We booked this cruise in May 2014 when we were on the Windsurf through a program that is no longer available. I believe that the program was called destinations; it provided an additional 5% off of the 5% already given to pervious guests. ... Read More
We booked this cruise in May 2014 when we were on the Windsurf through a program that is no longer available. I believe that the program was called destinations; it provided an additional 5% off of the 5% already given to pervious guests. However, throughout the year, the price was reduced and a call to Windstar enabled us to get the lower price. They have a a new program called Welcome Home that essential does the same thing for 60 days upon return.
We flew into Athens a few days before the cruise so that we could acclimate to the time difference and also visit the sites within Athens. We arrived at the port after taking the Metro from Athens. I would not recommend doing this since the Metro stop is a significant walk to the passenger terminal. If you still decide to do this, get a taxi from the Metro stop to the passenger terminal.
When we arrived, we were greeted by staff wearing Windstar tee-shirts, our luggage was tagged and taken to the ship. We went through a security check and boarded the Star Pride. Unlike previous sailings, where we waited a max of about 15 minutes, we waited for about 40 minutes before getting to the table to turn over our passports and credit card info. However, the bar staff kept us well hydrated with mimosas, water, etc. We received room keys, met up with our cabin stewart, and made our way to Cabin 123 on Deck 4. I'll write up our thoughts on the cabin in that specific section.
The dining on this cruise was the best that we have experienced on Windstar. I like the flavors that our Indian Chef (Tapan I think is his name) introduced to the menu. Stand outs for me were the fresh seafood dishes later in the cruise, but I didn't have anything that I didn't like. The chef went out in Kusadasi and got some fresh fish which was excellent. We experienced Candles at 8PM, right after we had left Santorini. Excellent Filet Mignon, great side dishes, and wonderful service. We only went to the AmphorA once for breakfast since we had breakfast delivered to the room most mornings. It was standard buffet fare, with eggs made to order, and few items from a menu. We choose the omelettes and the buffet. Our waitstaff at all meals were exceptional. Ayu served our table for most meals unless we came as a large group and did not get her section. She was very sweet. Most nights Noel was our bar/wine stewart. He was very knowledgeable about the wines that they carried and assisted us with our choices. The dining room managers watched over the entire process making their presence known and checked on us. The bar staff, as always, was awesome. Since we hung out at the Star Bar we had Ron, Diana, and Ed as the bartenders/servers. Ron has been on all of our Windstar cruises and remembered us and our drinks! Its amazing how quickly they remember everyone's name.
We have purchased the beverage package for each of the three cruises that we've been on. However, this time around, I think the value was diminished compared to past cruises. The 'premium' is no longer there. In the past, there were at least two single malts that were available. They have changed the program where single malts are not available even with an 'up' charge. Many higher end liquors require an upcharge. I don't know what it was since I didn't want to pay above the amount that I had already paid. Liquors that required up charges were Patron, Belvedere, a few Bourbons (I'm not a bourbon drinker so I didn't pay that much attention). I made note of the changes in the written critique since I was annoyed that they didn't disclose the changes. I think I would have removed the beverage package if I had been. They have improved the quality and quantity of wines that are available from the beverage package, so I guess there is at least one thing better about the new program.
As with previous cruises, I thought that the shore excursions were very good particularly in Turkey. The contracted company, Wind Song (I believe), had excellent guides, good buses, and nice itineraries. They were also the company that coordinated the 5 course meal at the Library of Celsus within Ephesus. That was the highlight, of the cruise. It was an awesome experience to have dinner in the court yard right in front of the library that dates back to 200 AD.
I had read in previous reviews that there were several areas of the ship that were run down, etc. Well, on this particular cruise we really did not experience that. Yes, the ship is older and it does have some things that are little worn. I had read that the pool was 'unswimable'. I didn't go in, but my wife did. She said that it was fine; just a little small. It was clean. She said that you could tell that the painting was recent. I believe that Windstar has taken steps to improve the material condition of the ship. The teak was in good shape, all the deck chairs appeared to be new, carpeting throughout the ship appeared to be new as well.
The things that I think we thought that were just okay: the general flow of areas of the ship seemed disjointed. The Compass Rose is in-door; because of that, we never were there. We hung out in the Star Bar since it was outside and had a good vistas of the outside. The elevators seemed 'tired' and needed some revamping since they were all mirrored and brass. We did not like either band on the ship. The duo that was in the Compass Rose was just bad. The band that played in the area where the hot tubs were was okay, but their set list was very limited. We were spoiled by the duo Rain that was on windsurf when we sailed in 2014. They were excellent.
We continue to like Windstar, and the essence of the company that attracted us to them in the first place is still present on the Star Pride, but I would lean toward the Windsurf or their other sailing vessels instead of the power yachts. I would go on it again, however, if the same itinerary was available on the Windsurf, Windstar, or Windspirt, I would go with one of them. We haven't cruised on any other line so I can't compare them to others. I like the casual atmosphere, that there are NOT shows on=board, the requirement to dress up (I wear a coat and tie for work everyday and really don't want to do that on my vacation! Read Less