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18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
This ship is in need of some TLC particularly to the outside public space. The pool had such a dark brown ring around it it just looked uninviting, even during the hot weather. Management appeared disorganised, for example, when 1 of ... Read More
This ship is in need of some TLC particularly to the outside public space. The pool had such a dark brown ring around it it just looked uninviting, even during the hot weather. Management appeared disorganised, for example, when 1 of the 2 tenders went out of service, passengers had to wait for long periods to disembark, there was no contingency plan for such an occurance. Due to very bad weather on a sea day many passengers spent 36 hours in their cabins - only one public announcement was made. It would not have been too much effort on the part of management to make periodic announcements to reassure those passengers stuck in their cabins. On a positive note, the cabin and restaurant staff were great and the food was quite good and it was definitely a plus to be on a small vessel. Hope that Windstar can fix the issues because this, small ship concept is needed in the cruise industry. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
DO NOT BOOK this directly with Wind Star. Once they reeled you in, they never treated you like the customer. We found out other guests paid way less when they booked last minute. We paid top dollar only five months before the cruise ... Read More
DO NOT BOOK this directly with Wind Star. Once they reeled you in, they never treated you like the customer. We found out other guests paid way less when they booked last minute. We paid top dollar only five months before the cruise and offered us nothing except a small credit to be used only on the ship. Nothing compared to the 66% less than other passengers paid. Moreover, when Wind Star offered to give rebates because they changed their itinerary - they strung us out months and months on reimbursing us. The office staff is patronizing and nasty and simply refused to honor their representations that they would reimburse airline changes. The actual trip was fine but with all the head aches dealing with them - go else where. Food was good. Ship is so small that there are no perks whatsoever. I didn't mind that however, the excursion arranged by them were not worth the charges. Simply arrange your own for a huge amount less than what they offered. Also, last minute changes to the islands visited were met with nothing except: its too windy! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
Concerns about Turkey and Istanbul in particular before leaving the US. These concerns were quickly overcome by this 7-day cruise from Istanbul to Athens. Stayed at the Pera Palace for a couple of days prior to departure and toured the ... Read More
Concerns about Turkey and Istanbul in particular before leaving the US. These concerns were quickly overcome by this 7-day cruise from Istanbul to Athens. Stayed at the Pera Palace for a couple of days prior to departure and toured the city. Istanbul is a great mix of history and modern, the hotel spectacular! Embarkation was a breeze and the ship was in great shape following its recent dry dock. The itinerary started off with a day at sea and gave the 80 guests a chance to get to know one another, very easy on Wind Star as it is a small vessel. Enjoyed the time on the open bridge and even got some star identification training from the Watch Officer. The various ports of call were a great recap of history. The top was Ephesis and the private event at the Celsus Library. Windstar does this event right! From the minute you arrive you are taken back in time, no other visitors to be seen or heard, music playing in the library upon arrival, photographer at the ready and they don't charge you for the pictures. Dinner was served, dusk settled in, and then the lights illuminated the library, pathways, and colusium, very SPECIAL! The other stops were also well done though too many other cruise ships were with us in Santorini, you lost some of the intimacy that we experienced elsewhere. Athens was a huge let down, the Parthanon and museum were as expected. However, Athens as a city is a dump, don't bother spending any extra nights here. We got the news of the Istanbul bombing just as we got home and felt fortunate with our timing. Turkey was the unexpected highlight of our trip and would love to return when it settles down again. The Wind Star crew is top notch and looking forward to another Windstar trip soon. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We arrived early and enjoyed a very quiet Istanbul. People were friendly and we so enjoyed our second visit there. Embarkation was extremely smooth! They had plenty of employees to do each step of the embarkation process and there was ... Read More
We arrived early and enjoyed a very quiet Istanbul. People were friendly and we so enjoyed our second visit there. Embarkation was extremely smooth! They had plenty of employees to do each step of the embarkation process and there was no line when we arrived. This was our first cruise with them and will not be our last! Just loved it. All the cabins on the Wind Star are the same so decks really do not matter. No elevator so if stars are an issue then get the upper deck; we were on the first deck (bottom deck) and I loved hearing our ship ply through the waters. The ship has everything the big ships have (casino, gift shop, library, etc.) just in a smaller scale. Dining is open seating at all meals unless you make reservations for Candles. We enjoyed a nice meal in Candles but remember that it is outside. It was cool that evening and several guests had a blanket wrapped around them due to the coolness (it was cold to me). All other meals were good (I especially liked the breakfast choices; either buffet or ordered off the menu) and it was fun to meet others during the meals. There were 84 passengers and 99 crew on our adventure. Entertainment was limited but enjoyable. Local dancers from Turkey and Greece (belly dancer) and there was an employee show one night; it was a highlight! There is nothing like a guy from the Philippines singing Elvis! It was such fun. The employees at the front desk, in the gift shop and at some of the bars had our name memorized as soon as we came aboard. With this being our first visit with them it was really special. We did take a couple of shore excursions and they were wonderful, informative and fun. We did a cooking class which I've always wanted to do which was such fun. Tours did not feel rushed and the guides were all excellent. We did not get to experience the water sports area as the water was just too chilly for us but did watch others enjoy the area. We hope to return to Windstar in the future and would love to visit Tahiti with them. With the outdoor water sport area it would be a delightful addition to our next adventure with them. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
Thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. We boarded in Instabul and visited Romania, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. A bit of the ship was outdated and needed some maintenance, but we thoroughly loved the size of our room and the crew itself. The ... Read More
Thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. We boarded in Instabul and visited Romania, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. A bit of the ship was outdated and needed some maintenance, but we thoroughly loved the size of our room and the crew itself. The meals were very good in the dining room and the dinner in Candles (everyone is entitled to 1 meal) was excellent. It was great not to be nickeled and dimed for things. All non-alcoholic drinks were included, including water. The small ship size allowed you into ports that other ships just cannot access. Getting on and off the ship was a breeze. We were unsure if we would enjoy a small ship (we are using to ships from 1200-2800 passengers) but found that this was much more to our liking. The crew is excellent and goes out of their way to make sure everyone enjoys. This might have been our first Windstar cruise, but it won't be our last! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
Acknowledging we're not "cruise people" and have no real desire to be on a huge ship after spending the afternoon in SanTorini with the crowds getting to the dock, so I have no comparison to the big ships, but we have taken ... Read More
Acknowledging we're not "cruise people" and have no real desire to be on a huge ship after spending the afternoon in SanTorini with the crowds getting to the dock, so I have no comparison to the big ships, but we have taken Viking and they were better in every category in comparison; communication, food, tours, structure. WindStar seems to be lacking in communication in a lot of areas. We got mixed messages on what to wear for dinner even though i called the offices on the West Coast. We were surprised to see that even a glass of wine with dinner was extra and swiftly felt that everything was not only expensive but Nickle and Dime'd doesn't begin to describe it. We had time to order private tours in a couple places since we were in Istanbul early, for less than the group tour that Windstar offered. I have to say that the Windstar tour of Delos was exceptional. That guide was excellent, but again, if you didn't keep up, you missed some of the dialoge. On San Torini for instance they dropped us off at one end of the wharf and picked up at the far end behind a number of boats that hid the tent. It took 15 minutes to even find it. IStanbul was similar event. The service staff was uniformly caring - almost too caring. After the 5th "no thank you" it becomes irritating rather than helpful and they didn't seem to talk to each other about what was going on. Meals were good, and the dinner at Candles the best one on board. Pastry and dessert offerings were exceptional, as were the soups. They were very accomidating to personal dietary needs or desires. Bring a hat that you can tie down and sunscreen. Good walking shoes as well for off boat activity. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2015
My wife and I are ardent cruisers having sailed twenty plus times with the major providers. We have just returned from the 'Greek Islands & Turkish Delights' cruise. This was without doubt the finest cruise we have ever been ... Read More
My wife and I are ardent cruisers having sailed twenty plus times with the major providers. We have just returned from the 'Greek Islands & Turkish Delights' cruise. This was without doubt the finest cruise we have ever been on. I had read some of the reviews on this and other sites about the ships condition and decoration but have to say that most of the problems we observed were trivial and minor cosmetic flaws. What set this cruise far above other lines was the enthusiasm and friendliness of both the staff and crew. These were people who were happy and achieving a great deal of job satisfaction from from ensuring their customers were happy. Every detail of the cruise was exceptional. Variation of restaurant and cafeteria opening times sympathetically adjusted to daily activities, The open bridge policy and the variety of food on offer. The embarkation and disembarkation were again seamless operations with minimal waiting or fuss. As we had only one sea day entertainment was not high on the wanted list. There were no sea day activities but on this occasion it was accepted. Our Signature event was a Silver Service meal on the forecourt area of the Grand Library at Ephasus. This was well organised with adequate food and wine but again exceptional planning and service. The meal in the floodlight court after visitors had left for the day provided a rare experience. The evening deck Bar-B-Q was outside the harbour at Santorini. The roast Suckling Pig and Lobster were excellent and yet again the slick management and service provided for a seamless evening. We ate once in Candles and the remainder of the voyage in the Amphora restaurant. Both had high quality levels of dishes and service. The quality of the crew, the managerial organisation and the friendliness of the crew are something Windstar should be proud of. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
We are not big cruisers...we have been on Celebrity, Seabourn and Sea Dream Yacht Club. But we know we enjoy smaller cruise ships and chose the Star Pride for our dream cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean. It did not disappoint. We ... Read More
We are not big cruisers...we have been on Celebrity, Seabourn and Sea Dream Yacht Club. But we know we enjoy smaller cruise ships and chose the Star Pride for our dream cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean. It did not disappoint. We opted for a cabin with a French balcony. We knew this meant we couldn't sit in chairs outside, but we loved it anyway, as we could open up the doors and enjoy the fresh air and the sound of the sea. The staterooms are designed well so that you are sitting on the sofa or chair in the living area and can look out to the sea. There are also heavy drapes that separate the sitting area from the bedroom so if one wants to stay up and read and the other go to bed, there is no problem with lights or noise. Service was exceptional. We can't say enough good things about the staff...many from Indonesia and the Philippines as well as Poland, Italy and Ireland! The staff went out of their way to be of service and knew you from the first day--what you liked to eat, drink, and much more! Food was abundant, fresh and delicious. The breakfast buffet was great, but several times we ordered from the menu and it was also super. Dinner was served (except for the night of the BBQ when it was buffet) and wine could be ordered and saved for subsequent nights. The dinner in Candles (their outside veranda restaurant) was just lovely and also well served. Our favorite meal of the day was probably lunch on the veranda, after a busy day at port. Burgers and french fries, but always fresh salads, fish, and some delectible Indian dishes (the executive chef is from India). Tours were well organized and interesting. Since it was a small ship, we were never put in large groups of 60 invading small villages. We liked that. The one island that was pretty crowded and we toured on a large bus was Santorini, but that was worth seeing and so we just accepted it. The itinerary was full of lesser visited stops, with no other ships in port. Highlight was dinner in the Library of Ephesus! A magical evening with great food and wine, music from a small string group and twinkling stars amidst the glorious setting of ancient Ephesus. Truly a night to remember! Fitness Center was adequate, but mostly we just tried to walk everywhere to get our "fitness". Spa services were very nice and the products they used were good. My only disappointment was a manicure that was pricey and not on a par with what I get back home. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
