27 Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Luxury Cruise Reviews

I was totally excited to be going on this trip with Ponant to Costa Rica. Afterall great destination, French wine and french food... what is there not to like. Well was I sorely disappointed. The wine was mediocre and limited variety. At ... Read More
I was totally excited to be going on this trip with Ponant to Costa Rica. Afterall great destination, French wine and french food... what is there not to like. Well was I sorely disappointed. The wine was mediocre and limited variety. At dinner many nights there was only one red or one white. The food was good not great(except for the special nights) and some of the meals were downright poor. I had a series of complaints about the service and met with the president of Ponant North America who was on the cruise. Her repeated response was to say she would forward it to Marseille. Nary an offer of a bottle of wine or a premium drink. Which gets me to my next point. If you purchase the premium drink package, be aware that you cannot have it in the dining room. A number of passengers were incensed at the explanation was that it was a revenue sharing issue between the restaurant and bar. The experience was so poor that I cancelled my next trip with Ponant. I was told by crew members that Americans have higher expectations than the Europeans and that Ponant had learning to do if they want to attract the US market. Well I do not intend to find out if they are learning and hope you wont either. I must say the ship is brand new and gorgeous. Too bad nothing else compared to it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
The 10 nights Symphony cruise from Caldera to San Diego was our 15th cruise and our first cruise on Crystal. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest were mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best ... Read More
The 10 nights Symphony cruise from Caldera to San Diego was our 15th cruise and our first cruise on Crystal. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest were mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best cruise experience so far and I was curious how it will compare to Crystal. Embarkation took literally 15 minutes till we were in our cabin. 30 seconds later our cabin attendant knocked and introduced herself. 5 minutes later our luggage arrived. So far so good. We always book the lowest category cabin since we don’t use it much other than sleep and shower. We were in E2 cabin on deck 8. It is described as fully obstructed view but it is not really fully obstructed. The lifeboat blocks about half of the view, so you can still see the upper part of the view. The cabin is not big but it worked just fine for us. There is a lot of storage, and it’s nice to have a bathtub shower combo. It is also very nice to have a free self laundry. One odd thing about the cabin is that they still have those old thermostats. Not sure why they don’t replace them with the digital ones. Took as a while to set the temperature to a comfortable level. The ship is very elegant, and is in an excellent condition considering its age. You could never tell it is 25 years old. For some reason there is no art on the ship. Not sure why. There are about 5-6 dining venues (including 3 specialty restaurants), a lounge for main evening shows, 4-5 other smaller lounges, a movie theater, a very nice library etc. Service was exceptional across the ship, very efficient and friendly at the same time. Very friendly staff. Our cabin attendant Marina was great. The cabin was always in perfect condition, our favorite drinks and ice always re filled on time. Evening entertainment and daily activities were excellent. We attended six guest lectures, by Joe Wolff and Louis Rene Beres, all of them were fascinating. Definitely a step up compared to Oceania. Food was outstanding and comparable to Oceania. The breakfast buffet very good, the dinner in the dining room is excellent, lunch buffet not very consistent. It is probably heaven for Asian food lovers, but for someone like me who doesn’t like Asian food, the selection was a bit limited some days. We had 3 visits to the Brazilian steakhouse and loved it. There is an option to pre order basically anything you want, as long as they have the ingredients, which is very nice. The Italian specialty restaurant, Prego, was excellent, similar quality to Oceania's Tuscana. Amazing experience, both food and service. Between the mushroom soup, the filet steak and the desert, I still have to decide which dish was the best. They all were so good. Loved the Bistro for quick snacks. Did not visit the Asian venues since I don't like Asian food, but overall feedback from those venues is excellent. Internet was very good. Not the best we have experienced on sea, but among the best. Disembarkation was super quick, took us literally 20 minutes from the moment we left the ship till we arrived to San Diego airport. We paid $12 for the 7 minutes taxi ride (Crystal wanted $42 per person for transfer to the airport - I still have no idea where they are getting those prices and who is willing to pay them). Some things that we didn't like (or liked less): 1. Shore excursions while well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full on most excursions (around 40 people, sometimes more). If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania. Even on Celebrity some excursions had only 20-25 people. Also the excursion staff provided incorrect information on couple occasions. We tried to cancel one of the excursions 26 hours in advance and got a negative answer. Yes, it was after the deadline (which is 7pm two days before the cruise), but they could be more flexible. Especially considering the fact that this tour is a trolley to old town San Diego, which you can do for $2.5 each direction with public trolley - Crystal cost was $79!! On Oceania, we had no issues to change or cancel excursions even after the deadline. 2. Pool experience has been good overall, no issues to find chairs. But there are very few chairs in shade, and I was surprised to see that Crystal still allows to smoke in the pool area. 3. Lunch buffet closes at 1:30 and Waterside at 1:00. If you come back from excursion after 1:30, the lunch options are fairly limited (Silk if you like Asian food, Trident Grill with some burgers, hot dogs and salads, and Bistro). Of course there is always an options for room service, which works 24/7 and is free. Still not ideal in my opinion, and they could extend it when there are large groups of guests returning from shore excursions around 1-1:30. 4. For some reason, most computer based classes focus on Apple products (iPhone/iPad/Mac). We are Android users, so most classes were useless to us. Which is unfortunate, and I find it odd considering that 70%+ of smart phone users today use Android. Despite some imperfections, we had a wonderful time, and Crystal is really very special. It exceeded our expectations in most areas, except the shore excursions. The ship combines a small ship experience (excellent service, no lines etc.) with outstanding entertainment and enrichment program. A truly 6 star experience, and definitely a step up compared to Oceania. We loved Crystal and already booked three more cruises on Symphony and Serenity. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We've been on well over 50 cruises, but this was our first one on Crystal. We wanted to experience the 'top of the line' feeling and we were not disappointed. When we cruise, our most important aspect is the on-board life, ... Read More
We've been on well over 50 cruises, but this was our first one on Crystal. We wanted to experience the 'top of the line' feeling and we were not disappointed. When we cruise, our most important aspect is the on-board life, especially the food and service. On this ship the food was outstanding. Quality, quality and quality!! Of course the service was just as fine. You can tell the impact a high employee to passenger ratio really has. We were also very happy with the refined clientelle on this ship. Most everybody was happy and friendly. Oh, and the pool deck was just great: lots of chairs and lounges. No fighting for a chair at any time! Our cabin was the 'picture window' variety. It was very spacious, had ample of room for storage and even sported a bath tub. Noteworthy was the shower which had great water pressure and none of the temperature flucctuations experienced on most other ships. Would we go again? Certainly!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
