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31 Windstar Europe - British Isles & Western Cruise Reviews

This was our 3rd cruise on the Windsurf in recent times. We booked a back to back trip, having learned on prior trips that a 7 or 8 day journey simply doesn’t seem enough … Enjoyed the sails and the feel of the yacht, which ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise on the Windsurf in recent times. We booked a back to back trip, having learned on prior trips that a 7 or 8 day journey simply doesn’t seem enough … Enjoyed the sails and the feel of the yacht, which still makes Windstar so unique in the cruising market. We like the size of the Windsurf – there is always enough space to find a private corner somewhere. There are plenty of dining options and a couple of entertainment options in the evening. All very chilled and relaxing. We also enjoy meeting a lot of the guests on board … many are fellow travellers who are quite low key, but appreciate their luxuries and enjoy exploring the world. Unfortunately, many of the capable crew we were pleased to getting to know on previous trips, had moved on to other newer Windstar ships . They were replaced by lesser-experienced, but still very friendly and helpful crew. What some of the crew lacked in experience, they made up for with tremendous charm and a great willingness to help and serve the guests on board. The officers were very friendly and approachable, regularly mixing with guests. Despite our appreciation of the crew’s efforts, we noticed a deterioration of standards from prior cruises: The embarkation was delayed and the waiting area in Lisbon certainly wasn’t designed with comfort in mind. The Captain managed the situation well by communicating directly to the waiting passengers. The cabins are well designed, but the light colored carpets showed stains - so badly - that we asked the Cabin Steward to have them cleaned, which he promptly did. The chocolates left during turndown service are a nice idea, but do they have to be unwrapped? The quality of the food, never outstanding on past trips either, left much to be desired. It certainly does not pass for a fine dining experience. It is ok – mediocre. Even the specialty restaurants ‘Stella Bistro’ and ‘Candles’ struggle to set themselves apart from the main dining room. The BBQ is quite fun and the freshly grilled food is enjoyable. The bar staff was absolutely wonderful and so was some of the dining room staff. The shore excursions were ok, but tend to be geared towards more mature clientele. With a bit of research beforehand, we managed to have very enjoyable self-guided tours ashore. The fitness offerings are also geared towards an older crowd. What was meant to pass for yoga, had very little to do with yoga. It was held in the midst of the weight machines in the tiny little gym on board, while there was plenty of fabulous open deck space to conduct a yoga session. We would have gladly signed a release if that was the reason an outdoor space wasn’t chosen. If Yoga is advertised, one would expect a certified yoga instructor. The instructor teaching the class couldn’t even name the poses! We became aware of some Windstar HQ related politics … subtle signs that would increase significantly on the second leg of our journey and unfortunately endured for months after our trip. More on this in the review of our second leg on this trip: Dublin to Edinburgh. Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
I want to state clearly and emphatically that WE LOVE WINDSTAR!! My wife and I have now been on seven Windstar cruises, including five on the Wind Surf. We have frequently recommended Windstar to relatives, friends and sometimes to ... Read More
I want to state clearly and emphatically that WE LOVE WINDSTAR!! My wife and I have now been on seven Windstar cruises, including five on the Wind Surf. We have frequently recommended Windstar to relatives, friends and sometimes to complete strangers. The two couples traveling with us on this last voyage have sailed on multiple Windstar cruises with us. We recruited them to Windstar several years ago. These three couples have taken a combined total of eighteen Windstar cruises. We are invested in Windstar and want it to succeed. But we are in agreement that this most recent cruise was the least satisfying and most disappointing by far. Before describing the disappointments, I'll highlight some of the many positives. ** The food service staff was, as always, outstanding. The waiters – many of whom we knew from previous cruises - were friendly, fun and efficient, and worked hard to cater to whatever we needed. After only a day or two, they knew our names and many of our preferences. Abdul did a great job. ** The housekeeping staff was also excellent. Our cabin steward, Darta, was friendly and efficient. Somehow, he always seemed to know when we were gone, because by the time we returned the cabin was always clean and straight. What few requests we had werequickly taken care of. ** Kudos