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7 Windstar Aruba Cruise Reviews

Crew – 5 stars, Food – 4 to 5 stars, Ship – 4 stars EMBARKATION – in Aruba – a long walk from where the cab drops you off to the yacht, because only the big ships get front docking. They have a shuttle, but we elected to walk ... Read More
Crew – 5 stars, Food – 4 to 5 stars, Ship – 4 stars EMBARKATION – in Aruba – a long walk from where the cab drops you off to the yacht, because only the big ships get front docking. They have a shuttle, but we elected to walk our luggage, so that was a bit hot in the blazing sun. Covered tent at the gangway with someone to check off your name and label your bags that the crew will take to your room. Once up the gangway, you’re taken into the lounge to register, get your photo taken and your room key provided, as well as sign up for a beverage package if you haven’t already. There really wasn’t much of an orientation or anything, then you go to your room and wait for your bags (relatively quick). The process was average, but not difficult. There really didn’t seem to be much of an orientation – you could take tour of the common areas that was scheduled within an hour or so after you boarded – otherwise you were pretty much on your own. DISEMBARKATION at the end of the cruise – in Puerto Caldera Costa Rica – one of the worst things they did on this cruise. The good thing was that your bags didn’t have to be outside your room until 6am on disembarkation day (but you were welcome to put them out the night before). And you received colored tags depending on what time you were scheduled to disembark, and that schedule was provided with the program the evening before. Disembarkation morning, they were way behind schedule, and almost every passenger was in the lounge at 815 am (first group was supposed to be off by 7:30am) and no announcements had been made about what was causing the delay and there were no crew around to ask, and there was standing room only in the lounge (and everyone had their carry on bags). The gangway was down, and luggage was out on the pier, but folks weren’t allowed to get off. Finally, a group decided to leave the lounge anyway, which caused a herd mentality to exit into the lobby area, which only got more confusing and congested. When I asked a receptionist to at least make an announcement (because security had finally started letting people off because it was too crazy in the lobby now), she just said they would make one in a few minutes! Anyway, by the time they finally made an announcement (10 minutes after I’d requested), most of the first two groups had disembarked and were trying to find their luggage. Once it was our turn, we got off, identified our bags and they were swiftly put on the bus – we were about an hour behind, and our group was doing a city tour and then airport transfer. More on that when I mention excursions later. SMALL SHIP VS BIG SHIP – doubt we’ll ever do another big ship again. We don’t need an abundance of evening entertainment. We go onshore at every port, and almost always do an excursion. We love not having ridiculous crowds, the ease of getting on and off the yacht in port and by tender, the crew ratio, the personalized cooked to order meals. Liked that there’s an open bridge policy so you can almost always wander in and look at the equipment, see what’s going on (we never did). We felt more motion on this ship than other others in the past, and even had a slight queasiness the first few days; I’m not sure if it was the ship or the seas (weather was good). If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, you might want to be prepared with the bracelets or Dramamine, and make sure your room is in the center of the ship. All that being said, we’ve heard Star Breeze is about to undergo a major refurb where they cut the ship in half and insert another 50 rooms, more restaurants and deck space, all doing a refurb on the rest of the rooms at the same time. I’m sad about that – really loved that there were only 200 passengers on this yacht. Often when the yacht is anchored, they’ll open the back sports deck and put the pool/ocean toys out (noodles, SUP’s, mats, ocean raft/trampoline), so you can swim in the ocean just off the ship. If you're not used to cruising, read your daily program!! You'll find almost everything there; you're responsible for finding things out yourself! There aren't a ton of announcements. Love the Sail Away song and flag raisin on the deck when sailing away from certain locations. INTERNET – really really slow and spotty. The price you pay for an internet package is ridiculously expensive and then it’s too slow to upload anything, often don’t get or can’t see emails and can’t get to many websites. Forget about posting much to Facebook. There are many spots within the yacht that have no service. ROOMS - the room size is excellent! LOVE the big walk-in closet and the bathroom with two sinks. The rooms with the opening French windows have a step-in tub/shower combo, but you can get a walk in shower in rooms with stationary windows. We were SO HAPPY to have upgraded to a room with the opening doors/windows – there’s a tiny platform you can step out on, but the doors open so you have floor to ceiling opening (glass balcony too) that allows in fresh air day or night – well worth the extra spend! The room finishes and many of the common area finishes are dated, and you can tell the ship is old by the many layers of paint, chipped marble/floor tiles, missing/stained grout, etc. The room furniture was dated, sort of beat up and chipped – but the size of the room made it ok. Wish there were more power plugs – only two US ones in the room – one in the bathroom and one at the little desk in front of the bed. We were constantly alternating charging things. There’s a small fridge with stocked mini-bar and a DVD player for your small tv (big enough to see from the bed and the living area). The walk-in closet had shelves, a couple of drawers and plenty of space for hanging clothes (and they brought us extra hangars immediately upon request). There were a couple of drawers in the little desk opposite the bed. The room’s walls are metal, so you can bring your own magnets and put up your daily programs, excursion tickets, etc, and not clutter your desktop with them. There’s plenty of storage in the bathroom, too: open corner shelves on each side adjacent to the mirror, a long shelf under the sink, and a small cabinet where you can put other toiletries. We had more than enough room, and I bring lots of different lotions and sunscreen. There’s shelving in the shower with enough space for your goodies, and a small ledge along the tub. Their L’occitane products are good if you don’t want to bring your own shampoo, conditioner, body gel and soap. We were glad we brought our own air freshener (car-style, paper) for the restroom, though the vacuum system seemed to take a lot of any odor out. We kept our French windows open most of the time, too, so maybe that helped. When you’re choosing your room, think about what direction your yacht will be traveling, and what side you’ll be on so you can choose to see sunrise or sunset from your room. We prefer sunrise, since I’m always up early and don’t necessarily want to go right upstairs at 5:30am (especially since you can’t get fresh coffee/latte until 6am). And with French windows, you can just open the doors wide and see the most amazing sunrises!! For sunset, we’re happy to be on deck having a cocktail, so didn’t care if we could see from our room or not. CREW – the staff is absolutely outstanding! Our cabin steward (Hasan) knew our names the first day, and always used them, even out of context when we saw him around the ship or on a port tender. He was personable, always greeted you with a smile and asked how your day was, was always upbeat and always asked if there was anything he could do to make our trip special. We’re not high maintenance, so didn’t ask for much, but he was quick with ice when requested, provided a spectacularly clean room, and once, when I came back early from dinner to retrieve something, he gave me personal instruction on how to make a towel animal. The wait and bar staff were phenomenal, too! They got to know our names really quickly, and even what our preferred drinks were. Yogi in the Yacht Club coffee bar, knew