This is the first trip review that I have ever posted. I felt that it was necessary because of the extremely negative customer experience. First of all, I booked this cruise in February 2019. The cruises line claims that you get the ... Read More
This is the first trip review that I have ever posted. I felt that it was necessary because of the extremely negative customer experience. First of all, I booked this cruise in February 2019. The cruises line claims that you get the best pricing when you book early. Not true. They discounted this cruise right after the final payment date by USD$1000 per couple. When we asked for a refund we were told that the price guarantee does not apply after the last payment date. In my opinion this is false advertising. So I had hoped that the cruise would offer a better customer experience. Wrong again. The Pros: Very large cabins Food was generally good with a few misses. On deck BBQ is a disaster. Cold food and certainly not 5 star. Lamb at Candles was not good either. Buffets at breakfast and lunch are not 5 star. Staff was courteous and friendly however this does not differentiate this line from other lines we have cruised on such as Celebrity and Carnival. The Cons: One 110V electrical outlet in the cabin. Ship is very dated, some cabins had leakage when it rained. Bathrooms were very dated with insufficient shower facilities. Buffets at breakfast and lunch – not a 5 star experience. Pool is about 1.5 times the size of my hot tub at home. I worked in the salon and spa business and I would never entertain having a treatment in their salon. Certainly not a 5 star experience. This ship needs a huge overhaul, which I understand it is due for in Nov 2020. In the interim the cruise line should be discounting fares, not increasing them as this is at best a 3 star experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 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
Sail Date January 2019
We chose this because Lat November it was on a flash sale at 75% discount from the rack rate. It's at the end of winter, but rest assured, we are warming up. Compared to MSY Wind Star, the MV Star Breeze is huge. There are three ... Read More
We chose this because Lat November it was on a flash sale at 75% discount from the rack rate. It's at the end of winter, but rest assured, we are warming up. Compared to MSY Wind Star, the MV Star Breeze is huge. There are three different public spaces, we prefer the Yacht Club. It's the equivalent of a Flag Bridge on a naval vessel, sitting overtop the navigation bridge. The cabins are huge, at 270 sq ft! The photos are truth! The picture window is five feet by four feet. The main dining room and the ships galley are on deck 3. Decks one and two are engineering spaces and cargo. The crew has spaces forward and aft on deck 4, along with staterooms. Deck five is more staterooms, the hotel business office, and the lounge. Deck six is the larger suites, more staterooms, the inside bar, screening room, and library. Deck seven is the buffet(veranda), the pools, the outside bar, the spa, and the navigation bridge. Good food, great staff, flat seas, combine for a fantastic voyage! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
For us the best part of the Windstar experience is the crew! They are fantastic! We have been on all three of the sailing yachts and now this, our first motor yacht, and the crew has been the common stand out thing on all of them! Our ... Read More
For us the best part of the Windstar experience is the crew! They are fantastic! We have been on all three of the sailing yachts and now this, our first motor yacht, and the crew has been the common stand out thing on all of them! Our cabin was great, the food excellent. Friends with the French Balconies really liked them for the fresh air but our large picture window was just fine. We just popped out on to the deck when we wanted a better view. We prefer the smaller ships Wind Star and Wind Spirit, but we were very comfortable on the Star Breeze. We would gladly sail again on a motor yacht if the itinerary demanded it. Embarkation in Costa Rica was a breeze. Disembarkation in Barbados was a little confusing but sorted itself out once off the ship. Then went very smoothly. Just wish wi fi was a lot cheaper. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
This was our second Windstar cruise, a back-to-back Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, followed by a Southern Caribbean Sweep itinerary from Colon, Panama to Cartegena, Colombia; Aruba, and Bequia in the Grenadines, with disembarkation in ... Read More
This was our second Windstar cruise, a back-to-back Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, followed by a Southern Caribbean Sweep itinerary from Colon, Panama to Cartegena, Colombia; Aruba, and Bequia in the Grenadines, with disembarkation in Barbados. We enjoyed our first Windstar cruise through the ABC Island and the Grenadines on the Star Pride so much that we wanted to sail through the Canal with this excellent upper premium level line. We are a retired couple, mid-60s, from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Embarkation - Having flown in to San Jose, Costa Rica the day prior to boarding and joining some of the passengers at the Marriott hotel for the transfer to Puerto Caldera, we enjoyed the almost 2 hour bus ride as Windstar provided a Costa Rican guide who talked for about an hour about his country and how the cruise line conducts embarkation. The embarkation process in the lounge where you receive your cruise card, sign up for packages and excursions not booked online, enjoy a glass of champagne and meet some of the staff. Light lunch was also available until 3:30. Since we had boarded at 3:15, our cabin was available immediately. There was the obligatory safety drill with life jackets and a welcome aboard presentation and port talk about Quepos, tomorrow's port, before dinner at 7:00. Public Rooms - We found public rooms were well maintained and included two lounges, two bars, a complete spa and gym, counter-current swimming pool, two hot tubs (one near pool & one at bow on deck 5), the Yacht Club (for views, books, early morning continental breakfast or lunch sandwiches), library next to casino with a few one-arm bandits and a blackjack table, and Signature Shop. Specialty coffee is complimentary at any venue. See Cabin review below for details of our stateroom. The ship also has a Sports Marina aft with non-motorized equipment for use when anchored. Dining -- The main dining room AmphorA restaurant was open seating from 7-9 p.m. daily for dinner only. You can ask for whatever size table you desired and change the option nightly. Verandah which was aft on pool deck was used for Breakfast (7-9:30 am) and Lunch buffet daily (usually 12:30-2). There was indoor seating, but most guests ate on deck. There were always 4-5 options for special orders or you could help yourself at the buffet -- I never found any type of food to be missing, though the hot lunch buffet variety was lacking. Many ate fresh fruits and salads, and there were always several desserts of the cake/pastry variety and two frozen options (ice cream and sorbet) with toppings of all kinds available. Verandah is transformed into Candles at night for an upscale (think Specialty dining) experience out on deck which all guests are complimented once during the sailing; however, reservations are required due to limited space (book at embarkation). Service was always excellent at all dining venues. Activities -- There were several events that were part of the planned activities which included a deck BBQ dinner in Balboa before transiting the Panama Canal and the second week after sailing from Bequia the last night. Another event was the Beach BBQ lunch on Isla Parida where a full lunch is prepared behind the beach, Table and chairs are provided, as well as use of the marina's water toys and a couple of spa tables for massages. Some local