My wife and I just returned from the Windstar "Gems of the Aegean" voyage on the Star Pride and had a really excellent time. We stayed in Cabin 118 that is a S1 class cabin on the 4th deck (one floor above the main dining room). ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from the Windstar "Gems of the Aegean" voyage on the Star Pride and had a really excellent time. We stayed in Cabin 118 that is a S1 class cabin on the 4th deck (one floor above the main dining room). We had read the reviews on this board and were concerned based on the mixed nature and a recent very negative review. I am happy to report the Star Pride looks great, our room was wonderful and even the pool looks better. The S1 cabin's are just fine and have enough room that you do not feel cramped. The bathrooms are a good size and the walk in closet is perfect since my wife packed this trip to ensure she had a different outfit each day for pictures. We were told, but did not verify, that the balcony suites are actually smaller then the S1 suites so that they could make room for the balcony. This kind of makes sense and if true very happy we didn't spend the additional money as we spent little time in the room. At every shore stop we noticed that Windstar was performing cosmetic maintenance. On one day they painted the entire side of the ship which is no small accomplishment. The ship is definitely older but I will say, like in Master and Commander, she is bluff and has lovely lines and is still in the prime of her service. The crew are wonderful. They could not do enough to be helpful. Always polite and really worked at finding ways to help. Eddie and Michael, the Deck 8 Bartenders, ensured I had an unending stream of Vodka Sodas that I will now spend the next month working off. We used a 3rd party firm for shore excursions instead of Windstar and found the price / value to be better. Nothing wrong with the Windstar excursions, but they move at the pace of the slowest common denominator. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
We've traveled on Windstar Sailing ships for 22 years. We've also been on the Pride when it was a Seabourn ship. It is not in top condition under Windstar's operation. Our cabin had rust stains in the window area, around ... Read More
We've traveled on Windstar Sailing ships for 22 years. We've also been on the Pride when it was a Seabourn ship. It is not in top condition under Windstar's operation. Our cabin had rust stains in the window area, around the bathtub and the carpet looked worn. The tub was not draining when we checked in on day one. After reporting that and the stuck shower control those items were fixed. Cabin upkeep was less than perfect and I felt they were short on staff at times. Usually, ships put small wrapped candies on the bed in the evening? Now they put unwrapped candies on a plate? That's a bit tacky. We like small ships and pick cruises by itinerary. The itinerary was as good as could be expected with the situation in the Crimea. But the ship was just not that great. Food was okay. Availability was limited. Although there is always room service, the restaurants are not serving at some times/days. And the ready made sandwiches you can get if you missed lunch are not worth eating. That leaves you with room service. As on most cruise lines the excursions are ridiculously expensive and not as good as tours you can book off the ship. And lastly, the 800 # can't answer questions about ports, tendering, docking or clarify excursion and shuttle information. I tried. They didn't have any answers. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2014
Our trip started with independent flights from JFk-Istanbul via Rome on Alitalia. Unfortunately, our flight from JFK was late and we were going to miss our connection. Alitalia placed us on a Turkish Air non-stop to Istanbul but it left 8 ... Read More
Our trip started with independent flights from JFk-Istanbul via Rome on Alitalia. Unfortunately, our flight from JFK was late and we were going to miss our connection. Alitalia placed us on a Turkish Air non-stop to Istanbul but it left 8 hours after our originally scheduled departure. The flight was pleasant enough in Business class. We spent one night at the Inter-Continental which was quite nice with a view of the Bosphorus. Access to the tram and metro were excellent and the surrounding streets offered adequate restaurants and shops. Breakfast at the inter-Continental was a lavish affair offering cooked to order eggs and omelets as well as other standard items. We took a taxi to the pier at 2PM. There was some confusion as it seems the usual pier used for check-in was under renovation. There was a Windstar employee waiting there, however, who directed our cab driver to the proper location just a few minutes away. It would have been nice if we had received notification beforehand, however, it really had no bearing on our embarkation. The luggage drop off was a bit confusing. After a security check-point, we brought our luggage to a building about 75 yards from the ship and then walked back to a second pier opposite the ship. There doesn’t seem to have been a reason for us to travel from one building to the next and then return. After the usual security check point, we embarked the Star Pride and were directed to check in one deck above, in the lounge. Check in took just minutes and afterwards, Larry, the Verandah/Candles Maître-De was stationed at a table taking reservations for the cruise as well as placing people on a wait list for additional seatings. Apparently, we were entitled to at least one Candles seating during the cruise. Larry, however, made it clear, that it was worth getting on the waiting list for other nights. He was not wrong. On our 9 night cruise, we ended up eating there 3 times and were never disappointed. We found the meals equal, if not superior, to most US steakhouses, and the service, as in other areas of the ship, was excellent. Larry learned our names by the first day and always ensured we were always tended to every time we ate at the Verandah. One afternoon, we arrived from Santorini after closing time but he kept the restaurant open until we leisurely completed our lunch. A much appreciated touch. After checking in, we made our way to suite 207, located on deck #5. The numbering system is curious since it doesn’t correspond to deck number but on this yacht, it really doesn’t matter. It certainly does not take long to learn your way around. Our suite was a “balcony suite”. It was extremely spacious and well laid out and despite what some previous reviews have indicated, looked entirely fresh. The wood built-ins, which have not been replaced, did appear to be freshly sanded and cleaned. Perhaps the only area of the suite which looked tired was the tub/shower. The marble in many areas was stained and old looking. This never, however, impacted out trip in any way. The suite contained an LCD TV which played various satellite new channels and some In-house TV stations. Certainly the ship could benefit from more channels. It would have been nice to have ESPN. We did borrow nightly from the extensive DVD library. A word about the “balcony”. It was certainly nice to be able to open the “door” and check the weather in the morning. I would say that at the premium Windstar charges, it is probably not worth it for most. Where the Star Pride excelled was in overall service by the wonderful crew, and the quality of the food. We were fortunate to have a wonderful cabin steward named Wayan. He quickly learned our routines and always had out suite ready for us. In addition, he tended to our daily laundry. For one price, the ship performed unlimited laundry/suite. This allows traveling very light and after the first day, laundry given to Wayan by 9AM was back in time for dinner. Truly worth the price. Although all seating was “open”, all dining stewards quickly learned our names and routines and as a veteran of over 50 cruises, I cannot recall having service of a higher caliber than on the Star Pride. Even the beverage stewards were always producing our Diet Cokes, before we even asked for them. Breakfast in AmphoreA or the Verandah was buffet style with egg stations always available. Lunch in the Verandah was never crowded, despite it being too cold most afternoons to be seated outside. As previously stated, we ate dinner in Candles three times with our beef fillet being cooked to perfection. Out dinners in AmphoreA were also excellent, with great service despite having different dining stewards each time. This was a port intensive itinerary. Due to rough seas, one port was substituted after a schedule change. This was handled well with new excursions being made available. Considering the situation, I believe the result was as good as possible. We did tender in two ports. This was performed efficiently and we never waited more than a few minutes for a tender. Disembarkation in Athens was as easy as could be expected for a ship of this size. Basically, we left after breakfast, grabbed a taxi, and went to the airport. In conclusion, I would not hesitate to cruise on this ship again. I agree with many that the pool area needs work. As the weather on our trip was colder than hoped, we never did get the opportunity to even try to use it. It was constantly being painted and in fact, did not look inviting. We did, however, use the hot tubs without difficulty. The remainder of the Star Pride experience, from food /hotel services, to shore excursions was deluxe all the way. We truly felt we were on a yacht which was clearly the effect Windstar was looking to provide. Those looking for entertainment, however, would be best served on a larger ship.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
I need to preface this with the fact it was our first cruise, we are no strangers to sailing, sea travel and world trAvel but we had not been on a cruise before. Therefore i did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions from small ... Read More
I need to preface this with the fact it was our first cruise, we are no strangers to sailing, sea travel and world trAvel but we had not been on a cruise before. Therefore i did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions from small luxury cruise lines. Overall this was a good way to see many places without unpacking a bag continuously. The disappointment level was quite high. We were on a 6 week trip celebrating my 50th birthday. There was no other passenger on board close to my age. Despite being told the demographic was younger, it was an older crowd. The ship grew on us, first impressions were that it was tired, a little dreary and down at heel. By the end we came to appreciate the uniqueness of the sails,but it certainly is not pristine. The greatest disappointment was the food, we were traveling from the Istanbul to Athens . We chose this route with great European dining experiences in mind . We were horrified to find all the food had been flown in from the USA. So much for local tastes, plates and traditional dining experiences, thats not to mention the horrors of the carbon footprint all this importing creates. The breakfast buffet was ordinary at best. The menu choices far from extraordinary, the on deck dining and BarBQ were by far the only meals worth waiting for. The snack choices were bland and boring. The chef is Indian and he was persuaded to cook us 2 superb indian dishes. Very accommodating and unexpected but not quite what we were thinking from this part of the world. The wine list however was very comprehensive with global choices at good price points. The waiters were most generous with their servings, this balanced food disappointments. The staff were all super friendly and attentive, the majority from the Philippines and Indonesia. They worked extremely hArd, never forgot a name, always had a smile and were always there with your favourite beverage . The pre dinner cocktails and shore talk were not our cup of tea, slow, contrived. Equally the DJ was not the greatest. We were hoping to dance the nights away, party till late and lap up the sailing time. It was an experience a lot more sedate than we expected. A quick word too about the booking procedure, i waited on hold for a LONG time to make the initial booking, was very surprised at the lack of any kind of follow up for payments, information and can honestly say the initial contact with Windstar could not have been more ordinary, verging on bad. The post stay in Athens too was super disappointing, 2 nights at the ST george Lycabettus. This hotel is located in a wonderful neighbourhood with great views of the pantheon from many rooms and the breakfast terrace.The hotel looked like it needed a major overhaul, the rooms were super tired,revolting carpet, out dated bathrooms. The breakfast terrace bathrooms were quite disgusting. The photos of this hotel are VERY deceiving. The staff however were very pleasant and helpful. I do not believe anybody from Windstar could have visited this hotel for a ling time, it certainly didn't seem to fit their marketing criteria. We will try another cruise on a small luxury ship but i will ask a lot more questions before booking next time. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