my preferred drink style and every day when I was up there at 6am, he’d greet me by name and make my Americano just the way I liked it! I still miss his morning greeting and coffee. I had no idea he worked both the dinner service and the 6am coffee service until I saw him at dinner one day (he was usually at tables toward the back, and we were always at the front) – not sure how he managed to keep his amazing attitude with hours like that, but as the first person I saw every day (my husband was usually still asleep when I went for coffee), he really started every day out for me with sunshine! Some of our other stellar crew: Apple, both bartender/waiter in the deck bar and wine steward in the dining room. She’s also phenomenal, again greets you by name, and knows your preferred drinks within a day, and can recommend others based on what you seem to like. She went out of her way to make other things special, too, whether your food, dining table, just anything. And she’d come over and say hi and see how you were doing, even if you weren’t seated in her area. After our first dinner without her, we asked to be seated at one of her tables every other night. We also made that request, because then our waiter would be the same – Deva! He was fun, funny, helpful, entertaining, and always wanting us to enjoy our time. Again, he provided breakfast service on the Verandah and dinner service, and even if he didn’t have our table at breakfast he would come by to say hi and make sure we were being taken care of. Noel was also another of our favorite bartenders/waiters – we mostly saw him only in the deck bar, but he would also always go out of his way to make sure we had everything we needed, could suggest alternative drinks, etc. I must also mention that every other crew member we came across, from people-facing, to kitchen and laundry, to engineering/maintenance – they always greeted you with a smile and wished you a good day! Really, I don’t know how the crew knows your names so quickly (I do know they post the photos in the galley, but still!) and what you like, OR how they keep their amazing friendly and helpful attitudes when they work the hours/days they do – whatever Windstar does to train their staff really makes the trip the absolute best! The funny thing is, the few times we saw officers (pretty rare), they were the least friendly! FOOD – from good/very good to excellent! For dinner, your entrée is cooked when you order. And if everyone goes into the dining room at the same time, there may be a bit of wait. But well worth it. Most of our dinners were excellent! With good variety from meal to meal, plenty of options of different meat, fish and vegetarian. We often chose to split an entrée as a starter and that was never an issue. If you want to blend two entrees – no problem! Two starters – no problem! Portion sizes are good, too, so you can avoid overeating (unless you over-order ). Plenty of greens available. We wished there’d been a pizza place or pizza on the menu – never appeared once and I bet the kitchen could make a mean pizza! Breakfast doesn’t start til 7am, which seems late to me, is outside or inside at the Verandah – buffet eggs, pastries, fruit bar, cold cuts and cheese, with bacon/sausage and potatoes. Fruit smoothies, too. Made to order specials every day (several kinds of benedicts, fruit pancakes, waffles, etc) and you can also order eggs any way you want every day. Full coffee service (brewed, lattes, etc). Another breakfast option, though, is the Yacht Club, which opens at 6am with coffee any way, pastries, smoothies, fruit and yoghurt. Lunch is also in the Verandah, and is full buffet with a huge salad bar, several hot options, a carving station with one different meat/fish every day, dessert bar. Lunch was usually pretty good, you’ll find something there, or you can order the special hot sandwich of the day (reuben, monte cristo, etc) or a grilled chicken sandwich or hamburger. Any pasta on the buffet was usually overcooked, but that’s hard to do. Our least favorite food was usually desserts – the lunch desserts often seemed tastier than the dinner. The sorbets were good, and they would have different ice cream flavors, but the cakes, puddings, etc, usually fell flat. There is one specialty dining restaurant, where you’re guaranteed at least one seating – it’s actually in the breakfast/lunch spot on the verandah (outside, but covered) and they put out tablecloths and candles. Same menu all the time, but they have steak (no lobster), which you don’t get much of in the regular dining. The steak was very good, but nothing else was better than the regular dining room, other than eating outside. We liked the dining room selections better so didn’t go back. They actually offered on-deck dining twice on our cruise – grilled meats and a salad and dessert bar. Food was good, but offerings not as good as the dining room – and since there’s very little seating, you had to book a reservation as soon as it was announced! We loved being able to sit outside as the temperatures were perfect. One night, dinner was a barbeque on the deck – this was AMAZING! The salad bar, cold cuts /cheese and dessert bar were huge with a ton of variety. There was fresh grilled lobster tails and lamb chops (while you waited), chicken, paella, and probably so much more I’m forgetting. Thank goodness again for a small ship, where lines were short and there’s room for everyone to sit outside on deck, once they added more tables and chairs (removed lounge chairs). And, of course, both the single and duo musicians played while you ate – really lovely. And one day there’s a special beach barbeque where the crew moves everything to a private beach and freshly grills hamburgers & specialty hot dogs, and arroz con pollo in the big paella pan, along with providing a veggie/salad and dessert buffet. You can sit in your beach lounge chair, or at one of the dining tables they set up. They also bring along full bar service (pay according to your drink package, if any). BEVERAGE / LAUNDRY PACKAGE – about a week or two prior to the cruise we received a notice of a discount package that would include our tips (they will charge you $13.50/day each no matter what), laundry service, internet service and a premier beverage package (includes all cocktails, all wines by the glass, and full minibar). We chose to do this for each of us. It seemed to make sense if we had 4 alcoholic drinks per day each. Which didn’t seem so unreasonable if you thought you might have a beer at lunch, a cocktail at sunset and two glasses of wine at dinner. And that’s probably about what we averaged. We loved the convenience of turning our laundry over in the morning and having it back by 5pm every day! They handled it all perfectly, including the cold water wash. It allowed us to pack a bit less, and we liked that, too. I would be we about broke even on this discounted deal. ENTERTAINMENT – the crew does a talent show – do not miss it! It takes guts, folks, to get up in front of a crowd and sing, dance, play music, or put on a skit – kudos to them for making it so fun! They appreciated our encouragement and applause before during and after the show. We missed the line dancing they did on deck one night – we hadn’t realized it was the crew starting it off (for 20-30 minutes) and thought only it was music for passengers. The music duo played mostly older music that at least was good background for the lounge and bar, and there was a solo male who played a bit more current music at the bar. One of the at-sea events was a towel animal “seminar” – it was not a convenient time for us, so we missed it – wished they’d had more than just the one. Also, we’d heard their galley tours are fun, but they never did have one on our trip – wish they had! SPA - we didn’t use – prices seemed a bit high for massages, nails, etc. But they did have stretching and yoga classes almost every day, though I heard it was hard to do some with the ship’s movement! There’s basic gym equipment, but it’s older. DECK CHAIRS – there aren’t enough to go around. And unfortunately, people go up early and put stuff on the chairs to hold them, but don’t show up for hours – some seemed to be vacant all day. Windstar should not allow this and should either provide more chairs or move belongings if a chair has been vacant more than an hour. We could usually find