not offered to us. This was a bit disappointing. Beach BBQ was held on Pigeon Island, which is our least favourite Windstar Beach BBQ location (the others being Mayreau and Virgin Gorda). While food was good, beach is too small and not necessarily the nicest. A couple of evenings, we were treated to canapés at Compass Rose before dinner. Usually had 2 different types of them but just one tray so these would disappear very fast with literally no chances for seconds. I suspect these were also served in the Lounge but we never went to the Lounge for pre dinner drinks so cannot confirm. We are a bit picky about our coffee and the caffe lattes at Veranda in the morning were good (regular coffee not so much) but even better at Yacht Club. We did try a few of the the latter’s sandwiches and sweets offered in the afternoon on one occasion and all were good. 3 of us were on the recently introduced TopMast Discoveries drink package at $49 while the 4th party was on the CaptainsExclusive package at $59. This created confusion with servers with several drinks (liquor) being charged to our room although drunk by our friend on the full drink package. All charges were reversed but this was a hassle as we needed to check bill daily to ensure charges were being reversed overnight and that no new ones were being added. Drink package probably makes sense if you have 5 or more drinks per day and even though we were drinking our quota, we generally felt that the value proposition of the drink packages had come down markedly from the previous iterations with price of package going up $7 and the wines offered having a price point no higher than $9.50/$10 vs a max of $11.50 under previous package. We will likely need to re-think this aspect on our next cruise. Marina We did not use the marina this time around but it was open in Barbuda, Les Saintes and St Barth. We saw several people using it when available. The water toys were also brought to the beach on Pigeon Island for the Beach BBQ Spa: Our friends each got a $50 spa voucher (good on port days) offered by Windstar to all first time cruisers which they used for a very relaxing hot stone massage. Gym: we did not use gym but it looked clean and well equipped and did not seem overcrowded Tenders: Tenders were used in all ports except Dominica where we were docked at the industrial dock, not the more central cruise ship dock (occupied by Silverseas on that day). While tender service was good, the tenders themselves are in need of a total overhaul. During our cruise we got to see the Seabourn, Club Med 2 and Star Clipper tenders and all of them were in substantially better condition than the Surf’s. They will be changing the tenders on the Motor Yachts, they probably should do the same with the sailing ships. Bridge Did not visit the bridge this time around and whereas in the past there was a photo opportunity at the bow of the ship, we did not see this on this cruise. Stops and excursions: We generally are not the type to book ship excursions as we feel they are overpriced and like to do things on our own. I typically like to do my own research and do not like to plan too long ahead. Barbuda: Nothing planned. Only tour offered was to view frigate bird sanctuary which did not interest us. We instead took a cab to Princess Diana beach ($30 each way). Very nice pink sand beach with nobody other than a few fellow cruisers on it. No facilities so bring water and some food if you are going to spend a long time. We were there for about 3 hours and got on the ship around 2pm just in time to catch lunch at Veranda. The ship leaves early at 3 pm on this day. Dominica: Again we stepped out of ship and hired a cab to go to Ti-Tou Gorge and Trafalgar Falls. Cost was $160 for the 4 of us and lasted 2.5 hours. Ti-Tou Gorge is not to be missed as you swim in a crystal clear river canyon up to a small waterfall. Very nice. The drive to both these spots is also spectacular as the road sits at the top of a high mountain ridge. We were back on the ship by 1h30 and had lunch at Veranda. Found a chair on deck for the remainder of day and used pool and hot tubs. Although the Island suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria in Sept 2017, the island infrastructure and vegetation is recovering nicely. Pigeon Island: This was our 4th time to Pigeon Island and it is our least favourite spot for the Beach BBQ. The beach is small and crowded although the area in the back where they actually serve the BBQ is nice. The water toys were brought to the beach, as well as paddle boards and kayaks. They also offered waterski and wakeboardings runs for those who wanted. Club Med 2 (Wind Surf’s twin) was also in port that day which made for interesting pictures. Les Saintes: This was our third time to Les Saintes and we continue to enjoy this stop. There is a quaint village with some interesting shops and a Fort (Fort Napoleon) from which the views of the bay and our sail ship are simply breathtaking. Note the Fort is only open until 12h30 and bring €5 cash if you want to get in. We rented a 4 seat electric golf cart (cost €75) from Green Car Rental to tour Island but you need to reserve it in advance as these get taken up very quickly (we had learned this the hard way the previous time we were there). Wanted to go to Pain de Sucre Beach but path is somewhat steep and rocky which required shoes we did not have. Instead went to Pompierre beach (no facilities). Nice beach but the palm trees have taken a beating as a result of hurricane Maria last year. Had a good lunch in town at Cafe de la Marina with a nice view of the port while the ladies shopped linen at Mahogany next door. Basseterre St-Kitts: Our initial plan was to get off ship, take the 9h30 ferry to Nevis ($16 each way/pers), hire a cab for a few hours to do tour of island, visit plantation and get dropped off at Pinney’s Beach. However we were a bit tired that morning and thus proceeded to a less intense plan B which was to take a cab ($30 each way) to go to Cockshell Beach at the far South end of the Island. We rented chairs ($5 each) and umbrellas ($10) at the Spice Mill and also had good lunch there. Beach is nice and was somewhat crowded, something rare on a Windstar cruise but there were another 2 ships in port, so this was to be expected. Ship left late at 10pm and this was night of deck BBQ. St-Barth: We had reserved a convertible Mini Cooper to tour Island ahead of time with Sixt Car Rental. Called them up 30 minutes prior to going to shore so they were there to pick us up and take us to airport to fill out docs. Cost was a bit steep at €105 but we had fun touring. Went to Saline and Gouverneurs beaches, did some shopping and had lunch at Nikki Beach in St-Jean. Lunch was good although this is St-Barth and everything is pricey. Returned the car at airport, got shuttled back to port and did some more shopping in Gustavia. Took tender around 6pm back to ship. Debarkation. Debarkation was trouble free. Had breakfast around 8am after picking up our passport and having face to face meeting with Immigration on board ship around 7h30 (this is new as we usually just picked up passport on ship and passed Immigration once on shore). Our flight was late (5pm) so we took a cab to Holland House, took up their day pass offer which for $25 includes 2 chairs, 4 drinks,use of shower, Wifi and facilities. Had good lunch at their restaurant and left at 2h30 for airport. Ride was $30 for the 4 of us and took just under 30 minutes and this concluded another wonderful Windstar cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
As a sailor, I always wanted to go on Windstar; it far exceeded my expectations. Kudos to Gede, assistant Maitre D, his boss Santos and Chef Oman for delicious meals that met our dietary restrictions. Kudos to Lufi, Cabin Steward, for a ... Read More
As a sailor, I always wanted to go on Windstar; it far exceeded my expectations. Kudos to Gede, assistant Maitre D, his boss Santos and Chef Oman for delicious meals that met our dietary restrictions. Kudos to Lufi, Cabin Steward, for a fragrance free chemical free cabin. Loved the marina, thanks to Jose for taking us each out for a sail on the Hobie cat. Enjoyed having the snorkel mask and fins provided by the marina; excellent fit. The itinerary is excellent, with long days on shore at each port. Very friendly people, engaging and well traveled, plenty of deck chairs, great crew show, Excellent gym with a recumbent bike and many classes.would definitely go on Windstar again. The cabin is small but very compact. Be sure you sign up for dinner at candles and Stella and for the barbecue and dining under the stars the last three nights. Pigeon Island, St Lucia is a luncheon barbecue on the beach. Sorry we did not sign up for the Wi-Fi package as it was a hassle to find Wi-Fi in the ports, and when we did it was usually spotty. Ports: St Maarten: We stayed at the DIvi the night before; just terrific. Barbuda: call walk on the beach. Dominica: very mountainous tropical one lane roads so be prepared to spend a lot of time driving around. We booked privately with Antours to see the indigenous Carib, Annison himself was very interesting. Also did hot springs. Need to walk out of the port area, follow the yellow lines, if you want to do an excursion not part of the ship. Pigeon Island St Lucia: The ship does a beach barbecue at this port, probably due to the miserable traffic. We took a private tour with James Touring Service in his 4 wheel Jeep, necessary if you want to go snorkeling at Ti Kaye resort as the driveway is extremely steep.Excellent snorkeling, lots of beautiful fish, clear water, pleasant lunch. James is very sweet, knowledgeable and excellent driver. He will get you back on time, no worries. Terre du Haut, Les Saintes, FWI: Reportedly the best snorkeling here. great crepes at Crepes Galette immediacy next to the tourist office. Sorry we did not get off early and snag a golf cart; if you do, bring a credit card for the deposit. Nice lunch on the water at Cafe de la Marine, has WiFi. Basseterre St Kitts: When we got off the tender we noticed Bluewater safaris and so went on a catamaran snorkeling trip, lots of fun. Snorkeling ok. St Bart’s: Very charming, very French great shopping, St Maarten; Must be off the ship by 8:45 am. Many people go to Holland House, pay $25 for 2 lounge chairs on the beach, we went back to the DIvi. Read Less
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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
The staff were very attentive and accommodating. Most took the time to learn your name. We had a State Room which was spacious and comfortable. A definite plus on a smaller ship which doesn't have a lot of public areas. Ship was ... Read More
The staff were very attentive and accommodating. Most took the time to learn your name. We had a State Room which was spacious and comfortable. A definite plus on a smaller ship which doesn't have a lot of public areas. Ship was very clean and you noticed the effort to keep it that way.The excursions were interesting and efficient. There was a problem with the air conditioning. State rooms could be ice cold or uncomfortably warm. The Veranda was most always too warm to sit and enjoy a meal. At the beginning of the cruise the Yacht Club was ice cold and then after complaints it became too warm....no ability to really regulate the temperature. Food was ok. A couple of nights were very good. Seemed to be a lack of vegetables with the dinners and the quality of fruit was disappointing given our location. If you are Gluten free, you should bring your own bread, crackers, cereal, and snacks. They did have non-wheat pasta and you could get gf sliced bread for dinner, but they ran out after the second night. We've only done a few other cruises, but they seemed to have a larger variety for people with wheat allergies. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
La Ora Na! Just returned from a dream-like 10-night Tahiti & Tuamotu Island Wind Spirit Cruise. A trip to French Polynesia has been on my bucket list for many years and the time was right to celebrate our 30-year wedding anniversary. ... Read More
