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6 Windstar Dover Cruise Reviews

I must confess at the outset that I have never been a fan of "cruising" and that sentiment has been further confirmed as I have watched ever larger, slab-sided monstrosities blot out the vistas of some of the most beautiful bays ... Read More
I must confess at the outset that I have never been a fan of "cruising" and that sentiment has been further confirmed as I have watched ever larger, slab-sided monstrosities blot out the vistas of some of the most beautiful bays and harbors of the world. This feeling perhaps first began when I was invited to lunch on board the SS France when she visited Sydney, Australia on her final voyage before being cast into the role of a floating university, a venture that proved to be folly. Nonetheless, any vessel that could boast twenty three pastry chefs had to be a winner in my book and a testament to the fact that the French would allow a kitchen of any less proportion or caliber to cross an ocean under the Tri-color flag of France. Those are sadly bygone days and the commercial employment of the current-day behemoths to introduce the masses to the joys of travel are a mere shadow of the all but forgotten days of the great ships. However, over recent years I have become quite enamoured of the 100 to 600 passenger vessels of the SeaDream and Azamara brands that have brought new life to my hope for a better quality experience at sea. My exploration of these offerings has proven most satisfactory and the emphasis on melding a superb, all-inclusive on-board experience with longer stays in port and more overnights to allow the traveler to really enjoy local cuisine and culture without the rush on and off for what is often a dissapointing "tour" of the local town. Additionally, the shallower draft of these smaller vessels permits them to transport one to ports and river destinations denied their larger competitors. The true all-inclusive products these lines offer is a refreshing change from the need to always be reaching into your pocket for everything such as gratuities or a glass of wine. It was with this new appreciation for the call of the sea that I was promted to coax some friends to join me in sampling Windstar's newly acquired motor ship, the Windstar Legend for a "Culinary and Wine Delights" voyage from Dover down the coast of France and Spain to Portugal. "Legend" indeed! It might more appropriately be called "Myth" as it has proved to be about one and a half stars short of its perported five. Notwithstanding the comments to follow, I would not wish to take anything away from the largely Indonesian (non-officer) crew who were absolutely wonderful in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere at every point of contact. The kitchen staff also produced a very satisfactory offering at every meal despite the fact that they and the wait staff were as frustrated as we passengers at the daily changes as to where breakfast or lunch would be served. The daily bulletin was invariably wrong and even junior officers, when found, had difficulty in directing us to the correct location! When an investment is made to re-fit a ship one has to bear in mind that the steel structure of the original designer's vision is unchangeable. Thus it is the exterior facade and the interior furnishings and other items of decore that are the focus of any expenditures. In this instance I found it difficult to see beyond the ovbviously new carpet, just where had the $millions been spent? My bathroom fixtures had been re-caulked, although to say it was a shoddy job would be generous. The missed piece around the basin faucet was evidence of the grunge that the new grout was to cover. Our friends found a three legged chair (one broken) propped up against the wall of their cabin and the table at which I sat in the Yacht Club had the surround veneer peeling way. Poor quality choice of furnishing or poor upkeep, take your pick! The steel edge of our balcony already was showing deeply encrusted rust which would indicate a lack of detail in cleaning and painting the exterior. In all, this lady shows her age and is not up to the standard befitting a five-star hotel at sea. All of this pales in comparisonm to the failure of the fresh water system at the start of our first at-sea day. Guests reported being caught in full lather as hot water turned brown and diminshed to a trickle. Toilets ceased to work and even ingenious efforts to flush with bottles of Perrier were thwarted due to the vacuum system also being turned off! Not what one had hoped for and again, perhaps evidence that the re-fit dollars were not fully deployed in support of the mechanical areas either. Hence we were diverted to the port of Brest to have the tanks flushed and repairs made. Disembarkation was not an option but then, Brest harbor did not appear inviting enough to venture out. The price point of our voyage was far from inexpensive which made the nickel and dime-ing plus constant efforts to up-sell (spa) more annoying. The partially inclusive