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47 Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) to Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

I chose the cruise for the Panama Canal Crossing and Costa Rica destination. The cruise was good and service was excellent. However there was false advertising: 1) The ad says India food available. When we boarded we were told that ... Read More
I chose the cruise for the Panama Canal Crossing and Costa Rica destination. The cruise was good and service was excellent. However there was false advertising: 1) The ad says India food available. When we boarded we were told that India food is available only for dinner and not for breakfast and lunch. In the dinners also India food was missing for 3 out of 9 dinners. We were to request repeatedly to get Indian food. The picture attached shows a full platter of Indian food, while in reality there was only one curry and rice. The Indian food tasted like out of can. Greatly disappointed. 2) The ad says Rocky and Rollers Band (refer to the picture attached). The band was changed to some other cheaper band and saxophone and no communication. This was clear false advertising and disappointing. 3) The deck 9 & 10 were leaking water. The ship needs a make over. 4) For the Grand Cayman 7 mile beach excursion, no snorkels were provided and we were to rent the equipment on the beach. 50% of the excursion fees was refunded after several complaints. 5) Cabin needs makeover. Refer to Cabin review. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
The staff were very attentive and accommodating. Most took the time to learn your name. We had a State Room which was spacious and comfortable. A definite plus on a smaller ship which doesn't have a lot of public areas. Ship was ... Read More
The staff were very attentive and accommodating. Most took the time to learn your name. We had a State Room which was spacious and comfortable. A definite plus on a smaller ship which doesn't have a lot of public areas. Ship was very clean and you noticed the effort to keep it that way.The excursions were interesting and efficient. There was a problem with the air conditioning. State rooms could be ice cold or uncomfortably warm. The Veranda was most always too warm to sit and enjoy a meal. At the beginning of the cruise the Yacht Club was ice cold and then after complaints it became too warm....no ability to really regulate the temperature. Food was ok. A couple of nights were very good. Seemed to be a lack of vegetables with the dinners and the quality of fruit was disappointing given our location. If you are Gluten free, you should bring your own bread, crackers, cereal, and snacks. They did have non-wheat pasta and you could get gf sliced bread for dinner, but they ran out after the second night. We've only done a few other cruises, but they seemed to have a larger variety for people with wheat allergies. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
We love the Lindblad / National Geographic Expeditions cruises because of their superb naturalists and their insight into wilderness areas of the world. The Quest is a new ship in the fleet and worked well for expedition cruising. Our ... Read More
We love the Lindblad / National Geographic Expeditions cruises because of their superb naturalists and their insight into wilderness areas of the world. The Quest is a new ship in the fleet and worked well for expedition cruising. Our cabin was small with a balcony; not much open floor space but you don't spend much time in the room. The general outline of the day is: a buffet breakfast, morning zodiac trip for nature event, buffet lunch, another zodiac trip for nature event, time for a shower, cocktail hour with naturalists' presentations, dinner (usually 3+ options), and another naturalist or photography discussion after dinner. This is an expedition cruise with the emphasis on nature, photography, country culture and history. Pretty much everything is included in the cost except for alcoholic drinks and the final tip to the staff. The ship holds 100 passengers but we had about 83. Passengers range from 20's to 90 although average in the 50-60's; they tend to be well-traveled, pretty active, and interesting. There is no set dinner seating so grouping change throughout the cruise. The food was good but not outstanding. Usually buffets had several options with salads, fresh fruits and a few mains. Dinner is served by staff with usually 3 options available. Preparation was okay but as the first cruise this season, they had a few bugs to work out with new staff and the kitchen not at the top of their game. A real strength is the depth of knowledge of the naturalists and the happy staff. The lounge (inside & air conditioned) was outfitted with books related to the area and was used throughout the day by passengers. We also sat out on the Sun Deck, on the front prow and could sit in the bridge at times. The cruise went through the Panama Canal and even had morning Zodiac options to see more of the lake in the middle of the canal. There is a one-day extension available in Panama City that includes a visit to the expansion canal and a close up of the original canal. Recommended for the real Panama Canal buff. Overall, a fun and interesting trip! Read Less
Sail Date December 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 choose this cruise to see Pacific side of Costa Rica and to traverse the Panama Canal. This was our first cruise in over 30 years. Overall impression is excellent. Under 200 passengers,personable service, very clean, with good food. ... Read More
We choose this cruise to see Pacific side of Costa Rica and to traverse the Panama Canal. This was our first cruise in over 30 years. Overall impression is excellent. Under 200 passengers,personable service, very clean, with good food. There is no coffee in the room, but room service starts @ 6am. There is only ONE outlet in the room involving a constant shuffle of recharging phone, tablet, camera, etc. We had a standard room with picture window (did not open), seating area, safe, TV, mini-refrig and king bed. Bathroom was adequate with a tub. All of the excursions were by zodiac, so getting off and on the ship took some maneuvering. Breakfast dining was on the back of the ship and we found we could get a table outside for most mornings. Dinner was in a large dining room and we could be seated with different travelers or with prearranged groups. The menu was varied and we never had the same thing twice (11 days). There was a piano bar, a duo who performed at the outside bar, and the staff did a couple of "entertainment" evenings. We choose mostly nature hikes and snorkeling for our excursions-there were many and varied. There was a naturalist on board who was exceptional and gave lectures concerning wildlife, history and need to know. My husband could not run on the treadmill-his head hit the ceiling. The gym did have the basics. We chose the unlimited Wi-Fi, unfortunately we could only use one device at a time and the connection was extremely slow. There were a number of lounges on the decks, but even with umbrellas there was not enough shade. We were last minute for embarkation and walked right onto the ship. After exiting the ship, we did take a land tour of Panama City before our flight home. Confession: I have not taken the Windstar cruise questionnaire because it expired 3 days after the cruse. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We were looking to go through the Panama Canal on a small ship and not have to visit various Caribbean islands that we have already seen. We had not visited Costa Rica or Panama so the itinerary on this ship fit our requirement. ... Read More