a table and upright chair at the bar. SHORE EXCURSIONS – the good thing about going with Windstar’s is that if you’re late, or your port is canceled, etc, Windstar handles the logistics. For most of the ports, you’re a ways away, and not within walking distance of anything interesting, so you’d have to book a private tour or cab if you don’t go with Windstar. However, it always feels like you’re paying too much for Windstar’s, especially when you consider the number of people going (usually 20-30 on the ones we went on). Know that some ports are docked at a pier and some anchored and you’ll need to take a tender. Windstar sometimes uses a zodiac boat (like a blow-up/pontoon) and sometimes local boats and sometimes it can be challenging to get onto the boat and/or out of the water – you definitely want water shoes or sandals – good strong sandals might be best if you plan on leaving them on and hiking/walking in them. CARTAGENA City Highlights – the fort, the dungeons (now artisan craft shops), the cathedral and the old town. We enjoyed this. The amount of time allowed for shopping was plenty. Liked the goods and prices at the dungeons a bit better than in the old town. Old town was pretty and well maintained, with some cools shops and restaurants – we really didn’t need any more time than the extra 40 minutes provided. Our guide provided good narrative. You could always go out on your own ($20-$30 cab ride each way?) and just go to the old town (Bocagrande?), but going with an excursion PANAMA CITY - Best of Old & Modern Panama – they don’t tell you it’s an hour bus ride to get to the city. The first part of “Old” means some boring ruins and a museum with a quick run through – with how Panama City came into being. More boring. You barely see any of the current modern city as you ride through with the bus, just that it’s dirty and uninteresting. Our driver was unaware of the upcoming Christmas parade and we got detoured and delayed. Then to the colonial “old city” with is barely in a gentrification stage – some quaint façades of old homes and buildings, but no time to shop or browse in the few stores. Then on to a marina area and a restaurant for dry fish or pork and rice and overcooked veggies, before the one hour ride back to the yacht. Wouldn’t do this again, though we did figure out we would not come to Panama City if we ever returned to Panama (expats must be going to the countryside – this did not look enticing at all). Also heard the locks and boat tour was not very good. PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT itself (on the yacht, not an excursion) – phenomenal. We were lucky with sunshine and beautiful weather, and our original start was rescheduled from 4am to 8am. They brought a guide onboard to narrate what was happening all the way through, but the ship’s speaker system wasn’t working and you could only hear them in two locations (that didn’t have the best viewing) – so we went through without hearing the details. PEARL ISLANDS – we anchored, they lowered the back exit and discovered the seas were too rough to go out. So we waited another two hours to see if they would calm and they did not. So we raised anchor and headed off to Isla Parida a day early. Somehow the crew managed to pull off landing at Isla Parida a day early, and a new stop in Puerto Jimenez to replace this one! ISLA PARIDA – this is the private beach where the entire crew gets off to set up and pull off a beach barbeque. They did a phenomenal job! They also bring the yacht’s own beach toys and kayaks. And there are plenty of lounge chairs and dining tables. See the food section above for the food. The hike they offer as an excursion is not worth it. You can walk the loop trail yourself, having a guide didn’t offer much benefit; the trail is a bit strenuous in a few parts. If we had known they had the beach barbeque there when we booked our excursions, we might not have booked the hike. PUERTO JIMENEZ - Tropical Gardens & Beach Scape - we were not told before booking it was an hour local boat ride across the gulf to visit the gardens (and that some of us would get soaking wet), nor that we would not have an opportunity to go into town when we did this; based on the port talk we thought we would end up in town and be able to spend an hour there if we wanted. The boat took us over by a bunch of pelicans in trees over the water – really not that interesting. The gardens were interesting, but really no birds (two toucans you could barely see as they flew by, and two scarlet macaws so high you could only tell what they were by their shape) and we were much more interested in seeing birds than the few orchids we actually saw. They should not have included the beach time - it's not a good beach there, and only one person did while the rest of us sat around for over 30 minutes waiting! QUEPOS – Manuel Antonio National Park Nature Walk – this is a quick bus ride from the pier. There weren’t as many varieties of wildlife as we might have expected, but we probably saw 8 to 10 sloths! Several were moving, and the guides have little scopes so you can look through a telephoto lens and see them up close; otherwise they are quite high in the trees and hard to see, much less get a good photo. The guides are also good at spotting other rodents, lizards and crabs. We finally saw a group of capuchin monkeys as we were about to leave the park – and we felt like it’d been a pretty good trip. There’s a break for a beach/swim spot, but it’s a pain to carry your stuff around on the walk, so that was a bit of a waste of time. We left and walked on our own for that 30 minutes until we met back up with the guide again. It’s important this tour is early morning, as only a certain number of visitors are allowed daily and once they reach their limit, they close, only re-opening later once a certain number have left. It’s also nice to walk through when it’s a bit less crowded. The marina where you tender to is a nice little place with a variety of restaurants and bars and a few cute boutiques. We had sushi at the restaurant Sunrice, with fresh tuna from the local fishermen – a much appreciated change of pace from the cruise meals. Town is only a few blocks from the marina, also walkable, for your standard tourist shopping. SAN JOSE – city tour and aiport transfer. As noted above, disembarkation was poor and we were an hour late to start. There were only supposed to be folks with the airport transfer and one hotel transfer on our bus, but somehow a number of people were booked into other hotels and thought they could find their way from either the airport or the other hotel, not really checking to see how far their hotels were from those drop-offs. We had also picked up folks from the Wind Star sailing ship which had docked right next to us, and they had told passengers to get on our bus and they would be dropped off at a downtown hotel – and they weren’t supposed to be. It was all a cluster. The San Jose city tour was worthless. The city is ugly (1960’s/1970’s almost communist-era looking architecture) and crowded and a bit dirty, though there are pedestrian ways for shopping. We went to a gold/currency museum that was half closed (not that interesting) and the Opera House (where we could only get into the lobby), and mostly dealt with traffic. I would have no interest in seeing this city. Waiting at the airport for 4 extra hours would have been preferable. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Decided to try Windstar after liking the smaller ship experience on Viking and Azamara and Viking River. Overall, the food was very good, the crew friendly and eager to please however we started off by delaying our sail away by a day due ... Read More
