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92 Windstar Eastern Caribbean Cruise Reviews

Ditto other reviews: delicious food, few onboard activities, personalized service, beautiful sail-away events, phenomenal cabin storage, nice L'Occitan toiletries, great shower with 2 heads, great spa with massages, & best of ... Read More
Ditto other reviews: delicious food, few onboard activities, personalized service, beautiful sail-away events, phenomenal cabin storage, nice L'Occitan toiletries, great shower with 2 heads, great spa with massages, & best of all--fantastic talks by naturalist. But the ship seems tired--1 of 2 generators that power propeller went out, so kitchen was an hour late in preparing dinner the first night, ship rocked massively from side to side on several days, & ship missed a port call in Balboa. There were stains all over cabin carpet & chipped molding in our room. Transfer from Costa Rica airport to Marriott Hotel near San Juan took 10 minutes, & then 2 buses took guests on an hour drive to port--wished we'd taken a lunch with us, as we didn't eat lunch until 3:45pm that day on board ship. Not only were there big buffets for breakfast & lunch, but there was also a menu guests could choose from to include delicious apple pancakes one morning to bratwurst at lunch. There were plenty of non-meat dishes, & waiters could request substitutions for more meals including the delicious James Beard meals. If transiting the Panama Canal, pick your spot on deck 30 minutes before expected start of transit. The wet & dry tenders were fine, & crew even had a towel station to clean your feet after wet tenders. Many times the bridge was open, & guests could look at the all the navigation machines & talk with staff. The talks by the naturalist were fantastic!! While it was a nice cruise & staff went out of their way to be accommodating, I realized that I would have preferred a bigger ship with more activities, less rocking, formal afternoon teas, etc, Also, when the ship got near a port, safety doors were closed on Deck 1, & guests on that floor had to go through the crew stairways at end of halls. But the transit thru Panama Canal was wonderful, & a special speaker was on board just to talk about the transit. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This is the first trip review that I have ever posted. I felt that it was necessary because of the extremely negative customer experience. First of all, I booked this cruise in February 2019. The cruises line claims that you get the ... Read More
This is the first trip review that I have ever posted. I felt that it was necessary because of the extremely negative customer experience. First of all, I booked this cruise in February 2019. The cruises line claims that you get the best pricing when you book early. Not true. They discounted this cruise right after the final payment date by USD$1000 per couple. When we asked for a refund we were told that the price guarantee does not apply after the last payment date. In my opinion this is false advertising. So I had hoped that the cruise would offer a better customer experience. Wrong again. The Pros: Very large cabins Food was generally good with a few misses. On deck BBQ is a disaster. Cold food and certainly not 5 star. Lamb at Candles was not good either. Buffets at breakfast and lunch are not 5 star. Staff was courteous and friendly however this does not differentiate this line from other lines we have cruised on such as Celebrity and Carnival. The Cons: One 110V electrical outlet in the cabin. Ship is very dated, some cabins had leakage when it rained. Bathrooms were very dated with insufficient shower facilities. Buffets at breakfast and lunch – not a 5 star experience. Pool is about 1.5 times the size of my hot tub at home. I worked in the salon and spa business and I would never entertain having a treatment in their salon. Certainly not a 5 star experience. This ship needs a huge overhaul, which I understand it is due for in Nov 2020. In the interim the cruise line should be discounting fares, not increasing them as this is at best a 3 star experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We were excited about this cruise, having been on a cruise on the Royal Clipper several years ago and expecting it to be a similar experience. We were disappointed that it wasn't. Prior to the cruise the admin left a lot to be ... Read More
We were excited about this cruise, having been on a cruise on the Royal Clipper several years ago and expecting it to be a similar experience. We were disappointed that it wasn't. Prior to the cruise the admin left a lot to be desired as we didn't get any final documentation until a few days before we left despite having paid in full when we booked. Although loyal Windstar cruisers on CC assured us that we didn't need any paperwork, we did actually really NEED to know which port to go to and at what time!! Fortunately this info did arrive in time and we were otherwise happy with the embarkation process which was very straightforward. Although our cabin was one of the cheapest we were pleased with it and it compared well with our cabin on Royal Clipper which WASN'T the cheapest. The shower was one of the best we've experienced on a ship! We didn't have a balcony but we were hoping for an active cruise so didn't think we'd miss it. We did! Our fellow passengers were quite a bit older than we'd expected. We are active 60+ year olds but certainly didn't feel older than the majority.....the reason for this became clear as the cruise progressed. We were expecting this to be quite an active cruise......a sailing ship with a watersports platform going into bays where larger cruise ships can't dock. This was exactly what we experienced on Royal Clipper where, if the platform couldn't be put out due to rough seas or for any other reason, the staff took all the water 'toys' onto the beach and guests were able to use them there. There were sailing dinghys, windsurfers, kayaks, snorkelling gear and even an opportunity to try water skiing. The engines were turned off at some point during every sail so we could experience the feeling of truly sailing. Unfortunately, with Windstar the sails and watersports platform are just ornamental. We didn't ever sail without engines and the watersports platform was only in use for one short afternoon. And on that occasion the activities consisted of swimming and there were a couple of kayaks available, but the ship was so far away from the shore that there was nowhere interesting to go with them. We tried one for about 10 minutes then got bored, and one other woman went in one, paddled about 10 metres and then returned!! But even the opportunity to swim would have been welcomed but this wasn't offered more than on that one occasion.. Perhaps one of the reasons for this may have been that, if too many activities were offered for free, people may not have bought the very expensive shore excursions? And the company are making a killing from these!! Virtually everyone on the ship went on one every day.....and the reports back from them generally weren't very good. Though there were occasional exceptions. The other very expensive extra being pushed by staff were the beverage packages. On arrival on the ship we were told that we only need to drink 4 drinks a day in order to make a package worth it. Not true.........in fact we would have needed to drink about 7 each! The barman tried again when we ordered our first drink. He told us we would be in profit at over 3!! And he was VERY pushy!! On the plus side, apart from that barman we found all of the rest of the staff to be excellent....extremely friendly, efficient and helpful. Another big plus was the food which I really couldn't fault. The whole dining experience was excellent. But our biggest disappointment of this cruise were the changes made to the original itinerary. As I said before, we were expecting a similar experience to the Royal Clipper and we were drawn to the itinerary which offered several islands and bays off the coast of Panama and Costa Rica. Even before the cruise started (and only 2 days after we booked!) we were sent an e-mail to say that one of the islands had been swapped for another day in Panama City. We were unimpressed as were a good number of other passengers. Many people had spent a few days there before the cruise so were really not happy to have yet another day added to the one we already had there. If they DID need to take out the original island then I think more effort could have been made to swap it for something offering an equivalent experience. To make matters worse, during the cruise the captain advised that high winds made it impossible to visit another island on our itinerary. This was then replaced by another port which again didn't offer anything like the experience (the Beach BBQ) we were expecting. It was a small port with virtually nothing to do unless you went on an excursion and with nowhere to swim. And to make matters worse the expected high winds did not materialise!! Windstar has a lot of repeat guests and loyal customers but I'm afraid we won't be joining them. We were expecting more of a small ship expedition experience but what Windstar seems to offer is a more traditional cruise ship experience (with expensive excursions, drinks packages etc) on a smaller scale so without some of the amenities you would expect on a larger ship (no balcony cabins, no swimming pool, no casino and only very limited entertainment consisting of one pianist and a not very good vocalist) This isn't what we want though it certainly seems to keep quite a few people happy so I accept that it's 'horses for courses.' Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Whichever direction your cruise is traveling through the canal, you will be flying into or out of the Pacific Ocean end of the canal, Panama City. Since we were going towards the Pacific, our Embarcation was in Colon, about 1 ½ hours from ... Read More
Whichever direction your cruise is traveling through the canal, you will be flying into or out of the Pacific Ocean end of the canal, Panama City. Since we were going towards the Pacific, our Embarcation was in Colon, about 1 ½ hours from Panama City. Windstar notified us a couple of weeks in advance that they needed to do some maintenance just before our boarding, so the Embarkation would be delayed from 1PM to 5PM. They arranged for free coffee and free lunch in a ballroom at the company hotel, the Bristol Panama in Panama City. We were told to have our baggage in the lobby by 3:30PM for placement in a truck, and to watch it being loaded onto the truck. We had already independently booked a single night for ourselves there before the cruise. I normally book directly with a hotel, but their website would only permit three-night minimum bookings! So I booked with Expedia-AARP for a single night, which was $248 plus taxes. I used their concierge to book a $40 per car private transfer from the airport. Because the Pope was in town (which Windstar didn't bother to tell us!) this worked out very well, and was charged to our room. Our room, #510, was massive, luxurious, and well air-conditioned. We had a separate huge shower beside our tub. The newish, high-rise hotel has a luxury feel to it, and the desk service was very good. Even though we arrived around 8PM, they gave us paper Windstar baggage tags and the information sheet Windstar had been handing out during the day, before the local Windstar hosts went off-duty. The hotel is in an uninteresting, but very safe-looking corporate area with little to do. The breakfast (included in our price) was fine, but only a step above a good Hilton Garden Inn breakfast. It wasn't at the level of the room, is what I mean. The lunch Windstar had catered for us was very good, a big buffet with hot soup but cold sandwich, salad, and snack platters. We had the whole ballroom to ourselves. You didn't really have to show ID to get in and out of the ballroom. We booked this hotel for the convenience of the Winstar transfer to the port of Colon. The bus transfer was a bargain at $49 p/p. But EVERYONE's transfer was complimentary because of the pre-scheduled delay. (Credit given on our shipboard