We were on the Windstar week of June 7 to 14,2014 Istanbul to Athens. It’s a great itinerary, Istanbul, Kusadasi ( for Ephesus & surrounding area), Rhodes (Old City is terrific), Bodrum ( we toured Castle & went to Bitez beach ... Read More
We were on the Windstar week of June 7 to 14,2014 Istanbul to Athens. It’s a great itinerary, Istanbul, Kusadasi ( for Ephesus & surrounding area), Rhodes (Old City is terrific), Bodrum ( we toured Castle & went to Bitez beach via dolmus-bus), Santorini (Oia), Mykonos then finishing up in Athens. Every port stop was just wonderful. The ship experience is different (better) than large mainstream cruise lines (we’ve done Celebrity, RCL, Norwegian & Holland). It’s a very intimate environment with only 140 other guests. We got to know at least half the people by name over the course of the week. What Windstar obviously can’t replicate are the hundreds of possibilities & options that a 5000 passenger mega ship can offer. However what they do do they do very well. The food was very good. The service was impeccable. The cabin was very adequate & functional. It’s promoted as a Yacht & you did feel at many times that you were sailing on a private yacht. We had extended stays (until 10 or 11PM in a number of ports) which allowed more time for touring on land. My only critique, there are no elevators on board. This was fine for us but if you have mobility issues you should be mindful of this. I also feel that Windstar could have been more explicit about this during the booking process. Highly recommend Windstar, we had a wonderful week & it’s a great choice for the eastern Med (Greece & Turkey)   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014
We flew from London to Istanbul the day before the cruise, very excited to be going on our fist small ship or in this case yacht. Arrival in Istanbul was an event in itself as it coincided with a major thunderstorm. As we later discovered ... Read More
We flew from London to Istanbul the day before the cruise, very excited to be going on our fist small ship or in this case yacht. Arrival in Istanbul was an event in itself as it coincided with a major thunderstorm. As we later discovered we were luckier than some who were diverted to an alternative airport. The weather made for a long taxi ride to the Karakoy Port hotel which we had chosen because of it's proximity to the port. We were delighted by the accommodation and service provided at this hotel and would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a local boutique hotel within walking distance of the cruise terminal. We had a great dinner at Gile, a highly recommended restaurant about a 15 minute taxi ride from the port. Think modern Turkish cuisine with Michelin star worthy presentation and quality with wonderful service and you pretty much have it. The morning of the cruise we hopped on the local tram, a short walk from the hotel to the Tophane stop and took in the sights of Istanbul, a truly memorable city which I'm delighted to say we have an overnight visit to on our next cruise on Celebrity Reflection. After checking out, a 10 minute stroll took us to the cruise terminal, which to be honest has seen better days, but I believe the whole area is work in progress and major refurbishment planned. We checked in our luggage very easily and had to wait approx 20 mins for boarding to commence. We got our first view of the ship from the terminal and it brought home the size of the yacht as compared to one of the Costa behemoth moored behind it. Boarding commenced around 10 minutes late and luckily we were standing in the correct part of the departure lounge and through passport control within another 10 mins or so..... I believe the people behind us must have had a longer wait as it appeared that although there were 2 officers present, only one was processing passengers. And so to the yacht. Walking up the gangway, being greeted with a glass of fizz, we then had to check in and be given our suite keys. This process took place in the lounge and seemed reasonably well organised with 3 of the crew taking passports and the all important credit card details. Soon we were good to go and headed towards our suite. En route we met the Food and Beverage Officer who was promoting the sale of the drinks package on board. We had investigated this on the Windstar website prior to sailing and just needed to check out the wines by the glass which were included before signing up. We were led to believe the package included: wine up to $11.50 a glass, in suite minibar, and premium cocktails with the specific exception of super premium brands eg Louis XIII and XO, perfectly clear and reasonable to me. However after the first night I was told I couldn't have VSOP at the bar although I could have it from my in suite minibar and there were in fact many drinks which were excluded and indeed the house champagne included was prosecco! I made every effort to understand why I could have a cocktail on the drinks menu at $11.50 but couldn't have a Remy Martin VSOP priced at $10.50. No one onboard could explain or fix this and it left me feeling less than satisfied. Don't get me wrong, with a couple of glasses of wine at lunch and dinner and pre and post dinner cocktails, I can't say the package wasn't value for money. However at $125 per suite per day I think the discrepancy with what you can and can't have smacks as a penny pinching and less than transparent practice from Windstar (especially when you consider that all non alcoholic beverages are already included in the fare) Anyway I digress, we did make it to our suite, 301 on deck six forward. I have to say it was one of the nicest cabins we have sailed in. Very roomy and with a great picture window and tasteful furnishings. It was spotless and kept so throughout the week by our cabin attendant. The bathroom reminded me of a smaller version of what you would find in a smart old London hotel, all white marble and mirrors with a nice supply of L'Occitane toiletries . For a week in the Black Sea, it was perfect, however for a hotter climate I would most definitely have missed a balcony to relax on. In my view the only upgrade needed to make the suites perfect would be new mattresses, these remain from Seabourn and though comfy are now a bit saggy in the middle. So onto exploring the yacht and this is where it really becomes a tale of two yachts! The refurbishment is not as extensive as the Windstar marketing led us to believe. There are beautiful areas like the Yacht Club and Compass Rose, and even though the main dining room Amphora hasn't had a full makeover yet, it is a pleasant room. The show lounge is I believe pretty much as it was, not an issue for us as we didn't frequent it. You also need to become re-accustomed to seeing so much brass in one place around the central atrium, but it was the lack of improvement to the deck areas, the verandah restaurant and the pool that completely took the shine off the refurbished yacht pitch for us. The deck is very worn, to be expected I suppose given the age of the yacht, but sun beds look tired, overused and in need of retirement. There were some nice spots for sunbathing, particularly the forward deck with jacuzzi which had about 12 sun beds laid out. The only downside of sitting there was that bar service was rare. Regarding the pool, I think it was the worst I have ever seen. Refilled with seawater daily, it still looked murky, grimy and I only saw one person in it all week. There was one jacuzzi which wasn't heated so that was the only option for a cooling dip. There is another pool onboard of course, part of the much advertised sports platform which extends from the aft of the yacht. Needless to say we didn't see this deployed all cruise, so don't board expecting it and you might just be lucky. It's unfortunate that such a signature activity of this line isn't more carefully scheduled into itineraries so at least it can be experienced once in a cruise. Awnings around the deck were decidely filthy, not I imagine from the want of cleaning, just way past their sail by date for a luxury cruise line. It added to the 'past it's best' feel around the deck space. There was considerable work underway by crew sanding down and re varnishing during the cruise, so I guess it's still work in progress. When I asked about the extent of refurbishment it became obvious that a cosmetic facelift was undertaken by Windstar on acquiring Star Pride from Seabourn, I was told the full refit isn't planned till 2016 ( I must have missed that in the brochure). The most problematic area in our experience was the Verandah Restaurant for breakfast and lunch (which also transforms to Candles by night). It was never easy to fund a table. And tables inside were crowded around the buffet layout with passengers and staff milling around. This detracted from the experience and to be honest I have had easier times navigating this type of casual restaurant on solstice class ships. In fairness the space came into is own in the evening when there are limited reservations and waiter service. Ok now I have got all of the 'so far' from the mark off my chest, what about the 'so near'? Without exception the staff were exceptional. This is where the small ship experience really came to the fore. Believe it or not, when we cruise with Celebrity we always find crew who remember us or go that extra mile to get to know and welcome us. On Star Pride this was true of 100% of the crew, so a big thumbs up there and thanks to each and every one of them for all their hard work. The food was generally excellent with the two senior chefs very visible around the yacht, clearly hands on and at the same time interacting with guests. The deck BBQ and party is great with a winning combo of delicious food and one of a kind entertainment by the crew. Both food and service in Amphora was excellent and dining outside on our last evening at Candles was great too. We settled on Compass Rose as our 'go to' pre and post dinner venue. This was where we met and mingled with some of the great people we met on the cruise. This was also the venue where 'One Night Stand' a talented pianist and singer duet from the UK entertained most nights. All I can say is that Collette & Craig (that is their names) helped make our cruise and that of our onboard friends, so enjoyable! The spa, while small has a great team, and 3 massages later, I left the ship much more relaxed than when I boarded, if you do go, I can recommend the bamboo massage, seaweed wrap and ginger and lime scrub. I should have warned you this wouldn't be much of a port review, review! In short, the sailaway from Istanbul and transit through the Bospherus was awesome, second only in my experience to sailing in and out of Venice. The two Turkish ports on the itinerary were nothing to write home about and the same went for Constantia in Rumania. Odessa in the Ukraine and Nessebar in Bulgarian were definitely worth a visit. So there you have it. I'm glad we tried it, but doubt we will return to Star Pride based in those areas of the ship that need a lot more work done for us to say it ticks all the boxes. Windstar, make your yacht shine like your crew and you might just tempt us. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014
OK so we started out booking Crimea, Odessa, Romania & Bulgaria...Crimea got substituted with two ports in Turkey, for obvious reasons. Amasra was fine, but Samsun was a waste as it's just an industrial city/port. The weather ... Read More
OK so we started out booking Crimea, Odessa, Romania & Bulgaria...Crimea got substituted with two ports in Turkey, for obvious reasons. Amasra was fine, but Samsun was a waste as it's just an industrial city/port. The weather wasn't great the whole week, but Windstar cant control that!. The really nice stop was Odessa. On the maiden voyage we read about joining the chef on his shopping trip in one of the stops/markets. i enquired about that and was pencilled in for Constanta (about Day 5) but is was cancelled...that would have been really good. Generally we enjoyed the Yacht, especially the cabins (size and comfort). Food, service, staff attitude were all great...a few negatives: Embarcation was a shambles...both at the Port side and even worse, check in board took over an hour...for no good reason...they could simply take your passports and completed signature forms...and ask you to visit anytime over the remainder of the day for the photo ID (you aint going anywhere!) real shame there NO stops where we anchored to enjoy the swimming off the back? why not? (even the captain did not know) - at Amasra we had a 45 minute coach transfer to get to the town! There was an element of loud, piped music that started off...on the public deck areas, but thankfully it seemed to peter out! the band/staff activity on the BBQ Deck night was great. Love the sail-off Vangelis 1492 The Conquest of Paradise music, each day when one sails off The drinks package just about made sense price-wise, but i would almost prefer they just include it and grats (as does Regent) into the base price Once again the staff stand out...both the Indonesian & Phillipine (workers) crew and the officers! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2014
What's Old is New and What's New is Old Windstar Cruise: Star Pride June 20-27, 2014 Istanbul to Istanbul After seven cruises on Windstar's Sailing Vessels, I was curious as to how the unique Windstar culture would be ... Read More