Decided to try Windstar after liking the smaller ship experience on Viking and Azamara and Viking River. Overall, the food was very good, the crew friendly and eager to please however we started off by delaying our sail away by a day due to "two small holes" in the hull that required underwater welding. This resulted in a sea day instead of our scheduled port of call in Cartagena which was the main reason for some passengers picking this trip. There really is not much to do on such a small ship on sea days - they could easily schedule more activities such as Trivia or quiz shows, but don't. During the first sea day, we hit some swells that resulted in furniture sliding across the floor, broken glass during a group screening of a movie on the Panama canal. They aired the film later on the in room TV but the sound never worked. They had open bar for one day to make up for the missed port, but that doesn't really do it, especially for those who didn't drink. The food overall we very good quality, but with there could have been more variety and I would have appreciated some menu selections reflecting the local cuisine. The staff seemed to bend over backwards for those passengers with multiple food allergies. The ship's excursions where easily double the price of Viatour or shorexcursions.com for the exact same activity. A few of the ports were "in the middle of nowhere" so unless you like hot, humid, sunny beach activity, there was not much to do. The weather in December in Central America is very humid - we had little rain and temps in the 83-90 degree range and we were all sweating like pigs. The gym is TINY and very hot - if there are 3-4 people in there it is too crowded. Someone took the 5 lb weights early in the cruise and the staff never did find or replace them. Lots of complaints about the sports platform not being operational at all during this cruise and the week before coming form Barbados to Aruba - we had not tried it before but were looking forward to using it so this was a disappointment too. The room itself was small but had adequate storage, no USB ports and one US and on European outlet by the bed. The bathroom was small with one of those plasticy shower curtains that some don't like (doesn't bother me). Our cabin steward kept it spotless. We met many friendly passengers, mostly in their upper 50 to lower 70's, mostly retired and very well traveled, mosty repeat Windstar customers. A common theme was the man wanted to see the Canal (the engineering, etc) and the woman wanted to go on a cruise. Some remarked that this Windstar cruise was not up to par in comparison to their previous sailings. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
From the moment we boarded, we felt like we were returning family, this was our sixth cruise with WS, our first on one of their new motor launches, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but Star Breeze delivers in the same manner as the ... Read More
From the moment we boarded, we felt like we were returning family, this was our sixth cruise with WS, our first on one of their new motor launches, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but Star Breeze delivers in the same manner as the sail-ships. The check-in process went smoothly. Andre, the ship's Bar Manager made it easy for us to choose the Beverage package. Then it was straight to our Balcony Suite and what a lovely surprise, so spacious and our Cabin Steward, Abdul, was there to take care of our immediate laundry/pressing needs. The sail away is always so special and gets everyone to come together at the Star Bar or bow of the ship, the Vangelis music from the 1492 Conquest of Paradise soundtrack is inspiring every time. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED - FOOD & SERVICE This was our first on STAR BREEZE (well actually, we experienced her when she was a former Seabourn ship). Seabourn it could be argued, were the first to introduce white-glove luxury to cruising. Luxury can take on many different levels; it can be a pretentious lifestyle of the rich and famous, or it can be simply, casual and elegant - a Windstar cruise is the graceful equivalent and as they are fond of saying, “180 degrees from ordinary”. So what does all this mean for the first time WS guest? Extraordinary service, as WS encourages, all you have to do is ask and I did - I like a Bloody Caesar made with Clamato juice, which they didn’t have, but after our next port call voila! Andre brought me one the next day at the appointed hour. Excellent cuisine - They say you eat with your eyes first, it was like eating in a Five Star restaurant.I can’t speak highly enough about the Chef’s presentations at dinner in the Amphora restaurant ( the curry lamb-pops, the beef wellington, the mushroom stuffed vol-au-vents and the light creamy chocolate souffle - all mouth wateringly delicious) Our wine steward, Rod proved very knowledgeable and paired our wines well with each mouth watering course. And at the Veranda for breakfast and lunch the choices were many. Chef’s one-time Indian buffet one day was so delicious, the chic-i-chic chicken with the nan bread down to the Major Grey’s Mango chutney, well let's just say the flavors literally took you on an Indian journey, the only thing missing was Ravi Shankar’s sitar music. We like to think of our cruises with WS,, as our own private yacht vacation, with a familiar ‘family-like’ crew, taking us places to escape the rat race in today’s ever fast paced world. THE BRAND Our families have always been close to the sea and might be considered sailing enthusiasts, in various locations like, the Royal Sydney, Vancouver, St Lawrence and Waikiki Yacht clubs. So what do yacht clubs and Windstar have in common? “yachties”, people with a sense of adventure. Brands are sometimes difficult to define. If you look closely, the most synonymous with sailing are Ralph Lauren Polo, Docksiders, and Veuve Clicquot, they all dove-tail nicely to Windstar, casual yet stylish, even iconic. What you get on board a Windstar vessel, be it motor launch or motorized-sailer, is a guest list of diverse, successful people, from all around the world, united in one common goal, to relax, explore, dream and discover unique itineraries and ports of call, at the same time wanting for nothing. For those reading this and other WS Cruise Critic reviews, you’ll already be on the ‘I get it page’ that a Windstar cruise, is for it’s first time and returning guests, you are rather like being a member of a yacht club, where you mingle with fellow guests, with tanned faces, white linens, popped collars, topsiders and an easy going way about them. You are not on a massive floating hotel or even an expedition cruise, you are here to take it easy and at the same time be pampered. Having done many other WS cruises on WIND SURF (As reviewed in my article, ‘Jewels of the Caribbean’ on two weeks back to back: “All these islands in the sun hold unique memories and history from discoveries past that make them what they are - a flavor for each which makes the Caribbean dance in harmony and yet with such diversity. Our ship strung these jewels of the Caribbean together, clasped by the Wind Surf alone, a precious gem wherever she may sail.”) & WIND STAR, (As reviewed in my ‘Dreams of Tahiti - Tropical Romance’...“for Tahiti is a place unique unto herself, like an unspoiled child, precious in her innocence, like the blessing of true love newly discovered – do Tahiti, for you shall find, tropical beauty and romance in abundance, especially seen from the deck of Wind Star.”) BOUTIQUE LIKE HOTEL AT SEA Think for a moment about small boutique hotels (eg: Villa Rolandi - Isla Mujeres, Carl Gustav - St Barts, Chateau Eze, France - Hotel Danieli, Venice). Now think of your own small luxury floating Windstar ship - boutique hotel, taking you to any number of these exotic destinations around the world in the space of week or two. Bathed in one-on-one service at every turn, introducing you to different cultures up close and personal. Our STAR BREEZE, Secrets of the Southern Caribbean, was no less than sublime in all categories of new ports of call, although we didn’t do many excursions, passengers who did, came back with stories to tell and seemed to have had a great time. We did do the old city tour by horse drawn carriage in Cartagena, which we thoroughly enjoyed - what fascinating history, We discovered new found friends, from the US, Canada, Great Britain some of which we definitely will keep in touch with. In summary, perhaps like BMW, which is hailed as the Ultimate Driving Machine, so to can we say WS is our ultimate cruise line. There are some legendary figures in life I have related to, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway. One author who captures my sentiments most closely, Mark Twain, who said it best, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”. We can only add, treat yourself, give yourself permission and join the Windstar yacht club. We’re thinking our our next WS sojourn, Singapore and Thai Treasures. Like so many like & before us, you’ll soon discover why WS considers themselves to be in the magic moments business - perhaps you might like to consider them, your cultural Ambassador to the world, leaving a softer foot print wherever your Windstar cruise sails. PS: A personal“Thank You” to crew who went above & beyond in making us feel extra special, Rod, Afrin, One, Noel, Abdul, F&B Mngr, Hubert & Executive Chef, Holvin Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