We were looking to go through the Panama Canal on a small ship and not have to visit various Caribbean islands that we have already seen. We had not visited Costa Rica or Panama so the itinerary on this ship fit our requirement. Embarkation was terrible and almost had us worrying what we got ourselves into. We took an independent tour from a hotel we booked on our own, which was cheaper than their transfer. We got to the port and they did not tell you that for security purposes your taxi cannot take you directly to the ship. You transfer into another van, which our tour guide seemed to know. Inside the port we were dropped off at a building stating we had to go through immigration. A porter took our bags inside the building and no one was there except a person at a table offering us cookies and lemonade. We asked what do we do and he ran out of the building to find someone. We are now standing waiting with a porter who does not speak English. The person comes back and says someone will be with us shortly. We waited 10 minutes and my husband goes out to find someone. A bus just arrived to the ship so they were busy but not having someone to great you and tell you what to do was crazy. My husband comes back with someone who provides us luggage tags (they do not provide a package in advance) and says to board they ship. We board after the bus load of people and it is a bit chaotic. You go through a metal screener, someone does a peripheral look through your carry on bags. You are asked to take your traditional picture and given some forms and go into a lounge with a number to be called. Once our number was called they state we don’t have all the forms. They ran to get us others and we had more to fill out. So confusing. Finally everything was filled in and we gave them the forms and you need to surrender your passports as they clear customs for you from Costa Rica to Panama. Once you get your key, you are escorted to your cabin and they show you around. Not the best way to start a cruise but it got better from there. There were about 190 guests with 150 crew so there were very attentive. Staff was very friendly as you met the same servers at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a pleasure to eat breakfast and lunch without waiting on long buffet lines and trying to find a seat that is an issue on some of the larger ship. Dinner is open seating and you have a choice to eat with other people or on your own each night. Dress is very casual and no formal nights - thank goodness! They have a specialty restaurant, Candles, where they dress up the veranda cafe used for breakfast and lunch. It is very pretty and the menu is excellent. You get to eat their once for no extra fee and if you get lucky, like we did, we ate their twice. The downside is it is a small ship with a small hot tub and circulating pool to get wet. They could not get the hot tub to the right temperature, on certain days it was too hot to go in. There is also a lack of outdoor seating in the shade. The upper deck has lots of lounge chairs but they will not open the umbrellas when the ship is moving as they will fly away. The Yacht club is very nice on the upper floor with large windows and you can find a quiet space to read or play board games that they provide. The Yacht club serves light food all day until 5 or 6 PM but after that time, you only have the main dining room or room service. I was looking for ice cream when we came back from a shore excursion but the only place to get ice cream is room service. Really? Room service is free as is all soft drinks and types of coffee and teas. There is limited evening entertainment, a piano player who was pretty poor and a duet who were talented. Select evenings they had music and movie trivia as well as Liar’s Club which were fun. Other nights they only had music. This is not a cruise for you if you want shows or late night entertainment. The ship has a very small fitness area - three treadmills, two bikes and a few weight machines. The ceiling was so low you could not stretch your arms straight up. Person giving some of the evening fitness classes seemed more interested in talking with friends than giving the class. I stopped into the spa for a manicure and they had limited nail polish colors and no drying machine. Sitting still for over an hour did not work to keep the manicure without crinkles. Bring your own nail polish remover and polish. Ship needs some TLC as it showed signs of rust and wear and tear. Rooms were very nice overall, see my cabin review. The Destination Manager, Steve, was very good and he gave a short port talk every day to give you an overview of what to expect the next day He was available throughout the day to answer questions and was very helpful. He also told you whether you were doing a wet landing or dry. They go to small ports so they use a zodiac to transport guests. It takes 18 people and 2 crew and they get the tours off first so you may have to wait if your doing something independently. The staff are great guiding you on and off and you need to bring shoes, water socks or sandles that will get wet. You usually get off in ankle or higher water on the beach on wet landings. There were people who had canes or some walking challenges who were able to make the transition but it is not comfortable especially if there is rolling waves which we had on two days. Staff do whatever they need to help. The ship opens a bay in the back which becomes a swimming platform and they place out floating mats to lay on, a trampoline with a slide, noodles as well as kayaks, paddle boards and you can sign up for water skiing and tubing - an adult playground. It is only open when the water is calm from about 10 to 2 or 3. The ship does a barbecue lunch on a beach on an island which is a national park so it has limited people visiting. You can only get there by boat. They set up lounge chairs with umbrellas or half tents, tables and chairs in a shaded area for eating, a full bar, barbecue with tons of food, a tent from the spa to sign up for massages as well as all the “toys” from the swimming platform. Great day and very well done. They also have an evening barbecue and they pulled out all the stops. They transform the open decks with tables and chairs with tablecloths and soft lighting. Food choices were everything from cold shrimp and crab legs to grilled lobster, steak, chicken, grouper, paella, salads, cheese board, desserts, etc. After they cleared the deck, they had line dancing with guests and staff, it