La Ora Na! Just returned from a dream-like 10-night Tahiti & Tuamotu Island Wind Spirit Cruise. A trip to French Polynesia has been on my bucket list for many years and the time was right to celebrate our 30-year wedding anniversary. This was our third Windstar Cruise but first on a sailing ship. Everything was wonderful from the ship and the crew to the great food, fellow passengers and the beautiful islands. We loved every minute from the diving, snorkeling, beaching, Polynesian luau, Beach BBQ, cultural and scenic excursions to just being together in paradise. We left during the rainy season and so knew we were chancing some bad weather but we were very fortunate as we only had three solid cloudy and/or rainy days and 9 really good days with very little clouds and rain. It was hot and humid. Only one drift snorkeling excursion was canceled due to strong winds and current in Fakarava. A few people were sick with motion sickness at the beginning of the cruise going out to Tuamotu Islands but we took Bonine. (meclizine) and had absolutely no problems. When in the Society Islands there was very little motion and no one had any problems. We had our outgoing flight from LAX to PPT on Air Tahiti which was fine. (older plane). Upon arrival to PPT at 11 pm we took a taxi and stayed overnight at the cheaper but nice/adequate Hotel Sarah Nui. We were a five-minute walk to the Moorea Ferry dock where we bought tickets in the morning and took the first ferry to Moorea and spent the full day and night at the very nice Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa. It was rainy and cloudy but the snorkeling in front of the resort was stunning with the water clarity, colorful coral and fish life. We took a special deal and just stayed in a garden room but it was very nice. Some of our fellow cruise passengers stayed in the over the water bungalows for the unique experience. Depends on where you want to put your vacation dollars. Took the late morning ferry back to Tahiti and literally walked off the one ferry and down the port to the Windstar which was boarding. Waited in a short line as they manually checked luggage. (different than in San Juan) but it was quick efficient and staff was very nice. Crew greeted us and escorted us to our cabin AX 205 which was very conveniently located mid ship. Though smaller than the motorized ships rooms. (Legend and Pride) it had great storage space. Did miss the large picture window. (just two port holes) but overall very nice for the smaller space. We then went to a full buffet lunch on the Veranda before heading back into Papeete to the market as my hubby had forgotten his sunglasses. We browsed and got some ideas and ended up coming back and buying a pearl necklace at the end of the cruise. We really enjoy the food on the Windstar, particularly the breakfast on the Veranda. Maybe it was our jet lag but we woke up each morning hungry and the breakfast was great. You can order special dishes from the menu. (various types of egg Benedicts, French toast, pancakes, waffles, and usually some other items). There was also an egg station where my husband had eggs over easy and they made tasty personalized omelets. Great fruits, cheeses, yogurts, bacon, sausages and various pastry. We made it back most days for lunch and then went back into the port. Dinners varied for us but we enjoyed some nights alone at a couples table. (tired after long day) but other nights we ate with others and really enjoyed talking and getting to know our fellow cruise mates. It was a very interesting mix of people. Most seemed well traveled and active and ranged in age from late 40s to late 60s. We didn’t buy the beverage package but bought reasonably priced bottles of wine to drink with dinner. There weren’t a lot of activities on board especially after dinner but we usually found we were tired after the long port days and sleep was great. We did love the deck party dinner, the Polynesian show/dinner on the private motu in Bora Bora and the lectures given by Dr. Kess on Polynesian history. We also enjoyed happy hour before dinner where we sat and talked with fellow cruisers about the day and listened to the destination manager talk about the upcoming port. Several nights we walked the deck and just looked at the glorious night sky. Captain Garciyanov came out of the bridge to show us the southern cross and constellations. He was not only approachable but approached us and other passengers’ multiple times. He was so friendly and energetic. He gave us a great bridge tour. We had just come from getting our picture taking at the bow. (think Titanic and King of the world). Shore Excursions: We did three through the ship and the rest independent. The ships excursions were all good and everyone we talked to thought they were of high quality. We just like doing things independently and on our own timeline but it was a good mix. I will give some detail to what we did as it was hard to find info on some of these islands Fakarava: Fantasy Island came to mind as we first visited Fakarava one of the largest and most beautiful atolls (land formed by the rising reef). The extremely windy weather caused some adjustments to the plan as our drift snorkeling was cancelled but my husband was able to Drift Dive the Garuae Pass through a private company known as O2 Fakarava as he is an advanced diver. He had emailed them before we left home and arranged the dive. He had never seen so many sharks concentrated together hunting the extremely large schools of fish. The current was rapid and the water clarity pristine. He was super pumped after the dive! I took the ship’s excursion to the gorgeous but remote Blue Lagoon. The shallow waters shone in the most brilliant colors of turquoise and jade-green. As I snorkeled on my own in the lagoon, black tip reef sharks swam all around me. It was electrifying! Unfortunately the current was too strong to go to Pufuna to drift snorkel. Rangiroa: Let the adrenaline begin! The second day, we visited Rangiroa know as the The Endless Lagoon. From there Michael and I went on a private excursion with Rangiroa Plongee. It was a