As retired seasoned travelers who like a variety of experiences, we do not cruise a lot, but, when we do, we select our cruises based first on itinerary and secondly by cruise line. We have 4-5 companies that we will cruise with and then ... Read More
As retired seasoned travelers who like a variety of experiences, we do not cruise a lot, but, when we do, we select our cruises based first on itinerary and secondly by cruise line. We have 4-5 companies that we will cruise with and then select our ship based on the itineraries that match the interests and schedule of my wife and I. Windstar has long been on our list of cruise lines to try, but our "Best of ABC Caribbean" voyage is the first to work out for us, and it has been very pleasant. With only about 155 passengers on board and approximately the same number of staff, service has obviously not been a problem. It is my understanding that the Legend is a smaller ship recently purchased and refurbished by Windstar’s parent company Xanterra (also the concessioner for the U.S. National Park service). Our cabin (222) was very spacious with a large bath, a walk-in closet, and sleeping and living areas that can be separated by a pull curtain. The room does not have a balcony large enough to sit on (usually a requirement for us), but it does have a double sliding glass door that can be fully opened to create a fully private balcony experience. Very nice. As an older, smaller ship everything is, of course, smaller than one will find on the newer mega-floating hotels. Instead of ten shops, there is one, instead of Olympic-size swimming pools there are 2-3 nice spas, etc. Instead of open buffet dinners, you order from the menu, and instead of nightly musical theater there is a duo performing at the bar. Missing, however, are also curtain climbers running to and fro with their balloon floaties, and the crowds of drunken revelers. One problem we found with the ship is that its best location for dining is the veranda where breakfast and dinner can be eaten outside; however, the veranda is right above the ship’s generator which runs all of the time and intrudes on conversation, especially if your hearing is not the best. Also, although the menu options are nice, there is little to no change from day to day. Not Carnival or Disney (thank goodness), and certainly not for everyone, but for those who are looking for classy relaxation and a pleasant peaceful way to island hop, it is a welcome alternative that we have enjoyed very much. I have not cruised with Seabourn, but having spoken to those who have, the Windstar legend appears to provide a “Seabourn light” experience. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We traveled w. Star Pride from Aruba through the Pan.Canal at the end of Nov. 2015 - We have cruised w. Windstar 4 prior times on their sailing ships and have been happy. This yacht is one of 3 that were bought and put into service ... Read More
We traveled w. Star Pride from Aruba through the Pan.Canal at the end of Nov. 2015 - We have cruised w. Windstar 4 prior times on their sailing ships and have been happy. This yacht is one of 3 that were bought and put into service this past year. In case of Star Pride, it should have never been put into service before refurbishment and updates. Cabins were very nice, but public spaces were not in good shape at all. The deck had not seen any teak oil in ages, chases were old, stained and service f. drinks was infrequent. Food and menu was mediocre, their breakfast area (Veranda) was inadequate and due to the high temps and humidity (not their fault), it was always too crowded. Furniture lacked in style and quality in and outdoors. Selection of food was limited during breakfast and lunch and mostly not very varied. The issue of food selection quality is a corporate issue, chefs do not buy en route (or at least very little). 2 desserts and cookies at lunch was maximum. The crew and staff did their utmost in service and friendliness. Everyone tried, including entertainment, but it lacked as well. We even were served molded grapes in the cabin one day and hotel manager did not address the health issue of it adequately (bruscque & aprupt). I could go on, but again, all of it is an issue w. corporation, not the crew, staff or captain. We will not cruise again w. Windstar since the claim of "luxury cruise" certainly did not apply (it's a shame) Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This trip was a present to myself for retiring after 42 years of teaching. It was not a disappointment. I had a wonderful time, was treated exceptionally well by a most friendly, efficient, caring crew and ship mates. Everyone was friendly ... Read More
This trip was a present to myself for retiring after 42 years of teaching. It was not a disappointment. I had a wonderful time, was treated exceptionally well by a most friendly, efficient, caring crew and ship mates. Everyone was friendly and open to fun. While there was an issue with air conditioning on a night or two, the ship was run well. The food was fantastic. After having a galley tour and understanding how they work their provisions, I was even more impressed with what we were able to eat. Exceptionally great food! The ship was clean, kept up and I felt very safe the entire trip. Yes, it is an older luxury ship, but it fit what I was looking for, small, personal, and we'll run. The captain and main crew were very approachable and open to discussing how things were run. In short, I felt treated like a queen or someone who had their own personal yacht. I would highly recommend this way of travel! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We did a 14-day cruise from Aruba to Costa Rica aboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride starting November 28, 2015. This was our first voyage aboard Star Pride. Our previous three Windstar cruises were all on the Wind Surf, which we love. ... Read More
We did a 14-day cruise from Aruba to Costa Rica aboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride starting November 28, 2015. This was our first voyage aboard Star Pride. Our previous three Windstar cruises were all on the Wind Surf, which we love. Star Pride feels a bit smaller than the Surf. The Veranda, which serves breakfast and lunch and has indoor and outdoor seating, is located at the rear of the Pride, as opposed to mid-ship on the Surf, and doubles as Candles Restaurant at night. Since it was often windy, guests could choose to eat inside or brave the elements outside. We sat outside most days and for our three Candles dinners, finding a sheltered area each time. Staterooms aboard the Pride are all suites, much larger than staterooms on the Surf. However, there was no room to walk between the foot of the bed and the vanity / desk when someone was sitting there. This was the only issue I had with the room. The bathroom is quite spacious for a cruise ship. It has a bathtub with a shower, and a double sink. The walk-in closet has hanging rods along one side and along the rear wall, a small dresser, and a safe. We loved the location of our stateroom, 437, located at the end of the hall on Deck 4. It was the closest room to the embarkation door, and right next to the mid-ship elevators and spiral staircase. One floor down was the AmphorA for dinner, one floor up to Reception and the Lounge. It was also adjacent to the Deck 4 public bathrooms, which came in quite handy many mornings! Unlike the Surf, the Pride has no photo studio. We were several days into the cruise before the staff photographer started posting photos on a TV monitor in the Yacht Club. She later posted all of the photos on a ship’s computer in the Yacht Club, which was set up for viewing and ordering pictures. We experienced our first “wet landings” on this cruise. In Panama and Costa Rica, the Pride anchored off-shore. The