was lots of fun. Excursions were hit or miss and I thought some were overpriced and others they did not tell you the proper travel time so you spent 3 hours on a bus for a 8 hour tour. We found some tours repetitive since the descriptions they provide are incomplete. They go to different islands, it was hard to find independent tours. The one at sea day, they had various activities, including a wine tasting, culinary demonstration and a galley tour escorted by the executive chef, various movies and documentaries and other activities. Again it is a small ship so you are not going to find sports or pool activities. I thought the sommelier, Nitish (sp?), who led the wine tasting did an excellent job, giving you information on the area where the wine was made and types of grapes. He is well informed. This was a red wine tasting so we asked if we could have a white wine tasting. He organized one after dinner one evening but because the ship was hitting some rough waters, it had to be canceled. Staff tried very hard to accommodate requests. Disembarkation went very smoothly and we booked a post cruise tour of Old and New Panama, which was good. It dropped you off at the airport but a number of us were staying overnight at the Riande Aeroport Hotel and the driver dropped us off on the way back - again very accomodating. This may not be a cruise for everyone but I very much appreciated their efforts. They have a slogan of 180 degrees from ordinary, they certainly achieved a good part of it but still have work to do. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
This was our first Lindblad/National Geographic cruise, and it fully delivered on all counts. The focus is on seeing the environment, birds, and animals of the area, with a Panama Canal transit as a bonus. The ship was modern, in perfect ... Read More
This was our first Lindblad/National Geographic cruise, and it fully delivered on all counts. The focus is on seeing the environment, birds, and animals of the area, with a Panama Canal transit as a bonus. The ship was modern, in perfect condition, beautiful, and a real ship (not a mall.) I had some of the best meals ever on board - the rack of lamb comes to mind as a real winner. The ship’s crew plus the naturalists on board were excellent, and really added to the overall experience. I would like to compliment the naturalists in particular. They were true professionals - friendly and knowledgeable, and with decades of experience. There was a lot of discussion of photography, and several of the naturalists were excellent photographers. Going through the Panama Canal was surprisingly thrilling. You really got a sense of the historical magnitude of the canal as an achievement. The small scale of the Quest (240 feet long, 12 foot draft, less than 100 guests) meant that we visited small, intimate destinations and did not overwhelm them. Looking at seabirds such as frigates and the famous blue-footed booby from a zodiac was super fun. I got to try paddle boarding for the first time in a perfect setting - it was total enjoyment. Days are full, starting with a 7:30 breakfast and an 8:30 excursion, normally with another excursion in the afternoon and lecture or presentation at night. A great job all around by Lindblad/Nat Geo. No weaknesses. Expensive but worth it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this cruise for the itinerary as a Panama Canal transit was a bucket list item; the itinerary was excellent, food was great, and service generally good! Our difficulties were with booking the cruise, paying for it, and then ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary as a Panama Canal transit was a bucket list item; the itinerary was excellent, food was great, and service generally good! Our difficulties were with booking the cruise, paying for it, and then getting the final bill correct. While service was generally good we found it spotty, with a very odd experience of past cruisers (Yacht Club members) being invited to a reception and no staff showing up. Booking the cruise: We booked this cruise only a few months ago, and WindStar made it clear that we needed to pay THAT DAY or we would lose the booking; we were fine to pay that day. But wait -- WindStar couldn't process AMEX transactions as they had some system outage, which went on for about a week. And we were determined to pay with AMEX. Finally they processed the payment and we felt like we had an upcoming cruise. We had also referred 9 people to a Christmas 2016 WindStar cruise. WindStar's internal process for documenting referral bonuses is rudimentary, and it took our agent more than one call to find the referral. The booking process could have been a lot better. Before embarkation: We arrived into Costa Rica the day before our cruise and had booked a driver to take us to a lodge near(er) to our departure port. Costaricadriver.net was easy to work with and provided an excellent driver. He met us at the airport and we headed to our hotel, Hotel Lapa Villas. The drive was about 90 minutes, and we knew the next day's drive to the port would be about 30 minutes. We wanted to stay somewhere local, but nearer to the port. On the way to the hotel the driver stopped at a local restaurant for lunch, Soda el Guicamo. It was delicious! The hotel itself had large but basic rooms and was located in a National Park. The sounds outside were incredible -- what I might have expected as sounds of the jungle. We did take a short hike from the hotel, where we spotted macaws, toucans, and one pizote (related to raccoon). The hotel's food and bar gave us local flavor. This was not the Four Seasons, and if you're looking for that experience, look elsewhere. One the day of the cruise, the same driver picked us up and off we headed to Jose's Crocodile Tour. Wow -- what a tour. We'd found this tour and had booked it after we'd confirmed the cruise. The tour boat captain and guide were both incredible; we spotted all sorts of birds and many crocodiles, including some 18 feet long. Our last planned stop was the port, and the driver had a surprise for us -- if we wanted to see some Capuchin monkeys. Of course we wanted to see monkeys; for a nominal fee, we were surrounded by some 15 monkeys. Yes, they climbed on our heads and shoulders. What fun. We then headed to our ship, where we quickly boarded. There were no lines. The Cruise: This was our 6th WindStar cruise -- 3 on sailing ships and 3 on the motor yachts. Ship/Cabin: Yes, the ship is older but is in generally good condition. The bathrooms in particular seem to need an update, with stained marble tiles on the floors and walls. Everything worked as advertised, and the cabins are very spacious. Dining: This was the best food we've ever had on WindStar. The menus varied and were all interesting. We dined in the main dining room on 4 of the nights, in Candles (the back area) on 2 nights, with 1 night of deck barbecue. All were exceptionally good. Service: Service was mixed. Some staff did an exceptional job. They anticipated needs, remembered our preferences, and seemed genuinely happy to see us. Some staff just did their jobs. Our