price was certainly five star, the product not so. One clear point of differentiation from either Sea Dream or Azamara has been the officer corp. Aboard the Azamara Quest the officers were constanlty mingling and talking with guests, always ready to answer a question or engage them in a story about the next port of call. On no less that three occassions the captain or another officer would casually stop by and ask if they could join us for breakfast or lunch. Not so aboard the Legend where senior officers have rarely be seen. In speaking of officers, another detail involves the daily bulletin where in the header we are advised that our captain is one, whereas in the body copy another person is introduced as the captain (whom we later learned was the prior captain!). This gave rise to some discussion as to whether our captain might indeed be new to his rank. At every announcement he would commence with "Ah, good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is er (pause) your captain speaking..." He never sounds quite sure that he might only be the first officer, perhaps the most recent rank he occupied? With the notable difference between the Wind Star experience and that of Azamara where very officer from the captain down were constantly visible and mingling with the guests it was clear that the "servant/leader" model was in play as officers set the example in creating a unique on board sense of "family" from the top down. Not so with the WindStar executive team! With little desire to bash the efforts of this crew to work around the product they have been given, there is little point in mentioning the "World Class" gym that isn't, or the morning mystery of where breakfast is being served on any given day. Suffice it to say that this is an okay cruise, but not the five-star experience promised. It certainly is well below the price point charged. Come on Wind Star, take note of what Azamara And Sea Dream are doing and shape up. You can do better than this! If you are getting ready to book this Cruise, don't..... Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
My wife and I and another couple chose this cruise for the timing, the itinerary, the small ship and the food/wine theme. We had all used Windstar before (Windsurf) and loved it. As other reviewers have testified, this cruise was ... Read More
My wife and I and another couple chose this cruise for the timing, the itinerary, the small ship and the food/wine theme. We had all used Windstar before (Windsurf) and loved it. As other reviewers have testified, this cruise was marred by engineering malfunctions, and was less organized than one would expect on a luxury cruise. The pre-cruise experience was mixed; we booked over a year in advance, and were told we would be able to benefit from any subsequent price reductions. I had to be very alert and very assertive to get these, though. Had I waited until the last minute to book, I would have saved some money (but that is not really practical because of the need to plan ahead for this major a vacation). We enjoyed most of the places we visited (especially St. Malo, Bordeaux, El Ferrol, and Lisbon, where we stayed an extra 3 days). We also enjoyed meeting and spending time with many other passengers. The food was excellent for the most part, and the wine was pretty good. The deck layout is not as functional as on other cruise ships of this size. The cabin was fine (when the plumbing worked). The front line staff members were very nice. Some of the shore excursions were poorly planned with too much time in a bus and not enough time to explore or have a meal. The special evening at the Bordeaux wine estate was disappointing. We enjoyed exploring the cities of St. Malo, Bordeaux, El Ferrol and Lisbon on our own. I, especially, loved the two oyster farm tours (Cancale and La Rochelle). We enjoyed the on board entertainment (small lounge, Fado singer), but this was not a major feature of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I have taken sometime to reflect on my recent cruise on the Star Legend, from 9/1 – 9/11. I took this time to ensure that I was being objective in my thoughts/opinions/perspectives on this 10 day long trip through France/Spain/Portugal. ... Read More
I have taken sometime to reflect on my recent cruise on the Star Legend, from 9/1 – 9/11. I took this time to ensure that I was being objective in my thoughts/opinions/perspectives on this 10 day long trip through France/Spain/Portugal. With that perspective I write you this letter. My wife is a travel agent and had made the decision to test out Windstar with one of her clients we were extremely excited to be traveling on the recently renovated Star Legend with its luxurious staterooms, state of the art gym, and 5 star experience. There are many things to speak about, but it comes down to one thing that you would expect from a "5 Star Experience" and that is; “it’s about attention to detail”. Here are the examples of “attention to detail” that made this cruise a less than exceptional event for her clients: “State of the art Gym”: 