bill.) Because there were several busses, you had to figure out that there was a second Windstar table in a different part of the lobby from the main Windstar desk. That second table had sign-up sheets for seats on busses, leaving every Fifteen Minutes, I think starting at 4:30PM. This is subjective, but I wasn't impressed with the lobby people in Windstar polo shirts. I had the sensation that they are local contractors who wear a different polo shirt every day. A few people didn't figure out the two tables, and were displeased to be put on the last bus. It didn't really make that much difference, since it turned out that the ship didn't leave the pier until well after we were asleep in bed. (The ship had to be “in line” for the Panama Canal at 4:30AM or something like that.) We were told that the ship had been taken out for routine stability tests, but they ran long and it only tied up at 3 PM. A later version was that the renovation dry-dock company had ordered “location” of the center of gravity, which required an empty ship with no hotel workers! The transfer included a tour guide who talked a little too much. The modern highway wasn't very interesting. We filled out “old” water sports waivers on bus, which were discarded as we signed the new one on checking in aboard ship! Due to lateness there was no hard sell of beverage package, although there was the later drawing for spa discounts. The square mile around the Colon port looked like a dystopian, post-apocalyptic movie set. The gate at the port that led to the paved driveway wasn't open, so we had to drive ¼ mile on a pot-holed gravel parking lot to get to the terminal. I will say that the terminal was clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned. Baggage screening was here, not on the ship. It's difficult to understand the formal itinerary for the Panama Canal days. Windstar pays about $31,000 for the canal, of which some 20% is a guarantee that it will be in daylight. We started into the first lock just before dawn, and finished the transit about 13 hours later. In fact, we missed the final exit, to go to the daily Port Talk in the Lounge. In San Miguel lock, one of the lockside electric locomotives seemed to fail, but (we heard) the Captain told the Canal Pilot that he could hold the center of the lock without that tug and we proceeded. There was a huge Pope-pilgrim-tourist crowd at Miraflores Visitor Center watching us. Because of the Canal passage, the officer's introductions and the Captain's Table (to which we were invited, probably because of 9 Windstar cruises) were put off one night. There were Officer Tables on later nights, but the Captain's Table was empty for the rest of the cruise. Officer Introduction was one of a few nights when there were extensive passed hors d'oeuvres in the Lounge. It's important to pay attention to the daily schedule sheets and verbal announcements. We were pleased to learn that, even though every port (except the start and finish) were Anchorages, two of the landings were NOT “WET [feet]”. We did use Zodiacs for the dry landings, as for the wet ones. There are variations in the hour that the breakfast room (and less-often, the continental breakfast in the Yacht Club) open. These are intended to assist guests with early excursion departures. Honestly, I prefer to travel with a small box of cereal so I can have a substantial breakfast even in the Yacht Club. Food was good, normal for Windstar. I thought the seasoning in Amphora was tastier than my memory of some past cruises. Although it was not technically difficult to create, my favorite dessert was Pineapple Carpaccio, which was light and refreshing. We never bothered to book Candles. I was surprised that there were only two dry cereals at breakfast, but when I asked for a bran cereal, they went and got me a huge bowl of Raisin Bran. In view of the age profile, this was a big change! We thought the table service was not as good as other Windstar Cruises. But the one time we were seated in the far rear of Amphora, we happened to get very attentive, prompt service. I don't mean to sound whiny, but we found that when we offered to share a dinner table (which we are pleased to do), we often ended up at a six or even an eight-top table, with some of the same people again and again. A table for four is the best way to meet new people. I don't know if this was due to carelessness or to save labor. The real issue is that this means you cannot finish eating until after 9PM, even if you come at 7:00. I mention this also because I was diagnosed with Gastric Reflux after our 21-day cruise. I've never had the problem before. We do go to bed early! (Age 67) I'm not judging, but there are a certain number of couples (and quads) on every cruise who will never share a table. Because we're 9-cruise repeaters, we're used to a 5:30PM reception for that. This time, it began at 6PM, which meant we had to rush off to the Port Talk scheduled at 6:30. By the time we left, at 6:32, there had been no welcome speech with a Reality-Television-like show of hands to determine which couple had the most repeats, and award of a bottle of sparking wine to them. Honestly, we didn't miss the sparkling wine, but we did miss the fuss over loyal customers! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Giving a very detailed account of our trip because a similar review VERY MUCH helped me plan a previous trip to Hawaii. Loved having details to help plan days on shore.Bottom line, I can’t recommend this cruise highly enough. Small ship, ... Read More
Giving a very detailed account of our trip because a similar review VERY MUCH helped me plan a previous trip to Hawaii. Loved having details to help plan days on shore.Bottom line, I can’t recommend this cruise highly enough. Small ship, great staff/passenger ratio. Large rooms and wonderful food, service etc etc. Each night there was a short program in the lounge to debrief for the next day and the day. Costa Rica/Panama Canal Wednesday January 16th 2019 overnight in Louisville for 7AM flight to San Jose Thursday January 17th travel day San Jose via Atlanta.Arrived at Restaurante del LaRosa LOS Americas in the afternoon. This was the coolest place. They told us to help ourselves to the fridge and keep tabs to pay later. Had drinks by pool, wonderful dinner with Edwin taking great care of us. Lots of wine and local food Friday January 18th we awoke, at least in our building, to the sound of something scampering across the roof and birds so close they sounded like they were inside. With the warm climate, a metal roof is all that is between you and the great outdoors at this hotel. Today is the trip from San Jose to Caldera where we will meet our ship on Saturday. pick up by Henry from a travel co. I don’t remember at 8am for tour of coffee plantation. Stopped for wine and cheese tasting at roadside store, on toward Caldera with stops at Our Lady of Mercedes (church with exterior made of iron.) Lunch at La Finca, ending with visit to oxcart factory. Wonderful day with lots of fun surprises especially seeing an ox cart man on the side of the road and getting our picture made with him. Arrived at Costa del Sol late afternoon and checked in to a quaint little hotel. We had rooms ranging from large suites to very small and sparse rooms but the whole place had less than 20 rooms. A large open air veranda at the end of the hall provided a view of the ocean and the ship we’d be boarding the next day. We had a wonderful dinner of fresh seafood with a view of the water before retiring. Another long day in the books. January 19th board Star Breeze today. We spent an easy morning at the pool in Caldera. Had to walk down the street to another hotel for this. We were all amazed at how this quaint little hotel was in the middle of such a rough looking area but we are learning that there are lots of metal bars and razor wire here. We boarded the ship around 1:00 with the hotel providing transportation we soon started to get aquatinted with our home for the next week. Cabins on this trip proved to be spacious and the crew is exceptional. During the afternoon, some had naps others had drinks and we met in the main dining room for a delicious dinner. Everyone turned in at that point except for one couple and the nightlife didn’t prove to be enough to keep them up much longer. Sunday January 20th Quepos- early coffee and breakfast for most. We soon learned via social media that we are missing out on a snow and ice storm at home and are all happy to be in sunny Quepos Last night at dinner our waiter Yogi promised us the best coffee in the world at the Star Bar and it didn’t disappoint. We disembarked at 8:30 for a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. After convincing a cab driver that 10 of us couldn’t squeeze into 2 Corollas we finally made it to the park in 3 cars. We thought we could do this walk without a guide but the long wait and the promise of moving to the front of the line prompted us to get one and we were super glad we did. He carried a long lens and knew exactly where to spot sloth, monkeys, iguanas (or something like that) He arranged a van for us to get back to the ship where we engaged in swimming, naps, and drinks. What a life we are living this week. Dinner in the main dining room again tonight. Best part of the day for me today, swimming in the Pacific, seeing white faced monkeys, and marking a National Park of the list. Monday January 21st today we are signed up for afternoon kayaking at port Jimenez. Spent the morning in the Yacht Club having coffee and we grabbed some lunch there before meeting our boat. We booked this tour on our own and were scheduled to be picked up at noon on the beach. A zodiac took us in where we had a “wet landing” meaning you will get your feet wet. The cruise line provided towels that we were advised to take to put over our legs while kayaking as the weather was so hot. We did about a 3 hour excursion seeing some local birds and more monkeys stopping toward the end at a beach to rest, cool down and have some delicious pineapple provided by our guide Jessica. Back on the ship for a few drinks before dinner, followed by some music on deck Tuesday January 22nd Isla Perida cancelled due to high winds near the shore. Day at sea. Not much to report. Time on top deck, a game of scrabble in the yacht club (which we are sure will be named the redneck yacht club by the time we leave) lunch, naps, drinks, dinner, ending the night with a talent show by the crew which proved to be fun. Wednesday January 23rd Balboa Panama (since day at sea came early we have an extra excursion planned) Indian village. We rode a bus through the outskirts of Panama and couldn’t believe how this part of the world lives. It did not seem to be so impoverished but trash was everywhere. Our guide told us they don’t recycle and it seemed to us that they didn’t have anything to do with garbage. We went down to the Chagres River and took a dugout to a Embera Indian Village where we learned of their customs and saw goods that they make. So glad we had the opportunity to do this. Thursday January 24th Island of monkeys, a long ride through the city with long delays on the way due to a World Youth day and a visit by the Pope to Panama. Once there we took a boat out on an eco tour and saw more monkeys and a couple of crocs. Excursion was ok but glad we had taken the unplanned Embera village tour the day before. It was much better. We ended the tour with a stop at a hotel/resort for a restroom break and some complimentary fruit punch. Back to ship for late lunch left in our cabin by the steward and a nap and drink before dinner. Dinner was a barbecue on deck with a feast of sushi, ribs, lobster tail and on and on....followed by line dancing. This small ship with a big crew does not disappoint in any way. Friday January 25th Panama Canal passage awake and on deck a little after 5 AM. Very interesting going through the locks and seeing how the canal works. The crew brought around champagne and the small nature of the ship provided great viewing.I’ve heard such horror stories of not being able to even see the canal on those mega ships. Later in the day we viewed a video of the history of the Canal. Very interesting. Other than that naps and packing were the order of the day. A nice dinner to top off the trip Saturday January 26th left the ship at 7:15 guided bus trip to airport (blah blah blah) at the airport at 9:30 for a 3:15 flight. Found some Mexican food and free WiFi then on to Atlanta for a late flight home. Great trip with great friends. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