cabin steward, who I only saw once in the week, for about 1 minute, was mostly missing. Yes our cabin was kept clean, but the steward just did his job. Example -- sometimes we had ince, sometimes not. This is the first time I've ever cruised and not given the room steward a nice big tip! The Officers seemed mostly missing or only talking to each other. We did see a fair amount of the Hotel Director, and on occasion we spied the Bar Manager (maybe picking up used glassware). The Yacht Club reception (past cruisers of WindStar) was a fiasco, with Yacht Club members getting printed invitations to an event and nobody from the ship showing up. I finally went down to reception to confirm we were at the right place/time, and the receptionist sprang into action. After about 5 minutes of frantic work, the Hotel Director dashed up to the top of the ship for the reception. We followed, and, well, he tried to make things right. About 30 minutes into the scheduled reception, some appetizers arrived, as did one server passing out wine. Two other officers showed up even later, looked around, spoke to each other, then left. We did get invited to a 10am champagne reception an a subsequent day, where I understand the captain attended. We chose not to go to this "make up" event given the experience we'd had. Excursions: We booked one cruise excursion, otherwise we organized our own. In Puerto Caldera, we booked the cruise's excursion to Manuel Antonio National Park. There were 39 guests booked. The park itself is beautiful but busy. The excursion was advertised as leaving early to beat the crowds. Unfortunately it took over an hour to get the 39 passengers off of the ship and onto a bus. Our time advantage had disappeared, and in the end our 3.5 hour excursion took about 5.5 hours. I would visit the park again, but do it privately. In Bahia Drake, we went to the small town and found a 4X4 operator who took us on a 3 hour scenic adventure. The highlight was a short walk through the jungle to a waterfall. It was all fun. In Golf Dulce we booked a private tour to the same chocolate plantation that the cruise visits; that tour was most interesting and the chocolate excellent. In Isla Parida we simply lounged on the beach; we spoke to folks who went on the hike (they really enjoyed it); the snorkel trip was apparently canceled when the boat broke down. Panama Canal Crossing: The actual crossing was fantastic. We were scheduled to start at around 5:30am and to finish at around 3:45pm. Times are not known until the day before the crossing. It seemed like more than half of the ship was outside on the front of the ship for the crossing. The ship provided a commentator who explained the process. We thoroughly enjoyed the event, and witnessed the first three locks from the very front of the ship (Deck 5) and the second three (last three) locks from outside the Yacht Club (Deck 8). We only used the old canal locks as the new ones are restricted to the largest ships. Tenders: All ports used Zodiac Tenders, with wet landings at two of the ports. While I quite like zodiac tenders, it can be a slow process given the boat capacity and the difficulty for some getting onto and off of the zodiacs. The cruise line did make it clear in their documentation, though I got the feeling that some passengers were surprised by the effort required. Final Billing: The preliminary bills were correct and WindStar even reminded us that we had some remaining shipboard credit. When we saw our final bill on the last day, it was not correct. Reception sorted the bill and simply stated that sometimes they have a glitch; Reception's calculation of our final bill matched our expectation and that total was about $200 less than what the final bill showed. Reception did correct the bill. Disembarkation: We had no issues on disembarkation, and we had arranged private transfers with Amber Moon Panama Taxi Service. The driver stated that WindStar calls on the container port, not the normal cruise port. There were no lines of taxis looking for customers. We love to try local beers and had booked a tour of Casa Bruja. It was a great tour and the beer was good too! Transit in Panama City was either on foot or via Uber. We also visited the old quarter, which was interesting though quiet in the daytime. I understand it's quite festive at night, with lots of restaurants and clubs sprinkled through the quarter. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We choose this cruise primarily because of the transit of the Panama Canal. However, the overall theme of 'adventure' was an important aspect. The ship seemed perfectly suited to the type of cruise, but was somewhat basic. ... Read More
We choose this cruise primarily because of the transit of the Panama Canal. However, the overall theme of 'adventure' was an important aspect. The ship seemed perfectly suited to the type of cruise, but was somewhat basic. Having been on a Mekong small ship Cruise last year we had probably been spoiled!! Cabin was small with wash basin within main cabin area, but just about adequate. Robust shower, good. We thought the food was adequate but simply did not live up to the overblown rhetoric of the chef, nor the rounds of applause from the overwhelmingly North American passengers!! Service was good, wait staff cheerful and willing, unfailingly courteous. Shore excursions all nicely tailored to the physical abilities of the largely retired passengers. We were let down by our transfer from Colon back to Panama City and the UnCruise folks very kindly gave us a ride in their coach. Much appreciated. Overnight transit of the Panama Canal genuinely awesome and gliding over Gatun Lake under the stars just magical. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We were on the January 21st sailing of the Costa Rica & Panama Canal cruise. It was our first cruise with Windstar (over the past 10 years Oceania has been our primary line). Our cabin was very spacious and well maintained, and the ... Read More
We were on the January 21st sailing of the Costa Rica & Panama Canal cruise. It was our first cruise with Windstar (over the past 10 years Oceania has been our primary line). Our cabin was very spacious and well maintained, and the staff was very friendly and attentive. However, the ship's exterior and public areas showed more wear-and-tear than we had expected, such as rusty areas on the hull near our balcony, cracked floor tiles, and frayed carpeting in several areas. While some of these may be viewed as cosmetic, one of the hot water lines located above Deck 4 cracked and drenched several cabins. These wear-and-tear items reflect the fact that the ship (as well as its sister ships acquired from Seabourn) are now 25+ years old. Hopefully, Windstar will give these areas more attention during the next overhaul. The food during the cruise was consistently good, and sometimes very good, but generally a step down from the food on Oceania. The public spaces on the ship are somewhat chopped up. For example, there is no easily used walking track on the ship's decks. I was surprised by the lack of contact via CC's Roll Call among passengers. Part of this was due to the ship's small size (we had approximately 195 passengers aboard), but I was surprised that there were zero responses from passengers on the Roll Call that I initiated approximately 6 months prior to the sail date. As a result, all of the port tours we took were booked through Windstar. Overall, the tour prices were OK and the quality was good. The beach BBQ at Isla Perida was outstanding! We would take Windstar again if it was an itinerary that we were interested in, but we still prefer Oceania based on the condition of public areas and the quality of food. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We spent 7 days on the beautiful Star Breeze and were totally spoiled. The crew is very friendly, service is amazing, food is delicious and the cabins are big and beautiful. We did the Naturally Costa Rica cruise and had to take zodiacs to ... Read More