drift snorkel through the famous Tiputa Pass. As we rode through 10-foot waves in our little zodiac to the ocean side of the pass, our guide said ok when we see the pod of dolphins we are all going to quickly jump into the ocean and swim with them....WHAT! ....And so, we did......TWICE!......It’s one of the moments when you can’t think too hard as the waves are crashing but there are dolphins next to your little zodiac so we dove in and the first time a whole family swam with us and the next jump was just one dolphin but she came up to me as I squeaked my hello. It was sheer joy! We then drift snorkeled through the pass to see a couple large Spotted Eagle Rays, numerous black tip reef sharks, moray eels and tons of fish. The water clarity again was suburb. We also snorkeled in the area known as the Aquarium. Michael then went on another drift dive while I took a walk and relaxed at Hotel Kira Ora resort on the beach. It was serene drinking a Pina Colada and sitting by the beach and water. Taha’ a: This is the port you need to have a ship’s excursion as they only will tender you to the private motu for a day at the beach. We did the Scenic Exploration of Taha ’a and had a fascinating experience visiting a local pearl farm and watching them harvest the pearls from the oysters. We toured the scenic island, a vanilla farm, ate some local fruit and “learned” a traditional Tahitian dance. Spent the afternoon with “ok” snorkeling around the motu. It was a very cloudy, rain off/on day. Bora Bora: Our favorite island of the trip. It’s beauty was simply stunning with luscious green mountains surrounded by a crystal clear blue and turquoise lagoon. The weather gods gave us two sunny days and we took full advantage of our short time. Fortunately, the ship spent two days at the island but I was itching for more. It had everything from water to land adventures! The first day we rented our own private dive boat with dive master,. David from H20 Bora Bora took Michael diving with manta rays and along a spectacular coral reef . In the afternoon, we all snorkeled three more spectacular sites. It was like swimming in an aquarium. We swam with a squadron of spotted eagles rays, many sharks, eels and so many beautiful fish. The water was so nice. We also had a spectacular lunch on the beach and I witnessed Michael eating two things I never thought he would. Raw fish and coconut. Poisson cru au lait de coco. It was very tasty. The next day we rented a Scooter through Avis (shop right at port) and circled the main island, exploring the beautiful landscape and snorkeling the southern beach on our own. We ended the day with a Polynesian luau on a private motu sponsored by Windstar. Such a Romantic, gorgeous sunset and setting that made us wish we could stay there forever. Loved! Loved ! Bora Bora Huahine Nui: was an island that really captured the history and culture of French Polynesia. We decided to go on a guided tour of the sacred sites with a local archeologist. In an open air Le Truck, we toured the ruins of Maeva village, a vanilla plantation and an area with 500-year-old fish traps that are still used today. The tour then ended with lovely views and the feeding of the sacred blue eels. The island was beautiful, quiet, laid back and I learned a lot about the way of life and history of the French Polynesian . We then went back to the ship for lunch and back out to the local beach by the port to snorkel Moorea: Returned to a now sunny beautiful island. After a slow start as Albert Transport was an hour late picking us up at the port to take us to rent the car. They were on “island time” but then made us still pay for the full 8-hour car rental even though they were an hour late. We had the email confirmation of pick up time (this was our only “mess up” of the cruise) We then spent the day driving, exploring, and snorkeling in our rented car. (Belevedere Lookout, Opunohu Valley, snorkeling at Temae/Public Beach) As we sailed away from Moorea, someone spotted a pod of dolphin and we all ran to one side of the ship. How can it not make you smile, laugh and feel joy as you watch dolphins surfing and playing in the waves? I do think the captain was afraid of us tipping the ship especially as it was the last day of a 10-day feast of food! Wonderful way to end our 10-day cruise Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
Whichever direction your cruise is traveling through the canal, you will be flying into or out of the Pacific Ocean end of the canal, Panama City. Since we were going towards the Pacific, our Embarcation was in Colon, about 1 ½ hours from ... Read More
Whichever direction your cruise is traveling through the canal, you will be flying into or out of the Pacific Ocean end of the canal, Panama City. Since we were going towards the Pacific, our Embarcation was in Colon, about 1 ½ hours from Panama City. Windstar notified us a couple of weeks in advance that they needed to do some maintenance just before our boarding, so the Embarkation would be delayed from 1PM to 5PM. They arranged for free coffee and free lunch in a ballroom at the company hotel, the Bristol Panama in Panama City. We were told to have our baggage in the lobby by 3:30PM for placement in a truck, and to watch it being loaded onto the truck. We had already independently booked a single night for ourselves there before the cruise. I normally book directly with a hotel, but their website would only permit three-night minimum bookings! So I booked with Expedia-AARP for a single night, which was $248 plus taxes. I used their concierge to book a $40 per car private transfer from the airport. Because the Pope was in town (which Windstar didn't bother to tell us!) this worked out very well, and was charged to our room. Our room, #510, was massive, luxurious, and well air-conditioned. We had a separate huge shower beside our tub. The newish, high-rise hotel has a luxury feel to it, and the desk service was very good. Even though we arrived around 8PM, they gave us paper Windstar baggage tags and the information sheet Windstar had been handing out during the day, before