What's Old is New and What's New is Old Windstar Cruise: Star Pride June 20-27, 2014 Istanbul to Istanbul After seven cruises on Windstar's Sailing Vessels, I was curious as to how the unique Windstar culture would be incorporated into the re-born Seaborne Pride. I am happy to say that everything we've liked about Windstar is alive and well on the Pride. That isn't to say there aren't a few drawbacks. But overall, the addition of this new ship, and two others to come in 2015, is a success. One of the things that separates Windstar from all the large, more mass-market ships is the speed of check in. No matter where you travel from, you are tired and worn out by the time you get to the ship. With Windstar, check in took all of ten minutes. Give them your passport, pose for a picture, pick up you room key and your done! In the lobby, or reception area, your cabin steward awaits to escort you to your room. After a quick overview of the room layout and first name introductions, he takes his leave. Less than 10 minutes later, our luggage was delivered. The one time we went on a large ship cruise, it took 2 hours for the luggage to arrive. A quick walk around the Star Pride showed what is new and what is old. The Yacht Club, a large seating area with almost round the clock coffee, tea, latte, etc., smells new. New wood floor, new comfortable chairs and sofas, a few books and magazine abound. AmphorA, the main restaurant also seems refurbished. Everything was clean and new, with good-sized tables (where a party of four can actually feel comfortable), and great service. More on that later. The fitness center is small, but does offer exercise bikes, weight machines and free weights and treadmills. But a warning here: If you are 6 feet tall or more, you will hit your head on the ceiling while on the treadmill. Towels and orange-flavored ice water are available. Right outside the fitness center is the WindSpa. Typical services at typical cruise prices are offered. There are a number of places to sit and read, or get a drink or just be alone. The Compass Rose, Star Bar and Yacht Club offer both inside and outside seating. Drinks are reasonable priced (by my Manhattan standards anyway) and there is a daily "drink of the day". The lounge on the sailing ships has always been a great place to listen to music or drink or just hang out. On the Star Pride, the 4 piece band plays in the small theater, which is set up in rows, very different from the Lounge on the Star, Spirit and Surf. Another highlight of Windstar cruises is the incredible service. We walked into the dining room the first night and were great by name by the assistant restaurant manager, Yogi. We last saw him almost 18 months ago, yet he remembered us. And that's not unusual. After one day our cabin steward new our names, as did the Excursion Coordinator, the wait staff and various other employees around the ship. It's a wonderfully welcoming feeling when you come up for breakfast and almost every server greets you by name. And they remember personal preferences. One of the four of us didn’t drink and after the first meal, the waiters all remembered it and never offered alcohol. The cabins (all suites) are a mixed bag. Ours was called a balcony suite but had only a French balcony - no place to sit. Our friends opted for an Owner's Suite. And while spacious, the view from their windows and balcony was obstructed by beams and equipment. Imagine paying extra money for a huge Owner's Suite and going to sit on your balcony with the hull of a lifeboat in front of you. Two other Owner's Suites midships had unobstructed views - but they all cost the same. Beds are comfortable and closet space is fine. Each bathroom had two sinks and a full bath tub and hand-held shower. But some of the fixtures are worn and were clearly not part of Windstar's refurbishing. The company promises the two other ships they bought from Seaborne will be fully renovated. And the Pride will undergo further upgrades next year. Unlike the bias opposed to bigger ships, there are only a handful of options for dinner. The main restaurant is AmphorA and the menu changes daily. However, grilled salmon, chicken and spaghetti are always available as are side dishes of steamed vegetables and potatoes. The other options are reservation only Candles, an outdoor restaurant that is transformed at night. Eating outside as the sun sets is a magical experience. And with seating for only about 25, it is quiet and slow-paced. And of course, there is room service. The AmphorA menu is available during dinner service and an abbreviated menu is available other times of the day. Entertainment of Windstar has always been low-keyed. That tradition, which Windstar veterans actually prefer, continues on the Pride. A four-piece band plays soft music nightly, starting in the theater and moving to other venues around the ship. Upstairs, is a male/female duo offering pleasant, conversation permitting music as well. There is a small (very small) casino, and that's about it. Windstar guests pride (no pun intended) themselves on amusing themselves. Reading, playing games, napping, listening to music, is about all most of the guests require. Sea days are all about finding a quiet spot to get some sun or read or sleep. Windstar passengers fit into a to a very specific niche. Those who love it are loyal and will vocally voice their allegiance to Windstar, while denouncing the tumult of mega ships. Those who want all the bells and whistles of the larger ships, will likely not be happy on the small Windstar yacht experience. And for Windstar to continue to grow and thrive, positive word of mouth is critical. And based on our experience on this cruise, I am happy to continue to recommend Windstar to anyone who wants a true relaxing, friendly and personal cruise vacation   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2013
This was out 13th cruise with Windstar and it did not dissappoint. It was glorious. Windstsr set us up in a wonderful hotel in Istanbul for 2 days with a terrific representative who was very helpful throughout our stay. Boarding the ship ... Read More
This was out 13th cruise with Windstar and it did not dissappoint. It was glorious. Windstsr set us up in a wonderful hotel in Istanbul for 2 days with a terrific representative who was very helpful throughout our stay. Boarding the ship was the norrmal, easy process made more pleasant by being greeted by friendly faces and a glass of champagne. After the five minute boarding process we meandered to the Vernanda for a delicious lunch watching the busy and exciting harbor of Istanbul. The food on this cruise was one of the best I experienced. It was evident that Windstar purveyed the food locally and had selections of delicious local dishes. The sail away out of Istanbul Harbor was extraordinary with the very busy and picturesque harbor as the background to the sails being hoisted as the music of 1492 was being played. This cruise was loaded with amazing visuals of the Dardenals and the gorgeous islands of both Turkey and Greece. Somtimes the visuals from the ship were actually prettier and more dramatic than the islands themselves. Evening dining below the cliffs of Santorini is a sight never to be forgotten. Following the routes of the ancient Greeks and Turks was fascinating, the beautiful harbor of Bodrum, the glories of the past in Ephesus, swimming in the clear, warm shimmering Aegean Sea off the swimming platform, dining on local dishes, wonderful service that Windstar is noted for all made for a perfect cruise. We were 12 friends on this cruise 7 past cruisers and 5 new cruisers, we all agreed it was a fantastic cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2013
I will be a Windstar cruiser for life after our 2nd voyage with them. After a wonderful week on board the Windstar going from Istanbul to Athens with 5 stops in between it got even better. I had left my University of Florida Football ... Read More
I will be a Windstar cruiser for life after our 2nd voyage with them. After a wonderful week on board the Windstar going from Istanbul to Athens with 5 stops in between it got even better. I had left my University of Florida Football National Championship ring in our stateroom when it fell out of my backpack. Our wonderful steward, Cecep, found it and had it forwarded to our Athens hotel before I even knew I had lost it. I will be forever grateful to Cecep for his honesty and integrity. The week started well when several crew members remembered my wife and me from a cruise we took last year. By the 2nd day of the cruise every food and beverage service member would know all 140 of us by name. It's amazing how they do that on Windstar cruises. The food and service was excellent and the crew could not have been nicer. The Captain and I were discussing the Costa tragedy and without my asking he had a good magazine article sent to our room for me to enjoy. The refurbished ship was beautiful and the afternoon treats on deck never failed to cool us off. As did the ice wash cloths waiting for us when we returned from our tours every day. If you are looking for comfort and personal service, on a ship that makes you feel like you are really on a boat, Windstar is the cruise line for you. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2013
Very rarely in our lives are we lucky or privileged enough to be able to use the word PERFECT for an experience or encounter with people. Our voyage last week on the Wind Star is one of those rare opportunities. To say that our ... Read More
Very rarely in our lives are we lucky or privileged enough to be able to use the word PERFECT for an experience or encounter with people. Our voyage last week on the Wind Star is one of those rare opportunities. To say that our expectations for our wedding were met is a gross understatement. Captain Leech, Jason, the Hotel Manager, Kristy, Guest Services Manager, and the entire crew and hotel staff could not have possibly done more or showed more genuine concern and real caring for my family. From the moment we stepped aboard and introduced ourselves to Captain Leech and Jason we knew that we had made the right choice for this most significant of life events. Captain Leech with his warm disposition and genuineness was matched only by the commitment of Jason to deliver the best experience possible for us. This was delivered beyond anything we could imagine by Kristy Lamarche who, from the moment we were introduced to her, told us not to worry about a thing because she was handling every detail for us. To say that Kristy delivered on this promise does not do justice to how incredibly well planned our wedding was. Kristy used every ounce of her previous experience as a wedding planner to make this special event something that could never be surpassed. Her attention to detail, from the flowers for the women to a fantastic wedding cake and special table overlooking the aft deck of the yacht was beyond words. The spa staff, Alice and Beth, treated my wife and our two daughters like princesses and could not have done more for them, from hors douerves and champagne to just genuine caring and happiness in making all 3 of them look more beautiful than they have ever looked in their lives. Captain Leech is one of those rare leaders who shows his abilities and competency, not by overt actions, but in everything thing he does. His humor and warmth are only matched by his total commitment to making every passenger feel at home and 100% satisfied in every way. The day after the ceremony, his only concern was that he had done well and lived up to our expectations. For a Master of a vessel such as Wind Star to be so humble and caring is beyond words.After many cruises on the larger ships, where everything is driven by regimented routine and geared to increasing revenue, it was an absolute pleasure to experience the Windstar philosophy of meeting and exceeding each passengers expectations in ways that we could not even anticipate. One example is how Kristy arranged for crew members to help photograph and video the wedding. On a larger ship, this would have been delivered with a major charge for services, yet on the Wind Star this was just one more way to make our experience better. My family is now committed to the yacht experience and will never cruise the big ships again. We have already left a deposit for our next cruise and look forward to the inauguration of service for the Star Pride next year. We are already considering a one year anniversary cruise back to Santorini, where our wedding took place.I can never express the gratitude my wife and 3 children have to Captain Leech. Jason and Kristy for everything that they did in executing our wedding. I also cannot fail to make sure that Travis, Karma. Bobby and all of the rest of the hotel management staff are also mentioned as each and every one of them went out of their way for us and literally could not do more for this special day. I also want to thank Jillian Wikstrom, in the Seattle office, for all of her efforts in the pre-planning stages of our trip. My wife and 3 children cannot thank Windstar Cruises enough for giving us a wedding and experience that will never be surpassed and remembered with real fondness and warmth for Captain Leech and the entire Wind Star crew.If you are considering a special event or just want to be treated like family on your own private yacht then the only choice you have is to pick either the Wind Star, Wind Spirit or Wind Surf. I know that these are the only choices my family and I will make. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2013
This was our third cruise with Windstar and all three have been on the Wind Spirit (not planned, just worked out that way). It has been very interesting to watch the progress under the new ownership. Ports visited: Istanbul, Kusadasi, ... Read More