entertainment was provided while in Costa Rica which were cultural dancing shows (one with school children); in addition, there was a naturalist who gave presentations and was available for questions on board for the entire first cruise. On the sea days (one the first week and three the second), there were several tours and demonstrations one could attend such as towel animal folding demonstration, cooking demonstration with the head Chef, galley tour, cocktail demonstration, and a photography seminar. A movie and cards, Wii, & Board games were also available. One port night in Cartegena, we sailed at 8 p.m. and had arrived at 7 a.m., allowing ample time in port; however, our time in Bequia was limited to about 4-5 hours due to late arrival and early departure at 5 pm. as well as several other ships in port. Shipboard Entertainment -- There were two duos, D'Harmony from South Africa who also performed on our Star Pride cruise and Nightlights (Elena and Julian) playing every night at the two venues of the Star Bar and Compass Rose. They also were featured during other events such as the Captain's party. There was also a Crew talent show at the end of each of the cruises, Staff/Crew/Service - With such a small ship with few guests, it was very easy to get to know everyone. The crew learns your name within 24 hours and there is great camaraderie among everyone. Some of the guest services staff, the photographer and occasionally an officer participated on shore excursions. The Captain was from Croatia, and there is an open bridge policy for guests when not sailing from or into port. There is a deck area in front of the bridge and guests did participate in viewing and photographing arrivals and departures from ports as well as the transit of the Panama Canal, while simultaneously seeing what the Captain and officers were viewing. Disembarkation - Quick and easy - We had completed customs forms several days prior which enabled Windstar to complete customs for all guests, so we merely retrieved our luggage and went on our way, with a ship's transfer to the airport. Ship's Excursions Quepos - We took the Mangrove tour to the mouth of the Quebrada River and back, seeing capuchin monkeys, iguana, numerous birds such as herons, egrets, vultures, and warblers, and an anteater. Good tour. I also took an afternoon ziplining tour through the canopy on 10 different cable runs and this was great. Balboa - Since we had been to the Canal 15 years ago, but not through it, we had seen the Gatun Locks Visitor's Center on the Atlantic side. We chose to take the Miraflores Locks tour with a stop at the visitor's center, combined with a 1-1/2 hour walking tour of the Old Town (Casco Viejo) Colonial Quarter of Panama City. Good tour. Cartegena - Our tour included a stop at San Felipe Fort for fabulous views of the city and talk about the city's history, followed by a walking tour through the Old City touring the Church/Monastery as well. At the port, passengers can view an animal park with flamingeos, square monkeys, iguanas, and peacocks; large shopping area as well. Aruba - Took private snorkeling tour. Bequia - Since this was our third visit to this port, we wanted to take a tour of the highlights which included several stops; one with an excellent view of the harbor, one with a view from the other side, of the islands of St. Vincent, Mustique, Isle a Quatre, and others; and the third at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, founded and run by one man. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We selected the 7 day Windstar Costa Rica/Panama cruise because we wanted to visit these two countries and to transit the Panama Canal. First, the Star Breeze and her crew were one of the highlights of this experience. While the ... Read More
We selected the 7 day Windstar Costa Rica/Panama cruise because we wanted to visit these two countries and to transit the Panama Canal. First, the Star Breeze and her crew were one of the highlights of this experience. While the ship was built in 1989, and updated in 2015, it was in excellent condition and every one of the crew focused entirely on making our experience a memorable one 24/7. We enjoyed pulling into the small, out of the way ports of call and very much enjoyed getting to meet and greet the Costa Ricans and Panamanians away from the hustle and bustle of the larger tourist focused areas. The food on board was world class in every respect. I cannot conceive of finding fault with regard to the culinary offerings. They just blew us away! Our stateroom was well appointed and spacious (277 sq ft). Plenty of room for my wife and I to stretch out and enjoy the cruise. Two of our excursions focused on preparing typical Costa Rican and Panamanian foods, which included trips to the local grocery stores to purchase the necessary produce and other items needed. These were a lot of fun. A note to possible travelers: Windstar cruising requires at least a modest amount of physical ability to get on and off the ship, as many transfers are via a Zodiac (perfectly safe and fun, but not for immobile or wheel chair bound people). Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
i chose this sailing because of a special promotion which made the price reasonable compared to most other azamera cruises and it had an interesting intinerary.. i had always wanted to sail on azamera due to its excellent reputation for ... Read More
i chose this sailing because of a special promotion which made the price reasonable compared to most other azamera cruises and it had an interesting intinerary.. i had always wanted to sail on azamera due to its excellent reputation for food quality, its small size, the free liquor and free gratuities. it lived up to my expectations, the staff is very friendly, the captain down to the housekeeping, food was excellent, white nights is a terrific event, get there early and grab a table with a very high end buffet. tendering was orderly and had minimal waits. the only 2 reasons it is not rated 5 stars was that we had a botched excursion where the vendor swisstours did not do all elements of the excursion in papagayo, azamera did refund us 50 per cent but we really wanted the complete refund. the second issue was the best entertainment on the ship was the singers and dancers and russ the cruise director who is also an excellent singer. azamera for some reason is letting go of all their singers and dancers as of feb 8th for some type of new format. this cruise had 3 nights of a violinist and a piano player/magician. do i really need 3 nights for classical music and no comedians. the inside cabin we had seemed smaller than other ships the same room size. overall though the cruise was excellent and i would definitely go on this cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Azamara Quest Review Costa Rica 15-25 Jan 2018 This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and it was every bit as good as the last five. We stayed in Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, outside San Jose, for 4 days before embarkation. ... Read More