We spent 7 days on the beautiful Star Breeze and were totally spoiled. The crew is very friendly, service is amazing, food is delicious and the cabins are big and beautiful. We did the Naturally Costa Rica cruise and had to take zodiacs to shore. Most were wet landings where we stepped off the zodiac into water on a sandy beach. This was easy for us as we are relatively young and mobile. This was harder for some older passengers- particularly boarding the zodiac when the waves kept it bouncing. However, the crew were great at helping us on and off the zodiacs. The highlights of the cruise were the deck BBQ and beach BBQ. We also loved that there were only 180 passengers on board and 145 crew so we were very spoiled!! Our only complaint was that at our first 2 "ports" passengers who were not booked on tours with the ship could not depart until the tours had left. As we had independent tours booked, this caused us to be late for our tour. However, from day 3 onward, the crew seemed aware of the fact that independent travellers needed to get off in a timely manner and we had no problems. Read Less
Sail Date January 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
After 6 National Geographic/Lindblad trips, we made a change and went with Zegrahm Expeditions. What a huge difference after only one trip, we will never go back. We are heading to the Pantanal in Brazil with them in just a few weeks for ... Read More
After 6 National Geographic/Lindblad trips, we made a change and went with Zegrahm Expeditions. What a huge difference after only one trip, we will never go back. We are heading to the Pantanal in Brazil with them in just a few weeks for our second trip. Far better organization on the ship and the food was better. Even lobster, shrimp and tuna - you won't see any of that on a Lindblad ship. Organized expeditions searching for wildlife, much more adventurous Zodiac trips, diving, snorkeling and they paid extra for us to have a daytime crossing of the Panama canal. We even got to keep our snorkeling equipment. This trip was hard to beat and a huge improvement over National Geographic trips. Financially, the trip cost was a lot less, beer and wine with lunch & dinner was included. We did 7 dives which were all included, all gratuities were also included, and I got to fish off the back of the boat. You get $80.00 each to buy some free clothes (Columbia) before your trip and $50.00 to buy maps and books of the places you will see during your trip. Most expedition ships take you to the same places, you will not miss a thing. We even went into the Darien Gap area near Columbia where the native Indians still live a subsistence lifestyle. You also receive a very professionally done DVD of your trip for free vs. $75 with National Geographic. The National Geographic "Costa Rica" trip goes to 2 countries. The Zegrahm Expedition trip went to Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Honduras and Belize. We did dives in all of them for free vs. $100.00 per dive with National Geographic. The Zegrahm trip was much less expensive than the National Geographic trip considering the initial trip cost plus expenses averaged out per day. The National Geographic trip for the same number of days would have been over $14,000 more than what we paid on Zegrahm. The Zegrahm trip was fun, exciting and very adventurous. We had 75 people on board, but we never felt crowded and there were 3 - 4 different options to pick everyday for adventures. We had full days of seeing and doing things from the minute we arrived. They seemed to know what it takes to keep people from getting down and complaining. It was one of the happiest groups of people we have ever traveled with. We loved it. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Naturally Costa Rica The arrival in to the industrial port doesn’t do this experience justice. But it is very clear when you enter the boat and start interacting with the crew that it is going to be a great time. I would say no ... Read More
Naturally Costa Rica The arrival in to the industrial port doesn’t do this experience justice. But it is very clear when you enter the boat and start interacting with the crew that it is going to be a great time. I would say no less than 20 crew members knew my name by day 2. This team takes the time to learn your name and preferences – in the hallway and around the boat they call you by name as they understand the importance of learning your name. Food was never below good and most times I would say is above average to great. It’s a boat servicing 200 people with no reservations for seated meals required – factoring that in, food was great and service was over the top (Miko, Hendry and Ram being my favorites with several others that deserve a shout out for going above and beyond). We had at least 2 days with the sports deck open and Chehab and Anna make sure you are safe and having a blast (water trampoline was probably my favorite). Some sections of the boat show its real age but the cabins and much of the shared spaces are beautifully renovated. Gym was always available with more than enough equipment and SPA offered several services. Denis gives an amazing massage and is a great source of nutritional and health knowledge (to keep you balanced as you eat and drink all day). It was rare that you could not get a seat on the deck exactly where you wanted. Ed, Jessie and others from the bar we always circling around to ensure you stayed hydrated. Getting off the boat in Costa Rica is different than usual boat exits – not an issue for us for take tender on to shore and do some wet landings (1-2 feet of water). I just recommend you ensure you ask your travel agent if you have mobility issues about the type of docking the boat does. Excursions were a variety of strenuous and mild activity levels. Some passengers go on strenuous and have some issues (heat, hills, slippery rocks, and hiking) so I recommend you read descriptions as we found them to be accurate. Our excursions were awesome – not flawless but great experiences in a beautiful area. I wish they would allow us to post reviews on their site of the excursions as that would likely help align people with the right excursions. Nightly