to Klaus, the head chef! The food at all the restaurants was outstanding, perhaps the best we have ever had on a Windstar cruise. Good variety, well-prepared and beautifully presented. (I especially enjoyed the bison steak, which Klaus arranged for me to special order even when it wasn't on the menu.) Portion sizes were just right. ** The senior staff were terrific. Captain Peter Harris is certainly a very capable boat driver, since we regularly sailed from port to port safely and comfortably. But we especially appreciated his friendly, personable demeanor, his on-board visibility, and his willingness and eagerness to interact with passengers. We saw more of Peter, and spoke more with him, than any other ship captain we have encountered in many years of cruising. Likewise with Hotel Manager Ratko Strbac, who I was fortunate to get to know, like and respect. Ratko had only been with Windstar for a few weeks when we met him. He knows his business, and Windstar is fortunate to have him. His approach to guest relations will make the Wind Surf a much better ship on which to cruise. ** The lounge band was quite good; Coco has a terrific voice. But we found ourselves spending most evenings in the Compass Rose listening to Rain Duo. Craig and Niki were awesome! I could listen to Niki's sweet, beautiful, mesmerizing voice all night. And Craig's vocals and guitar playing would give Mark Knopfler a run for his money. (This is a great compliment, by the way.) ** The Wind Surf, and its smaller siblings, are, of course, one of the primary reasons we often sail with Windstar. We love these beautiful ships . . . the ambiance, the comfort and informality, the homey feeling. We enjoy, as well, many of the small, off-the-beaten-track ports of call. Alas, this recent Windstar cruise was fraught with disappointments that tarnished the brand and seriously diminished our enjoyment of this vacation. Most of our concerns can be traced directly back to Windstar headquarters. For example: ** Initial check-in, and the few weeks leading up to it, were a mess. For the first time ever, no embarkation documents were mailed to us . . . instead, Windstar emailed us (through our travel agent) an ”eDOC TICKET”. This document was confusing and contradictory. It stated that check-in began at 1:00 pm; All Aboard was 4:00 pm; and departure was at 2:00 pm !!?? How does that work? We never could get clarification from Windstar, so, to be safe, we arrived at the terminal at 10:30 am, and then sat around for three hours twiddling our thumbs waiting to board. Because of Windstar's communications incompetence, we wasted an entire morning during which we could have been exploring Lisbon. This was an ominous beginning to our 16 day cruise on the Surf. ** On-board, we soon discovered that the Surf no longer has a Cruise Director. It now has what they call a “Destination Manager”, whose primary job seems to be to sell overpriced shore excursions. Her port talks spent precious little time promoting the sights, sounds, attractions and charm of the port city. Instead, she mostly encouraged folks to hop on a bus and go somewhere else. On top of that, information she did share with us was often incorrect or incomplete. Almost never did she discuss or promote any on-board activities. For example, trivia night, line-dancing instruction, market tour with Klaus, wine-tasting etc., etc., are all fine activities, but no one with Windstar, including our destination manager, promoted them. ** Speaking of on-board entertainment, the afternoon of third day, a Folklore song and dance group was brought on board.. They were very good, but passengers wouldn't have known about them unless they carefully read the daily program. The destination manager had said nothing about them the night before, and the lounge was barely half full. Those who did attend, (we did), were given no information at all about the performers. Where were they from? What region, or era, or ethnicity did their music and dance come from? What did their costumes represent? We don't know. The Windstar officer introducing them said little more than “Here's your entertainment”, after which no more words were spoken. What a wasted opportunity. ** Bar service in the lounge, and wine service in Amphora was often poor. We don't blame this on the servers . . . they were uniformly very good, friendly and attentive. There simply weren't enough of them to handle crowd. We can only guess that dictates from headquarters resulted in under-staffing, We were told that many of the more experienced staff had been transferred to the Star Pride. ** WiFi on board was awful! Connections were slow, intermittent or nonexistant. I signed up for access on the first day, and by the third day was so frustrated that I asked them to disconnect me. They did so without argument and with a full refund. ** The Dublin to Edinburgh portion of our back-to-back cruise started on an even worse note than it did in Lisbon. We had never been to Dublin before, so we signed up for the “special” Dublin city tour that would also transfer departing guests to the airport or a hotel. I asked the ladies at the reception desk several times if we would have to go to the airport ourselves. I told Ice that if the tour did require us to accompany the other passengers to the airport, that we would cancel. She checked with Jeff, who reportedly made a call or two, and then confirmed that after the Dublin tour we would be dropped off at the Davenport Hotel at 1:00 pm, and from there would join up with other guests going to the Wind Surf. Because of this promise, we took the tour. It was mostly a waste of time. We were very rushed. There was no expedited ticketing to anything, so we ended up standing in line for forty minutes to see the Book of Kells and then had only fifteen minutes there before we had to move on. We then started a whirlwind tour of St. Patrick's Cathedral at 11:45 am. We were told to be back on the bus at 12:05 pm, at which time our guide told us we were now heading for the airport. I asked “To the airport??!!” Yes, indeed. Precisely what we were promised would NOT happen was happening. I was incredulous – and furious - and told him to stop the bus. My wife and I got off the bus, not where we wanted to be but at a place better than a scenic drive to the airport. When we finally returned to the ship, I described to Jeff what had occurred. Jeff wasn't much help, but ultimately, Ratko, (the aforementioned hotel manager), stepped in and resolved the situation to our satisfaction. My thanks to Ratko for his concern, his empathy and his personal involvement. Windstar is a great brand. We have traveled with Windstar often in the past, and will probably do so in the future. However, we are very concerned about what we felt was a marked deterioration in communications and service from previous Windstar cruises. This last Windstar cruise just didn't seem as special . . . too many corners had been cut. We worry that quality of the Surf, Spirit and Star will continue to suffer as the three Seabourn ships are brought on line and their experienced staff are diluted even more. We will be taking many more ocean cruises in the coming years. For the first time, however, we'll be seriously considering Azamara and Oceana and Viking as viable alternatives to Windstar.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
"Gaelic Explorer" Itinerary - Dublin to Edinburgh - July 12-20, 2014 We'd cruised on Wind Surf three times, but always on warm weather itineraries in the Caribbean or Bahamas, and it'd been ten years since our last ... Read More
"Gaelic Explorer" Itinerary - Dublin to Edinburgh - July 12-20, 2014 We'd cruised on Wind Surf three times, but always on warm weather itineraries in the Caribbean or Bahamas, and it'd been ten years since our last sailing. We were curious how she had held up after going through three owners since the last time we were aboard. We were not disappointed. We chose to purchase Windstar's 2-night pre-cruise Dublin hotel package. We took a cab (27 Euros) from the airport to the O'Callaghan Davenport Hotel, which was centrally located within walking distance of Trinity College, shops and eateries on Grafton Street, Book of Kells, Temple Bar, museums, parks, and a hop-on-hop-off bus stop. Although rated four-stars, the Davenport was a bit frayed around the edges. Our 5th floor room was nice, although the air conditioning was so weak we had to open the window. That turned out to be problematic at bedtime because of the very popular outdoor pub just below the window. The hotel staff was friendly, and the included morning breakfast buffet was tasty. Windstar's coach transfer to the ship together with all of the other Windstar passengers staying at the Davenport was disorganized, with a lot of standing around with luggage waiting for the coaches. The Windstar on-site rep seemed to be doing the best she could. It was an easy coach ride to the ship at Dún Laoghaire. There was a several blocks hike with carryons from the cruise terminal checked-baggage drop-off to the ship. No problems the day we were there because it was a beautiful day, but it could've been problematic if it had been raining or the ferry was there. Wind Surf looked terrific, not showing her age at all. We were a bit distracted walking aboard in Dún Laoghaire because Captain Harris happened to be one of the staff greeting passengers at the bottom of the boarding ramp, and he actually carried one of our carryons inside. The major total ship refit not too long ago was quite evident on first impression. The decks, passageways, stairways, lounge, bars, dining areas, and our suite midship on deck three all looked brand-new. Smiling staff was everywhere. Check-in was easily accomplished in the lounge. Food, (always a subjective topic because everyone has individual expectations), was very good in our opinion. Better than we remember from our prior cruises, and certainly much higher quality and taste (and service) than what we usually experience on Royal