the local Windstar hosts went off-duty. The hotel is in an uninteresting, but very safe-looking corporate area with little to do. The breakfast (included in our price) was fine, but only a step above a good Hilton Garden Inn breakfast. It wasn't at the level of the room, is what I mean. The lunch Windstar had catered for us was very good, a big buffet with hot soup but cold sandwich, salad, and snack platters. We had the whole ballroom to ourselves. You didn't really have to show ID to get in and out of the ballroom. We booked this hotel for the convenience of the Winstar transfer to the port of Colon. The bus transfer was a bargain at $49 p/p. But EVERYONE's transfer was complimentary because of the pre-scheduled delay. (Credit given on our shipboard bill.) Because there were several busses, you had to figure out that there was a second Windstar table in a different part of the lobby from the main Windstar desk. That second table had sign-up sheets for seats on busses, leaving every Fifteen Minutes, I think starting at 4:30PM. This is subjective, but I wasn't impressed with the lobby people in Windstar polo shirts. I had the sensation that they are local contractors who wear a different polo shirt every day. A few people didn't figure out the two tables, and were displeased to be put on the last bus. It didn't really make that much difference, since it turned out that the ship didn't leave the pier until well after we were asleep in bed. (The ship had to be “in line” for the Panama Canal at 4:30AM or something like that.) We were told that the ship had been taken out for routine stability tests, but they ran long and it only tied up at 3 PM. A later version was that the renovation dry-dock company had ordered “location” of the center of gravity, which required an empty ship with no hotel workers! The transfer included a tour guide who talked a little too much. The modern highway wasn't very interesting. We filled out “old” water sports waivers on bus, which were discarded as we signed the new one on checking in aboard ship! Due to lateness there was no hard sell of beverage package, although there was the later drawing for spa discounts. The square mile around the Colon port looked like a dystopian, post-apocalyptic movie set. The gate at the port that led to the paved driveway wasn't open, so we had to drive ¼ mile on a pot-holed gravel parking lot to get to the terminal. I will say that the terminal was clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned. Baggage screening was here, not on the ship. It's difficult to understand the formal itinerary for the Panama Canal days. Windstar pays about $31,000 for the canal, of which some 20% is a guarantee that it will be in daylight. We started into the first lock just before dawn, and finished the transit about 13 hours later. In fact, we missed the final exit, to go to the daily Port Talk in the Lounge. In San Miguel lock, one of the lockside electric locomotives seemed to fail, but (we heard) the Captain told the Canal Pilot that he could hold the center of the lock without that tug and we proceeded. There was a huge Pope-pilgrim-tourist crowd at Miraflores Visitor Center watching us. Because of the Canal passage, the officer's introductions and the Captain's Table (to which we were invited, probably because of 9 Windstar cruises) were put off one night. There were Officer Tables on later nights, but the Captain's Table was empty for the rest of the cruise. Officer Introduction was one of a few nights when there were extensive passed hors d'oeuvres in the Lounge. It's important to pay attention to the daily schedule sheets and verbal announcements. We were pleased to learn that, even though every port (except the start and finish) were Anchorages, two of the landings were NOT “WET [feet]”. We did use Zodiacs for the dry landings, as for the wet ones. There are variations in the hour that the breakfast room (and less-often, the continental breakfast in the Yacht Club) open. These are intended to assist guests with early excursion departures. Honestly, I prefer to travel with a small box of cereal so I can have a substantial breakfast even in the Yacht Club. Food was good, normal for Windstar. I thought the seasoning in Amphora was tastier than my memory of some past cruises. Although it was not technically difficult to create, my favorite dessert was Pineapple Carpaccio, which was light and refreshing. We never bothered to book Candles. I was surprised that there were only two dry cereals at breakfast, but when I asked for a bran cereal, they went and got me a huge bowl of Raisin Bran. In view of the age profile, this was a big change! We thought the table service was not as good as other Windstar Cruises. But the one time we were seated in the far rear of Amphora, we happened to get very attentive, prompt service. I don't mean to sound whiny, but we found that when we offered to share a dinner table (which we are pleased to do), we often ended up at a six or even an eight-top table, with some of the same people again and again. A table for four is the best way to meet new people. I don't know if this was due to carelessness or to save labor. The real issue is that this means you cannot finish eating until after 9PM, even if you come at 7:00. I mention this also because I was diagnosed with Gastric Reflux after our 21-day cruise. I've never had the problem before. We do go to bed early! (Age 67) I'm not judging, but there are a certain number of couples (and quads) on every cruise who will never share a table. Because we're 9-cruise repeaters, we're used to a 5:30PM reception for that. This time, it began at 6PM, which meant we had to rush off to the Port Talk scheduled at 6:30. By the time we left, at 6:32, there had been no welcome speech with a Reality-Television-like show of hands to determine which couple had the most repeats, and award of a bottle of sparking wine to them. Honestly, we didn't miss the sparkling wine, but we did miss the fuss over loyal customers! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