My husband and I are in our 60s and have traveled around the world creating our own itineraries and arranging our own transportation. We never thought cruising was for us but in the last few years we have sampled several medium to large ... Read More
My husband and I are in our 60s and have traveled around the world creating our own itineraries and arranging our own transportation. We never thought cruising was for us but in the last few years we have sampled several medium to large ships with friends (Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival). The Panama Canal transit with WindStar seemed a pleasant way to experience a small ship environment. Pre-cruise and embarking/disembarking was painless. We arrived at 2 AM a day early in Panama City from Fort Lauderdale. We stayed at a hotel near the airport because of the time and found it easy and inexpensive ($25-$30) to Uber into Panama City to do a little sightseeing. Panama is the only country in Latin America where Uber is legal and it is ubiquitous. Transportation from Panama City directly to the cruise port in Colon was by pre-arranged driver (Amber Moon Panama-$90 cash on arrival). Colon is sketchy. Our driver was a local and he said he does not walk around parts of Colon, even in the daytime. The cruise terminal in Colon is very small. There is a tiny shop with a small selection of wines if you want to buy a bottle to take on board. Notably missing at embarkation was the assault to start buying extras from the cruise line. We were handed a lovely cold cocktail or glass of champagne, were greeted warmly, and got our room key within minutes. No one asked us to take a picture, spend money in the spa, book an excursion, register for an art auction, schedule a special dinner, or tried to sell us jewelry. We left the cruise at Puerto Caldera by pre-paid driver. The trip to the airport in San Jose was $130 by credit card - Transportation in Costa Rica. Windstar is a beautiful lady aging gracefully. We didn't see a tear, a stain, or a break in any of the furnishings. If you like warm wood panelling, shiny brass fixtures, and comfortable seating this is the ship for you. Everything is understated luxury. Think Hyannis Port rather than Vegas. The atmosphere is egalitarian and there are no special perks for big spenders. Passengers are well-traveled and tend to be 40+ and active. The dress code is dressy/casual. All the cabins, except one, are identical. There are no balconies. Plenty of storage room. Comfortable beds. A small table with built-in seating. Plush towels, good sheets, robes, slippers, great toiletries. The shower is the biggest we've had on a ship. On the negative side - Windstar makes it very clear in their literature that there is no elevator on this ship. There are several decks. Cabins are on deck 1, the lower deck, or deck 2, one floor up and one set of stairs below the lobby. If you have ANY mobility issues involving stairs you should book on deck 2. Not only are there a few less steps but while docking and during the transit through the locks a watertight bulkhead closes off access from part of deck 1 to the regular stairs. Passengers are then required to walk a circuitous path up, down, and around to get to and from their cabins on deck 1. Air conditioning in the cabins is inconsistent. At sea the room temperature was fine but anchored or at dock the rooms heated very quickly. We closed our curtains during daylight and we packed a small battery operated fan anticipating the hot, humid climate. The two strategies worked well in making our room comfortable all day. The food was FABULOUS! Dining service was impeccable. By the second day our waiter Alun knew that my husband always orders extra maple syrup for his waffles and pancakes and it would appear magically on the table. We were saddened to discover that Windstar has eliminated the casino from this ship. It has been replaced by a coffee bar that provides a civilized afternoon tea after 3 PM with scones fresh from the oven and clotted cream. The barista Gede soon learned that I like a touch of strawberry jam on those decadent scones and he made sure there was a little chilled jam jar on my plate every day. Michael and Kevin smoothly handled bar service in the lounge each evening and the pool bar is open during the day. We enjoy our evening cocktails, wine, and an occasional beer but did not think the drinks package was good value. There is a happy hour (literally one hour) each night with a limited selection of $5.50 pours and a specialty cocktail for around $9.00 every day. You can take one bottle of wine aboard for each passenger. An important consideration in selecting this Windstar cruise is entertainment and activity. Local groups performed on two afternoons. Windstar partners with the small school in Playa Jimenez and contributes to their education fund in exchange for an excellent show by the kids, several with special needs. The staff performed at the at-sea dinner on deck and during a great talent show. There was a pianist and vocalist in the evenings (Ben and Jacqui) who also coordinated all the audio-visual equipment and DJ'd briefings and events. A professional-quality yoga class was offered each morning by the Spa Director Sue who also led line dance classes two afternoons. The gym was small, poorly ventilated and offered more form than function. There is no easy or safe way to jog around the deck. There were two hosted trivia games. On the one at-sea day the staff put some boxed games out on tables in the lounge. There was a large jigsaw puzzle in the lobby that passengers added pieces to occasionally. Basically, entertainment is low-key and you are on your own for on-board activities. As previously stated, definitely NOT Vegas! If you are not content with peace and quiet and can't entertain yourself you will not appreciate Windstar's offerings. Service was unbelievable. Cabins were cleaned by elves (Anang). Eerily, staff and crew were cheerful around the clock. All of our questions and requests were responded to rapidly. There was no waiting or lines for anything, ever. Excursions: The day on the beach in Isla Parida was fabulous. Warm water, great lunch, fun water toys. We took snorkeling equipment from the boat but didn't use it because visibility was poor. Playa Jimenez - We went to the Blue Osa Yoga Retreat. One of us had a fabulous yoga hour, the other swam in the beautiful pool, strolled the resort, and walked the sandy beach. The lunch was gourmet quality and locally sourced. Lots of flowers and plants. Quepos - Mangrove tour. Slow relaxing boat ride through mangroves. Lots of birds. Nice discussion of area history enroute. No mammals sighted. Finally, the whole point of this cruise is the Panama Canal and the natural beauty of the area. The itinerary and vessel are designed to bring passengers as close to natural habitats as possible. There are no travel guides or taxis descending on the ship when it docks. It doesn't dock! Wet landings are wet. Getting on and off the ship requires dexterity. The ports are teeny tiny. It is hot and humid and buggy. It is mostly rainforest. There is no guarantee you will see any or all of the animals/plants you imagine. It is not a zoo and if anyone can summon or predict animal sightings in the wild they are either planted or illegally lured. Alternatives to excursions arranged by Windstar are limited. The Shore Director Mariana and Naturalist Diego were a perfect team. Mariana handled all the logistics of getting on/off the ship, scheduling excursions, coordinating the movement of passengers and staff while Diego, the ship's Naturalist and resident Latin American, made sure we understood the culture and surroundings. They were efficient and informative. Unlike any other cruise staff we've encountered they not only explained in their briefings what to expect on the purchased excursions but how to experience each port WITHOUT the excursions! Astounding! They both demonstrated tremendous patience under pressure from passengers who were either unwilling or unable to educate themselves about the ports and excursions. Wet landings means YOU WILL GET WET! No matter how many times Mariana said to wear/bring beach shoes and shorts people still showed up in socks and loafers and long pants. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We typically choose active, land-based travel but decided to do a cruise for a special anniversary. We chose the Star Breeze for its mixture of small luxury ship with casual attitude, small ports of call, and availability of water sports. ... Read More
We typically choose active, land-based travel but decided to do a cruise for a special anniversary. We chose the Star Breeze for its mixture of small luxury ship with casual attitude, small ports of call, and availability of water sports. We wanted to have fun, but we did not want the fussiness of formal dinner nights. We were not disappointed. The ports of call included a good mix of those with many tourists and those with very few tourists. (It was helpful to know some Spanish but not necessary). We booked one excursion with the cruise line in Puerto Jimenez, but explored on our own the other days. We were able to do water sports off the ship in one port of call and on the private island day. For some reason, they couldn't offer waterskiing, although the equipment was available. Not a big deal, but it was something we were looking forward to. Otherwise, the crew really worked hard to impress. The cabins were spacious, well appointed, and serviced several times a day. Service was phenomenal and always with a smile. The food was excellent. We liked that they sourced fresh seafood from locals and that the chef made all of his stock on board. No corners were cut! We dined most nights at Amphora, which was consistently excellent. We did take advantage of Candles, which is a romantic steak house offered for free once per voyage. The special BBQ night was a highlight and not to be missed. Breakfast and lunch offered the ability to order a la carte or dine from the buffet. One exception: the coffee at the Veranda had an odor. I typically took my coffee at the Yacht Club (which offered continental breakfasts, non-smelly coffees, and light lunch fare) and then went to the Veranda for a full breakfast. Late afternoon activities included cultural talks and/or performances, with a next day port briefing just before dinner. The ship has a "pool" (it's really just a large, warm bathtub) and 2 hot tubs. We never had a problem finding a poolside lounge chair. The 5th deck hot tub is a great place to stargaze at night (or look for porpoises), but carry a cellphone for the flashlight. We did go to the gym several times, which was better than I expected. The ceiling is low, so tall people would have a problem with the treadmill and one cannot do overhead weights without sitting down. The fitness classes are basic and nice for a good stretch. With the average guest age being in the 60-75 range, there was not a lot of night life. We enjoyed the guitarist, who sang a mix of contemporary slow pop, Latin music and oldies but goodies. He also played great dance music. The other couple, the Radio Stars, were fine for music while you sunbathed but really not good for evening entertainment. The crew also entertained us with a crew talent show one night and line dancing after the outdoor BBQ. A number of activities were offered on our day at sea, including a cooking demo, galley tour, and blackjack tournament. We were saddened to learn that Star Breeze will go into dry dock this year and its size will be increased by 50 suites. We think this will alter the small ship experience significantly. In summary, this ship is great for couples aged 45+ who want some interesting port adventures and some luxurious pampering without the stuffiness of a more formal cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations ... Read More