Caribbean. Always fresh and tasty buffet options on the Star Deck Veranda for breakfast and lunch, plus you could order from a brief menu if you chose. When the Veranda was crowded, the adjacent Bistro was open as overflow. The reservations-required supper in the Stella Bistro was very good, although we thought the food quality and service was just as good in the Amphora main dining room. We didn't get a chance to eat at the alternative reservations-required served-outdoors Candles at supper, but because of the weather on this cruise, all Candles meals were moved into the Veranda. The Deck BBQ was also moved indoors, and the main lounge was converted into a dining room. The Yacht Club midships on Main deck had tasty sandwiches, snacks, and coffees from 7:00 AM until 5:00 PM. We were somewhat disappointed the Purell hand sanitizer dispensers installed around the ship and on the gang plank were almost always empty, and there was never any mention anywhere asking passengers to use them to help prevent the spread of norovirus. The weather. We always overpack. This time, though, what we brought home un-worn were all of our short-sleeve, warm-weather clothes. There’s a reason why the photos we all see of Ireland and Scotland show amazing greenery. It rains. Whether the weather was sunny and bright, or chilly and rainy, the temps never got much above the low 60s F. We had some very beautiful, clear blue skies days, some days when there was rain interspersed with brief periods of beautiful blue skies, and a few days when it rained most of the day. When it rained, it was mostly that horizontal rain, making umbrellas powerless. Just pack thinking when you’re out and about off the ship you’ll layer, bring a light water-resistant windbreaker, and bring an umbrella that pops back into shape when the winds turn it inside-out. Evening wear aboard was “casually elegant”. Some men wore sport coats in the Bistro and the dining room, but most wore nice slacks with collared shirts. The women looked great, as usual, but they weren’t overly dressy or wearing anything formal. The main lounge band, “Cool Breeze”, was good and the singer excellent, and the duo in the Compass Rose bar, “Rain Duo” was good, too. Don’t miss the crew talent show in the main lounge. The ports of call. We have always liked Wind Surf’s niche, being able to drop anchor in the small ports and marinas where the mega ships can’t go. For all of our stops, except our last day in Invergordon, Scotland, (where we shared our day tied up near the 3100-passenger Ruby Princess and two oil platforms), we were the largest vessel to be seen. We tendered in/out each day except at Invergordon. The trade-off being able to visit smaller ports of call is not being able to do a whole lot of online research for planning exploration on our own or pre-arrange private excursions. Although several cruisecritic.com contributors on our cruise had made their own plans, we opted to purchase Windstar’s (excessively-priced) excursions. Even with the poor Euro and British Pound Sterling exchange rates with the US dollar, the ship’s excursion prices seemed way out of line based upon the individual entry fees we saw posted at the places we visited. We did enjoy all of our daily excursions with the exception of the day at Invergordon, where our group found itself at Urquhart Castle with six or more coaches from the Ruby Princess plus many land-based tourist groups. All of our local guides were very good, and easy to understand. The excursions we chose were: Isle of Man – “Vintage Steam Train & Magnificent Castle Rushen” (excellent! - sunny) Portrush – “The Giant’s Causeway and Old Bushmills Distillery” (stormy, but beautiful) Tobermory – “Mull’s Duart Castle with Tea” (excellent! - sunny) Portree – “Dunvegan Castle & The Cullins” (stormy, crowded, but sunny late) Kirkwall – “Ancient Treasures” (rainy/cold/blowing, some sun late) Invergordon – “Loch Ness & Historic Urquhart Castle” (sunny, crowded, interesting, although didn’t stop at Loch Ness visitor’s center as described) At the end of the cruise in Leith/Edinburgh, disembarkation was easy. Our bags were waiting for us in the terminal, and there were cabs lined up outside once we'd claimed our luggage. The easy (Sunday morning) ride to the airport in a very clean local cab with a nice driver was only 26 British Pounds Sterling (compared to Windstar's $95/person airport transfer fee). In summary, we had a terrific fourth cruise aboard Wind Surf, and we agreed we’ll sail on her again in the not too distant future.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2014
This was a wonderful itinerary and a memorable voyage for many reasons. After 2 days at a well-located hotel in London, we were transferred by motorcoach to Wind Surf at her dock at Portsmouth. Our ports in France were Cherbourg, St. ... Read More