My husband and I are in our 60s and have traveled around the world creating our own itineraries and arranging our own transportation. We never thought cruising was for us but in the last few years we have sampled several medium to large ... Read More
My husband and I are in our 60s and have traveled around the world creating our own itineraries and arranging our own transportation. We never thought cruising was for us but in the last few years we have sampled several medium to large ships with friends (Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival). The Panama Canal transit with WindStar seemed a pleasant way to experience a small ship environment. Pre-cruise and embarking/disembarking was painless. We arrived at 2 AM a day early in Panama City from Fort Lauderdale. We stayed at a hotel near the airport because of the time and found it easy and inexpensive ($25-$30) to Uber into Panama City to do a little sightseeing. Panama is the only country in Latin America where Uber is legal and it is ubiquitous. Transportation from Panama City directly to the cruise port in Colon was by pre-arranged driver (Amber Moon Panama-$90 cash on arrival). Colon is sketchy. Our driver was a local and he said he does not walk around parts of Colon, even in the daytime. The cruise terminal in Colon is very small. There is a tiny shop with a small selection of wines if you want to buy a bottle to take on board. Notably missing at embarkation was the assault to start buying extras from the cruise line. We were handed a lovely cold cocktail or glass of champagne, were greeted warmly, and got our room key within minutes. No one asked us to take a picture, spend money in the spa, book an excursion, register for an art auction, schedule a special dinner, or tried to sell us jewelry. We left the cruise at Puerto Caldera by pre-paid driver. The trip to the airport in San Jose was $130 by credit card - Transportation in Costa Rica. Windstar is a beautiful lady aging gracefully. We didn't see a tear, a stain, or a break in any of the furnishings. If you like warm wood panelling, shiny brass fixtures, and comfortable seating this is the ship for you. Everything is understated luxury. Think Hyannis Port rather than Vegas. The atmosphere is egalitarian and there are no special perks for big spenders. Passengers are well-traveled and tend to be 40+ and active. The dress code is dressy/casual. All the cabins, except one, are identical. There are no balconies. Plenty of storage room. Comfortable beds. A small table with built-in seating. Plush towels, good sheets, robes, slippers, great toiletries. The shower is the biggest we've had on a ship. On the negative side - Windstar makes it very clear in their literature that there is no elevator on this ship. There are several decks. Cabins are on deck 1, the lower deck, or deck 2, one floor up and one set of stairs below the lobby. If you have ANY mobility issues involving stairs you should book on deck 2. Not only are there a few less steps but while docking and during the transit through the locks a watertight bulkhead closes off access from part of deck 1 to the regular stairs. Passengers are then required to walk a circuitous path up, down, and around to get to and from their cabins on deck 1. Air conditioning in the cabins is inconsistent. At sea the room temperature was fine but anchored or at dock the rooms heated very quickly. We closed our curtains during daylight and we packed a small battery operated fan anticipating the hot, humid climate. The two strategies worked well in making our room comfortable all day. The food was FABULOUS! Dining service was impeccable. By the second day our waiter Alun knew that my husband always orders extra maple syrup for his waffles and pancakes and it would appear magically on the table. We were saddened to discover that Windstar has eliminated the casino from this ship. It has been replaced by a coffee bar that provides a civilized afternoon tea after 3 PM with scones fresh from the oven and clotted cream. The barista Gede soon learned that I like a touch of strawberry jam on those decadent scones and he made sure there was a little chilled jam jar on my plate every day. Michael and Kevin smoothly handled bar service in the lounge each evening and the pool bar is open during the day. We enjoy our evening cocktails, wine, and an occasional beer but did not think the drinks package was good value. There is a happy hour (literally one hour) each night with a limited selection of $5.50 pours and a specialty cocktail for around $9.00 every day. You can take one bottle of wine aboard for each passenger. An important consideration in selecting this Windstar cruise is entertainment and activity. Local groups performed on two afternoons. Windstar partners with the small school in Playa Jimenez and contributes to their education fund in exchange for an excellent show by the kids, several with special needs. The staff performed at the at-sea dinner on deck and during a great talent show. There was a pianist and vocalist in the evenings (Ben and Jacqui) who also coordinated all the audio-visual equipment and DJ'd briefings and events. A professional-quality yoga class was offered each morning by the Spa Director Sue who also led line dance classes two afternoons. The gym was small, poorly ventilated and offered more form than function. There is no easy or safe way to jog around the deck. There were two hosted trivia games. On the one at-sea day the staff put some boxed games out on tables in the lounge. There was a large jigsaw puzzle in the lobby that passengers added pieces to occasionally. Basically, entertainment is low-key and you are on your own for on-board activities. As previously stated, definitely NOT Vegas! If you are not content with peace and quiet and can't entertain yourself you will not appreciate Windstar's offerings. Service was unbelievable. Cabins were cleaned by elves (Anang). Eerily, staff and crew were cheerful around the clock. All of our questions and requests were responded to rapidly. There was no waiting or lines for anything, ever. Excursions: The day on the beach in Isla