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations are a wonderful experience. The Panama Canal, Panama City and Costa Rica in January are absolutely must-do experiences. The destinations are 5+. Windstar (really Xanterra, the same folks who service many of the U.S National Parks), on the other hand, was disappointingly lacking in some ways that compromised an otherwise fabulous cruising experience. The ship Wind Star (the initial ship in their fleet) was commissioned in 1987 and is showing a lot of age. I find most complainers to be boorish, and, all-in-all I want to like Wind Star for the many positives they bring to a cruise; however, it seemed like this particular ship brought with it a number of issues due to age and lack of attention at the management level. Throughout much of the cruise, the deck spa was broken and leaky, requiring days of repair work. It appeared to be working toward the end, but it continued to make a loud ghastly belching noise every minute or so. The cabins are small and manageable, but even the premium cabins have only two dirty portholes for an outside view. Each cabin has its own thermostat, but they don’t work. Our first night on board, our cabin (221) was very stuffy. We prefer about 20 Celsius, but when I adjusted the thermostat there was no response, just the same weak movement of slightly cool air through an overhead vent. I then moved the thermostat down as far as it would go and no response. I reported the problem to the onboard reception desk where I was promised that someone would come by and check out the problem. No one ever arrived. Finally, once the ship began to move, the room cooled slowly to a reasonably tolerable temperature, but, the thermostat was never inspect and we had no in-room temperature control for the entire cruise. We witnessed at least three water leakages within the first week of our voyage, one of which flooded a cabin and out into the hall. Another occurred in our own cabin (221). The toilet wouldn’t stop running at 11:00 p.m. and began flooding the bathroom. No one answered when we tried to phone for help, so, my wife kept flushing the stool while I went out and found help. Once found, both crew members were very attentive and repaired the problem via a hallway access panel, allowing us to go back to bed and sleep. Finally, Cabin 221 is midship upper deck and I selected it months in advance. It is directly beneath the entrance to the main dining room, which was no problem except one night at 10:00 p.m. when the management directed staff to strip the wooden floor of the dining room entrance and wax it. I was in bed trying to sleep, and I assumed the movement of furniture and associated noises directly overhead were temporary and would subside, but after an hour, I decided to go upstairs to investigate and found out what was going on. I apologized, I knew the workers had a job to do but I told them that the noise from their work was keeping us awake. They apologized and said they would tell their boss. Apparently, they did, and the noise stopped, only to wake me up when it restarted at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Most disappointing was the fact that the original itinerary called for a day of snorkeling on an island just off the Panama coast. This was cancelled a couple of months before our sailing date. When I phoned about this, I was assured that Windstar would find a suitable and equal substitute. However, the day that we boarded, we were told the alternate landing site had not worked out, and we would be staying in the Panama City port of Balboa a second day. Just about every passenger had arrived in Panama City for the trip and many had already seen Panama City prior to the cruise, so adding a second cruise day in Panama City WITHOUT any excursion was a true breach of contract on behalf of Windstar. The weather was beautiful and the sailing conditions excellent, but Windstar had not done its due diligence over the months prior, leaving their guests to fend for themselves during Day 2 in Panama City. What was the compensation offered by Windstar? An open bar one evening. My wife and I don’t drink. Thanks very much. To further compound Windstar’s negligence, they offered no suggestions of how their passengers might spend the extra day, despite the fact that a wonderful Smithsonian wildlife refuge and a fantastic Frank Gehry-designed Bio Museum were both within walking distance of the port. We did both and ended up having a day well-spent, but no thanks to Windstar! Some excursion descriptions appeared to be intentionally misleading. For example, the descriptions for both Corcovado and Carara National Parks led guests to anticipate hikes through trails plentiful with some of the most diverse fauna (birds, mammal, reptiles, etc.) in the world, when, in fact, Windstar personnel know full well that the chances of such sightings are very low. I understand the disclaimers not guaranteeing sightings, but the descriptions are written to infer that no sightings are the exception, not the rule. The diverse wildlife does exist within these two parks, but primarily in the interior, not as commonly along the perimeter trails that are open to the public, and certainly not at mid-day! Prime time for wildlife sightings in these parks is within 1-2 hours of sunrise or sunset (5:45 am. and 5:10 pm. in January. When were we present in the park? 9:45 am – noon. The absolute worst times to see wildlife, and we indeed SAW NOTHING except for a couple of lizards at Carara. We did see a Macaw at both Corcovado and Carara, and in both cases the bird was too far away to see well even with a sighting scope. During the dry season, the hours of operation for Costa Rican national parks are 7 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., so, even though these hours prevent Windstar from having guests at the parks during prime sighting times, to fulfill the expectations Windstar creates with its customers, their excursions should be at the parks at 7:00 a.m. ready to go. Windstar’s current approach is intentionally deceptive and misleading and certainly not worthy of a company that wants to be regarded as a step above their competition. Old ship needing work, a last-minute downgrade to the itinerary and a failure to provide useful information to their customers are all marks of a cruise company with some serious management flaws. On the good side: Windstar offers small boat sailing catered to older customers. Their waitstaff and room attendants are first class. Of course, staff members are standard cruise personnel comprised of young people from economically-deprived countries who are worked to the bone, but they each work as hard as they can to provide the highest quality personalized service possible. I have now sailed Windstar twice. Will I cruise with them again? Quite possible, but I would not want to return the ship Wind Star, and, if I return, it will be with a jaundiced eye and less loyalty than I felt when we agreed to cruise the second time following a very pleasant initial cruise in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
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
The Star Pride, food service and crew met all of our expectations and are the reason we continually pick Windstar. On board services were first class. Now for the cons: Since space is not available for a large swimming pool, the Swim ... Read More
The Star Pride, food service and crew met all of our expectations and are the reason we continually pick Windstar. On board services were first class. Now for the cons: Since space is not available for a large swimming pool, the Swim Tub is a good idea; however, most passengers use it as a second jacuzzi and just sit there. This means that those of us wanting to swim, have no facility. Windstar needs to figure his out. We would like to see more reasonable priced ship sponsored tours that are comparable to local tours obtained through services like trip advisor. Our biggest grip and disappointment on this cruise was most port stops the first week did not met what I would call Windstar standards. We suggested to Windstar the following:(like they would listen to me.) No visits to St Thomas on Sunday , or better yet, none at all. Town completely closed down and a waste of time to visit. Folks in town that I spoke to said,” there is no way they will open on a Sunday to a 200 passenger ship”. Poor port choice. No stops in Montserrat, Little bay. Nothing, absolutely nothing to do but see the volcano.and exclusion zone. Waste of time. Roads are poorly maintained and dangerous to drive on. Taxis in poor condition. Why not cruise off shore from volcano, explain eruption and exclusion zone on speaker system and continue on to next destination. Very poor port choice Josh Van Dyke. worst port of all. Too devastated, a shanty town. White beach okay but figure out how to get tender there instead of docking on out skirts of town and then forced to take a taxi to beach. Virgin Gorda another do nothing stop. The chosen beach BBQ area was picturesque and fully functional but immediate surroundings were devastated by the hurricane. Due to rough seas we had an fabulous BBQ on the ship. Poor port choice. It feels Like no one from Windstar has really assessed the Montserrat, Jost Van Dyke or the Virgin Gorda environment. Very, very poor port choices Conclusion is Windstar must do a better job in selecting ports of call on the first week of the San Juan and Virgin Islands itinerary,especially for islands affected by Hurricane Irma. We were very displeased and disappointed. Our stops on the second week, Windward Island surf and Sunset cruise were far better than first week.In fact, if I would have known how badly devastated some areas were the first week, We would have only booked the Windward Islands segment.Shame on me, should of done my home work, I hate learning the hard way. I also feel more reasonable beverage prices would be appreciated . $7.99 for a mini bar beer is outrageous and gouging. I stopped drinking the second week. Beverage packages are not designed for those of us that have partners who do not drink or for those who have a couple drinks a day. Dress codes are hard to enforce but at times there are violations that should to be addressed. For instance every night at dinner either at Candles or Amphora, their are guests wearing shorts, or blue jeans, tee shirts and sandals. Windstar is a cut above the rest and dress code violations should not be permitted or Windstar should change the code. Overall we have graded this cruise experience as a 3 out of 5 due to the first week’s choice of ports. We have done four Windstar cruises this is our the first “3”, all the rest graded “5+”. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Perhaps because it was over the Thanksgiving holiday, the pricing for this cruise was a bargain, 14 days for around what most of the 7 day cruises run. We really did enjoy the 5 days we were on the ship, though not the itinerary change ... Read More