entertainment I preferred was Jesus and Haley (Sophistication) – I could watch that duo for hours every night! They are energetic, fun and very talented. Lots of presentations (kudos to Eddie the Naturalist for knowing all about Costa Rica) and other activities you could do (triva, dancing, workouts, yoga). At age of 34 I was a bit ‘young’ compared to most of the passengers. This is no way impaired me from having a blast! Tracy Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This was our second cruise with Windstar, having sailed the first time on the Windsurf last year, we were excited to see Costa Rica on their new Star Breeze. The ship was not quite full 181 pax)....perfect. We loved our cabin location ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Windstar, having sailed the first time on the Windsurf last year, we were excited to see Costa Rica on their new Star Breeze. The ship was not quite full 181 pax)....perfect. We loved our cabin location (307), and definitely loved the size! Walk in closets and larger bathrooms with double sinks are a plus. A nice little French balcony allowed you to take a peek out to see the beautiful scenery. The staff, as always, were exceptional and always wanting to do anything to make your trip memorable. The food is outstanding! Chef Budhi and his team did a great job. Chef specials from local sourced seafood in a couple of the ports were a treat. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all very good. Breakfast and lunch are available in the Veranda area, which has a cooked-to-order option along with a small buffet. Indoor/outdoor seating options available. Evening entertainment is limited to the occasional bar trivia or duo singers indoors and on deck... Both very good. Oh, and the deck BBQ evening is a don't miss! Great energy and fun. What we didn't care for, and what was different from the Windsurf, were the enormous swells in several of the ports making the transfer onto the rubber zodiacs (15-18 pax) very challenging! We are a pretty active/in shape couple so other than being a little tentative, we were fine, but caution is advised for those less mobile. We also did not care for the transfer buses from pier to airport, because we were informed as the bus was leaving the pier that the air conditioning was broken for our 2 hr ride....and it was hot and humid. We were given water, but there was no bathroom on the bus. We will definitely sail with Windstar again because everything about it is so nice. Our sailing had a great age mix, from 9yrs - 80+! We have cruised the big ships 20+ times and are totally sold on the small, luxury "yacht" experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This our first Azamara cruise. We have been on similar Oceania R class ships 5 times before. Although in the future we will continue book future cruises based on destination, we would much rather sail with Oceania. There is a much more ... Read More
This our first Azamara cruise. We have been on similar Oceania R class ships 5 times before. Although in the future we will continue book future cruises based on destination, we would much rather sail with Oceania. There is a much more corporate culture on board of providing service. The main dining room's food we felt compared very well to Oceania's. Service and ambiance however left much to be desired. Most tables around the outside are two or four tops, but they all crammed together, so effectively we always sitting with a party of 6 at a rectangular table. You have to make a real effort to ask for a table so you and your spouse, or even another couple can have a private conversation. Waiters are overworked and rarely check back after delivering your meal. Woe is you, if you find the pretty (awful) salt and pepper shakers are missing, empty or clogged. You can mention it after the course is over. Since one free white wine varietal and one red wine varietal is available free everyday, there are no wine stewards around to ask about the wine list. Only 2 sommeliers work the entire ship including the specialty restaurants. While I am on the subject, who in their right mind would pick a Pinotage as a red of the day. A cruel joke. The two specialty restaurants were polar opposites, both with a $25 pp surcharge. Prime C was outstanding. Aqualina was not good. We were warned at the pool that Aqualina by not very good and it lived up (down?) to its reputation. How can an Italian restaurant not know how to make Risotto? Two types of Risotto on 3 dishes were past just being dry. Duck was crisp alright, right to the bone. (the maitre d' even suggested that after sending it back that the dish should be removed from the menu, why would they serve something that is apparently regularly so poor?) A watermelon tomato salad, on 4 different plates had a majority of unripened tomatoes. It was interesting to note that I submitted a mid cruise review on the poor food in Aqualina, and the chef left me a voice mail indicating that he had never heard any complaints before. If the passengers are gossiping negatively about a restaurant, food is being sent back or cleared with food substantially still on the plate, how could a chef not about know it. In our cabin, the TV worked poorly, sound was always breaking up. And as the previous review noted, ship announcements did not work through the TV. The TV is another big difference between Oceania and Azamara. On Oceania all rooms have DVD players and an extensive DVD library. Azamara has pay preview at $12 per movie (Yes adult titles too) and no DVD. Oceania, also has a movie channel with a different movie daily. Azamara plays the same 4 old movies over and over and over on a 12 day cruise, Sleepless in Seattle, Man from Uncle, Crazy Stupid Love and Casablanca. Our cabin steward always had to be asked to provide shampoo or soap when we were running out. Otherwise the cabins are the same as Oceania. Entertainment was overall very good. Probably much better than Oceania, since they rotate acts in and out, and I am guessing intermingling with RC cruises too. Some other irritating events that occurred on this cruise were screwing up dining reservations, and not informing us that they misplaced our credit card information until we were walking off the ship. They took our credit card 3 times; on line at home, at the beginning of the cruise, and the first night when they said they could not find a record of our credit card. Over the next 12 days they never told us that it never made it into their system. At the end of the cruise Disembarkation turned into a disaster. The person at guest services, couldn't figure out how to handle a credit card, didn't tell us that there were two separate bills one for my wife's and I one for me; so we cleared one and then all of sudden we couldn't disembark again because I had a bill. We were already stressed due to issues at home and this put us over the edge. On top of it all, because I said I didn't want to get exciting future cruise offers directly from Azamara, I did not get a cruise review. They will have to read my review here. Unless liquor is your main stress reliever, I would suggest Oceania as a better option. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our second Azamara cruise, last year we were on the Quest. This year we were looking for and booked a relaxing cruise which we picked up in Costa Rica and disembarked in San Pedro. As we live in Southern California, we had a low ... Read More