Parida was fabulous. Warm water, great lunch, fun water toys. We took snorkeling equipment from the boat but didn't use it because visibility was poor. Playa Jimenez - We went to the Blue Osa Yoga Retreat. One of us had a fabulous yoga hour, the other swam in the beautiful pool, strolled the resort, and walked the sandy beach. The lunch was gourmet quality and locally sourced. Lots of flowers and plants. Quepos - Mangrove tour. Slow relaxing boat ride through mangroves. Lots of birds. Nice discussion of area history enroute. No mammals sighted. Finally, the whole point of this cruise is the Panama Canal and the natural beauty of the area. The itinerary and vessel are designed to bring passengers as close to natural habitats as possible. There are no travel guides or taxis descending on the ship when it docks. It doesn't dock! Wet landings are wet. Getting on and off the ship requires dexterity. The ports are teeny tiny. It is hot and humid and buggy. It is mostly rainforest. There is no guarantee you will see any or all of the animals/plants you imagine. It is not a zoo and if anyone can summon or predict animal sightings in the wild they are either planted or illegally lured. Alternatives to excursions arranged by Windstar are limited. The Shore Director Mariana and Naturalist Diego were a perfect team. Mariana handled all the logistics of getting on/off the ship, scheduling excursions, coordinating the movement of passengers and staff while Diego, the ship's Naturalist and resident Latin American, made sure we understood the culture and surroundings. They were efficient and informative. Unlike any other cruise staff we've encountered they not only explained in their briefings what to expect on the purchased excursions but how to experience each port WITHOUT the excursions! Astounding! They both demonstrated tremendous patience under pressure from passengers who were either unwilling or unable to educate themselves about the ports and excursions. Wet landings means YOU WILL GET WET! No matter how many times Mariana said to wear/bring beach shoes and shorts people still showed up in socks and loafers and long pants. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
The cabin size and the decor, the staff, the food - all excellent. The staff were amazing and always tried to please and solve any issues. But our cabin 300 right up front on deck 6 was extremely disappointing as we felt every ... Read More
The cabin size and the decor, the staff, the food - all excellent. The staff were amazing and always tried to please and solve any issues. But our cabin 300 right up front on deck 6 was extremely disappointing as we felt every little wave on the ocean. I have never felt so much motion in a cabin before. When traveling on a small ship make sure you are midship and down low. Unfortunately my cabin mate was sick for a lot of the cruise. I actually slept on the couch a few nights as this gave more support than the twin bed. Few activities on board. Pool area was disappointing with a very small above ground pool. More activities could have been organized e.g. films in the lounge. I was some what disappointed with the ports of call. Puerto Princesa and Brunei were the only interesting ports to me. All told a very disappointing cruise for us. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
My wife & I sailed on 1/12/19, Our 6th Windstar cruise, 3rd on Wind Surf. Room 126. The ship – Wind Surf – was built in 1990, and is showing its age in too many areas. Rust, loose planks, paint peeling, bent railings, and I ... Read More
My wife & I sailed on 1/12/19, Our 6th Windstar cruise, 3rd on Wind Surf. Room 126. The ship – Wind Surf – was built in 1990, and is showing its age in too many areas. Rust, loose planks, paint peeling, bent railings, and I could go on. The most odd part is that I didn’t see any maintenance crew guys doing repairs. Which to me means that there is something else, a problem that goes deeper but I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the cruise Captain, or it’s the upper management cutting back on costs, I really have no idea. Also, FYI – Windstar Cruise line is pulling out all the casinos. Which means that in the evening, for entertainment outside of your cabin, your only choice will be the band, or duo. That’s it. Granted the casinos are rarely filled, and are never very lively – but that’s the casino staff’s responsibility and they fail here. And it gives you another form of entertainment. The other crew members – bar, serving, house-keeping staff all seemed to be a little less friendly this trip. What’s going on ? Some were good though – Maria, Ace, Mel, and Eugene were great bar people. Alex was a super room steward. But other than those 5, everyone seemed a bit agitated, or distracted. The people/fellow passengers seem to always consist of “my kind of people” unlike the larger ships. Almost everyone is friendly, classy, and talkative. Again, this was now our 6th cruise and we have never had a problem with our fellow passengers. This sailed of St Maarten, 7 nights, 1 sea day. I didn’t really care for the sea day but I certainly got a great tan. The ports were all good, as always. A bonus I thought was that the normal stop for the beach party was still in ruins, so they parked at a different side of the island. And this stop was a short cab ride to the Baths. No tour needed. All in all, we had a great time. But I expected a little more. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We took the 14 day cruise on the Wind Surf Caribbean Exploration Cruise. We left from St. Martin and were very thrilled to see that the island is coming back so nicely. We have only sailed on Wind Star in the Caribbean for we love the ... Read More