Perhaps because it was over the Thanksgiving holiday, the pricing for this cruise was a bargain, 14 days for around what most of the 7 day cruises run. We really did enjoy the 5 days we were on the ship, though not the itinerary change from Viequez to St Thomas (apparently Viequez is still recovering from Maria). The Sunset sail excursion on St Barth's was only 90 minutes instead of 3 hours, snacks nothing special, thus not worth the price. The buried city tour on Montserrat turned out to be a substitute that we weren't told about until everyone was on the bus and the door closed! Apparently a bridge was unsafe to cross due to flooding. So we got a tour of the current occupied portion of the island, did get to hear the personal stories of our guides, two women who had lived through the volcanic eruption and multiple earthquakes on the island. There were many complaints about not seeing the buried city (not sure why they couldn't have substituted one by boat that at least glimpsed it from the water--such a tour had originally been listed but later was not mentioned as an option) so Windstar ultimately gave everyone a 50% discount on the tour. Also the tour operators served a sparse, mediocre menu for lunch and even ran out of food since those on the first bus (accustomed to generous portions on the ship) consumed most of it and we who arrived later were lucky to get a chicken wing or 2, and some rice--veges were all gone, fruit & desert gone, drinks were only water or rum punch. The beach was a muddy path below us beyond a chain link fence and shrubbery. I do think many of their excursions are a bit overpriced. The America's Cup racing sailboat excursion on St Maarten was fun and worth the $. I still don't know, for sure, if I was charged for the one on which I nearly drowned, but I hope they have switched to a more safety-conscious operator. Only two leaders on the excursion boat (Captain + 1) and only one joined us in the water for about 20 guests. They passed out inflation vests but didn't explain how to use them (and you can't blow into one anyway if you can't catch your breath), didn't ask if anyone wanted a life jacket, or even tell us where to find them. Had to ask for water, none was offered. No instructions of advice of any kind (other than not to touch the coral) for newer snorkelers or those who hadn't done it in a long time nor in choppy conditions like we had. I floated on the surface but got tired continually clearing my mask, blowing out water, other than some schools of yellowtail snapper there wasn't a lot to see; got short of breath and decided to return to the excursion boat (no skiff/dingy had been launched), others had ventured further around the rocks, I made it to another excursion boat that was anchored closer, they let me rest there then took me in their skiff to our boat, our group was returning (leaders clueless about my not being with them), I thought I'd be ok to go with them to another part of Norman's Island (where a beach bar was located, snorkeling excursion guys probably getting a kickback) which they were going to snorkel from. But upon suggestion of the people from the other excursion boat, they decided to call the volunteer speedboat rescue squad, who came quickly (not sure if they checked my vitals, snorkeling guys sure didn't) who took me to Tortola where an agent for Windstar transported me to Peebles Hospital. Turned out my heartrate had soared to 182 and was irregular, though I'd never had any history of heart issues, high blood pressure, etc (only mild asthma). I naively thought I'd get checked out and return to the ship, anchored at Jost Van Dyke, the same day, but I was treated with IV fluids & meds, injections, nebulizer (for water in my lungs), pills, etc over two days till my heart rate dropped to normal rate and rhythm. My husband had stayed on the ship, it took him most of the day to make it to the hospital, couldn't get a tender ride for a few hours then had to take a ferry, check into an overpriced hotel a few miles from the hospital, etc. We hoped we could meet up with the ship at another port but inter-island flights are infrequent, afternoons only, so would arrive after the ship departs (not to mention they're expensive, and trip interruption insurance would not cover expenses to return to the ship). So we unfortunately had to make the decision to return home early and make expensive last-minute alternative flight arrangements from Tortola to San Juan (then stay 2 days in San Juan since flights were full with approaching holiday) then home from there. So we are in process of filing a reimbursement claim with our Allianz travel insurance, for the medical bills from the hospital (including $870 echocardiogram), 9 missed nights of our cruise + alternative flights, lodging, meals, ground and ferry transportation. Hopefully, all will be covered but it's been a hassle gathering all the documentation & receipts. My husband had to pack up our luggage once it was known I'd be at the hospital overnight (or longer), and was assisted very ably and courteously by our cabin steward, Ronnie--any way we could get an extra gratuity to him, somehow (hubby thought we'd be rejoining the ship so didn't think to offer one before he left)? Everyone on the ship was wonderful, had learned our names, treated us like royalty. The food was fabulous in both the main dining room and Candles, where we ate one night. Certainly our stateroom was comfortable and spacious. I would have enjoyed more entertainment aboard, there was only a duet couple performing after dinner, trying to switch between genres of music they didn't really seem to be 'into'. Also one night a Nashville recording Christian music artist, wonderful voice but we could have done without the sermons between each song (or exclusively Christian music that she performed). Apparently there was a group of people from Christian radio circles aboard the ship and she'd been invited/recruited by them. We met some nice folks aboard, many of whom had been on more than a dozen Windstar cruises. However, the general tone of comaraderie and shared adventure that we'd experienced aboard an UnCruise 75-passenger ship in Alaska was missing. The beach bar b que was moved from Prickly Pear to another beach on Virgin Gorda, but was excellent quantity and quality of food and terrific steel band and nice beach. Wish we could have finished out the cruise, we had been enjoying it so-far despite some disappointing excursions. Yes, we would choose Windstar again, subject to getting an equally attractive price again, perhaps Croatia or another itinerary where we could combine it with a land tour and/or bike n' barge river trip before or after. We have no desire to sail on a floating city, are even hesitant to consider one on an 800-900 passenger Crystal, Viking, etc. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this because Lat November it was on a flash sale at 75% discount from the rack rate. It's at the end of winter, but rest assured, we are warming up. Compared to MSY Wind Star, the MV Star Breeze is huge. There are three ... Read More
We chose this because Lat November it was on a flash sale at 75% discount from the rack rate. It's at the end of winter, but rest assured, we are warming up. Compared to MSY Wind Star, the MV Star Breeze is huge. There are three different public spaces, we prefer the Yacht Club. It's the equivalent of a Flag Bridge on a naval vessel, sitting overtop the navigation bridge. The cabins are huge, at 270 sq ft! The photos are truth! The picture window is five feet by four feet. The main dining room and the ships galley are on deck 3. Decks one and two are engineering spaces and cargo. The crew has spaces forward and aft on deck 4, along with staterooms. Deck five is more staterooms, the hotel business office, and the lounge. Deck six is the larger suites, more staterooms, the inside bar, screening room, and library. Deck seven is the buffet(veranda), the pools, the outside bar, the spa, and the navigation bridge. Good food, great staff, flat seas, combine for a fantastic voyage! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
For us the best part of the Windstar experience is the crew! They are fantastic! We have been on all three of the sailing yachts and now this, our first motor yacht, and the crew has been the common stand out thing on all of them! Our ... Read More
For us the best part of the Windstar experience is the crew! They are fantastic! We have been on all three of the sailing yachts and now this, our first motor yacht, and the crew has been the common stand out thing on all of them! Our cabin was great, the food excellent. Friends with the French Balconies really liked them for the fresh air but our large picture window was just fine. We just popped out on to the deck when we wanted a better view. We prefer the smaller ships Wind Star and Wind Spirit, but we were very comfortable on the Star Breeze. We would gladly sail again on a motor yacht if the itinerary demanded it. Embarkation in Costa Rica was a breeze. Disembarkation in Barbados was a little confusing but sorted itself out once off the ship. Then went very smoothly. Just wish wi fi was a lot cheaper. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We selected the 7 day Windstar Costa Rica/Panama cruise because we wanted to visit these two countries and to transit the Panama Canal. First, the Star Breeze and her crew were one of the highlights of this experience. While the ... Read More
We selected the 7 day Windstar Costa Rica/Panama cruise because we wanted to visit these two countries and to transit the Panama Canal. First, the Star Breeze and her crew were one of the highlights of this experience. While the ship was built in 1989, and updated in 2015, it was in excellent condition and every one of the crew focused entirely on making our experience a memorable one 24/7. We enjoyed pulling into the small, out of the way ports of call and very much enjoyed getting to meet and greet the Costa Ricans and Panamanians away from the hustle and bustle of the larger tourist focused areas. The food on board was world class in every respect. I cannot conceive of finding fault with regard to the culinary offerings. They just blew us away! Our stateroom was well appointed and spacious (277 sq ft). Plenty of room for my wife and I to stretch out and enjoy the cruise. Two of our excursions focused on preparing typical Costa Rican and Panamanian foods, which included trips to the local grocery stores to purchase the necessary produce and other items needed. These were a lot of fun. A note to possible travelers: Windstar cruising requires at least a modest amount of physical ability to get on and off the ship, as many transfers are via a Zodiac (perfectly safe and fun, but not for immobile or wheel chair bound people). Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Pros and Cons As always, the ship’s staff were very friendly, and the waiters and much of the staff always remember your names. There is always at least one crew member (this trip, two) who remembers us from a previous cruise (my ... Read More
Pros and Cons As always, the ship’s staff were very friendly, and the waiters and much of the staff always remember your names. There is always at least one crew member (this trip, two) who remembers us from a previous cruise (my wearing a Windstar T-shirt doesn’t hurt). Breakfast and lunch in the Terrace is always a nice buffet, and there are also items available from a menu if you want to order them. The destination manager Kuba always gave a 15-minute overview of the next day’s destination before dinner began at 7:00. The first day in Quepos we did the national park trek, and we saw both 2- and 3-toed sloths, capuchin and howler monkeys, beautiful blue morpho butterflies, and some assorted birds and lizards. The second day in Juarez we did the dolphin watch excursion. Judging by the excitement of our guide, we had very good success. For over an hour we encountered several pods of many spotted dolphins, which from time to time were jumping out of the water. We were invited to the captain’s table the second night for dinner. Captain Chris Dodds and Hotel Manager Henri Lemay were both very enjoyable dining companions, as were the other guests. The next evening we did the outside dining, called Candles; it began raining just before it got underway, so the staff had to move all the tables under the roof. They had several additional choices beyond the choices in the main dining room that evening, including two kinds of fish, lamb chops, all grilled well done. Also a number of choices of side dishes were available, and three choices for dessert. The sapecial attention was nice, but I did not think the food was really anything special. One day we swam off the back of the ship’s marina, but the current was quite strong, so most of the time we had to hold on or stay near the rope and floating pads they deployed. We brought our snorkel masks for some minor snorkeling at Panama’s Isla Parita, but when we wanted to check out flippers from the marina at the back of the ship, twice they tried to talk us out of it. We were not expecting that we would see that much, but it would be our one snorkeling day, and we finally succeeded in checking out flippers. The beach day on Isla Parita was fine, the small beach was very nice, and the water was nice and warm. The lunch barbecue did