This was our third cruise with Windstar and all three have been on the Wind Spirit (not planned, just worked out that way). It has been very interesting to watch the progress under the new ownership. Ports visited: Istanbul, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Bodrum, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens. We did a combination of tours though Windstar, private tours and car rental. Embarkation at the Istanbul port was easy. In Windstar's usual efficient style, check-in was quick. Luggage was already in our room when we arrived. Lunch buffet was great! Our day at sea was filled with a variety of activities including, Bosprit pictures, cooking class, engine room tour, etc. So, you could do nothing, have an activity filled day or something in between - the choice was yours. As we sailed through the straits, they gave commentary on what we were seeing - nice. Kusadasi (dock) is a great port. We chose a private tour to see the sights. Downtown was convenient and had many little shops and restaurants. Rhodes (dock) was another great port (well, actually they all were). Downtown area very convenient if you just want to walk around - lots of historic sights as well as many little shops, restaurants and cafes. We chose a private tour with another couple and travelled to Lindos and visited many other sights around the island. With an 11:00 PM departure, we still had plenty of time to explore the town. Bodrum (dock because of weather, usually a tender port) - unfortunately (not Windstar's fault) we had a very windy day here. They were unable to put down the water sports platform and our Castle and Gulet Tour through Windstar was not all that it could have been (weather related, no control over that!). To Windstar's credit, they did give us a partial refund on the tour. Santorini (tender) was beautiful, although the weather was a little hazy. We rented a car and toured the island with another couple. Mykonos (tender) was another car rental day. Did a little island touring then spent some time in the town. Sports platform was open although we didn't get back in time to play. Overall feelings about the Wind Spirit: The public areas have all been updated and look great. We were pleased with the overall feel of these areas. Crew - What can I say? They are all wonderful starting with the Captain all the way down the chain of command. No request seems too big or too little for them. They are remarkable. Cabin - It has been updated with new carpeting, bed linens, drapes. Otherwise, it is still the same efficient and well-designed cabin it always was. The one thing we noticed was that the new carpeting already was showing a little wear. Not sure how it will hold up in the long run. Restaurants and Food - This is where we noticed a definite improvement. On our last cruise, we felt the food was really good, this time we felt it was excellent. The buffet at both breakfast and lunch has been improved and you can also order off the daily menu. The afternoon snacks are so much better than they were. Candles was great. And, in AmphorA, Tom kept complaining everything sounded so good that he had a hard time making up his mind! Everything we ordered was excllent - we didn't have a single disappointing meal. Amuse bouche before the meal is a very nice touch. We felt the redesign in AmphorA really worked and seemed more comfortable. Disembarkation - again, very easy and efficient. Although for us it was very sad. As mentioned above, this was our third cruise on Wind Spirit. She will be off to Tahiti next year and Tom and I do not feel that is a trip we can make anytime soon because of the distance away from home - we both have elderly parents. So as we disembarked, it felt like we were saying goodbye to an old friend with no idea of when we might see each other again. Very sad!!!! Overall, the time and care that has gone into improving Wind Spirit over the last year under the new ownership is very evident. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
We were first time cruisers since we never really had a desire to spend 7-15 days with 3,000 people!! Windstar was wonderful!! Small ship, small number of people, no young children running around, no rock climbing walls!! Loved the ... Read More
We were first time cruisers since we never really had a desire to spend 7-15 days with 3,000 people!! Windstar was wonderful!! Small ship, small number of people, no young children running around, no rock climbing walls!! Loved the serenity of sailing close to the water. Loved the freedom of not having to wear fancy attire. Loved the crew and the open bridge! Loved the cabin and the laundry service!! Just loved the whole experience! Loved it so much that we are going back this summer on back to back sailings from Rome to Lisbon. We are a quiet couple who enjoys sightseeing and relaxing and Windstar was just perfect for us. We didn't want to battle crowds for dining or disembarking the yacht. We love good food, but don't need 10 restaurants from which to choose. We aren't big drinkers or gamblers so we didn't really care about all that. We just wanted to experience the different sights, sounds, and tastes of the different ports of call. We highly recommend Windstar!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
Day 1: Istanbul Pre-Cruise We arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday evening, October 12, 2011. We had pre-arranged transportation to our hotel - Yusaf Pasa Konagi in the old city - Sultanahmet. The hotel has a great location and we walked ... Read More
Day 1: Istanbul Pre-Cruise We arrived in Istanbul on Wednesday evening, October 12, 2011. We had pre-arranged transportation to our hotel - Yusaf Pasa Konagi in the old city - Sultanahmet. The hotel has a great location and we walked around last night primarily to find an ATM and get the lay of the land. Although we had read that the place to stay in Istanbul was in the Old City, I am not sure I would do it again. Between the calls to prayer five times a day, the heavy traffic and sirens and the rooster outside our hotel room, I think I would prefer the outskirts and commute into town for the sites (unless you love living in New York City or just have a day or two in Istanbul). The next morning after breakfast in the hotel we went via taxi to the Egyptian Spice Market. All I can say is WOW. This a a must see. You can also get to the spice market via tram if you want to save a little money. The architecture in the city is quite beautiful and there is so much to see. One of the highlights of the city is the narrow roads and very heavy traffic...and since we live in Southern California we know what heavy traffic is. It is amazing to see how these drivers maneuver through these tiny roads and yet you rarely see a car with a scratch on it much less any accidents. We need some of these drivers in LA. Prices seem to be very reasonable except for the price of gasoline which is EXORBITANT..but it doesn't seem to keep people from driving. Most of the people are friendly, though be very watchful of the few who are out to take your money ...like the taxi driver who reached into my wallet to get his fare (plus a little more). Day 2: Istanbul Pre-Cruise Friday was our full day tour of the Old City - the Sultanahmet. Our tour company - Sea Song Tours - provided us with a fabulous guide who answered all of our questions and much more. Is it possible to see the sites without a tour - yes? But we wanted the inside story and the historical background. We got that and a lot more. We began our tour at the Hippodrome where the largest chariot race grounds in the Byzantine period once stood. Little remains of the actual Hippodrome except a large open area where we found lots of vendors selling umbrellas on this drizzly day. It was just a short walk to the Blue Mosque one of Istanbul's most famous sites (which gets its name from the blue tiles covering the walls). From there we walked to the Topkapi Palace. The most interesting part of the palace is the Treasury - where you can view some of the most lavish jewelry and jeweled pieces you can possibly imagine. In case you are wondering -the mystery movie with the same name was about a robbery of the jeweled sword from this palace. Just before lunch we visited the Basilica Cistern - this is where the underground water supply for the Great Palace was built. The Cistern was one of my favorite places and to think it was all done in the 6th century. Today it is not used for fresh water for the city and fishes and coins fill the waters. But the architecture and structure are simply amazing. Perhaps even more amazing is the architectural marvel: St. Sophia. Also built in the 6th century it possesses a vast open area with no supporting columns. Although originally built as a church it was converted to a mosque in 1453 and now stands as a museum for everyone to visit. Our final stop was the Grand Bazaar. The number of shops is overwhelming. However, I do have to say that we enjoyed the Egyptian Spice Market even more. We, of course, spent money on the usual tourist stuff as gifts for people back home as well as a couple of presents for us. DO NOT FORGET TO BARGAIN. The opening price has nothing to do with the value or what you should pay. If you don't like to bargain or are not at least willing to, you should buy your gifts at regular fixed price stores -otherwise you will overpay...and big time. Speaking of overpaying - that night we went to a restaurant nearby our hotel. It was recommended to us by a shopkeeper where we bought something earlier. While my expectation was that the shopkeeper might be getting a "small commission" for bring us to the restaurant, we had no idea how careful (and forceful) you need to be in Turkey. Consider this as a WARNING!!! The restaurateur who spoke beautiful English and wanted so much to please us had an agenda. Although we told him what we wanted he kept bringing extra dishes - specialties of the house. Now please understand most of them were delicious, but we were not looking for a gourmet 5-course meal - not when we were going onboard the cruise on Saturday. I figured the meal would be slightly more than we wanted to pay, but didn't know how much would be "comped". The answer was NOTHING. Compared to US standard, the meal was still not expensive (about $70 for 2), but more than double the prices of the meals we wanted. Guessing that I didn't want to make a scene, which I had every right to do, we paid the bill (without a tip) and felt cheated instead of pleased with the meal. Tomorrow afternoon we board the cruise. We will have all morning to rest, repack and visit anything else we want to see. Day 3: The Cruise Begins After a dreary, but restful morning, we began our journey on the Wind Surf Sailing ship. We immediately noticed a friendliness among the staff and passengers that put us at ease. Our cabin (excuse me, suite) was magnificent with two entire bathrooms, separate his and her closets and enough drawer space for a month long cruise or more. We put our things down and toured the ship. Check-in was done onboard and relatively simple. The usual forms, photograph, and credit card processing took just a few minutes. They do keep your passport on this ship. The ship is easy to navigate, but in several ways is very different from most other cruise ships. The restaurants on most ships are on the bottom decks in the aft section of the ship. Here the restaurants are on the 4th and 6th decks in the forward section of the ship. Dinner seating is open to both of the two primary restaurants. The main dining room changes menus daily while Degrees has the same menu throughout. The public rooms are more than adequate, but certainly don't compare to the glitz of most of the newer big ships. The food at dinner was outstanding, both in presentation and in taste. We were also very pleased with the variety of choice. We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the entertainment in the lounge following dinner. Their band, Top Society, played a great selection of music to dance to while up in the 6th floor lounge there was more entertainment by a group named Rain, which we plan to see later in the cruise. We also found time to visit the casino. While relatively small we were happy to see a collection of penny slot machines including two poker machines (not just those machines where you have no idea what wins and what loses. Can anyone else relate?) Having arrived three days earlier, we are experiencing no jet lag. Tomorrow is a sea day and we are looking forward to relaxing and the chef's cooking class. Day 4 -â€" Day at Sea We awoke to find the ship passing through the Dardanelles which separates the European and Asian Continents. By the way, Istanbul is the only city in the world that is situated on two continents -â€" Europe and Asia. Sailing was unbelievably smooth throughout the night and thus far in the morning. Now that we saw that we were sailing in a protected area we had a better idea of why things had been so smooth. They did become a little rockier when we hit the open seas, but the stabilizers of the Wind Surf are quite effective as the rocking was not near as much as we had anticipated or experienced on much larger ships. Breakfast on board is definitely fitting a ship of this high rating. After breakfast, we attended the cooking class with the executive Chef. The class is normally limited to 10, but they did let a couple passengers add-on to make a total of 12. Our recipe for the class was crab cakes. Each of us had our own station. We donned white coats and chef's hats and were taught by the head chef not only how to cook the dish, but how to prepare it, and how to present it. Each of us were offered the opportunity to cook our creation in a heavy (no, very heavy) skillet. We learned that real chefs don't use a spatula to turn the food, but use their wrists and toss it in the air. Easy for him to say, but we had a difficult time with the weight of the pan. Finally, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor. A table was set just for us and the chef and our meal was complimented by glasses of champagne. The rest of the day was filled with activities, including a golf putting tournament, a trivia contest, a wine tasting demonstration, several seminars, the captain's cocktail party, and a port talk for the following day. As usual the captain introduced his key staff. But what was not as common was the humorous and entertaining manner in which