This was our second Azamara cruise, last year we were on the Quest. This year we were looking for and booked a relaxing cruise which we picked up in Costa Rica and disembarked in San Pedro. As we live in Southern California, we had a low hassle commute to and from the ship. I wasn't expecting much in port calls and wasn't disappointed. Embarkation in Caldera was not well organized, but doable. Our veranda stateroom was familiar as we have traveled on Oceania's comparable "R" ships. Dining in the main dining room and our three ventures in the specialty restaurants were good. My wife used the fitness center daily and she found it very satisfactory. I enjoyed the on board hosted bridge and trivial pursue activities. Entertainment was good, but I don't expect much in the way of formal entertainment on ships that are of this small. We were not aboard for the initial leg of the cruise from Miami and therefore didn't experience the "ship wasn't ready to go" comments mentioned by other reviewers. As with our previous Azamara trip, service was excellent and the staff was very friendly. "White Night" and "AzAmazing Evening" were real pluses. We are not wine connoisseurs and therefore enjoyed Azamara's standard spirits being included amenities. I expect that we'll continue to enjoy Azamara offerings. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
After flying in to San Jose, CR we stayed overnight at Apartotel La Sabana (very nice/good value) and toured across CR with a tour that we had arranged with 3 other couples through Odyssey Tours (very nice). Got a great view of Poas ... Read More
After flying in to San Jose, CR we stayed overnight at Apartotel La Sabana (very nice/good value) and toured across CR with a tour that we had arranged with 3 other couples through Odyssey Tours (very nice). Got a great view of Poas volcano, lunch at Freddo Fresas (great place) and stopped at La Paz Gardens (OK). We boarded the Journey in Puerto Caldera. The boarding experience was routine. We very much enjoyed the small ship experience. Some of the ports visited were not the usual popular ones, but were a pleasant change. We took a great private tour from the Porto Quetzel Guatemala stop to Antigua, where we took the Elizabeth Bell Tour. Well worth the ride to get there. The AzAmazing Evening was OK, but really needed some narration or written interpretation of their dance. There was plenty or food/drink, but we were way in the back so could not see very well. The regular evening entertainment on the ship was quite good. We especially enjoyed Erik, the Cruise Director, who also either performed or had a good joke about his "grandfather". The newly refurbished ship still needed some tweaking, but all in all it was fine. The new common spaces were delightful. There was always plenty of comfortable seating available including around the pool. Food choices were good and we never waited for a table our group of 6 or 8. Service was always very pleasant, but could have been a little more efficient at times. Discharge at LA was very quick and efficient. All in all, we would recommend the small ship experience if the premium over, say Celebrity, is not too great. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
We have cruised with Azamara before and were very pleased. This time we noticed a significant denigration with the quality of the food offered. There were always items at each meal that were acceptable. If we were cruising on a mass ... Read More
We have cruised with Azamara before and were very pleased. This time we noticed a significant denigration with the quality of the food offered. There were always items at each meal that were acceptable. If we were cruising on a mass volume RCCL ship the food would have been considered good. However, we were on Royal Caribbean's luxury line, Azamara which competes with Oceania. A few examples included watered down orange juice from concentrate, waffles and pancakes pre-made in the Windows Cafe, New York Strip that was thin and tasteless. The "always" available chicken breast was rubbery, like the ones at the supermarket that have up to 10% solution. The frozen yogurt near the pool was excellent. The fish, other than the farm raised Salmon, had fancy names(Red Snapper, Chilean Sea Bass, Florida Grouper), but did not taste or resemble those varieties. We reserved a guaranteed "Oceanview" stateroom. When we opened the door to the cabin for the first time the room was dark like an "inside" cabin. We soon discovered that on the other side of the big picture window was a large lifeboat that completely blocked the ocean view. When I spoke with the customer service desk they offered an upgrade for $1000 more, explaining that some of their oceanview rooms had an obscured view. No part of the pre-booking description from Azamara for an Oceanview cabin warned that we might receive a room with an obscured view. Eric the cruise director was excellent. The bar staff was excellent. The ship should have spent a lot more time in dry dock. Even weeks after the refurbishment there was missing trim in the cabins and glued fascia panels falling off the desks in the cabin. The new mattresses were excellent. Next time I want a luxury cruise it will be on Oceania or Viking Ocean. Azamara's per diems are eqivalent to those lines but well below the other's quality. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Our tour of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal was completely awe inspiring. Living in a region where there are many licks on the river, I was amazed and struck by the feat of building and maintaining the Panama Canal! It should be on ... Read More
Our tour of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal was completely awe inspiring. Living in a region where there are many licks on the river, I was amazed and struck by the feat of building and maintaining the Panama Canal! It should be on everyone's' bucket list. In Costa Rica our excursions filled with the flora and fauna of the region and did not disappoint. Other than the early wake up time to make the tour, we had no complaints (we are on vacation after all) but the timing was quickly explained as being controlled by the timing of low tide. From our arrival in San Jose, CR to final departure from Panama City, Panama the Windstar team handled everything including transporting luggage. It was such a well organized, steam lined adventure, we will certainly be repeat customers. As far as the ship, we had a French balcony suite. More then ample size for the time we spent in our stateroom. Very impressed by the walk-in closet and double vanity bathroom with tub and shower. The entire crew provided exemplary service. I, personally loved the "Sail Away" experience as we set sail each night. Even knowing what to expect, the crescendo of the music sent chills up my spine as they raised the flag. So cool! Looking forward to my next voyage. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