not have the traditional BBQ chicken and ribs, just some spicy chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers. But the jambalaya was very good. They also had salads, some side dishes, banana bread, sweet potato bread, and cookies. So it turned out despite having low expectations, we were glad that we did the snorkel. We saw lots of small and large sergeant majors, semicircle angelfish, some schools of silver fish, a few butterfly fish, a pufferfish, a sea star, several blue-headed wrasse, some parrotfish, and a couple of queen triggerfish. We were wearing our skins for sunblock and protection and were fine, but apparently a couple of people were stung by jellyfish that we did not notice. Windstar every afternoon puts out some light snacks and tea or coffee on the pool deck at 3:00, but they never list it in their daily program. They had a Costa Rican naturalist on board who gave three lectures. One day they brought on board Costa Rican musicians, and another day they invited dancers from a local school. The dancers ranged in age from 21 to 4 and were awesome, with beautiful costumes. During our one day at sea, we competed in a trivia quiz, attended the naturalist’s lecture on Central and South American mammals, and did the galley tour. Head chef Danilo did a great galley tour presentation. It was very impressive that most everything is made from scratch, which is why the food tastes so good. It was obvious how dedicated he is to his work. The Miroflores Lock and Old Panama City tour was good, and we had a good guide, but we thought they could have scheduled the timing of the tour a little better. When we got there, the 4th floor viewing platform was already very crowded with other tour groups, and you couldn’t get near the rail to see very well the last of the northgoing ships going through the lock. Also, there was not enough time to watch the movie presentation. We walked right by some nice looking gift shops, and local vendors in the park, to instead stop for 15 minutes at a REALLY inferior souvenir place. The penultimate evening of the cruise we had a great barbecue out by the pool, followed by music and dancing. All the food was terrific. Finally, the last day of the cruise we went through the Panama Canal. There were three sets of locks, for a total of six separate times our ship was raised or lowered in a different lock. There was a guide on the ship’s PA system explaining things as we went, but outside, on deck, it was sometimes hard to hear him. It took about seven hours to make the transit through the canal to the Caribbean Sea. We spent much of the time out on deck, and it was an awesome experience. Sometimes there would be a big cargo ship near us in the other lock, and it was cool seeing these much larger vessels going up or down. Unfortunately, the hot tub never was very hot, just lukewarm. One day they allowed couples to go to the very overwater bow of the ship to take pictures of the guests. The last get together before the Friday dinner time he entire staff of the ship from all departments came to say goodbye, and then asked us to sing with them a goodbye song. During dinner the dining room manager, Abdul, would go from table to table to make sure everything was all right, and the last dinner even the head chef came by. Service was sometimes a little slow, but acceptable once you knew everything was made from scratch and prepared after you ordered it. The only thing I would like to improve is adding a fish entree to the normal dining room menu. The reception ladies and the woman at the small onboard shop were also very friendly and helpful. There was a singer and musician that played music in the evenings before and after dinner. All in all, a nice cruise again on Windstar. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Really nothing to complain, we cannot compare because it was our first cruise. Ship was small enough to meet people and feel as home. Ports and share excursions were quite well done. Entertainment and activities were pretty nice, ... Read More
Really nothing to complain, we cannot compare because it was our first cruise. Ship was small enough to meet people and feel as home. Ports and share excursions were quite well done. Entertainment and activities were pretty nice, having in account that it is a small ship, even during the "at sea days" we found activities to do, such as visiting the kitchen or a cocktail course. The only problem at these days were to find one shadow in the pool area. The beach party were perfectly organized. We enjoyed very much the ambience and the non-formal cruise, meeting people who has travelled very much and does not care about fancy clothes for having dinner. Service were good, most of the people working are from Indonesia or Philipines. We had one upgrade and obtained one Balcony Suite, very nice, incredible to open the doors and enjoy the views and the sea sound, we think it worths. For our next cruise we have booked a suite with terrace. In summary, a very nice itinerary, very well organized and a good cruise company that we would like to travel with again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We chose this cruise because we wanted to see the Panama Canal and we wanted to go somewhere for Christmas. The dates and itinerary on Windstar fit that desire. Getting to Colon Panama is easy from Panama City. But Colon itself is ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to see the Panama Canal and we wanted to go somewhere for Christmas. The dates and itinerary on Windstar fit that desire. Getting to Colon Panama is easy from Panama City. But Colon itself is digusting so dont look to do anything but go to the pier. Embarkation is fine. The rooms are large. We were in 315 which is BS-1 category. There is a Juliet Balcony and big sliding doors which made the room seem larger. Lots of storage. However, the bed was certainly not proper. Its ok that they put two twins together but we could feel the gap. When i saw that only the sheet was over the two twins, i was told that the mattress toppers were on backorder and they had none. Our cabin steward, Christian, was great. He really tried to fix it. The AC works well. The TV volume didnt work very well. The movie DVD selection in the library is a joke...they need to fix that. There isnt much to do onboard but even when there is, it is only announced in the daily paper. No reminder over the intercom. The ship is in need of upgrade. It looks tired but spotless. Food is ok. Nothing amazing. Although Candles, the small upscale dinner restaurant was great. One gets only one reservation therewithout having to pay. Speaking of paying...beware...you will be nicle and dimes to death. Internet, drinks or drink packages, shore excursions (quite hit or miss by the way and expensive for what we got). Until the last morning we never had a dock. All going ashore was done by zodiac and often it was a wet landing (which often they neglected to tell you in advance). Getting on and off the zodiac, especially when the water was rough, is an accident waiting to happen. Instead, they should use the tenders. This is a very small ship. We had 176 passengers but it can hold about 212. Many people had no filters and were loud. Clientele is not of the calibre one might find on Oceania or Crystal etc. There were numbers of loud foul mouthed drunks at the outside bar and not one crew member addressed the problem. The pool is the size of a very large bathtub. Not enough chaise lounge seating. Yacht Club room was wonderful and a big thanks to Christina there. She knew all our names! I really cannot recommend this cruise to any. Itisnt terrible but just doesnt stack up against the other even when considering cost. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this cruise because we wanted to sail through the Panama Canal, do a little snorkeling, and get away from crowds. Our prior experience with large cruise lines, left us feeling uncomfortable with cruising. We ran across ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to sail through the Panama Canal, do a little snorkeling, and get away from crowds. Our prior experience with large cruise lines, left us feeling uncomfortable with cruising. We ran across Windstar's much smaller ship, and decided that it might be just right for us. Because we weren't interested in shows, socializing too much, visiting crowded ports with T shirt shops, and waiting in long lines, Windstar was perfect. The Star Breeze surprised us by offering beautiful Oceanview suites as their smallest cabins. We also took advantage of the free 24 hour room service. The food was plentiful, and delicious. Our crew was always eager to please. We arrived at each port on schedule. For a tropical cruise on Windstar, I would recommend packing clothing that dries quickly (fishing shirts, etc.), 1 or 2 country club outfits for dinner, and 3 pairs of shoes (water, hiking, and resort casual for dinner.) Aside from that, get the laundry service. We regretted our decision to overpack and not order laundry service. Highlights included: Manuel Antonio National Park with Odyssey Tours, Beach BBQ and snorkelinig on Isle Parida (don't give up, the fish are by the rocks), lobster one night, and actually going all the way through the Panama Canal, and relaxing in the yacht club at the front of the ship. We are already talking about a future Windstar Trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This was our first ocean cruise on a small ship. Star Breeze is comparable to a river cruise in that there were fewer than 200 passengers.. Accordingly, the ship offered little in the way of entertainment, though it did feature a library ... Read More
This was our first ocean cruise on a small ship. Star Breeze is comparable to a river cruise in that there were fewer than 200 passengers.. Accordingly, the ship offered little in the way of entertainment, though it did feature a library that offered videos as well as books. The crew-to-passenger ratio was almost 1-1, and the personnel were wonderful. The chef elicited my list of allergies, and prepared versions of the menu choices that I could eat safely. He even made a special anniversary cake for us, whose presentation was accompanied by a chorus of dining room staff. The food in the main dining room was fantastic, as was the breakfast buffet. The latter featured fresh local fruits and squeezed orange juice. The small number of passengers made for effortless embarkation and disembarkation. However, in the ports, we always dropped anchor in the harbor and got to the shore on zodiacs. Windstar celebrated the adventure of this arrival mode, claiming that the small rubber boats allowed the ship to enter small ports that could not accommodate larger ships. Perhaps that's true, but we did zodiacs even in the large port of Panama City. I did not enjoy the 10-minute rides, and when the sea was choppy, getting back onto the ship was a slightly scary adventure. Port visits were preceded by talks given by the onboard enrichment lecturer; I found them informative. Our first port was Quepos, where we, along with four other CC members, had booked a guided tour of Manuel Antonio National Park.from Odyssey Tours. That is the same local outfit we had engaged to drive us from San Jose to Puerto Caldera; their prices for both services being lower than those offered by Windstar. During our short pre-trip stay in San Jose, we had booked the Rainforest Adventure, which picked us up at our hotel. I got to wear my jaguar pattern rain poncho. One would not wish to do these park visits without a guide. He found the animals we came to see. Only the Capuchine monkeys were easy to spot. We would not have seen the other critters. No-cost optional swimming at a very nice beach was offered at the end of the tour. Our next stop was Puerto Jimenez, where we had booked a visit to Rancho Raices through Golfo Dulce Dart Tours. It is a chocolate farm run by a family that has been there for several generations. We saw the trees, and followed the stages from pod to chocolate bar. At the end of the tour, we were offered a chocolate drink and other fruits grown on the farm. Owner German and English-speaking guide Marco were excellent hosts, showing us a variety of plants grown there that serve both culinary and medicinal purposes. The highlight might have been the appearance of a large troupe of wild squirrel monkeys, who come daily for the home-grown bananas set out by Marco at noon daily. The monkeys know the schedule. This was my favorite excursion. The ship offered a barbecue at the next stop, which was a private island. The food was excellent, as we had come to expect, and we had an an opportunity to swim and snorkel, although the latter was unexciting.as the visibility was poor. After that, the stops were in Panama. We took a Windstar tour in Panama City and another on the post-disembarkation ride from Colon back to Panama City. These were overly expensive with not much to see, and their content overlapped. I cannot recommend either of them. In between, we traversed the Panama Canal, which we saw from a small ship for the first time. It was interesting to see the locks from the inside. I have to confess that after a while, the excitement waned, at least for me. Most passengers kept doggedly taking pictures. Would we do it again? No. But I'm glad we did it once. My final bit of advice is to bring a warm jacket. Although the tropics are as warm as you would expect, the public spaces on Star Breeze were always uncomfortably chilly. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Let me start by saying that it sounds like Windstar got off to a very rocky start on their inaugural voyages in 2016! This was our third Windstar cruise. The first 2 were on sailboats. Windstar is absolutely not for people who have been on ... Read More