This was a wonderful itinerary and a memorable voyage for many reasons. After 2 days at a well-located hotel in London, we were transferred by motorcoach to Wind Surf at her dock at Portsmouth. Our ports in France were Cherbourg, St. Malo, and Brest. Cherbourg was the departure point for seeing the D-Day beaches and Sainte Mere Eglise, a very moving day. St. Malo is a great place to explore, and then explore more. Brest was my least favorite port on this itinerary; I enjoyed the castle, now open as a museum. Our ports in Spain, La Coruna and Vigo, were both interesting with lovely walking and/or excursion opportunities. Walking La Coruna's 14 km. waterfront promenade is a great way to enjoy that lovely city. Our half-day in Porto, Portugal, allowed time to walk in the central city and along the Douro River. From Porto, we sailed onward to Lisbon. I was met at the dock by Pedro of Sintra Private Tours to start our excellent tour which ended with my being taken to my hotel. The next day I used a hop-on-hop-off bus for an overview of Lisbon that included an afternoon at the excellent Lisbon Oceanarium. Wind Surf and her crew are exceptional in every way. The food was the best ever on any of my cruises. I love the size of the ship, and, as in the past (this was my 5th Windstar cruise), watching the sails unfurl as we continue on towards a new port is an exhilarating experience. The best way I can share this fine travel experience is to direct you to my just-finished on-line photo album, which I am about to post in top position on my Shutterfly travel photo site: https://fredasphotos1.shutterfly.com. After you've opened the site, click on the top album, "Wind Surf London to Lisbon". Next click on SLIDESHOW, then at upper right click on FULL SCREEN. I think it works best then to click the button at the top center to disable auto-forward of photos, after which you can click on the right-arrow when you want to go to the next photo. There are captions and text so you can view and read it as a travelogue. It was a memorable journey. I hope you'll enjoy it vicariously! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our fifth cruise with WS lines. While we still enjoy the ambiance, crew, small ship cruising, some of the changes are not for the better. There is now a "harder sell" mentality for the spa, shop and excursions. The port ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise with WS lines. While we still enjoy the ambiance, crew, small ship cruising, some of the changes are not for the better. There is now a "harder sell" mentality for the spa, shop and excursions. The port excursion prices are exceptionally high for what they provide, which is most unfortunate. We have been able to book independent excursions that offer more time and sights for the same or even less cost than what WS charges. The new owners of the WS line do not offer the same amenities and discounts for prior travelers, known as ForeMast Club members, as had Holland America and prior owners. This is definitely not good PR and does not encourage loyalty in those of us who have traveled before. That said, the Wind Surf was in good condition, although the refurbished decor looked way too utilitarian for the "casual elegance" of the advertising. The colors were beyond bland, the prints in the carpet and upholstered chairs looked anything but elegant, more in keeping with a 2* hotel. The public areas and cabins were very clean. The cabin and wait staff were as friendly and attentive as in all our other trips. Boon remembered us from a prior trip! The staff learns our names within the first day, an incredible feat. The food was fresh, mostly unimaginative but nicely prepared. Loved the breakfast selections, dinners had good choices, but typically on the bland side and became repetitive. I would suggest that the menu include local specialties of the countries being visited. Local talent was brought on board, one a lovely 16 year old vocalist, Lucy Kelly from Wales, sounding much like Charlotte Church. The other was a harpist. This is a WS feature, to bring aboard local talent, and much appreciated by the passengers. The other talent sailing as part of the crew provided good entertainment in the lounges. The ports of Dublin, Holyhead, Waterford, Fishguard, Scilly Isles/St. Mary's, Falmouth, Dartmouth, and Portsmouth were interesting. The villagers in the smaller ports were wonderfully welcoming, much like those in New Zealand when we sailed "down under". And quite unlike the larger and more touristy ports of France, Italy, Greece and Spain. We will give WS one more try before jumping ship to try another line..... Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
My husband and I had never been on a cruise - and this was our first. We have traveled - just never on a ship. We chose this particular cruise because the ship looked interesting - a sailing cruise ship with five sails! The ports were ... Read More
