I was really excited to join as a travel agent onboard the “Star Pride” for the cruise from September 25 until October 3 – going from Rome to Venice. The itinerary was great and while the newly refurbished ship looks very modern, ... Read More
I was really excited to join as a travel agent onboard the “Star Pride” for the cruise from September 25 until October 3 – going from Rome to Venice. The itinerary was great and while the newly refurbished ship looks very modern, sleek and overall fresh it still didn’t deliver the vacation experience that I was hoping for. This review might be a little bit critically as we have cruised many times before on similar cruise lines and are used to a certain standard on board these “ultra luxury small ships”.
While I can see that the sailing ships have a unique concept and might fulfill the Windstar promise of “180 degrees from ordinary” I can’t find any clues of that concept on board the Star Pride. Priced at roughly $4000 per person (retail pricing) for this cruise I expected outstanding service from the crew members or something else that would set the ship apart from cheaper and bigger cruise ships. I am not sure if the idea is that the small yacht experience is sufficient to demand such a steep price, since similar cruise lines (think Silversea and Seabourn) are delivering the same small ship experience with an all inclusive concept at this price. I think it is absurd to charge this base price + alcoholic beverages on top of the cruise fare + 15% service charges for each order. The cheapest glass of wine sets one back around $10 (including tax and service charge) while cocktails start at $8.50++. Sure, you are welcome to book the “Ultimate Beverage Package” or a “Wine Package”. The Wine package costs currently $32.00 per person plus 15% service charge and the “all inclusive drink package around $54.00 per person plus the 15% per person/ per day. However, this concept reminds me a lot of Royal Caribbean Cruises, with the difference that on board their ships the passengers from one cabin can actually decide to only purchase that package for just 1 person in the cabin. On board the Star Pride one has to purchase this drink package for 2 people, leaving a $1000 dent in your account, for the duration of the cruise. I can understand those alcoholic beverage prices if we were talking about a similar cruise on board Royal Caribbean or Princess Cruises, with a price of around $1500 for the cruise fare. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers nearly 2 week cruises in an inside cabin for $1500 per person and they include the alcoholic beverages. On top of that there is more entertainment and things to do, while I feel that the only reason the Star Pride is priced at nearly $4000 per person would be the “small ship exclusivity”. Seriously couldn’t find anything else that set this cruise apart from a lower priced bigger ship cruise.
The Oceanview Suite (lowest priced category) was fantastic. Very spacious, with clean lines and a nice color palette (beige and blues). This was probably one of the biggest suites in this category that I have stayed in, since you managed to fit a sofa as well as two armchairs. This was a great surprise!
Our suite attendant did a great job in the cabin and we were very happy with her!
As mentioned above one would think that with a maximum of 212 passengers vs. 156 crew members that the service on board would be outstanding. We have cruised with Silversea and Paul Gauguin before and the crew members on board made an effort to learn our names and preferences from day 1. From the bar waiters to the restaurant waiters and everybody in between, they tried to make a personal connection, introduced themselves and seemed to be happy on board.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the same impression on this ship. The bars were mainly staffed with just 1 bartender, who apparently also doubled as the waiter. Since I wasn’t offered a coffee for dinner, I figured I would order one in one of the bars. I didn’t have any luck. The only coffee machine on board seems to be in the Yacht Club on Deck 8 and when we finally ended up there we were told that the bar tender didn’t know how to operate the machine. For 15-20 minutes he tried to get somebody to come up to help him to figure out the machine, but to avail. I eventually gave up on the coffee request and retired to the cabin.
In general the service on board seemed a bit reluctant. We would ask for something and the crew would say “yes”, just to have this immediately followed up by a “but” and some sort of an explanation on why it couldn’t be done right away or how it would be better if we just did it ourselves.
We also had a special request during the cruise and were supposed to have a little tour around the vessel on the last day. However, the confirmation of said tour was only sent to the cabin on the day of the tour at 10 a.m. and requested us to be at the meeting point at 4 p.m. In the meanwhile we had already left the ship to go ashore (as we didn’t think that the tour was still happening) and came back to the cabin around 5 p.m. to find the note. We obviously missed the tour.
Most of the time there was no line when we went to the restaurant and we were seated straight away. The waiters were quick in taking the order.
However, on the first evening they had a New York Strip Steak on the menu and I decided to order from the “classic menu”. I was advised by the waiter that I could order the Sirloin Steak all the other days of the week and should reconsider to go for the Strip Steak. I personally don’t like this type of steak and insisted on the Sirloin. When it finally arrived it was of course a Strip Steak and looked exactly like the dish that people ordered of the daily menu – with the difference that mine was missing the Windstar Sauce. I ate it as I didn’t want to wait any further, but the steak itself was rather tough.