Azamara Quest Review Costa Rica 15-25 Jan 2018 This was our sixth cruise with Azamara and it was every bit as good as the last five. We stayed in Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, outside San Jose, for 4 days before embarkation. The hotel was set in 10 acres of botanical gardens and had a swimming pool. It was great for bird watching. We took a tour from there to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which was excellent, and went into San Jose by taxi to see the National Theatre (amazing building). The hotel arranged transport for us and another couple to the port. The evening before embarkation we got an email from Azamara saying that due to high winds the port of embarkation had changed from Puerto Caldera to Puntarenas. The hotel was able to rearrange the transport for us, and it ended up costing us $70 a couple in a very comfortable mini-bus. When we got to Puntarenas we found embarkation a little different than usual. We were directed into a terminal building to be given a medical form, then took the shuttle bus along the pier to the ship. Check-in was completed in the Cabaret Lounge. This was all done with very little fuss and little queuing - given the short notice, we felt this was handled very well and efficiently. Our verandah stateroom was very comfortable. Our two attendants did a good job, bringing me lots of extra hangers and making sure our fridge had plenty of tonic waters as we requested. We are most nights in Discoveries (MDR) and found the food to be excellent, with some dishes being outstanding. We like to share tables, but found it quite difficult to do this because we like to dine fairly late and by the time we got there all the large tables had filled up. However we found that even when we had a table for two, we could chat to the couple at the next table. Service was generally very good, although on a couple of occasions we had quite a gap between courses. The included wines were OK and if we didn’t like the day’s offerings, it was usually possible to get some of a previous day’s wine. We booked dinner in Prime C (speciality restaurant - $30 a head extra) one night and, as always, the food and service was superb. We ate breakfast in Windows (buffet), where again the tea & coffee service was excellent. We mostly had lunch in the Patio, though I often went into Windows to get a slice of the roast meat of the day to have with salad. The cruise only had 2 sea-days and we spent these in our favourite spot -deck 11 sun-deck. The Azamazing evening was due to be held in the old part of Panama City, but as the weather was unsettled, the Captain decided to bring it onboard. It was a folk-dancing show and was quite good, but inevitably it lost atmosphere being held in the cabaret lounge. The White Night was excellent. The buffet included lobster, steak, lamb, Frito Misto, Paella and, of course, crepes suzettes served by the Hotel Manager. It was quite an emotional occasion, as it was Captain Carl Smith’s last voyage on the Quest before taking over the new Azamara ship, the Pursuit. The ports we went to were: Panama City - (two days). On the first day we took the Hop On Hop Off bus from Fuerte Amador where the boat docked and got off at the Miraflores lock. We didn’t see any ships going through the lock, but thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition about the canal and how it was built. On the second day we got a taxi into the old town and had a wander around it and around the fish market close by. Golfito - a small town right next to the dock. We had booked a private tour along with others on our Roll call. The tour was a boat trip in the Golfe Dulce to see dolphins, which we did -a pod of 340! We were then taken to an animal sanctuary where we saw monkeys, an ocelot, macaws, sloths and a tayra. Lastly we had the opportunity to snorkel over a small reef. Quepos - tendered port - there seemed to be quite a nice little town next to the tender port. Again we had booked a private tour to Manual Antonio National Park. The tour company met us just outside the tender port and took us to the park, where we walked through the park with a guide who had a monocular and who was able to point out various animals, birds and frogs along the way. The path led to the beach where we had time for a swim before setting off back again. Then we were taken for lunch in a local restaurant. Unfortunately it was a Sunday when we were there so the Park was very busy as the trail to the beach was used by them. We had to queue to get into the park, and then queue along the way to be able to see reptiles, birds, animals & frogs along the way. San Juan Del Tour, Nicaragua,- tendered port. This was a nice little town with a nice beach and lots of beach bars and restaurants, all close to the tender port. We had booked a private half day tour of the town, a visit to the statue of Christ Misericordia perched on the cliff over the town( half the size of Christ the Redeemer in Rio), then to an adventure park where we had a bone rattling ride in 4x4s, to a viewpoint where we could see Lake Nicaragua and it’s 2 volcanoes. From there we could do an included short walk or visit an Iguana Sanctuary, or do Zip-lining for an extra $30. I opted for the zip-lining, which was a first for me - I loved it! We ended up at a seaside restaurant for an included drink and to watch an excellent display of folk-dancing. Puntarenas -the ship was docked at the pier of this small seaside town. This time we took the ship’s tour to the Cloud Forest which was fascinating and included butterfly and humming bird gardens. The tour included lunch and the inevitable stop at a souvenir shop. Disembarkation was, as usual, very easy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
This was our first ocean cruise on a small ship. Star Breeze is comparable to a river cruise in that there were fewer than 200 passengers.. Accordingly, the ship offered little in the way of entertainment, though it did feature a library ... Read More
This was our first ocean cruise on a small ship. Star Breeze is comparable to a river cruise in that there were fewer than 200 passengers.. Accordingly, the ship offered little in the way of entertainment, though it did feature a library that offered videos as well as books. The crew-to-passenger ratio was almost 1-1, and the personnel were wonderful. The chef elicited my list of allergies, and prepared versions of the menu choices that I could eat safely. He even made a special anniversary cake for us, whose presentation was accompanied by a chorus of dining room staff. The food in the main dining room was fantastic, as was the breakfast buffet. The latter featured fresh local fruits and squeezed orange juice. The small number of passengers made for effortless embarkation and disembarkation. However, in the ports, we always dropped anchor in the harbor and got to the shore on zodiacs. Windstar celebrated the adventure of this arrival mode, claiming that the small rubber boats allowed the ship to enter small ports that could not accommodate larger ships. Perhaps that's true, but we did zodiacs even in the large port of Panama City. I did not enjoy the 10-minute rides, and when the sea was choppy, getting back onto the ship was a slightly scary adventure. Port visits were preceded by talks given by the onboard enrichment lecturer; I found them informative. Our first port was Quepos, where we, along with four other CC members, had booked a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park.from Odyssey Tours. That is the same local outfit we had engaged to drive us from San Jose to Puerto Caldera; their prices for both services being lower than those offered by Windstar. During our short pre-trip stay in San Jose, we had booked the Rainforest Adventure, which picked us up at our hotel. I got to wear my jaguar pattern rain poncho. One would not wish to do these park visits without a guide. He found the animals we came to see. Only the Capuchine monkeys were easy to spot. We would not have seen the other critters. No-cost optional swimming at a very nice beach was offered at the end of the tour. Our next stop was Puerto Jimenez, where we had booked a visit to Rancho Raices through Golfo Dulce Dart Tours. It is a chocolate farm run by a family that has been there for several generations. We saw the trees, and followed the stages from pod to chocolate bar. At the end of the tour, we were offered a chocolate drink and other fruits grown on the farm. Owner German and English-speaking guide Marco were excellent hosts, showing us a variety of plants grown there that serve both culinary and medicinal purposes. The highlight might have been the appearance of a large troupe of wild squirrel monkeys, who come daily for the home-grown bananas set out by Marco at noon daily. The monkeys know the schedule. This was my favorite excursion. The ship offered a barbecue at the next stop, which was a private island. The food was excellent, as we had come to expect, and we had an an opportunity to swim and snorkel, although the latter was unexciting.as the visibility was poor. After that, the stops were in Panama. We took a Windstar tour in Panama City and another on the post-disembarkation ride from Colon back to Panama City. These were overly expensive with not much to see, and their content overlapped. I cannot recommend either of them. In between, we traversed the Panama Canal, which we saw from a small ship for the first time. It was interesting to see the locks from the inside. I have to confess that after a while, the excitement waned, at least for me. Most passengers kept doggedly taking pictures. Would we do it again? No. But I'm glad we did it once. My final bit of advice is to bring a warm jacket. Although the tropics are as warm as you would expect, the public spaces on Star Breeze were always uncomfortably chilly. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this cruise because we wanted to sail through the Panama Canal, do a little snorkeling, and get away from crowds. Our prior experience with large cruise lines, left us feeling uncomfortable with cruising. We ran across ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to sail through the Panama Canal, do a little snorkeling, and get away from crowds. Our prior experience with large cruise lines, left us feeling uncomfortable with cruising. We ran across Windstar's much smaller ship, and decided that it might be just right for us. Because we weren't interested in shows, socializing too much, visiting crowded ports with T shirt shops, and waiting in long lines, Windstar was perfect. The Star Breeze surprised us by offering beautiful Oceanview suites as their smallest cabins. We also took advantage of the free 24 hour room service. The food was plentiful, and delicious. Our crew was always eager to please. We arrived at each port on schedule. For a tropical cruise on Windstar, I would recommend packing clothing that dries quickly (fishing shirts, etc.), 1 or 2 country club outfits for dinner, and 3 pairs of shoes (water, hiking, and resort casual for dinner.) Aside from that, get the laundry service. We regretted our decision to overpack and not order laundry service. Highlights included: Manuel Antonio National Park with Odyssey Tours, Beach BBQ and snorkelinig on Isle Parida (don't give up, the fish are by the rocks), lobster one night, and actually going all the way through the Panama Canal, and relaxing in the yacht club at the front of the ship. We are already talking about a future Windstar Trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Let me start by saying that it sounds like Windstar got off to a very rocky start on their inaugural voyages in 2016! This was our third Windstar cruise. The first 2 were on sailboats. Windstar is absolutely not for people who have been on ... Read More
Let me start by saying that it sounds like Windstar got off to a very rocky start on their inaugural voyages in 2016! This was our third Windstar cruise. The first 2 were on sailboats. Windstar is absolutely not for people who have been on large ships and like all the entertainment etc. In our experiences the Windstar is clear that there is a specific hotel near the airport from which transfers (for a fee) to the ship take place. Otherwise passengers make their own transportation arrangements as some of the passengers did on our voyage. We had a great time on this voyage! Though the wind, especially in the North, can interrupt the itinerary. We were to spend first afternoon in Nicaragua but it was too windy to take the zodiacs into shore. Because this itinerary goes to out of the way stops without docks ( except Quepos) the excursions are mostly wet landings on the shore. This is not a trip for those not comfortable with these landings that can be in windy conditions. With that said, the fellow passengers were very very active experiencing the variety of excursions from easy to "strenuous". FYI, most passengers were between mid 50s to early 70s. Our excursions: 1) River Cruise and Traditions: The cruise was great and saw crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas etc. I personally did not like the "traditions " part ( not my thing but others disagreed)but the hacienda visit and lunch were nice . 2) Catamaran Adventure with snorkel: no coral in north but nice beach and saw smaller fish: puffer, angel etc . I wore a Pacifica SPF long sleeve shirt that provided a little extra warmth too . Water here was not bath water as it was further south 3) Marenco to Caletas Nature Walk: saw some birds . Walk along beach ( gorgeous rocks formations) and thru rainforest over extension bridge etc. was nice. 4) Afternoon in Bird Realm: saw hundreds and hundreds of frigates and some brown boobys and huge pelicans . Stopped at a stunning black sand beach! 5) Manuel Antonio Park: very very crowded! However saw many monkeys and cool sloth climbing down a tree 6) Curu Nature preserve: not my favorite but others including my husband loved it! 7) Tortuga Beach picnic for everyone was great! I kayaked. Others did paddle board ( younger group!). Fun day! The people who did horseback riding , rafting and zip lining ( not for the faint of heart!) were pleased with their excursions. We splurged on Juliette balcony and never shut the door! Loved it!! The barbecue on board is always fun and the staff dancing is great! Otherwise, entertainment were 2 duos in different locations. No one went to casino or at least whenever my husband showed up. Great staff! Many passengers hugging staff and saying goodbye at the end! Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
This was our 1st cruise on a smaller ship. Really liked the size vs.the bigger ships. Windstar was 1st class from beginning to end. Personnel were friendly, polite,professional and fun. Food was excellent. Excursions were accurately ... Read More
This was our 1st cruise on a smaller ship. Really liked the size vs.the bigger ships. Windstar was 1st class from beginning to end. Personnel were friendly, polite,professional and fun. Food was excellent. Excursions were accurately described and fairly priced. The Sports Deck off the rear of the ship is an extra bonus and very enjoyable. The day on the private island was fun; and the deck party/celebration was amazing! The Panama Canal experience is most impressive and educational, and the ship does a good job presenting it. Pre and post hotels (in San Jose and Panaa City) were 4 or 5-star -- very nice. We were very satisfied and would recommend Windstar and this particular itinerary highly. P.S. while in Panama City, we hired a taxi to give us a personal, sight-seeing tour of the city. His name is Eric A. Singh; 507-6040-9459. He was great! Very fair, informative, clean/comfortable car and a real gentleman. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This was our first cruise on Windstar. We were on the February 13-20, 2016 Star Breeze cruise from Puerto Caldera to Colon, Panama. We flew into San Jose the day before and used the Windstar transfer to the San Jose Marriott. The ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Windstar. We were on the February 13-20, 2016 Star Breeze cruise from Puerto Caldera to Colon, Panama. We flew into San Jose the day before and used the Windstar transfer to the San Jose Marriott. The hotel is in a colonial, hacienda style on a large property. Rooms are standard Marriott ( and this is meant as a complement). That evening there was a Windstar rep set up outside of the lobby to check us in and explain the transfer process. She was there the next morning also. For the transfer, there were 3 separate buses,leaving approximately 30 minutes apart. The entire process was very efficient and relaxed. The transfer to the port took almost 2 hours due to the traffic leaving the San Jose area. The port is an industrial port, but did not pose any problems or issues. The ship: Yes, this ship is 30 years old. The interior has been nicely re-done, but.. if you look close in places it will show its age. This did not take away from our enjoyment of the cruise. The exterior of the ship (not the deck areas, but the hull ) did look dingy in places, but I did note that during the week the exterior was being painted. The outside public deck areas were the passengers spent most of their time was always clean and in good repair. Because this is a small ship, the pools/whirlpools are small. While we did not use the pools, the passengers that did appear to enjoy them and there was always adequate space. Food: Food was very good. We ate at the Veranda most days for breakfast and lunch, and AmphorA for dinner. There was always a wide variety of selections, well prepared and a willingness to prepare what ever was requested within reason. We took the