We have been on many mainstream cruises with Norwegian and Celebrity Cruise Lines. This being our first cruise with Windstar, we were quite impressed with the product and overall had a terrific time. The Star Breeze crew was upbeat and ... Read More
We have been on many mainstream cruises with Norwegian and Celebrity Cruise Lines. This being our first cruise with Windstar, we were quite impressed with the product and overall had a terrific time. The Star Breeze crew was upbeat and engaging every step of the way while delivering excellent service. Along with the small ship environment the crew really makes the product work and sets it apart from the bigger cruise lines. The cabins and public areas are well appointed. The ship is easy to get around, yet big enough to find a corner to relax. The yacht club was an especially nice place have coffee, a cocktail from the Star Bar or small snack/dessert. It was generally quiet with nice views. The cuisine was outstanding and service excellent. Plenty of menu choices. Our chef made two visits to our table to make sure everything was up to our standard. He was very engaging and genuinely interested in our feedback. All tenders were by Zodiac. We found this method of tendering to be quite refreshing vs. the traditional enclosed tenders on the larger ships. For those with mobility issues we could see how it was a bit of a challenge. The one area we thought could use some improvement was in the bar service. An indoor quiet area with bar service before dinner (5-7pm) would be nice... the lounge had loud entertainment more appropriate for later in the evening and made it difficult to have a conversation. Overall, we were very pleased with the Star Breeze cruise. We would recommend it to those who are looking to avoid the big crowds and like a quiet easy going cruise with some entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
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
We were lucky; we got a substantial discount, including all shore excursions free, our boat was only half capacity, and the folks we did sail with were some of the most congenial we've ever met. If not for all this, I fear we may ... Read More
We were lucky; we got a substantial discount, including all shore excursions free, our boat was only half capacity, and the folks we did sail with were some of the most congenial we've ever met. If not for all this, I fear we may have been disappointed. The Voyager is a very attractive boat, the crew uniformly friendly, helpful, and cheerful. (I suspect that was mainly due to we being such an easy crowd to deal with). Our cabin, 214, was small as expected, but there were plenty of places to stow our gear and we never felt jammed in. The bathroom was surprisingly large. Our two portholes were too high up to look out without a stretch, but we spent as little time in our cabin as necessary anyway. Do be aware that all forward cabins get the noise from the bow thrusters and anchor chains, which can be quite loud. I can only recall one time they were used during sleeping hours, though, and my partner slept right through the noise. The food was good to very good, but never what I would call gourmet. Service in the dining room was excellent. All alcohol is extra, but prices were not unreasonable. The theme of this trip is the natural life of Costa Rica, but, as the excursion descriptions note, sightings cannot be guaranteed. Our first stop, Curu Reserve, had a very intimate feel. Our guide had grown up there and his affection for the place was evident. It was a very easy landing and walk that gave us close up views of many iguanas and monkeys. This was probably the best of the wildlife walks. After our morning visit, there was a short trip to another island for the first of two beach barbecues, easily the best meals of the week, then plenty of time for swimming. The next stop, Manuel Antonio Park is described as a guided walk on small trails through dense rain forest. Actually, you are walking along a very crowded road, the only way through the park as far as I know, and crowding around the guide's telescope hoping for a sight of something. Entry to the park is supposedly controlled; we were kept waiting at the gate for about 45 minutes, then the waiting crowd, probably about 200 strong, was let in all at once. The description also says the tour ends with time at the beach. The beach is indeed beautiful, but those choosing to stay and swim must make their own way back to the ship. The time and distance involved make that impractical. The next stop, Quepos, is made mainly for those wanting to try zip lining. The town itself has little to offer, and the beach is not recommended. We did try the zip lining, had a great time, but don't feel the need to try it again. The Osa Peninsula walk was disappointing - the wildlife just wasn't cooperatin - and the walk was a bit trickier than described; indeed, in wet weather, it must be almost impassible. The description mentions a visit to a turtle hatchery, but it didn't happen and was never mentioned. Casa Orquedas is a private tropical plant preserve, and is indeed a little Garden of Eden. The landing was tricky, on a beach of slippery stones, but the walk very easy. We had the chance to smell and taste many tropical plants and fruits. This was the best excursion for plant life. The next day may have been the best. The morning was spent on Granita del Oro, a speck of sand and palm trees that offered perfect snorkeling conditions, even for us beginners. We really felt like castaways. In the afternoon we sailed a short distance to Coiba for another great beach barbecue. Two nature walks were offered, neither of which anyone felt was worth the effort. There was plenty of beach time here, as well. The last excursion was to the town of La Palma, a small town of mostly African descendants that is trying to build a tourist trade. I did not go on this trip; those who did had mixed opinions. Some felt awkward, others that it was important and worthwhile. Finally, we reached Panama City. We started with a trip to the wonderful Miraflores Locks overlook and canal museum. We then drove to the Old Quarter, which will probably be a great place to visit in another five years or so. Right now, most of it seems to be a construction zone. Our stop here seemed a bit of a waste. The Canal transit is done at night (the cruise line has little say in this) and was quite a thrill. We officially disembarked at Shelter Bay, an attractive little marina, but a few folks got off at Colon when we made a refueling stop. Allow at least two hours for transfer from Shelter Bay to Panama City. All in all, we enjoyed ourselves very much, but I think that if we had paid full fare and for each excursion, we would have felt letdown. I do feel some of the excursions were a bit overhyped. Read Less
Sail Date January 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

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