It's not my goal to tear Windstar to pieces, but my latest cruise on the Star Breeze was somewhat bizarre and disappointing, given the fact that I was expecting a higher-end cruise. I'm a Diamond on Royal Caribbean, and have ... Read More
It's not my goal to tear Windstar to pieces, but my latest cruise on the Star Breeze was somewhat bizarre and disappointing, given the fact that I was expecting a higher-end cruise. I'm a Diamond on Royal Caribbean, and have cruised all three of their brands. Since Windstar calls the Star breeze a "Yacht," I was expecting a higher-end experience, though I'm about the easiest to please person imaginable. But I can't imagine booking on Windstar ever again. I'm somewhat torn in writing this review, because there are things on the ship that were pretty good, and in my ratings (below) I said as much. However, RCCL's brands -except Azamara- charge a fraction of the list price of this cruise, and don't have the issues I experienced. So rather than being a Windstar "hater," I guess I just didn't see the value, and didn't experience the high-end luxury yacht feeling that I thought I was going to have.
Having said that, most of the staff was excellent, the food was great, and we made friends that I think we'll be in touch with in the future. The Candles dinner on the aft deck was sublime, I loved eating breakfast out there every morning, too. The menu was great, my coffee never ran dry. The deck party on day 6 was awesome, the food delish and well presented. There seemed to always be enough deck chairs, the pads were good. The excursion that we did was great, the guide spoke excellent English and was thoroughly professional. So what is my problem? I'll try to keep it short:
We showed up in Puerto Caldera. Many have asked why the ship didn't dock in Puntarenas, because the town is close, and Puerto Caldera is a more industrial port. But a lot of cruise ship ports are industrial, right? It shouldn't be a problem. But it was. Immediately adjacent to the Star Breeze was a massive container ship unloading what I thought was sawdust. I later learned that it was corn, thus the rotten fermented / garbage dump smell. The wind was blowing the wrong direction, the ship was being blasted by this dry corn / sawdust mixture for hours and hours. And hours. When darkness fell, the dust was illuminated in the lights, no one could be outside. It was thick, and it was disgusting to see what we'd been breathing all day. Windstar's fault? Probably not. But choose your dock wisely, I suppose. If a plane hits turbulence the pilot apologizes, though we know it's not his / her fault. I think a little bit of explanation would have been in order.
Communication: Horribly lacking. We were supposed to depart Puerto Caldera at 6 pm, didn't leave until 9, returned to the dock and tied up again, then left. No announcement, no reason given. LAME! The next day we found that we were waiting for passengers delayed by the massive east coast snow storm, which was admirable. But please keep your passengers in the loop!
The sound system on Deck seven was great and played wonderful music. But for the life of me, no one was able to hear a word that was said during the day 1 safety / lifeboat briefing. The volume was low, someone should have fixed it. Which brings to mind major problem with the ship in general...I don't think subordinates are allowed to advise of problems, so problems...remain. In hindsight, it's as if the crew was afraid to tell the captain that no one could hear him.
On the beach barbecue day -which was great- the schedule called for the first tender to leave the ship at 11 am for the beach. People were lined up, standing, and waiting in the lounge for over an hour, no announcements were made as to why. We departed at 12:10. there were two security guards standing outside of the glass door, couldn't they have kept us informed? Yes, there were plenty of seats to sit on, but once the line started, people were standing and thought we'd be departing any minute...
When booking the trip and again when I received my itinerary, we showed disembarkation at Puerto Caldera at 0600. I booked my flight out of San Jose accordingly, a 1015 departure. A few days prior to the end of the cruise, we recieved a questionnaire in our stateroom, asking what arrangements we made for departure day. That notice stated we'd be docking at 0700. I asked guest services what the real story was, and they stated we wouldn't be able do disembark prior to 0730. Which was absolutely true. Thanks to light traffic we made our flight, but experienced a bunch of unnecessary stress due to the inconsistencies. If you can't get off of the ship at 0600, please don't state as much.
There were several other communication faults, I'm not going to nit-pick. But I'd like to think that on a 200 passenger ship, it wouldn't be too hard to keep everyone informed, if even with a note on the cabin door. -That would be classy!