galley tour one day and met the Executive Chef. We explained how all dinners were prepared to order and that all bread and pastries were baked daily on board. We also ate one night at Candles, the open air part of the Veranda dining room at the rear of the ship. It is a traditional steakhouse presentation and was well done. We did have room service the evening we went through the Panama Canal and it was prompt and well presented. They brought the courses separately as they would be served in AmphorA. One slight disappointment in the Food area were the wine choices. I thought it was very limited and would have appreciated a wider selection. The cocktails were always well prepared. The lunch BBQ on the beach was extremely well done considering having to bring everything from the ship to shore. The BBQ on board was also great with grilled lobster and a roasted pig. Service: The staff was fantastic, especially the food service and bar staff. They all were very personable and remembered your name and would take extra time to have conversations. All with a smile on their face. Activities/Entertainment: There were two duos on board, both with a female lead and backup singer/ keyboard accompanist. Both were appropriate for the size of the ship and the level of interest in the passengers for this type of entertainment. They would play on deck during the sailaways and provide light entertainment in the lounge in the evening. We had a local, Costa Rican naturalist as part of the cruise staff. He provide several days of lectures with in depth information on the areas history, biology, etc. Very well done. His lectures were well attended and informative. Ports/Excursions: One aspect of this cruise that I feel Windstar should make all potential passengers aware of is that this cruise does not dock at any port except at embarkation and disembarkation. All other ports are reached by zodiac tenders boarded on the ships platform with several landings being "wet". The Star Breeze's own tender was pulled out in Balboa. The crew appeared the have the method of getting passengers in and out of the zodiac in the open seas pretty well down pat. We took Windstar shore excursions in all of the ports and we enjoyed all of them and they were all well done. Disembarkation: Disembarkation saw the most disappointing Windstar experience of the cruise. Apparently due to the pace of the Panamanian authorities to clear us and stamp our passports, the process to leave the ship was about an hour behind schedule. I don't fault Windstar for that... But, the water in the public areas of the ship was turned off during this time ( scheduled maintenance)... which means the toilets would not flush!!! Not a pleasant last memory of an otherwise great trip. We took the tour of Panama City as part of our transfer to the Bristol Hotel for one night post-cruise. The tour was OK. The Bristol Hotel was extremely nice and is highly recommended. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
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
Sail Date January 2016
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Our cruise was Naturally Costa Rica. It's SO disappointing to look forward to a cruise, read about all of the wonderful places "only small ships can go", the "private yacht style", the outstanding service with ... Read More
Our cruise was Naturally Costa Rica. It's SO disappointing to look forward to a cruise, read about all of the wonderful places "only small ships can go", the "private yacht style", the outstanding service with that "perfect refreshing drink appearing at your side", and not have any of it happen! The deal: Our original cruise which was scheduled for January 30th was cancelled and we were not notified until January 6th. When we called Windstar to discuss what our options were they were indifferent about assisting. We had to change all of our travel plans which cost a great deal. Once we moved our trip forward by a week I made arrangements with Windstar to meet us at the airport but when we arrived Windstar wasn't there! We were bombarded with tons of taxi drivers vying for our business. We took a taxi to the port ($130) and finally made it to the ship - but - no one was around to help us with our luggage, welcome us aboard, etc. The main problem is that ship Windstar has for this itinerary is not the right ship. The watersports platform which is heavily advertised was never open because it wasn't safe. Shore excursions were cancelled because it wasn't safe. One boat on a shore excursion ran aground and passengers were stranded for hours. Disembarking from the Star Breeze onto the zodiacs was very challenging and slow. Several passengers were hurt. Sometimes we waited an hour to get off the ship. The food was average. I had only one outstanding meal. The options for where to eat are very limited! The crew worked very hard but it doesn't make up for all of the issues we had. We will not be sailing with Windstar again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I am not one to write anything negative, but this really was a disappointment. Stateroom phenomenal, food good but not phenomenal. Service good but not like in the past. Exercise room fair -- no elypical was a complaint of many of us. ... Read More
I am not one to write anything negative, but this really was a disappointment. Stateroom phenomenal, food good but not phenomenal. Service good but not like in the past. Exercise room fair -- no elypical was a complaint of many of us. We have sailed Windstar before, my 4th sailing, and we were looking forward to the wonderful small yacht experience with no waiting lines and quiet ports -- using the sports platform and enjoying the true island experiences as we had in the past. But this ship is not like the sailing ships. We docked in the open ocean where swells precluded the use of the sport platform despite good weather and it never opened the whole week. We are told that it is designed differently than the sailing ships and does not work well unless in a flat water bay. So why didn't we dock where it would be usable? And the choice of docking WAY out meant that the zodiacs were tendering amidst typical ocean swells (again, not bad weather, just that in the middle of the ocean you have swells to contend with and the captain opted to dock WAY out). The zodiac rides were at times unsafe - we had one load of older folks knocked to the floor as ours went on its side once (really due to error on the part of the driver, not swell) and others were left bobbing for 90 minutes one day awaiting swells appropriate for reboarding, again, not with a bad weather day. The biggest issue we had other than the nonfunctional sports platform though was the waiting. On Windstar, you do not expect to wait in line. On this ship, you wait, and wait, and wait to board the zodiacs to the shore. Not what one expects when you board this cruise line. The ship itself is renovated on the inside with very nice cabins, but the outdoor areas are very run down, and just feel kind of sad. While we enjoyed our precious week away and appreciate our vacation experience, it just was not up to Windstar standards. It was poorly organized, and it just seemed that they have a lot of kinks to work out in taking on a different style of ship to their line. Cruise director very nice and pleasant but a poor communicator and seemed inexperienced. Information conveyed often wrong and/or conflicting. Honestly all the return Windstar guests were disappointed, and those new to the line vowed they would not return. It is too bad, but has us looking toward other lines next time, or at least if we do Windstar it definitely will not be this ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We sailed on the Journey for a Panama Canal transit and it was wonderful! It was our first time on Azamara. I was a little nervous as it was "a luxury line" and we are just two unassuming retired folks. We found our fellow ... Read More