We took the 14 day cruise on the Wind Surf Caribbean Exploration Cruise. We left from St. Martin and were very thrilled to see that the island is coming back so nicely. We have only sailed on Wind Star in the Caribbean for we love the sails and the experience that Windstar Cruises offers their guests. The embarkation this time was the easiest and quickest. Drop you bags at the Wind Star tent at the cruise port, they give you luggage tags, walk to the ship or take a little golf cart van, go through security with your hand luggage, get on the ship , go directly to get your picture taken, give them your credit card, voila done. Drop your hand luggage in your room, have a delightful and delicious lunch, after lunch your luggage should be in your room. You are on and ready to go. I think that the hot water and water pressure can not be beaten and of any hotel I have been in the showers on the Surf are the best. We are neatniks so the storage in the cabins is perfect for us. We love the water splashing against the portholes. We feel thisnship is our home in the Caribbean. We have been cruising on Wind Star Cruises since 1999 and we think that the food continues to improve. We think the James Beard experience has really enhanced the food and the selection. We are not big meat eaters but we do love the steaks especially the filet mignon at Candles the outside dining grille venue. The Stella Bistro is authentic French, which we also love. The Yacht Club serves delicious Italian coffee, authentic. That is good for us because we do not drink regular coffee. We appreciate that it is open early for we are eary risers and we love our coffee with the sunrise. The Wind Surf visited many islands that were destroyed during the hurricane. We were so happy to see Dominica coming back, Barbuda coming back and happy to say Jost Van Dyke is back. We are not group tour people but took our own tours in Dominican and Barbuda. We love to swim and beach. Weather is always great in January in the Caribbean, this year it was especially great: Dramatic sunrises, more dramatic sunsets, rainbows after a few 10 minute showers, the breeze was great not to windy but perfect to keep one cooler. We can not imagine going to the Caribbean and not being on the Wind Surf. The service is the best, the deck space is emormous and you never feel crowded,you can always find your own nook, the Sail Aways never get old to the music of 1492 as the sails unfurl leaving the harbors, healthy and delicios food, generous drinks and wine at a fair price, the laundry service superb. It is a perfect way to discover the beauty of the Caribbean for the first time or to revisit the beauty time and again which is what we do. The Wind Surf is a gracious, beautiful old lady, high maintenance but very well kept. She is generous and graceful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
We typically choose active, land-based travel but decided to do a cruise for a special anniversary. We chose the Star Breeze for its mixture of small luxury ship with casual attitude, small ports of call, and availability of water sports. ... Read More
We typically choose active, land-based travel but decided to do a cruise for a special anniversary. We chose the Star Breeze for its mixture of small luxury ship with casual attitude, small ports of call, and availability of water sports. We wanted to have fun, but we did not want the fussiness of formal dinner nights. We were not disappointed. The ports of call included a good mix of those with many tourists and those with very few tourists. (It was helpful to know some Spanish but not necessary). We booked one excursion with the cruise line in Puerto Jimenez, but explored on our own the other days. We were able to do water sports off the ship in one port of call and on the private island day. For some reason, they couldn't offer waterskiing, although the equipment was available. Not a big deal, but it was something we were looking forward to. Otherwise, the crew really worked hard to impress. The cabins were spacious, well appointed, and serviced several times a day. Service was phenomenal and always with a smile. The food was excellent. We liked that they sourced fresh seafood from locals and that the chef made all of his stock on board. No corners were cut! We dined most nights at Amphora, which was consistently excellent. We did take advantage of Candles, which is a romantic steak house offered for free once per voyage. The special BBQ night was a highlight and not to be missed. Breakfast and lunch offered the ability to order a la carte or dine from the buffet. One exception: the coffee at the Veranda had an odor. I typically took my coffee at the Yacht Club (which offered continental breakfasts, non-smelly coffees, and light lunch fare) and then went to the Veranda for a full breakfast. Late afternoon activities included cultural talks and/or performances, with a next day port briefing just before dinner. The ship has a "pool" (it's really just a large, warm bathtub) and 2 hot tubs. We never had a problem finding a poolside lounge chair. The 5th deck hot tub is a great place to stargaze at night (or look for porpoises), but carry a cellphone for the flashlight. We did go to the gym several times, which was better than I expected. The ceiling is low, so tall people would have a problem with the treadmill and one cannot do overhead weights without sitting down. The fitness classes are basic and nice for a good stretch. With the average guest age being in the 60-75 range, there was not a lot of night life. We enjoyed the guitarist, who sang a mix of contemporary slow pop, Latin music and oldies but goodies. He also played great dance music. The other couple, the Radio Stars, were fine for music while you sunbathed but really not good for evening entertainment. The crew also entertained us with a crew talent show one night and line dancing after the outdoor BBQ. A number of activities were offered on our day at sea, including a cooking demo, galley tour, and blackjack tournament. We were saddened to learn that Star Breeze will go into dry dock this year and its size will be increased by 50 suites. We think this will alter the small ship experience significantly. In summary, this ship is great for couples aged 45+ who want some interesting port adventures and some luxurious pampering without the stuffiness of a more formal cruise line. Read Less
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