Ship-Shape: Our cabin was awesome, amazing, large, and cabin steward Alex did a great job. There is rust in the pipes, and there was a 50 /50 chance that the bathwater would be orange. We were told to run the water for a bit, not to worry about it. The cabin steward provides a couple of re-filled glass bottles of water daily, not sure of it's source, or if the bottles got cleaned. But on day four, my wife pointed out that the water stank, she got sick, and swears it's the water. I got the trots on the last day also, and four days later still have a bit of a bug. Is it the stinky water?
As I mentioned above, we got blasted by Sawdust / Corn Dust. The exterior of the ship was never rinsed off, so it always looked kind of gross, having this thick layer of grunge on it all week. Near the hot tub on the front of the ship, there's this big wind-break half-bell looking structure that it would be cool to get your picture taken on, with the front of the ship in the background. Only it's got a bunch of drinks spilled on it, shoe scuff marks, and looks like it was painted by ugh, me. I'm a horrible painter. But I'd run a tighter ship, especially if it's being marketed as a high-end yacht.
On embarkation day, my wife noticed a loose deck plank that stuck up about a 3/4 an inch, waiting to trip someone on the top deck. I assured my wife that since we were on such a high-end ship, it would be fixed by morning. It remained sticking up all week, despite staff, guests and others walking on it all day and such. Am I being overly harsh? I don't think so, given that a fall for the average elderly passenger could be debilitating and life changing. And there's a bunch of elderly passengers on this ship, trust me. I'm just assuming that plank is still sticking up. Port side, deck 8, near the radome. Watch out!
The hot tubs were hot. Great! The pool was always hotter than the hot tubs. Not Great! I'm not talking a bit hot, I'm talking 110 degrees hot. People would put their foot in it and not want to get in. I asked an officer why it was so hot, she explained that it was filled with cold water in the morning, then heated all day in the sun. But I'm telling' ya, it was hot in the morning, and just as HOT in the afternoon. And pool water is generally not going to rise 25 degrees above ambient in a white pool. So one day we got off of a hiking excursion, we were hot. I wanted to take a shower before getting in the pool, the port side pool shower does not work. So I went to the starboard shower. Not much better, it spits, but only HOT water. Then I went to the pool. Yes, it was 110 degrees. Not too relaxing! BTW, I reported the showers not working to the guest services desk. They were never fixed. Sou you can assume that everyone getting into the hot tubs and pool has not rinsed off. But hey, that's what the hot tubs and pool are for, right? Gross.
Not a huge complaint, but the sound system in the showroom is prone to either quitting entirely, or giving nails-on-the-chalkbaord feedback. Again, not a sign of a first-class operation.
The Bridge. Open bridge policy, but don't go there. The two interns are very nice, the senior staff wants nothing to do with you, and it's uncomfortable. On embarkation day, my wife and I were up near the bridge on deck seven, and I pointed out to her the exterior controls that they use to get the ship in and out of the port. Now I have no idea what the controls do, and would never think in a million years to touch them! An angry bridge officer came out of the bridge, told us to get away from the control panel, and to go to the other side of the ship! It actually sounds funny now -to me- but on day 1, this guy missed an excellent opportunity for customer engagement, and was a jerk. I never saw him again. Maybe they were not engaging on the bridge due to the fact that I was labeled a troublemaker early on, but I can assure you, I have no desire whatsoever to get my hands on the controls! The bridge officers were so unsocial-able, I'd suggest having a permanent closed bridge in order to save the company embarrassment. Seriously.
There were other things that were kind of strange, but I have no desire to go on and on and on. On the second night, there were only four of us listening to the live music. When we left at 10:30, there was no one. This pattern repeated itself nightly, but the crew was kind enough to come up and supplement the lack of passenger participation. And they -the crew-are awesome! Richard the Bartender's birthday party was a hoot. Kinda strange that only 4 of us wanted to listen to the band pretty much every night, but certainly not Windstar's fault.
Due to weather, we didn't dock at the first port of call, so we actually didn't get off of the ship for the first time until day 4. Again, not Windstar's fault, I hope my critique has been fair as far a being critical of things that are directly controllable.
As I stated earlier, I'm a Diamond on RCCL, and enjoy all of their brands. For the high-end I love Azamara, and Celebrity isn't too bad either. However, I'm still relatively young (52) and was hoping that I could establish a long-term relationship with a very high-end company on smaller ships. Unfortunately, I guess it won't be Windstar, I'm going to have to keep looking. :-( Read Less