security checkpoint was relocated to an outside location behind the Lounge. From there you walk down a couple flights of steps to the water sports platform area and onto a platform on one side of the ship where you get into a Zodiac, don a life vest, and off you go to shore. The Zodiac runs up onto the beach and once stabilized by the crew, you remove your life vest, jump into the surf and walk on up the beach to shore. The water was never deep or rough, but you should plan to get your feet (and shoes) wet. Getting into and out of the Zodiac was very easy and it’s really fun, but better than sweating it out inside one of the normal tenders. We selected the laundry package for this cruise, a service we have not used on previous cruises. It seemed expensive at $218 for both of us, but we used it extensively and in the end we rang up what would have cost more than $500 at their per-piece rates. Windstar also offers laundry service “a la carte” if you want that option instead of the entire laundry package. There is no self-serve laundry facility on the boat. We typically loaded our dirty clothes into a laundry bag before leaving for dinner, and set it on the floor inside our room ready to be hung on our door for pick-up before going to bed. And typically, we returned from dinner to find our bed turned down and the dirty clothes gone, already picked up by our cabin steward. Cool! No hanging our dirty clothes outside our door for the whole world to enjoy! Clothes were returned next day without fail, cleaned, ironed and folded, usually before 4pm. We purchased a couple of large bottles of wine in Aruba to take aboard. If you take your own wine into one of the restaurants, there is a one-time corkage fee of $15 for each bottle. They will offer to store your wine under your cabin number for your use in any restaurant, if you wish, a nice touch so that you don’t have to lug it back and forth for every meal. We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. First, the length of the cruise was appealing. Windstar rarely does cruises as long as 14 days except for ocean crossings with few stops. This cruise had only 2 sea days. Also, every stop on this itinerary was completely new for us. And, we got a really good deal once we added up our cruise and airfare costs! We have never been disappointed by the service provided by Windstar crews and I think this cruise was better than usual. At dinner, it seemed like many of the officers on board were on hand to help seat people, in addition to the normal dining room staff. In fact, many staff seemed to multi task more than usual. Philippe, (or Phil), the water sports director, seemed to be everywhere helping with everything, and was always extremely pleasant. He was so visible that, for several days, I thought he was the cruise director! We were also pleased to see a few crew members from our previous cruises on the Surf. Since the ship was only about 3/4 capacity we were able to find times to talk more extensively to some of the crew about their work, their other experiences, and their families. That was my most unexpected and appreciated surprise about this cruise. Before I describe our ports, here are some facts about our trip. We flew to Aruba and home from Costa Rica nonstop each way on Southwest. Rented a car in Aruba from Econo. Stayed in Aruba at the Sunset Beach Studios. In Aruba, we ate out for dinners only, at Wacky Wahoos, Barneys (twice), and Bingos, and we enjoyed them all. Star Pride carries 212 passengers, our cruise had 153. Ports – plan to be hot everywhere you go on this itinerary. A steady wind makes the heat less noticeable, and you’ll find that on all of the ABC islands. In Colombia and Central America, the wind is less reliable and you have to hope for a cloudy day or shade from some other source to help beat the heat. Embarkation, Aruba We flew to Aruba 4 days before our sail date. I was not terribly interested in seeing Aruba, but did not want to blow it off altogether, either. Turns out, I was so relaxed by the end of our 4 days that I was in no hurry to leave, even with a cruise awaiting us. There is a large variety of lodging available in Aruba. We tend to stay away from crowds and ended up at Sunset Beach Studios, located about 3/4 mile north of the Palm Beach high-rise hotels. Mind you, this is not the swank, luxury lodging that you'll find at the big name Palm Beach high-rise hotels, but it’s very comfortable. We stayed in one of two large garden studios (LG1). Our room was spacious, with a full range of kitchen amenities, a large walk-in closet, nice size bathroom with walk in shower (no tub), a comfy bed and a/c. The bed was listed as queen size, but it felt more like a king. A small safe is located in the closet. We had a variety of tables and chairs on the covered porch, with an indirect view of the beach and ocean across the street. There is a small, refreshing pool and hot tub. The grounds are nicely landscaped. The office is open until 5pm, but you can get help from the on site caretaker or just call the owners, who live locally. Located 3/4 mile north of the Ritz Carlton (the last hotel on Palm Beach) it's an easy ½-mile walk to good snorkeling sites along Malmock Beach, and 1 mile from Boca Catalina. There are a lot of similar places to stay in Aruba, and making a choice was tough. I would return to Sunset Beach Studios in a heartbeat, although I’m curious about some of the places we did not select. Snorkeling in Aruba was good, but not great. Everyone goes to the best spots and while there is a lot of cool fish to see, the color of the coral is pretty washed out. We snorkeled right from the beach and had a great time. We rented a small car from Econo Aruba Car Rentals at the airport, and returned it to their satellite location at LaQuinta Hotel (Eagle Beach). We just left all of our luggage in the car and the Econo guy at LaQuinta drove us in our rental to the cruise port at no charge. Embarkation was scheduled to start at 1pm and we arrived at Star Pride shortly thereafter only to encounter our first wait in line ever for a Windstar Cruise. The wait to check in and drop our luggage inside the cruise terminal was only a couple of minutes, but there was a long line waiting to board the ship, maybe a 15-minute wait. When we departed the ship again about 30 minutes later the line was gone. We apparently arrived at the ship just after a large group from the airport … simply unfortunate timing on our part. The registration and check-in process was typical Windstar, fast and easy once we were inside the Lounge. Bonaire Although the Pride arrived at 7am and departed at 10pm, we did not see much of this lovely island. Instead, we wanted to spend as much time as we could snorkeling. We booked a snorkeling trip ahead of time with Woodwind and it was the best decision we ever made. Our trip included 23 passengers. The captain (and owner) divided us into three groups: novice, somewhat experienced, and leave-me-alone-I-know-what-I’m-doing (my terminology, not hers). This particular trip took us to Klein Bonaire, a small island just off shore. Along the way, she talked a lot about the marine biology of the area, and the rules and regulations for use inside this national park. The crew helped us with equipment; Woodwind has a huge assortment of snorkeling gear ranging from snorkels and masks to UV shirts, snorkeling caps, and fins. Many people brought their own gear, but many were not very familiar with how to use it properly. Some had been using it very improperly for years, and got a good lesson on how they should be using it. My wife brought her new Tribord full-face snorkel mask, only to have the captain tell her that it was the wrong size. But, Woodwind also carried a few Tribord masks and set up my wife with one fitting her with the correct size. (At the end of the trip, the captain offered to swap masks with us, and we gladly accepted!) We stopped at three different locations around Klein Bonaire. At each, a crewmember dove in and swam around to check conditions. Passengers then went into the water in their preassiged groups, with each group assigned a crewmember who was their “tour guide”. Each group stayed loosely together, slowly floating with the current for about 45 minutes back towards the boat, which had repositioned itself at a pickup spot. Once passengers were picked up, the