My husband and I had never been on a cruise - and this was our first. We have traveled - just never on a ship. We chose this particular cruise because the ship looked interesting - a sailing cruise ship with five sails! The ports were also intriguing and different - southwestern England, two ports in Wales, and two ports in Ireland. I had done my homework and had found that the Windstar has very positive reports. We started in Portsmouth, England and ended in Dublin, Ireland. We docked or moored every morning in a new port. And - by the way - it did not rain, anywhere. Our cruise turned out to be an amazing experience; exceeding every expectation. The ship was very well appointed - it had the swimming pool, the hot tubs, the recreational water equipment for warm water cruising, Spa, well-equipped exercise room, bars, and a multitude of dining rooms. It was also comforting to travel in the designated rescue boats at times to transport passengers from ship to shore. It was nice to know that they are in working order! Our cabin was comfortable, well organized, and oddly spacious. It had lots of closet space and places to secure things - all within 188 sq feet. All of the staff were exceedingly helpful and friendly at all times. The food was great and well presented; even more than I expected. The ports of call were eclectic - most were places I had never heard of. They were all fascinating in their own right - lots of history, great local food and very friendly people. They were glad to see us and curious about our five-masted sailing cruise ship. A few had not seen a cruise ship in a while. Our ship was small enough to be able to come into ports that the larger ships cannot. The shore excursions were well thought out. This was the first time our ship had ever been to these ports - and the first time in a long time that some of the ports had experienced a cruise ship. Although excellent, the shore excurions were understood by all to be too pricey. This was an incredible trip and my husband and I have had really great experiences on this ship. port #1 Portsmouth, England - departed from here We did not go on any tour here - independently took the train from tak London's Waterloo station to the "Portsmouth Harbor" station. It was an easy trip - and a short cab ride from the Portsmouth station to the ship. port #2 Dartmouth, England - We went on a Windstar shore excursion here. We got our first taste of the history of southwestern England and the small towns/ports of England here - and it was fascinating - from the castles to the architectural details of the housing and buildings. The landscape was spectacular. The transition from tender to tour and back was seamless and easy. Went on a tour boat up the River Dart to Totnes, took a steam train back to Dartmouth, and a ferry across the harbor. This was a good place to take an excursion from Windstar, because we could not have arranged it all, independently. port #4 Isles of Scilly, England - T This was our favorite port. We went out on our own here, with some of our shipmates. We set up our own tour with the boat association at the harbor. We ended up visiting three of the many Scilly Isles, all sparsely populated: Bryher (pop 92), Tresco (pop 180), St. Mary's (pop 1,666). It was all very walkable; easy. Tresco's Abbey garden was beautiful. Lots of history. It is easy to see why people from Great Britain vacation here. The weather while we were there was lovely, almost Carribean weather. We visited on a Sunday, and few stores were open on St Mary's,although I did find one where I bought a sailing shirt! I bought a book of Scilly Tales in a small little store on Bryher. Both stores opened for the cruise visitors. port #5 Pembrokeshire/Fishguard, Wales - We went out on our own here with some of our shipmates. In Fishguard, we saw the lovely and locally created "tapestry" that re-tells the story of the signing of the Peace Treaty after the last invasion of Britain in 1797. It was located in a municipal building, upstairs, near/in their library. We took a local bus from Fishguard to St. Davids - and it was really fun. We traveled on one-lane Welsh country roads with local people. They were friendly and asked us repeatedly "Are you on the cruise ship we read about in the newspaper?" Traveled back to Fishguard with youth out of school - who were very well-mannered. In St. Davids we had lunch at a local pub - full of Welsh character. We took a tour of the exterior of St. David's Cathedral - very impressive. It is a functioning cathedral and there was a funeral happening at that time we were there. port #6 Waterford/Dunmore East, Ireland - We went out on our own, visiting both the Waterford Factory and the Waterford Museum of Treasures. The Waterford Factory had a fascinating tour - and the Waterford Museum of Treasures was a small but important look at Ireland/Waterford history. We ate lunch at a local restaurant - where the proprietress knew all of her customers by their first name; great food. I believe that small children were not encouraged to travel on this ship. I did not see any programs for them, and the ship was not outfitted to protect them.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
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