We sailed on the Journey for a Panama Canal transit and it was wonderful! It was our first time on Azamara. I was a little nervous as it was "a luxury line" and we are just two unassuming retired folks. We found our fellow passengers down-to-earth and unpretentious. The cruise was very smooth. I usually have difficulty with my balance when I get off a ship but I haven't experienced that this time. The staff on the Journey all seemed very friendly and helpful. The wait staff in the Main Dining Room and in Windows Cafe were very attentive and even checked when we had special requests from what was on the menu! We enjoyed most of the shows. The Journey Singers and Dancers did a great job! They had also brought in special entertainment in addition to the Journey Singers and Dancers -- there was a comedian and two violinists. They were both very enjoyable. Dima and Sasha's dancing was incredible and we enjoyed our group dance lessons with them. Natalie, Marcos and Daniel were good singers. Eric was a hoot with his banter with the Captain and his drag dressing for Hairspray songs. The Land Discoveries were good. I would have preferred to have an audio unit to hear the guides, as I frequently held back a little to take pics and I missed some of what was being explained. In Costa Rica the visit to the Carara National Park was listed as strenuous but most in our group thought it wasn't all that taxing. We did get to see some monkeys and birds but not many (but we know you can't schedule nature!). We saw many more at the Animal Rescue Center which was a fun tour. The Azamazing evening was well-organized and the music presented was very good. I thought it was a little rushed and didn't allow much time for exploring the venue. The only negatives were that they changed one port of call several times, even as close as the week before (from Haiti to Montego Bay to Falmouth) and changed some of the Land Discoveries without letting folks who had pre-booked them know ahead of time. I had also asked about Church Services and was given incorrect info from the concierge. After walking to the Church, we found out that the service was over before we docked but the priest was happy that we made the effort and conducted a communion service for us before he left for a mission church service. We enjoyed the open seating and shared a table most meals. Our fellow passengers were fun to talk with over meals. We didn't find anyone trying to upsell the drinks or the photos or artwork. And there was never any mention of tipping except for a few of the Land Discoveries, and even then it was just mentioned. Overall, it was an excellent trip! I would travel with Azamara again! Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
We boarded the "yacht", capacity 212, to sail south to and through the panama canal. There were numerous shore excursion and we enjoyed all, and the crew worked hard on the island adventure providing excursion and Bbq lunch. ... Read More
We boarded the "yacht", capacity 212, to sail south to and through the panama canal. There were numerous shore excursion and we enjoyed all, and the crew worked hard on the island adventure providing excursion and Bbq lunch. Overall, the service was great and we enjoyed the crew, esp. Sammy, Andi, Tata and Dian. The cabin was clean and well cared for. Two glitches occurred however. Our first night we ate at the signature restaurant, Candles. We were seated and served our appetizer in timely fashion, but then waited an hour to have our entree. I tasted well over cooked and like it had been under lights. The lamb chops were tough and Ann's pasta heavy. We bought the beverage package, but found that didn't included bottles of wine with dinner, although the glasses of wine for the most part were the same. There was no comment about the marked delay and we did not go back. The second glitch was an engine broke down and this slowed the ship on the last day. My best understanding was there was then a domino effect resulting in the fact that the Canal pilot was very late to board the ship so we passed the panama canal at night and while the locks were lit up, the remainder had only lights marking lanes for ships. We could see nothing of the Culebra cut which cost some 40,000 lives to build, This was disappointing. We were also charged for 2 unlimited wifi packages even though we had one computer and only received on ticket. I am still waiting to see if one was remover as I talked to the manager. Food overall was good, but not great, however i have to complement breakfasts which had good choices, were well cooked and timely. The duo Cloud 9 were good and very friendly. We enjoyed listening and talking to them. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
The cruise seemed to be starting off well with smooth and efficient boarding (at least on the cruise line's part -- the port, on the other hand, was a nightmare). We embarked on the early side and enjoyed a pleasant lunch al fresco ... Read More
The cruise seemed to be starting off well with smooth and efficient boarding (at least on the cruise line's part -- the port, on the other hand, was a nightmare). We embarked on the early side and enjoyed a pleasant lunch al fresco at the Veranda restaurant, and found our luggage waiting near our cabin by the time we finished. The delay in the arrival of the two trucks with provisions for the cruise was an omen of things to come. The trucks didn't arrive until after we were scheduled to sail, so sail away took place after 11:30 pm, instead of 6 pm. Breakfast at Veranda was uniformly good, but the dining room tended to get crowded on mornings when a lot of passengers planned to leave the ship around the same time in the morning. As we discovered the first morning of the cruise, the only ports where the ship docked at a pier were the ports of embarkation and disembarkation. All the other ports required tendering, mostly via Zodiacs (basically, rubber rafts with outboard motors, capacity about 15 plus crew), and at one port, via a more traditional small boat with a cabin that held about 20 people. The Windstar web site was quite silent about the tendering, and we saw a fair number of passengers struggling to get in and out of the Zodiacs (they really aren't appropriate for anyone with mobility, balance, or similar issues). Unlike ports for other cruise itineraries, most ports on this cruise had minimal facilities -- going ashore meant booking a shore excursion for activities inland. Otherwise, there really was very little to do ashore in the way of sightseeing. Manuel Antonio National Park was well worth the trip. We also enjoyed the Chocolate Farm, although the tour covered very little area of the farm itself, and wasn't what we were expecting. On the plus side, most of the crew was attentive, courteous, and professional. Our cabin attendant (Fauzi), Philippe (water sports and "other duties as assigned"), the barrista (sorry I can't remember her name) were exceptional. We also appreciated the "open bridge," which allowed us the chance to visit the bridge and get a tour from one of the officers. The passengers were friendly, and generally eager to make new acquaintances, and meeting our fellow passengers was certainly made easier by the small number of passengers (only 160 on this cruise, although the capacity is 212), and the availability of open seating at all meals - which is one of the reasons most of the other passengers we met like cruising on the Windstar line. On the other hand, service at dinner (both at the main dining room - AmphorA - and at the "specialty" Candles, was worse than glacial. Given that the dining rooms didn't open for dinner until 7 pm, it wasn't possible to finish dinner any earlier than about 9:15. The delay between appetizers and entrees was typically 45 minutes. Other "deficiencies": * Prior to the cruise, we got conflicting information from Windstar regarding availability of transfers from the airport to the port (initially told they were not available unless we purchased the package including a night at the very expensive Marriott, later go an email with instructions for meeting a cruise line representative at the airport for transfer directly to the port, email to the cruise line requesting clarification received an uninformative reply) * Web site with broken links and inadequate information regarding shore excursions * Although clean, rolled towels were provided on the deck chairs at the beginning of the day, extra towels on the pool deck were a rare commodity. Except for one day, I had to walk up to the next deck to pick up a towel from one of the