he introduced them and the true connection he made with us, his passengers. We can definitely see why his crew truly enjoys working on the Wind Surf -â€" no Mr. Roberts on this ship. We chose the specialty restaurant -â€" Degree - for our dinner on this night. We now can agree with the comments we have read on Cruise Critic. While we enjoyed food and service, it does not equal the meal we had the prior night in the main dining room. That is where we plan to have the rest of our dinners on this voyage. After dinner we once again went to the main lounge. We first listened to the guest singer -â€" Steve Charles -â€" who was quite excellent and did an entire medley of Tom Jones songs. Afterwards, their lounge band, Top Society, returned and we spent the evening listening, dancing and just enjoying until it was close to midnight. Then off to bed we went as we had an early morning tour the next day. Day 5 - Kusadasi & Ephesus We awakened to the sound of a tugboat guiding us into port. We needed no tender as we docked right in the city. Disembarkation was beyond easy. Our cabin is directly one deck above the ramp and there was no line to contend with. Our tour guide was waiting for us with a sign. Based on recommendations from a friend and from comments in Cruise Critic, we had prearranged a private tour through Ephesus Shuttle. We were not disappointed. The van was extremely comfortable and the guide and driver were responsive to our needs. What does that mean - that we could control the time at each spot and not be herded like cattle on a regimented large tour. We could weave in and out of close quarters and access just about anywhere we wanted to go. Our tour consisted of the city Ephesus and all its historical sights, the Terrace houses, lunch in Sirince Village and ended with a view of the Artemission Temple. The lunch, which was included in the tour, was much more than just a quick bite. It included a sampling of Turkish specialties all prepared by a local family. Right outside the restaurant was an authentic village filled with open air shops that provided us with another opportunity to purchase gifts for friends at very reasonable prices. There was no pressure to buy, but we actually asked our driver if we could spend a little extra time at the village as we really enjoyed their handiwork. We also got a chance to look for one of the great bargains in all of Turkey -â€" a Genuine Fake Watch. Our guide offered to extend the tour with some additional shopping, but we chose to go back to the ship as we wanted to find an Internet café while in port since the wi-fi on the ship was predictably slow. Day 6 -â€" Rhodes Greece On this day we were no longer in Turkey, We arrived on the island of Rhodes, in Greece, and docked with no tendering necessary. We were able to stroll into town with our new friends from the ship. We tried to do this on our own and went in the wrong direction, but quickly found an entrance into the walled city. There is a lovely shopping area with much less aggressive shopkeepers than we found in Turkey. In fact, I found a belt that I wanted to buy and couldn't find anyone in the store to sell it to us. After a few minutes someone did show up and we bought the belt at a price lower than we found after intense bargaining in Turkey. There was a monument in the town for the 1604 members of the Jewish community who were rounded up by the occupying Italians and shipped to Auschwitz. We then asked for directions to the historical Rhodes synagogue. Instead of just telling us, one of the shopkeepers actually led us to the synagogue. We were awed by the well preserved synagogue and the museum that was attached. For anyone interested in the history of the Jewish community in Rhodes, this is a must see. From there we hired a taxi for an island tour. It was well worth the $130 Euros which we split between two couples. Our tour began at the former site of the Colossus of Rhodes, now marked by two deer, the symbol of Rhodes, guarding the harbor. He then took us to Lindos, which was also where he lived. On the way we stopped at several beautiful vistas, where we took some incredible photographs. We also stopped at a ceramics factory where they showed us how they made the pottery and of course there were lots of locally made Grecian urns to buy. Our last stop was the Acropolis. The two guys climbed to the top as the women shopped. The views from the top were quite spectacular and we were able to get some great photographs. The shops were charming and well-priced and the same low pressure ambiance we found in the city below. When we returned to the ship, we had little time to rest as there were Greek dancers entertaining us before dinner. Day 7 -â€" Bodrum This was our favorite port. There was a certain energy to the town that made it peaceful and appealing. It seemed more like a city then just a shopping stop. We could easily return here and spend more time. First of all, the ship was able to dock; no tender needed. Just after disembarking we came across a café with free wi-fi access. After checking our e-mails, we proceeded to "The Castle". There was lots to see and lots to photograph. There is also an outdoor theater and mausoleum to visit, which we didn't get to because we were sidetracked by a gorgeous restaurant right on the harbor called the Balkan Restaurant. They had these incredible prawns beautifully displayed outside the restaurant that just called to us. We are happy to say they tasted as good they looked. After spending a lovely morning and lunch in Bodrum, we returned to the ship to partake of the Jacuzzi and for a little nap. In the early afternoon, the ship had Turkish dancers from onshore as their entertainment. One of the passengers whom we had befriended was called up on stage to dance with the entertainers and became well known throughout the ship. Day 8 -â€" Mykonos We tendered into Mykonos. The streets were narrow and winding, with shops lining both sides. I was able to find some placemats at a local store, something I try to buy on nearly every trip. We also saw a processional which we guessed might be for a funeral. We then decided to take a little adventure by boarding a local bus to Paradise Beach, a place well-advertised in travel magazines and on board. What a disappointment! Just overblown hype! Dark, rocky sand, and a small beach area that was not very appealing to someone from Southern California. We would certainly have preferred spending more time in the shops, but we can say we were able to navigate the buses of Mykonos. We returned back to the ship for lunch and a fabulous bar-b-que dinner. This was our favorite meal on the ship -â€" lobster, spare ribs, a whole suckling pig, all beautifully displayed on the upper decks. The weather was also perfect for eating outside which was not possible for many of the nights earlier on our cruise. Afterwards we returned to Mykonos for what was billed as the special nightlife. I guess it was just too late in the season as nothing was going on in town. The big attraction was the sunset and that our ship was lit up with the sails flying. Day 9 -â€" Santorini As we approached Santorini early on Friday morning, we saw mountains with a white top. At first it looked like snow, but we thought how could it be? The weather, while not as warm as they have in the summer, was certainly not cold enough to sustain snowfall. As we sailed closer we thought it might be white rocks. But when we actually got close enough to see, it became apparent that at the top of these mountains, were dozens of white buildings, both commercial and residential. Many of the passengers took one of the ship's tours or decided to navigate the terrain on their own. That meant either riding up on a donkey (no way, no how) or waiting in a long line for the tram. We decided to sleep in and take the tram in the afternoon when the lines were much shorter. So after lunch we took the tender over to Santorini and took the tram up to the top. There we found beautiful views for photos and lots of little stores for shopping. The passengers who took the tours to Iao raved about the views and the tour. So this might be one city you might not want to skip, but for us we needed the rest. The next two days would be early ones for us. Day 10 -â€" Athens We docked for the final time in Athens. We had made arrangements for a private tour company to pick us up at the airport, give us a half-day tour, and deliver us to our hotel in Athens. As we disembarked our driver, Spiros, was there waiting for us. Spiros has a great love for his country and gave us much more than we had contracted for. In fact, at the end of the day we actually asked him to take us to our hotel as we were tired and needed to rest. During the tour we visited the Acropolis, the new Acropolis Museum, Hadrian's gate, the Jewish synagogue, the parliament building, and he had more that he wanted to show us. But the best part of the tour was the very special local lunch he arranged for us. Interestingly just as we were pulling up to the restaurant, another couple from the ship was leaving the restaurant. I guess the word is out about this wonderful local restaurant. We then checked in at our hotel for the night -â€" the Athens Hilton. All I can say is wow! Using my Hilton Honors points, I had arranged for a free night, but we were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to the concierge floor. This is one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed at. The lobby was huge, the views incredible and the upstairs lounge one of the hottest places in all of Athens. After Athens, we flew home by way of New York, so my special friend could visit some old friends and show me her roots, the places she where she grew up, played and went to school. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
I had difficulty finding a current Wind Star review when I was searching in late August so I decided to add one. We took advantage of an amazing bargain on the Sept. 5 cruise from Istanbul to Athens. A charter was cancelled and the ... Read More
I had difficulty finding a current Wind Star review when I was searching in late August so I decided to add one. We took advantage of an amazing bargain on the Sept. 5 cruise from Istanbul to Athens. A charter was cancelled and the whole ship had to be rebooked in 4 weeks. Needless to say it was impossible to pass up so after getting air to Istanbul we booked it. After embarking on large cruise ships, arriving at the Windstar dock was a surprise. There were no crowds, just a fellow who took our luggage and added luggage tags. We walked through a building and up the gangway! All registration was dealt with in the ship's lounge where refreshments were being served as we completed our paperwork. Very civilized! Our cabin was small but comfortable with two porthole windows that did not open -much to my disappointment. My need for a softer bed top was dealt with creatively by our steward as there was no "eggcrate foam" on board. The ship was lovely with a great deal of wood and the masts and sails above. There was not as much flashy decor as on the larger ships and minimal entertainment but the smaller size and fewer number of passengers (under 190) allowed more time to get to know your cruisemates. It was wonderfully quiet -no announcements and no people selling drinks. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style with the option to order items from the menu. The buffet was varied and fresh (smoked salmon was served every morning) with made to order omelettes available, so we didn't need to take advantage of the menu. The service was outstanding. The staff got to know our names and our preferences no matter where we sat. They would even show me where my sweetie was sitting if he got there before me. Dinner was in the dining room and we were able to choose the size of table we wished, each evening. After a day or so we joined some new friends. The food was very good. The German head chef prides himself on utilizing the freshest, healthiest ingredients possible. The sweets served after dessert each evening were an additional and delicious treat. We managed to eat them though we were already full! Again the service was wonderful. I was surprised, however, that the meals were not significantly better than those we have had on Carnival or RCCL. We were expecting gourmet, extraordinary food. We took two of the ship's excursions -the tour to Ephesus and the Bodrum Peninsula tour. Both were very, very well done and worth the money. The guides were excellent and we learned a great deal about the locations we toured. A comment about Santorini: after reading many posts we decided to do it on our own. Once we got to Oia we enjoyed exploring but getting there was a pain. We had a long wait for the cable car and once on the top in Fira tried to take a bus to Oia. The buses were crowded and confusing with no schedules posted, no organized lines and no accurate information on the buses themselves as to where each was going next. Taxis quickly left and were not easily available when we decided to try that option. In retrospect, I would either take the ship's tour to Oia or grab a cab as soon as you can get one and go. Oia was breathtaking, however, and worth the trouble to get there. Getting back to Fira was not as difficult, although there was a longish wait for a bus. We ended up in a cab with a driver who smoked the whole way. The lineup to get down the cable car was longer than the one to get up -at least an hour and a half! This was in September with only three ships in port. I can only imagine what it would be like at the height of the season. Keep a close eye on the time your ship leaves and factor in waiting time on Santorini!!! When we got back to Athens we used Paul at Greek taxi www.athenstaxi.org His taxi is an air-conditioned, E-class Mercedes and seats 4 passengers plus the driver comfortably. All his tours are private with a very flexible itinerary and prices are per trip, not per person. He was wonderful, met us when he said he would and took us on a private tour of Athens' sights. As we only had a half day and had our luggage with us, this was a perfect way for us to see Athens in air conditioned comfort.(150 Euros) He told us much about the history of the places we visited. Paul took us back to Piraeus and picked up our prearranged tickets on the high speed ferry for us. We spent the next couple of days on the island of Poros -a lovely quiet respite from the activity of big city Athens. Paul also arranged for a driver to meet us two days later at the ferry dock and take us to the airport for 55 E -only 5 E more than a regular taxi and we had the security of knowing the ride would be there when we arrived. I recommend Paul at Greek taxi highly! We had a wonderful time on the Wind Star. I was disappointed that the sails were not raised more often and never while in port, so I was not able to get a picture of the Wind Star with all sails flying. This was, however, a small detail. The overall experience was a memorable one. Please feel free to contact me at blomo@sympatico.ca if you have any questions. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2008