The service is rather hit or miss. The remaining nights we were seated with an outstanding waitress who really delivered great service. Unfortunately even she couldn’t do much more than recommend and not recommend some of the food from the menu. Most of the food was constantly served lukewarm and the food lacked some finesse that we were used to from similar priced cruise lines. Overall it was good, but nothing outstanding.
One night a cruise the guests can make a reservation at the “Candles” Restaurant, which is nice as it is outside. It has a steakhouse concept and I finally got a fillet mignon during the cruise. It was a bit more done than ordered, but tasted good. The atmosphere could have been improved with less white lights and maybe some background music to overpower the engine noise.
Some of the printing material on board looked as if some five year olds went to an arts and crafts class! The menus in the bars and the drink menus in the Restaurants are all different sized and look as if somebody has cut them with scissor or a very dull paper cutter. The edges have the look as if a mouse has chewed a bit on them and no two pages have the same size or the same style.
I am also not sure whether the prices in the Amphores Restaurant are supposed to be different or if they are maybe using an older drink menu? In the bars the bottle of champagne goes for $90 plus 15% and in the main dining room the same bottle is then priced at $110 plus 15% in service fees. That same bottle can be found in a US liquor store for $40 plus tax. And yes, I do understand that there is a markup, but it seems to be a bit much if the price is nearly tripled?!
The Daily Program is nothing more than a cheaply printed page, nothing compared to the programs available on other cruise lines. Also, the printer quality seems to be rather bad. It all looks a little bit out of focus.
Got excited about ordering the room service breakfast again, but when we returned for the first evening to the Suite, we were disappointed since one can only order “pastries, coffee and juice” from the room service menu.
It took until the next day to find out that there is in fact the option to order a full breakfast from In-Room Dining, if one writes all desired items from the menu list on the “Continental Breakfast Hanger”. It might be easier to simply re-print those door hangers and to include all available items in order to make it easier for the guests.
Roomservice was always delivered during the requested time frame and contained all items.
While some crew members made a serious effort the majority seemed to be tired and done with their jobs. They didn’t look very joyful, most of them didn’t greet the passengers in the public spaces and in general the ship felt awfully understaffed. Even officers of the ship didn’t deem it necessary to greet passengers first or to ask “How are you?”
The entertainment on board is literally non-existent. While there is a small lounge and a stage there were no entertainers or guest lecturers on board. The only events that took place during the entire cruise were daily port talks by the Voyage Leader/ Shorex Manager as well as one evening of Liar’s Club and Movie Trivia. On one of the evenings there was a crew show. The far and few “events” were good fun and the crew tried really hard during the crew show. However, this doesn’t make up for the fact that on most evenings, after dinner, there was nothing to do on the entire vessel. Unless we went to the bar to have more drinks, which got pretty lame pretty quickly as well.
Windstar should consider to invest into some guest performers. On other small cruise lines we had magicians or musicians or some local show in a port. We weren’t expecting a musical performance, but to offer nothing was just lame.
All the ports that we visited were great and we had a good time. Didn’t book any excursions on board and instead booked ourselves rental cars to get around the Med.
Most ports were tender ports and the disembarkation and embarkation process were flawless. We never had to wait longer than 5 minutes for a tender and the tender duration was short. Tours seemed to be well organized in regards to the coordination with tour groups and independent guests on the tenders.
Hotel Service Charge
Windstar Cruises will add a $12 per day/ per passenger service charge to your invoice during the cruise. This charge is entirely for the crew and similar to prepaid tips. You are being told that the amount can be removed or lowered, but need to fill in a form and give an explanation why you want to do so.
The charge is supposedly a source of income for the crew members, which makes me wonder again why other smaller cruise lines aren’t charging this fee? Apparently it is included in the general cruise fare on the exclusive cruise lines. It made the cruise feel again as if we were on a “cheaper” cruise line, where such procedures and charges are standard. We didn’t understand why this was something that Windstar felt was necessary to do?
Over the course of the 8 night cruise we have failed to see the value for money in paying the higher cruise fare. At first we thought that we would clearly go to ports that couldn’t be visited by bigger ships, but learned that the MSC ships and Royal Caribbean ships also fit in most ports that we visited.
The ship itself looks new, is very quiet and offers some very big staterooms. If the cruise line would decide to include all their “extra charges” into the cruise fare I believe that there would be a solid concept and more value for money.
Currently we don’t think that we will cruise again on any of the Windstar ships and instead go back to the other small cruise lines who have adapted the ultra all inclusive concept. Read Less