deck chairs, or ask the bartender for one. *The pool - salt water - was generally a pleasant temperature, but is practically microscopic in size, and not very inviting in terms of appearance. Also, access to the pool is over a high ledge, so not what I would characterize as "accessible" for passengers with mobility issues. *In general, the Star Pride is not very accessible - elevators are very small (barely big enough for a person using a walker, much less a wheelchair or a motorized scooter) and most doorways to the decks have high threshholds - but the Windstar web site doesn't provide any obvious warnings that the ship might be problematical for passengers with mobility issues. * Return to the ship from some shore excursions (particularly at Balboa) was excruciatingly slow, because a lot of passengers were queued on the dock but only one Zodiac was in service and the ship was some distance from the dock. * Cabins only have 1 US-type electrical outlet - information that was available on the web site so we came prepared with a 2 plug/2 USB port adapter * Restrooms in the public areas are small, barely room to turn around The final disappointment resulted from an engine failure after we left Isla de Coiba for Balboa, Panama. The loss of an engine resulted in our late arrival at Balboa and the need for the "cruise leader" to reschedule all the land excursions - quite a feat, although not entirely successful, because the length of some tours had to be cut, and our tour of the old city of Panama City took place at a trot. The change in schedule also may or may not have affected the timing of our canal transit. We and all the passengers we spoke with were under the impression that the transit was to take place during daylight hours. The pilot (a canal employee who is responsible for piloting the ship through the canal) was over an hour late arriving, and didn't arrive until after dark, but even had he been on time, it's doubtful we would have made Miraflores Locks during daylight. Throughout the day, we were given conflicting information regarding the schedule for transiting the canal and the reasons for the delay, but the guide who narrated our transit said that small ships always transit the canal at night. So overall, we met some wonderful people, enjoyed the entertainment, got to see some breathtaking scenery, had good food at breakfast and lunch (I much preferred the buffets to the plated meals), and very much appreciated the attentive service of our cabin attendant and the crew, but I at least came home feeling that the many high points were offset by the disappointments. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We had previously cruised on Azamara (3 Journey, 1 Quest) when they were seeking their niche. Now, several years later, the cruises are shorter now and much more expensive. However the cruise was worth every penny. The crew was ... Read More
We had previously cruised on Azamara (3 Journey, 1 Quest) when they were seeking their niche. Now, several years later, the cruises are shorter now and much more expensive. However the cruise was worth every penny. The crew was outstanding, the food superb, and the overall management by Hotel Director Heike left nothing to be desired. Every effort was made to satisfy the passengers. We are long term Celebrity cruisers (about 20) and enjoyed this departure from the norm immensely. We look forward to another opportunity to travel on Azamara again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
My wife and I took a cruise on Crystal Serenity Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2014, from the west coast of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, ending in Miami, FL, USA. We're not members (yet) ... Read More
My wife and I took a cruise on Crystal Serenity Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2014, from the west coast of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, ending in Miami, FL, USA. We're not members (yet) of the cruiser subculture. Our only prior cruise was on the Crystal Harmony in 1996, so we have nothing with which to compare Crystal. That having been said, our overall experience was excellent. Crystal is on the pricey side, but you get pretty much what you pay for. Crystal's marketing hype is over the top, so we came in with very high expectations. Mostly our expectations were met, one was more than met, and a couple not quite. Still, for the price we think it's a good value and would consider taking a cruise on Crystal again if the time and place were right. The passenger crowd is mature. I'm in my early 70s and may have been slightly on the younger side of the average age of all passengers. There were no children that we saw on the cruise, and the ship is not geared at all toward children. The rooms are small (ours was 8116) but well laid out and furnished – quite adequate – as was the small bathroom. The common areas are very nice, close to over the top, but not over the top. The Serenity holds about 1070 passengers, I recall, and we had about 950 on our cruise. Except for breakfast rush in the Lido cafeteria (only one of the many breakfast options, including room service and the main dining room), the boat never felt crowded, or empty. The cruise was "all inclusive" – no gratuities asked for or expected. Notwithstanding, the service was mostly excellent. At the worst service was workmanlike, and at the best very attentive and friendly. Only once in the dining room did we have to ask for wine at the beginning of our meal. Speaking of wine, good wines are included in "all inclusive." What they like to do is offer one red and one white each night. You can ask for a small "all inclusive wine list," or a list of premium wines for an extra charge. However, in our first night's experience we learned that it was extra trouble for the staff to go beyond the standard basic offerings, so thereafter we went that way and were quite satisfied. All of the food was very good to excellent. The optional Prego and Silk Road restaurants, and Taste, were very good, but no better than the main dining room. What they offer is welcome variety. What I particularly liked was that the portions were relatively small. If you wanted more, you could have it, but you weren't presented with a ton of food you felt like to had to eat rather than let it go to waste. There are three nice lounges (not counting the cigar lounge), all of which we enjoyed. The entertainment was very good, too, as were the educational speakers – we heard three out of four of the latter. Production shows were an hour or less, not so much as to wear you out. The main house (small) orchestra was very, very good, and the house lounge musicians just fine. On the downside, our cruise was advertised as a "jazz theme" cruise. We did not take it for that reason, and did enjoy some of the jazz performances. However, it turned out that the jazz program was run by a separate tour company, and the passengers who booked through them got the full deal. According to the Crystal Society Hostess on board, they "let other passengers hear some of their programs." We asked the rep on board for some more information, but it was made clear that we weren't part of their group. So, here's the lesson. If you want to take a Crystal cruise and the "theme," if there is one, is important to you, make sure you know exactly what you'll be entitled to. Will you be a first class passenger, or as we were on our cruise, second class passengers. The ship also has what struck me as a fairly large gambling room. We're not gamblers, so I can't say anything about its quality, it's right next to the main showroom and yet never seemed very busy to me. I'm not an expert, but it looked like most of the offerings were electric slot or other gambling machines. Finally, we booked the complete travel package with air. All was very smooth. The disembarkation was excellent, much better than our Crystal Harmony experience in 1996. The only negative was that by the time we got our flight information and went in to make seat reservations, we had to pay about $120 extra so my wife and I could sit together on the 4 hr. flight from Atlanta to San, Jose, CR.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014

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