This was our first cruise on Windstar. We have sailed with Regent/Radisson six times and Oceania once. We usually make our own pre- and post-cruise arrangements. This time, we used our American miles to fly first class from Los Angeles. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Windstar. We have sailed with Regent/Radisson six times and Oceania once. We usually make our own pre- and post-cruise arrangements. This time, we used our American miles to fly first class from Los Angeles. We had a brief layover in Chicago before continuing on to London, where we spent a few days. We planned this trip with a couple from Iowa that we met last year on our Oceania cruise. We met up with them at Heathrow and continued on to Istanbul together. I am happy to report that everyone's connections went smoothly, our luggage made it safely, and we thought that Terminal 5 was definitely worthy of all the hype. The British Airways lounge there was by far the nicest airport lounge we have ever visited! Please be aware that if your flight lands in Istanbul, you need to purchase your Turkish visa BEFORE going through the long Passport Control line. The visa window is to the left of Passport Control, and you probably wouldn't see it unless you knew where to look. Our visas were $20 USD. ISTANBUL: We spent four nights before our cruise at Hotel Nena, in the Sultanahmet district. We loved this little boutique hotel. The room rate was reasonable, and included transfers from the airport and to the ship, an excellent breakfast, and a 50% off coupon for the hotel's rooftop restaurant. Free internet was available in the hotel lobby. Our "triple" room was huge and clean, and the service overall was great. On our first night, we had dinner at the rooftop restaurant and enjoyed a spectacular view of the full moon over the Blue Mosque. We had a private guide, Kagan Kosagan, for two days, and would also highly recommend him. On our first day with Kagan, we visited the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace (don't miss the Harem section), Haghia Sophia, and the Basilica Cistern. At the end of the day, all four of us were hot and tired, and decided to pass on the Archaeology Museum. My husband and I ended up going to a Turkish bath instead. The one we visited was "Cagaloglu Haman." It was a short walk from the hotel and is mentioned in the book, "1000 Places to See Before You Die." It was definitely a unique experience! Then we had dinner at a nearby restaurant, "Kir Evi," which was recommended by the Nena. The food was pretty good and there was live entertainment. We also had a margarita at the fake El Torito around the corner from the hotel. The next day, we visited the Grand Bazaar, Chora Church, the Taksim neighborhood, and Galata Tower. Suleyman Mosque was originally on our schedule but turned out to be closed for restoration. After our tour with Kagan, we headed back to the Grand Bazaar, where we had great fun chatting with the vendors and looking at the "Genuine Fake" watches. We had dinner that night at a restaurant, "Kalamar," also recommended by the Nena. It was in the Kumkapi fish market district, and they sent a van to pick us up and bring us back. The fried mussels were especially good. Kagan was unavailable the next day, so we had planned a tour through the Nena instead, which turned out to be a mess. Had we known the tour involved a Gray Line bus, we would never have booked it. Our first stop was the Spice Bazaar, which was a fifteen minute walk from the hotel. It took us two buses and almost two hours to get there. And then, since we were running so late, we were only allowed to spend a few minutes there. The next thing was a cruise up the European side of the Bosphorus, and back down the Asian side, which was nice, but was more crowded than we were led to believe it would be. We left the tour at this point, and went to the nearby Dolmabache Palace on our own, instead of waiting for the bus. Then we rode the public tram back to the Spice Bazaar and had plenty of time to explore it at our leisure. The prices seemed better here than at the Grand Bazaar, but it wasn't quite as much fun. That evening, our friends stayed in, and had another nice dinner at the Nena's restaurant. My husband and I had dinner at a "famous" kebab restaurant, "Hamdi." (His lamb and veal kebabs were excellent; my chicken ones were just OK.) Then we went to the Whirling Dervish show at the Sirkeci train station, which used to be the destination of the Orient Express. The hotel was able to arrange the tickets for us at the last minute. We enjoyed the show very much. The next morning, before checking out of the hotel, our friends visited the Archaeology Museum, and said it was great. We went back to the Grand Bazaar. We were completely fascinated by the place! I think all of us thought that four nights in Istanbul was just about the right amount of time. We had ample time to see and do everything we wanted, and a few extra things as well, without feeling rushed. We loved Istanbul and especially the people, but by embarkation day, we were looking forward to getting on the ship. THE SHIP: Upon boarding the Wind Spirit, my first impression was that this was going to be a LOT different from any of our previous cruises. The Captain greeted us and introduced us to some of the other officers. We were escorted to the lounge, where we were offered a mimosa, and were asked to fill out a couple of forms. We then went to our cabins, and our luggage was already there. We had cabins on the first floor, which were less expensive than those on the second floor. The cabins are identical, with the exception of one larger Owner's Suite that we didn't see. I didn't see any advantage to being on the second floor, unless stairs might be an issue. There were no elevators on the ship. Our cabin was organized efficiently and we had more than enough room for our belongings. There were two closets and ample drawer space. I am a bit claustrophobic, and wondered how I would do with just a porthole window, but it was fine. The bathroom was nicely appointed with L'Occitane toiletries and we especially liked the shower. There was never a problem with water pressure or temperature. The service we received from our cabin steward, Agus, was exceptional. Our room was usually made up by the time we returned from breakfast, our ice bucket was full at all times, and the conditioner in the bathroom was replaced before I had to ask for a new bottle. The cabin service was much better than what we had experienced on our Oceania cruise and our last Regent cruise. Actually, overall the service EVERYWHERE on the ship was probably the best we have ever had on any cruise. And the crew members just seemed happier to me than on our other cruises. Not that those crews seemed unhappy, but to me it seemed like there was a difference with this group. Every time we passed the crew area in the stairwell, I could hear laughing and joking from behind the door. And every time that door opened, the person who opened it had a smile on his face. We peeked in the gym but didn't use it, rationalizing that we would get our exercise wandering the ports. It looked fine though. I didn't visit the spa either, but the services seemed reasonably priced. My friend reported that her pedicure was great. There were two computers in the library, and there were three internet packages available for purchase. We bought the middle one, which was 100 minutes for $55, which also seemed reasonably priced. Usually, at least one of the computers was available. There was not much in the way of entertainment, which was not an issue with us. We figure we'll go to Vegas if we want to see a Vegas-type show. There was a piano player in the lounge, and a couple of times there were local folkloric dancers that came on board and performed on deck. A big difference on this cruise was that we felt like we were actually on a boat, instead of a fancy floating hotel. Maybe that wouldn't appeal to some people, but we liked it a lot. There were 130 passengers on this cruise, and it always felt like there was plenty of room for us everywhere on the ship. We never had to wait for a table in the dining room, which was open seating, and there were always chairs available on deck. I looked for chair-hogging, having had issues with that on other cruises, and didn't see any. We did notice one possible downside to being on such a small ship. There were two large groups on board, and I could see how that might negatively affect your cruising experience if you weren't part of the group. We experienced two minor incidents relating to this. One morning, we had been waiting about fifteen minutes for a tender. When it finally arrived, we were ordered to "step aside" for the large Tauck tour group that was on board. They boarded the tender, and there was no room for us and the other people who had been waiting in line. Fortunately, Windstar resolved this quickly. They called back another tender and we ended up having to wait only ten more minutes instead of half an hour. The other incident involved a group of about twenty who were on some sort of reward trip. We met many of the people in this group, and they were really nice, but when they were all seated at the same huge table in the middle of the dining room, they were loud and obnoxious. One night it was so bad that we were unable to carry on a conversation at our own table. The wait staff appeared to be just as annoyed as the other passengers. DINING: I really wanted to give this cruise a 5 +, but unfortunately, the food fell a little short of our expectations. After we boarded, there was a welcome buffet consisting of little tea sandwiches and hot dogs. The hot dogs were OK. The sandwiches were inedible, as in, I had to actually spit mine out. Fortunately, it got a lot better after that. Breakfasts and lunches were very good to excellent. There was always a nice buffet, and there were several additional items that you could order from the menu. Plus you could get eggs or omelets cooked to order at breakfast, and hamburgers (that were REALLY good) at lunch. But the dinners, for us anyway, were just OK. The wines were good and reasonably priced, and again, the service was great. But the food at dinner just seemed bland to us, although we realize that we like our food spicier than most people do. The desserts were just OK as well. Nothing was bad, really. It just wasn't great. There was ONE dinner, however, that was exceptional, and that was the deck "BBQ Dinner Under the Stars" toward the end of the cruise. The grilled lobster tails were the best I have ever had in my life. We went back for seconds, and they went ahead and gave us thirds. PORTS: Our first day was at sea, and then we were scheduled to stop in Kusadasi, Rhodes, Didim, Santorini, and Mykonos before the cruise ended in Piraeus (Athens). Every evening in the lounge, the ship's hostess would give a brief talk about the next day's port. She provided useful information for independent travelers as well as for those going on the ship's tours. We appreciated that since we rarely book excursions through the cruise line. KUSADASI: We had a private tour booked with "Ekol Travel." We enjoyed our day but unfortunately were disappointed with our guide. She was scheduled for knee surgery and had mobility issues. This was mostly a problem for us because we had specifically requested to see the Terrace Houses, and our guide informed us that she would not be able to accompany us there because of the stairs. She also didn't seem to be that motivated and excited about the rest of the tour. She told us she had been a tour guide for thirty-something years, so maybe she was burned out. We stopped by the Temple of Artemis, the Basilica of St. John, and the House of the Virgin Mary before making our way to Ephesus, and the Terrace Houses, where we tried to eavesdrop on other guides. After the tour, our guide wanted us to stop by a carpet store, her friend's restaurant, and her own shop, but we declined. We wished we had known that we could have booked Kagan for this tour before we paid Ekol their money eleven months in advance. We returned to Ephesus that night for the only ship's excursion that we booked, "Dining Among the Ruins," which I believe is only offered on the Istanbul to Athens sailings. We were served a delicious dinner in front of the Celsus Library, and enjoyed listening to a chamber ensemble. The wine was free-flowing, and as the sun set, they lit up the Library. It was absolutely gorgeous and we had an incredible evening. Don't miss this excursion if it is available on your cruise! RHODES: We had decided just to explore the old town on our own. Some passengers visited the ruins at Lindos, and others explored the nearby beach, which they reported was just OK. They have a "Valley of the Butterflies" nearby that we would have visited, except that it was too early in the year to see