Let me start by saying that it sounds like Windstar got off to a very rocky start on their inaugural voyages in 2016! This was our third Windstar cruise. The first 2 were on sailboats. Windstar is absolutely not for people who have been on large ships and like all the entertainment etc. In our experiences the Windstar is clear that there is a specific hotel near the airport from which transfers (for a fee) to the ship take place. Otherwise passengers make their own transportation arrangements as some of the passengers did on our voyage. We had a great time on this voyage! Though the wind, especially in the North, can interrupt the itinerary. We were to spend first afternoon in Nicaragua but it was too windy to take the zodiacs into shore. Because this itinerary goes to out of the way stops without docks ( except Quepos) the excursions are mostly wet landings on the shore. This is not a trip for those not comfortable with these landings that can be in windy conditions. With that said, the fellow passengers were very very active experiencing the variety of excursions from easy to "strenuous". FYI, most passengers were between mid 50s to early 70s. Our excursions: 1) River Cruise and Traditions: The cruise was great and saw crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas etc. I personally did not like the "traditions " part ( not my thing but others disagreed)but the hacienda visit and lunch were nice . 2) Catamaran Adventure with snorkel: no coral in north but nice beach and saw smaller fish: puffer, angel etc . I wore a Pacifica SPF long sleeve shirt that provided a little extra warmth too . Water here was not bath water as it was further south 3) Marenco to Caletas Nature Walk: saw some birds . Walk along beach ( gorgeous rocks formations) and thru rainforest over extension bridge etc. was nice. 4) Afternoon in Bird Realm: saw hundreds and hundreds of frigates and some brown boobys and huge pelicans . Stopped at a stunning black sand beach! 5) Manuel Antonio Park: very very crowded! However saw many monkeys and cool sloth climbing down a tree 6) Curu Nature preserve: not my favorite but others including my husband loved it! 7) Tortuga Beach picnic for everyone was great! I kayaked. Others did paddle board ( younger group!). Fun day! The people who did horseback riding , rafting and zip lining ( not for the faint of heart!) were pleased with their excursions. We splurged on Juliette balcony and never shut the door! Loved it!! The barbecue on board is always fun and the staff dancing is great! Otherwise, entertainment were 2 duos in different locations. No one went to casino or at least whenever my husband showed up. Great staff! Many passengers hugging staff and saying goodbye at the end! Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
The Star Legend is truly a small ship. If you like a ship with a lot of options and an active nightlife this is not your ship. If you prefer a laid back personal experience this is a great ship.The maximum it holds is 212 people, so you ... Read More
The Star Legend is truly a small ship. If you like a ship with a lot of options and an active nightlife this is not your ship. If you prefer a laid back personal experience this is a great ship.The maximum it holds is 212 people, so you will soon recognize every face and get to know a lot of the crew. It is small enough that you will rarely use the elevators. Embarkation and debarkation could not be simpler. It was fast and efficient. You are even escorted to your cabin ( a rarity these days). The cabins are good size with a sitting area and sleeping area. A rarity for ships is that have walk in closets. Our cabin came with a french balcony. Most come with just a window. There are no inside cabins. The only drawback to the cabins is not enough electric outlets. There are two dining areas on the ship the Veranda and the main restaurant (Amphora A). The veranda is where breakfast and lunch are served. They are buffet with a la carte options. The buffet options are a bit limited, but the a la carte options make up for it. At night the veranda becomes the reservation only steak house (called Candles), the food was decent, but it does not feel like an elegant dining experience. On the other hand the main restaurant is excellent. They have about five different options per night and often with a fresh catch.They also have chicken breast, salmon, and NY strip steak always available.One night they do a deck barbeque, there are plenty of options and the food is high quality, but on that night there are no other dining rooms open. An area known as the yacht club has a full service coffee bar and small sandwiches from 6:00-6:00, very nice touch. Evenings are quiet on the ship, there are two duos located in different spots on board, but there are no actual shows. Three of the nights the staff entertains and it is entertaining. There is a small casino with two tables and about 12 slot machines. By 11:00 at latest most of the ship is in their cabins.Daytime entertainment is also limited. However, a very nice touch is water sports platform. Everyday of the trip we anchored. Once we do the back of the ship opens up,and all sorts of water sports become available. It Includes water skiing, paddle boats, and kayaks, as well as a floating trampoline for sun bathing. As far as excursions go, they were overpriced, but most cruise lines are so this was no different.You are better off setting them up your self. Overall it was a great experience, and I would definitely sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
My wife and I just completed the Windsurf Yachtsman Cruise and it was awesome. First, dress was casual and don't overpack . These are my recommendations and thoughts for anyone taking or thinking about this Cruise. All the stops were ... Read More
My wife and I just completed the Windsurf Yachtsman Cruise and it was awesome. First, dress was casual and don't overpack . These are my recommendations and thoughts for anyone taking or thinking about this Cruise. All the stops were terrific. Antigua, Tortola, Virgin Garda, British Virgin Isles , St. Bart's. Each offered an opportunity to explore on your own or to take excursions. More on that later. My first recommendation when you board is to make a Reservation at Stella's and Candles- for Candle's try to make it last night as you are docked in St. Bart's and view while eating outside is awesome . Next walk around the ship and get familiar with it. The main deck, Amphora restaurant ( excellent ) , the pool, fitness center, reception desk ( Marianne and her co- workers are amazing ). Extremely helpful in everything and always smiling and great disposition. You can pick up daily newspaper, NY Times crossword puzzle, sudoku . Fun stuff. There are plenty of excursions and everyone seemed to enjoy the one's they took. We took only one the 8:30 ( 4 hours) - Jost Van Dyke Catamarran Snorkel and Hiking trip. 5 stars - the owner was our Captain and the whole experience was great ! For $79. Per person it was a real bargain - good snorting, great picture taking and overall perfect experience. Meals- breakfast was buffet or menu ( eggs Benedict , banana pancakes , French toast - all fabulous ---- Lunch - same buffet or off menu - hamburgers, hot dog and grilled chicken were awesome but you had many other choices. Dinner - too many choices to name - all excellent ! Wine list was excellent ! We had a Mossback Pinot Noir and Rutherford Hill Chardonnay all reasonably priced and saved for next meal if you like. Eric was excellent in the Compass Bar and as wine steward in Amphora- very knowledgeable and always had a great smile and it was great having him help us. The sports activities on the back of ship when tendered are great ! Try to take advantage of them if time avails. For exercise there is a fitness center but I walked around deck 11 times ( roughly 2.20 miles) so says Fitbit ! You can order food 24/7 . The beach barbecue was excellent. Fischer Cove had excellent facilities ( wi-fi yeah! ) and food , activities and plenty of chairs to relax. The ship barbecue was excellent. Tremendous preparation done so well. Bring camera to take pictures! You will not believe some of the carvings! Lobster, shrimp and filet were great ! Entertainment on board was fine . There was 2 sets of singers that will keep you occupied if you stay up late. Bed at 9:30 for me . Exhausting fun days ! I really enjoyed the Crew Talent show one night. One of the crew put on the best juggling act with liquor bottles you'll ever see. Also the crew during the barbecue did a fabulous YMCA version which I should post on YouTube. A classic ! The crew was absolutely awesome. So helpful and always smiling and greeting you by name if they recognized you. At 6:45 pm each night Steve ( head of guest services) gives an outstanding presentation of your next day port and excursions. He was excellent along with Jona. I have to give a special shout out to Cecep who took care of our room to perfection and his little towel animals each night. Really nice guy. So if your thinking of this Cruise or taking it enjoy - it really was special and Windstar did there best for us ! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This was my 3rd Windstar cruise. Excellent staff, food, ship etc. I have seen some negative reviews and just don't understand why. Our room was great and always super clean as the whole ship was. They had one restaurant with open ... Read More
This was my 3rd Windstar cruise. Excellent staff, food, ship etc. I have seen some negative reviews and just don't understand why. Our room was great and always super clean as the whole ship was. They had one restaurant with open seating and you had to make reservations at the other two. The other two were a little better, but wish they would change that policy somehow. I'm not a hospitality manager, so I'm sure there's a reason it's done that way. Some people complained that they were "balcony people" and wouldn't sail again on windstar because of no balconies. Well I don't know why they would have booked this ship in the first place. This is an older crowd and things wind down relatively early. The entertainment somewhat caters to the older crowd (we are in our mid and late 40's and found the entertainment great). This is NOT a cruise for kids or probably even teens. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
This was our third Wind Star cruise on their sailing vessels. My husband were hoping to get much needed rest and relaxation. We went on a back to back. I was surprised on our first week that there were a lot of children. It was the week of ... Read More