boat headed for the next drop location. Between stops, we were offered drinks and snacks. After the final stop, we were given a very generous lunch and more drinks. Our trip carried two underwater photographers who went into the water with us at each stop. At the end of the trip they had amassed a collection of more than 200 photos. During lunch, they carried iPads around for passengers to view the photos. The entire collection was offered for sale for like $40 on a flash drive. There was no sales pitch, no pressure to buy. Our Woodwind snorkel trip was one of our best cruise excursions ever! Curaçao Star Pride sailed upriver past the quaint historical part of Willemstad that you see in all of the cruise pictures of Curacao, and around a bend into a small industrial harbor surrounded mostly by refineries and tankers. There, she turned around and started back towards the tourist area, but we never made it that far. We docked along one side of the river, within sight of the industrial port to our rear. Hmmm … not quite the picturesque setting I had imagined. There was a dock on the river just inside the swinging bridge, adjacent to the tourist area, but that spot was later taken by a much larger cruise ship. (A third cruise ship was also in port, but located a short ways off at the mega-pier.) Our walk to the tourist area was about 10 minutes, maybe a bit more than ¼ mile, and really, other than the nasty refinery near our dock, we probably had the better location. It was very quiet, no one around except for those having business with our ship. The other cruise ship was docked at the entrance to the cruise port area, where it was crowded and noisy with vendors, taxi drivers, and tour guides. Yes, we had to walk through this melee to exit or enter the security area, but the walk to and from the ship to that point was pleasant and quiet. We explored Curacao on our own. We had a car reservation with Avis at their Howard Johnson Hotel location, a short walk from our ship. Unfortunately, the map I used showed the hotel on one side of the river, when it was on the other. Avis had a desk set up in the lobby of the hotel. Cars were parked right outside in a narrow, dead-end parking area, and we had to exit by backing out quite a ways before finding room to turn around. Glad I did not rent a large car or SUV! Windstar conducted a private event for dinner, “An Antillean Evening”, at an historic tavern. Shuttle buses were provided but many of us walked since it was nearby in the historic area. This was a wonderful event. A variety of drinks was offered upon arrival and dinner was served at buffet-like serving stations located around the perimeter of a courtyard. There was adequate seating, but many tables looked “held”. We were unsure where to go, when one of the crew offered to help us find seats. He took our plates and seconds later we were at the table we hoped to sit at all along. White and red wine was offered with dinner, and our table just kept a large bottle of the white in an ice bucket set up for us. I had been unsure what to expect from this event, and now feel unable to describe it adequately. It was a great experience and I’d say that Windstar did a superb job organizing this. Day 3, at sea. We relaxed. After snorkeling and touring for nearly a week, I needed a sea day. Star Pride is a comfortable ship and we found that the Yacht Club, located forward and with great views, was a peaceful retreat for reading or whatever. Santa Marta, Colombia: We were the only cruise ship in port. While the port area is entirely industrial, it was interesting to watch the loading of a container ship docked adjacent to Pride. Shuttle buses and vans were available to transport passengers between the ship and the port entrance, conveniently located across from a waterfront park and beaches at one end of the downtown area … so getting into town was quick and easy. There was a lot of activity in the port area and I’m pretty sure that walking to and from the ship was not an option, but there was never a wait for a shuttle. I found little information about this port, so we decided to try Windstar’s Quebrada Ecological Experience and Waterfall excursion. I have mixed feelings about this tour. The guided tour and waterfall were underwhelming. The tour guide seemed to be providing a lot of interesting information about Santa Marta and the surrounding area, but the air conditioning system on the bus was so loud, and the tour guide had so many problems with his microphone, that we could hear only bits and pieces of what he said during our 1-hour drive to the site. The waterfall was actually a series of cascades, ending in a pool along the trail. Very nice, but nothing spectacular or even unique. Some people jumped into the pool, others climbed up the cascades, most just hung out in the shade. On the other hand, the cultural experience was interesting. The tour buses dropped us off at a site (the trailhead) full of merchant stalls selling souvenirs and food. The bathrooms here included two rooms with one toilet each, one for men, one for women. An attendant at the women’s bathroom gave out maybe three squares of toilet paper per person. I guess that’s better than none. There was a rather long line outside each bathroom. After our bathroom break our guide led us down a short path, across a shallow stream and along a wide, level trail to the waterfall. The walk to the waterfall was no more than ½ mile, although there were several stream crossings. Fording the stream was very easy … it was shallow with a gentle current. The trail was mostly shaded. Merchants with stalls were scattered along the trail, selling mostly food and herbs. There were a few people at the falls when we arrived, and a few kids in the pool. Not long after, the place was packed. It was like a trainload of people had arrived, most of them locals. Clearly, this is a popular place to spend a hot day! We spent most of our one-hour here in the refreshing pool. A note about the merchants: we never felt any pressure to buy anything. Few of the merchants spoke English. We hung near our tour guide along the trail, and he stopped at several of the stalls to greet the merchant, to ask questions about what they sold, then translated the merchant’s reply for us. The tour guide was actually a very pleasant and knowledgeable guy. Back on board the boat, we decided to walk into Santa Marta. A quick ride on the shuttle brought us to the port entrance, where, much to our delight, we found free WiFi, a nice shade tree, and several other passengers and a few crew from the ship! We walked through the waterfront park for maybe ¼ mile, then back through some side streets in town. It was late afternoon and hot, so this quick taste of Santa Marta was about all we had time and energy for. It’s a major city with lots of automobile and pedestrian traffic, not very appealing to us. Cartagena, Colombia: Unlike Santa Marta, the port at Cartagena is set up for tourists. Cruise ships dock at one end of the industrial port area, and you can walk or take a shuttle the short distance to the cruise ship terminal which is a rather large souvenir shop with an outdoor aviary and monkeys. Very modern and clean. If you like wildlife or shopping, you can easily spend an hour or more here. There were two other large cruise ships and two South Korean military ships in port with us. We caught a taxi outside the cruise terminal for a ride to the old town area. The drive is probably only several miles but traffic was dense, so it took a long time to get there. Old town is full of beautiful architecture and we enjoyed walking around on our own, but were frequently approached by people trying to sell stuff. Only a few tried to hard sell … after hearing “no” a few times, most hurried off to find someone else. I think the huge volume of tourists from the other cruise and military ships kept them busy. Day 6, at sea: I would not care for a cruise that is all sea days, but a nice break every few days suits me fine. Panama Canal We spent nearly all day anchored near Colon, Panama with dozens of other ships, waiting for our turn to transit the canal. We started through late afternoon, and it was dark by the time we emerged from the first set of locks into Gutan Lake. There’s not much to see in the dark, so we went to bed. Days 8 and 9, Panama City Windstar lists this as Balboa / Fuerte Amador and I’m still not sure of the distinction, or why they don’t just say Panama City. When I checked the area on Google maps before the cruise, it looked like Balboa was an industrial port near the Bridge of the Americas, and Fuerte Amador was more of a marina at the end of a causeway connecting several islands to the mainland. Fact is, we anchored offshore from the marina (Fuerte Amador). My wife enjoyed Windstar’s Monkey Watch tour. When she returned, we went ashore and wandered around the marina area. We needed to restock our wine for the remainder of the cruise but found the duty free store very expensive and with nothing we wanted. Further exploration revealed a wine store nearby with a decent selection and reasonable prices. The marina area has WiFi, but you have to look for the clusters of people with tablets and phones to figure out where to find the WiFi signal. Isla de Coiba, Panama This small island is several miles from mainland Panama, and is one of their national parks. Windstar provided an “island experience and lunch beach bbq” here and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Pride anchored in a sheltered cove with a nice beach. This is a “developed” site, where the park has several rental cottages and a small visitor center with exhibits. The Pride crew set up enough lounge chairs on the beach for everyone, most with a half-tent-like shelter around the top to provide shade, although shade was plentiful without the shelters. The BBQ was set up and lunch provided at a large covered patio with lots of picnic tables. We were brought ashore in Zodiacs to a wet landing on the beach. All of the water toys from the sports platform were available and were used extensively. We snorkeled for about an hour along one side of the cove. Snorkeling was enjoyable but not great. The water was calm with little silt, and a nice variety of colorful fish. We were advised ahead of time of the resident crocodile, but that he lived in a cove away from ours, was monitored by rangers and posed no hazard. We later learned that no one had seen him for several days and did not know where he was! Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica Also called Puerto Jimenez on some publications. Turns out we sailed into Golfito in the wee hours to clear customs into Costa Rica, then crossed the bay to “Port Jim” and anchored offshore around 8am. This was another wet landing via Zodiac onto a shady beach adjacent to a small hotel / bar / restaurant. We stepped ashore late morning for the short walk into town. When we encountered the early risers returning to the ship, many warned us to not waste our time, there’s nothing to see. But really, that’s exactly what we look for in a Windstar cruise. Port Jim is small, the main street is only about 5 blocks long, but it was bustling with activity. We stopped in one of the outdoor restaurants for drinks, free WiFi, and people watching … a very relaxing way to spend an hour or more. We looped back towards the ship along some side streets, to the airport, and on to our starting point. Before boarding the Zodiac we heard loud squawks and discovered a large number of scarlet macaws in the trees nearby. Drake Bay, Costa Rica This was the most isolated of our ports. Pride anchored offshore in a fairly rough Pacific Ocean, and tendered passengers via Zodiac to a dock located in a sheltered cove. They operated the Zodiacs slowly and the ride was not bad. The dock was located at an Eco-Lodge that included a restaurant with free WiFi. A narrow trail led to “town” a short walk away, but as the trail became increasingly muddy, we chose to turn around. In the morning, we did Windstar’s Terraba-Sierpe Wetlands and Mangrove tour. There was some confusion about the cost and length of this trip. The original cost of $259/pp was incorrect; it was actually $199/pp. The length of the trip was 7 hours. The tour boat was small, 15 passenger capacity, with a crew of three and no bathroom. It picked us up right from Star Pride, which is rather unusual, then motored north along the coast for about 15 minutes to the mouth of the Sierpe River. Here, the captain cut his engines as the crew advised us that passage from the ocean into the river would be very rough, and that storage of cameras and other valuables in watertight bags would be advisable. Everything was passed up to the crew who packed and stored it in a small storage area in the front of the boat. As promised, the ride into the river was exhilarating but once there, the boat once again stopped and all personal items were returned. The remainder of the trip was a scenic cruise upriver, with stops along the way to view wildlife. The captain did a great job of positioning the boat so that passengers along both sides had opportunities for great views. As far as I know, no one felt rushed, and any time someone asked for another stop, or a better position, he was extremely accommodating. About two hours into the trip we arrived at the small village of Sierpe where we stopped for a short bathroom break. WARNING: this is the first bathroom opportunity on this trip. Your only other option is to hang it over the edge of the boat while your fellow passengers wait with their backs turned to you. Not that this happened to me or anything …. Anyway, we continued upriver another 30-45 minutes. Along the way the crew cut up fresh pineapple and watermelon and passed it around. Tasty! At some point we returned to Sierpe for a wonderful full lunch at a local restaurant (included in the cost of the trip) and a chance to wander around a bit, then headed back to the Pride. We did not see as much wildlife as I had expected, or quite the variety, but it was still an outstanding excursion. Also, I have a tendency towards sea sickness in even mildly rough conditions, but had no issues at any time during this trip. Quepos, Costa Rica Our planned outing to Manuel Antonio National Park was thwarted by fatigue. This cruise just wore us out to the point we could do no more. Instead, we caught the Zodiac to shore and walked the short distance into town. Quepos is cute. Small, but significantly larger than Port Jim. They have a waterfront walkway adjacent to the main road and benches are decorated in colored tiles depicting local wildlife and fish. After hitting the tourist shops, we headed to the third floor restaurant of the Best Western hotel for a couple of smoothies and free WiFi. We enjoyed a table with a cooling breeze, overlooking the main street and the harbor across the way. We were there maybe 90 minutes, and I could have stayed all day. Day 14, Debarkation, Puerto Caldera Another industrial port, but pretty quiet the morning we docked and we were the only cruise ship in port. Breakfast was available at 6:30am and people started getting off the boat around 7:30am. They wanted everyone ashore by 9am, I believe. We had arranged our own transportation to the airport, and were able to leave any time after the gangway opened. I was happy to look out our cabin window about 7am and see a large van with the name of our transportation company, and a guy nearby holding a small sign with our name. Debarking was pretty easy: we picked up our passports at reception, then down the gangway to find our bags already brought ashore. We arranged for a scenic ride to the airport with Odyssey Tours and Transportation. We were picked up in a huge, like-new van. The driver took us towards the airport following back roads much of the way, with a stop at a nice store with beautiful garden and great views. A very relaxing trip. We arrived at the San Jose airport about 3-1/2 hours before our flight … plenty of time, I assumed. What I did not know was that we could not check in with our airline until we had paid a departure tax at a counter at the other end of the airport. So we paid the tax, then waited to check our bags with Southwest. It seemed like a long wait, but it was only about 15 minutes. From there it was on to the security screening. OMG! The line was endless! We still had about 2-1/2 hours until our flight, but it looked like we would be in the security line for much longer than that. The reality was, we were through security in a little over an hour, with time to stop for lunch before our flight. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
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