any butterflies. Rhodes is one of your typical pretty, walled medieval villages with touristy shops and cafes. The shops were different and more upscale than the ones we had gotten used to in Istanbul and Kusadasi, and it was a nice change. We browsed for a while, and walked up the Street of the Knights to the Palace of the Grand Masters, which we didn't go into because some other passengers told us that most of it was closed, and not worth the price of admission. We stopped at a cafe for an overpriced beer in a strange boot glass, and then we headed back to the ship. DIDIM: This was a new port for Windstar. Our itinerary originally called for a stop in Bodrum, but that was changed to Didim for some financial reason. We received some information from our travel agent which led us to believe there might be some private beach day here, but that turned out not to be the case. We had a nice day though. We just walked along the beach through the town, and stopped for lunch at a cafe at the far end. We made friends with the guy who talked us into eating there, and he told us a bit about Didim. It seemed to be a relatively low-cost beach vacation spot for British tourists, and it reminded us a little of how Mexico is to us. Most of the restaurant menus advertised dishes like Yorkshire Pudding and English Breakfast, and the prices were listed in both Turkish lira and pounds. There were umbrellas and chairs available for rent along the beach, and also at least one place where you could rent waverunners and kayaks. If you were looking for a beach day on this cruise, this would be the best place to do it. We talked to other passengers who found taxis at the pier to take them around, and to more ruins, and they enjoyed their day too. We tendered back to the ship and went to the sports platform at the back, where we jumped into the surprisingly cold and choppy water. There were a couple of people kayaking, and a few others in the water, but the conditions weren't nearly good enough for water-skiing, which I was kind of hoping we would get to do. They were actually starting to close down the platform when we got there, but they were happy to accommodate us and we didn't feel like they were rushing us to leave. SANTORINI: The main town on the island, Fira, is perched on a cliff high above where the ships anchor. We rode the tender to shore, and then were faced with three choices to get up to Fira. The first choice was to take the cable car, which is what our friends did. The second choice was to ride a donkey up the steep path. (The ship's hostess had suggested that if we wanted to ride one at all, it might be better to do it on the way back down in order to avoid smelling like the donkey all day.) The third choice was to walk up the donkey path, which is what we decided to do. The main problem with this was trying to avoid the donkey droppings. We found that the farther along we went, though, the less we cared about it. Our friends were waiting at the top, and we rewarded ourselves with a Mythos beer and some tomato fritters at a nice little taverna. Then we took a cab to the village of Oia, which is the town you see in all the postcards. It looks exactly like the pictures and has to be one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. We had a wonderful Greek salad at a restaurant called "Kastro" that had an incredible view. It just seemed like the colors there were so much more vivid than they are at home! The sky, the water, the flowers, even the tomatoes in our salads were all brighter and more beautiful. We poked around the shops for a while and took the public bus back to Fira. There was a schedule posted that didn't seem to have anything to do with when the bus was actually supposed to get there. Back at Fira, we explored the town some more, then eventually made our way back down the donkey path to the tender and back to the ship. MYKONOS: Unfortunately, we didn't get to stop here, due to high winds and safety concerns about tendering in. We had a pretty scary tender experience once, so we understood. The Captain announced that we would be heading straight to Piraeus and would arrive there at 6:00 in the evening instead of the next morning as originally planned. We had a few hours of rough water and I felt seasick for the only time on the trip. ATHENS: This was possibly the easiest disembarkation in the history of cruising. We didn't have to put our luggage out in the hallway the night before. Instead, we were told to leave our bags just inside the door, and our cabin steward would pick them up at 7:00 AM. And as independent travelers, we could just get off the ship whenever we wanted, instead of waiting for our luggage tag color to be called. We had a last leisurely breakfast before leaving the ship. We had arranged for Spiros to pick us up, take us on a tour, and drop us off at our hotel. There was nothing in any of our correspondence with him that indicated that our guide would be anyone other than Spiros himself. Well, it turned out that we had Mike instead. Mike was a nice enough guy, and an excellent driver, and even though he got the job done, it wasn't a great tour. Our first stop was the Acropolis, which was incredible, and if I ever go back to Athens, I am going to figure out how to get an actual TOUR of it, instead of having some guy in a taxi drop me off and point me in the right direction. Our other stops included the Temple of Zeus, the Olympic stadium, TWO Changings of the Guard (I really didn't even need to see the first one), Lycabettus Hill, the Roman Agora, and the Ancient Agora. At most of these places, we really didn't even know what we were seeing, and had to look everything up later. We did had a nice lunch in a supposedly non-touristy restaurant. Mike dropped us off at our hotel, Hotel Plaka, at the end of our day. We were relieved that all of our bags were still with us. There wasn't nearly enough room in the trunk for our luggage, so Mike had just crammed everything in there, left it wide open and tied a couple of bungee cords around our belongings. We drove around like that all day long. You could spot our cab from a mile away. We decided on Hotel Plaka mostly based on information from TripAdvisor and Frommer's. The Plaka location was great, the rooms were large and clean, and we had a nice view of the Acropolis from our window. The service wasn't that good though, and if I were to return to Athens (which would only be in conjunction with another cruise), I'd probably spend a little more money on a nicer hotel. Our friends were staying two nights, and we were staying for three. Driver Mike had recommended a "secret, no-name" restaurant in the Plaka district for dinner. It turned out to have a name, "Psara's", and not only was it featured prominently in the hotel's tourist map, it was packed. Leaving the hotel, we ran into another couple from the ship who had eaten there and said it wasn't that good. We thought we would try it anyway, but after waiting for a long time, and then finally being seated at a dirty, crowded table on an incline on top of some smokers, we changed our minds. We opted for a nearby restaurant, "Sissifos," which turned out to be dreadful, and then they tried to add fake charges to our bill until we called them on it. The next day, we visited the National Archaeology Museum, which was amazing, and nothing like I expected. We couldn't believe how old, and how BIG, the pieces on exhibit were. If I had one day in Athens, I would go to the Acropolis in the morning and this museum in the afternoon, and maybe not even do anything else. We walked around the Plaka for a while, but by now we were kind of tired of the touristy shopping experience. That night, we had dinner at Daphne's. We had called the day before for a reservation. It was excellent and we wished we would have eaten there the previous night too! Our friends went home the next day. We spent much of it resting, since we were awakened in the middle of the night by some young drunk kids who were partying in the hall and pounding on our door. They discharged the fire extinguisher and set off the alarm, and then they were kicked out of the hotel. We were hoping to sleep in, but the housekeeping staff loudly got to work at about 7:00 AM cleaning up their mess. We had an early flight the day after that, and had the hotel call a cab to take us to the airport. Of course it was a few euros more than the price that was quoted to us. Frankly, we were weary of feeling like we had to constantly be on guard in Athens. We flew back to Terminal 5 at Heathrow, connected to Terminal 3 easily, and retraced our steps from there, stopping in Chicago on our way back to LAX. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation, and we loved the cruise. We enjoyed all the ports, but Istanbul was my favorite, and I would recommend spending at least three nights there. On the other end, two nights in Athens would have been plenty. As far as the ship, we loved it, especially the service and the low-key, civilized atmosphere on board. We are looking forward to our next Windstar cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We flew into Frankfurt from San Francisco and then to Istanbul. We stayed at the Four Seasons for one night and loved the hotel. The girls hired a professional shopper gal for about 5 hrs. in the morning and took us on a wonderful walking ... Read More
We flew into Frankfurt from San Francisco and then to Istanbul. We stayed at the Four Seasons for one night and loved the hotel. The girls hired a professional shopper gal for about 5 hrs. in the morning and took us on a wonderful walking tour through the bazaar and other areas. It had been 8 years since we have been on the Wind Star so we kinda new what to expect. We did a 14 day double cruise this time rather than the 7 days as before. Upon arrival everything went well and the check in went rather smoothly even though we got there the same time a "tuck" group got there at the same time. Our cabin was what we expected as have been there before but still it is so small when compared to other lines we have been on like Crystal and Oceania. As we set sail we were surprised at how run down the ship was. They were getting ready to completely remodel the ship and it was very obvious that they were not going to spend any money and keeping the appearance in first class manor. All the woodwork needed re-finishing and rust was very apparent throughout the ship. Our first port was Kusadasi, then in order Rhodes, Bodrum, Santonrini, Mykonos, and then Athens. We loved all these ports. WE did Kusadasi, Rodes, Bodrum, and Santorini on our own. We rented a car in Santorini and toured the whole island. My advise would be to get off the ship as early as possible as it is a nightmare to get on the tram with all the other cruise ship passengers. Took well over an hour standing in line. Our first tour from the ship was in Mykonos to the island of Delos. We had a great guide and loved the trip. Very windy so bring a wind breaker. About 80% of ship passengers got off at the port in Athens. We rented a taxi to take us into Athens and would recommend that rather than the train as it is so much faster and worth the extra money. We had been in Athens 3 times before so we shopped and had a great lunch. Would recommend having lunch in all the ports of call as you can go to small local restaurants and pubs and experience the local food and wines. Our next week our stopping ports were Nalplion, Gythion, Messina, Amalfi,Ponza, and the ending in Rome. We have been to these ports before and loved them. Recommend going to the Diros Caves in Gythion. It is NOT on the cruise line agenda, don't even mention them, and they are truly unbelievable. Took a local taxi to the caves and recommend using them not the bus. The bus stays for ever and the taxi again is well worth the extra money. Had a great local fish lunch after the caves. You can Google the Diros Caves. Out of Messina we took the tour to Taormina and loved the little city. The tour was only 4 hours and we could have spent the day as it is a great little city and did not have time to see it after the touring the Ruins. We loved Amalfi and would go back and use the city as a base. The ship advertised boats going to Capri at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 so we thought we would walk the little town in the morning and take a later boat. When we got to the dock we found out that they cancelled the later boats 2 weeks ago as the season had ended. The ship should have known this. So no Capri. The last port, Ponza, was not worth the stop. Nothing and I mean nothing there. It would have been much better to stop in Capri. Have no idea why they stop there and all the other passengers agreed. Over all the ports were great and the couple of sea days were wonderful. Now for the cruising experience. Wind Star advertises as a 4 and 5 star cruise line. They are anything but that. The ship is run down, the rooms are small, and the food barely pass's as average. The breakfast buffet is good and the lunch's are very good but who has time to eat lunch when in port. We love to eat lunch at the local ports. The dinner's were truly bad. I could go into more detail but it would take way to much time. They were just bad. The wine list barely pass's as being a "fair" rating. We ended up buying some very good local wines and took advantage of the $15 corkage charge. What made this trip truly enjoyable was the service and help. They are all well trained and truly great. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful the service is. The tipping policy is $22.00 per day per couple and then an additional 18% added on for bar drinks and wine service. We did additional tipping to the help as the employees and service were the best of the best. It will be a long time until we do another Wind Star. Fourteen days in that small room was just a little to much and then looking forward to a poor dinner was not much fun after the first week. Read Less
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