This was our third Wind Star cruise on their sailing vessels. My husband were hoping to get much needed rest and relaxation. We went on a back to back. I was surprised on our first week that there were a lot of children. It was the week of Christmas but I had never seen so many unsupervised children on such a small ship. The parents could have done these kids a favor and had them on one of the larger lines with water slides, video games and a large pool. Because the kids had nothing to do and were unsupervised they ran all over and planted themselves in the two whirl pool tubs on the back of the ship and in the very small pool. We had an at sea day for the first leg of the trip and it was beyond horrible as relaxation was no where to be found. The first week of the ship they did not open the back of the ship much. We went off the back one day and it was very rough. They have a blue floating mat and a trampoline that had jumping children on it. The second week was much better. There was not any at sea days, there were less children but the sailing was sold out as was the week before and the ship was crowded. I really regretted my choice for the holidays. I should have went on Oceania as I have done in past years. The chef had a decorated ginger bread house which Oceania does as well. But on Oceania they have lots of different Christmas cookies around the decorations on plates that are kept full of fresh cookies. Not the case on Wind Surf. For both weeks of this back to back on Windsurf dining was consistently frustrating. We arrived on board at a few minutes before three. Embarkation was great and simple. We then asked for the welcome on board buffet and it was closed down. Dinner would be at 7:00 but they have the yacht club that serves cold sandwiches and coffee. What a disappointed. We hadn't eaten because we had been traveling all day and the sandwich choices were fair. I like egg salad but it was served in a pita (Yuk) - the sandwiches are pre-made so there was no choice of bread. I got a tuna salad sandwich that was all bread and very little tuna salad. I would have been better off getting a subway at the airport. Dinner time mediocre at best. I really like fresh fruit and vegetables. The vegetable choices in the main dinning room were frozen broccolli, frozen carrots and peas. They always had a dark green salad with tomatoes that were never ripe and should not have been served. There was always plenty of meats but I am not a big meat eater. I did try the beef wellington but the crust was mush and the meat inside was under cooked. I like medium to medium rare and it was rare. One night I asked for a pasta with marinara sauce which is not on the main dining room menu but is on the room service menu and I was told no I could not get that. I did see other people ordering pasta on different nights but that evening the chef came out and told me it was not possible because it would put them off of their time line. In the evening I like to have a snack but after dinner there is no food service open on board. The Yacht club which has sandwiches and cookies closes at 6:00 pm. So I called room service and asked for a couple of oranges to eat before bed. I was told oranges are only available on the morning room service menu and was not available at that time of the night. Frustration!!! I spent a lot of money on this cruise and was very disappointed by this. Since we were on for two weeks we did have two beach bbq experiences and two evening deck experiences. The food at both of those experiences was very good and I have no complaints. It was disconcerting that at the first week of the beach bbq there were a lot of kids and very few people took advantage of the hand sanitizer. Also I saw people returning to the buffet line with dirty plates. This was also seen at the lunch buffet on board. The one thing I liked about Oceania is that they serve you on the buffet line so you don't have people who don't have sanitary hands touching the buffet. Being we were outside and kids would run up and grab a piece of fruit out of the fruit salad as did some adults I had concerns. I did not get sick and neither did my husband but I was concerned. The second week of the beach bbq someone must of said something because they did have workers serving the food rather than people taking what they wanted and they wore plastic gloves. The first week I suspect there were many cabins with three or more people because at that beach experience it was very difficult to get a chair. Many people put a towel on their chair with a book and then disappeared. At the beach experience they did bring out water toys and the sports team was very busy. My husband and I used to sail a lot in our 30's and he wanted to take one of the hobie cats but the line for that was too long. The second week there were less people and he talked to a woman who was handling the check out. He asked her a few questions and she was somewhat rude but I imagine she was hot and it had been a long day. She briskly told him that they did not teach people to sail. I guess since he asked her about the hobbie cats she assumed he could not sail which was not true. He just walked away and figured it was not going to be a pleasant experience. On the back of the ship there were two men one I believe was named BangBam and they were exceptionally nice and watched over the swimmers. I used to scuba dive when I was younger and I automatically hand signal when I enter the water. To my surprise he hand signaled back. The two men who worked the sports deck were terrific but the girl they had there was not friendly or helpful. The deck BBQ was good. The first night they did not follow the deck BBQ with line dancing but they did the second week. Entertainment for both weeks was lacking. They have a large screen TV by the games and books. Many of the men wanted to see the Rose Bowl game but all that was on the large TV were Wind Star advertisements. A couple of guys were trying to look at a tablet that had the game on it. I dont' think it would have cost much for them to have a movie or a game during the cruise on the large screen. The singers were fine nothing that I cared to sit and listen to for an extended period of time. They do have games but what we found when we went to play them is most are missing pieces. Scrabble was missing 11 tiles. We brought our own games from home and people were circling around us wanting to know about the games and where to get them. I don't mind that there isn't a lot on the ship in the evening because I enjoy relaxing but the movie library is very outdated and the games are old and missing pieces. This is not luxury and I was disappointed that the cruise was touted as a luxury experience. As I mentioned I have traveled on Windstar before when it was owned by Holland America and the management is very different. On the plus side our cabin steward Fauzie was the best we have ever had even better than what we had on Seabourn and Oceania. He did his best. The bed mattress was not good. We were sore every day. When I told Fauzie he put together some makeshift padding. It was no where near as good as beds we have had on Holland America, Oceania, Seabourn or Celebrity. The mattress was like one we had on Carnival. The actual sheets were very soft and of a high quality. I also told Fauzie how upset I was about not being able to get oranges and each night when I came back to the cabin he had a dish of oranges. He was very caring and kept the cabin spotless. Our shoes were lined up and although the carpet was worn he did his best to make the place look great. Waiter service around the ship was variable. We had an excellent server name Udd and then we had some other servers who were also kind but did not understand English very well so if I asked for ice tea with extra lemmon and extra ice I would get an ice tea with no lemon and an extra cup of ice. What I thought was really unforgivable was the higher ranking management on the ship. All the workers seemed to try very hard to please and I thought the were over worked. At dinner one night in the dining room on waitress Ollie was alone in a section with very large tables. That poor woman was running and doing the best she could. There was no one busing her section to pour water. My husband needed some water and she was so busy she could not get to it. There were officers in white uniforms who worked in the dining room who would not pick up a pitcher of water and help serve. The were walking around literally doing nothing while this poor waitress was struggling without assistance. Beside us not getting our drinks and being very thirsty through dinner I asked her for a piece of apple pie for dessert which was available on room service but not on the menu. Ollie said no. Later I grabbed the manager and asked him for the pie and he did get it for me. I did tell him that it appeared they were understaffed and he did admit that indeed this was a very full cruise. The second week the dining room was not as full as it was the week of Christmas. Reservations for the specialty restaurants did not go too well. When we arrived we made our reservations the first week. That whole week we did not receive our invitation so I called. I was told that they did not have them. I made another and when we went up we were not on the list. This happened to several people I spoke to on the cruise. The food in the speciality restarant was better than in the main dinning room but still there was not much in the way of fresh vegetables. They did have brocollini in Candles which was good. The breakfast and the lunch buffets daily were very good. I loved the salad bar each day at lunch. But lunch hours were short and if you left the ship in the morning there was a chance you would miss lunch which was from 12:30 - 2:00 most days. We tended to sleep in so we missed breakfast which ended at 9:00. I really loved it the one day on New Years Day when they did brunch. They had a very good quiche and I was so happy to be able to have fresh fruit and vegetables. I would say if there is a really good price on windstar then it is worth the trip. But don't pay luxury prices or even above average prices or you might be disappointed. We will sail on any major cruise lines and are not disappointed if the price point is ok. We go on Carnival because we love the comedy club and I know not to eat in the dining room and to expect lower quality food and a harder bed. So as long as I am paying an economy price I am ok with it. This was disappointing to me because I expected a higher level of quality than what I got for the money and I feel that I over paid. Even with it being Christmas I don't feel that the dining hours, food quality, the mattress quality and the crowds were what I expected for what is advertised as a luxury experience. We paid about $5400 with taxes and port charges for two people for 15 days and I feel that the trip was worth about $4,000 for two including port charges and taxes - if that. I could have went on Holland America or Celebrity and had a balcony with money left over and it would have been a better experience. At least if there were kids there would have been places to go. We had cabin 211 which is in a good location so if you do decide to take a cruise on Windsurf I would recommend this cabin. Everything in the cabin worked. The carpet was very spotted and looked like it should be cleaned. We did get the laundry service and it was awesome. If you go on Wind Surf I highly recommend paying for the laundry service. You put your dirty clothes in a bag and the next day they are washed and pressed. All of our clothes came out perfect better than at home. We came back to the ship one day and just missed lunch. We asked if we could have room service on the deck so we could eat outside. We were told no that room service was to be eaten in your room. So we ordered to the room and took our food out to a table ourselves. There dining hours are so short that you may have to eat off the room service menu. Room service was pretty fast about 30 minutes. The rooms aren't very comfortable for dining because they do not have a balcony. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
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