1 of the bikes is broken, and has been for over a month from what the staff told me. Im 6’4” I was not able to use the treadmill as my head hits the ceiling in the gym Water System: The fact that it broke is not the issue. The fact that not once after the system was fixed, and we had to make changes to the next day itineraries did the captain speak to the passengers and apologize by either having a free drink for the passengers, or any other kind of concession. Bordeaux Dinner Event: 1 choice for entrée…. Let me say that again, 1 choice for entrée for 250+ people.... Even more interesting is that it was Beef Wellington, and it was barely rare. 4 people at my table asked for it to be cooked more, and it came back burned on top and still raw/rare in the middle. The staff put the meat near a broiler to “warm it up”. Quite possibly the worst meal I have ever had. What is stunning to me is that there was not a choice of meat or fish, let alone the meal that was served. Again, no recognition by the leadership of the ship that this event was ruined. Excursions: I will not beat up on each of these, yet a few examples…. On both the St. Malo and Bordeaux excursion we drove around for a few hours and were pushed for time at the Crepe/Cider tasting and the actual wine tasting. The icing on the cake was Porto! A beautiful city, that we visited the Stock Exchange, and toured the city on the bus. We were given 18 minutes to “shop/look around” on our own. Really? The coordination here with the local tour groups has to be better, or explained in the brochures that you will not have time to tour these beautiful cities. My favorite: Day 4, a day at sea. We have had a tough start to the trip, but it is a gorgeous day. Sun is out, everyone is on the deck, the bar is jumping, and people are enjoying themselves and getting ready to put the past few days behind them. I go into the bathroom on Deck 7 and I come out laughing…. There are no hand towels to dry my hands after you wash them. I look at my wife and say “attention to detail”. Wine Tasting: The wine expert could not wait to get this event over every night, we would barely sit down and he would be saying that we need to get moving as we did not have much time. The best wine of the night on at least 3 occasions ran out. That’s right while eating dinner we were told that there was no more of that kind of wine. Scheduling: Everything was on top of each other. Wine tasting had to go quickly because the next day itinerary meeting was coming up. Trivia had to be done quickly as the room was needed for something else. Leadership: The captain has to take leadership here. While at the Bordeaux event he has to grab a microphone and say thank you to the customer. While walking the ship early in the morning to get coffee he should stop and say hi to me (since we saw each other 3 times), as this is what his role is. I have more examples and issues yet I think you get the point here. This cruise was far from the upscale experience that is advertised. I would think that Windstar has heard from others regarding this trip, along with a poor evaluation report from the survey given to the passengers. FYI We cancelled our cruise in April Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I found it very hard to come up with a number to rate this cruise. There was very good, there was average and there was bad. I also need to mention that we were first time cruisers as were the couple who traveled with us. We were ... Read More
I found it very hard to come up with a number to rate this cruise. There was very good, there was average and there was bad. I also need to mention that we were first time cruisers as were the couple who traveled with us. We were celebrating the wives 60th birthdays, and this is what they chose to do. I also need to say for the past 30 years I have been a special event planner, who has organized meetings all over the world, and I like to be in control. That being said, I knew that I would have no control once aboard the ship, and I was going to have to deal with it. We chose this cruise because it was dedicated to wine and culinary tourism, and Windstar was including complimentary wines from the three countries we were visiting each night with dinner, and before dinner a tasting of those wines with a guest sommelier (more on that later). I tried hard to do my research on the ports, as if I was planning to do an event there. I also did research on cruising which brought me to Cruise Critic, which I perused continually for the year before we sailed. In reading previous reviews, I learned that we were going to be the outliers, as most of the reviews were written by folks who have been on many, many cruises. As for the cruise, embarkation was a breeze. There were tons of smiles, and the sight of the Cliffs of Dover upon leaving was awesome. We arrived at our cabin, and were pleasantly surprised with the size and layout. We had been upgraded to a "balcony" suite (more on that later). The first day at sea was very nice, as we settled in and got to know the ship. We loved the size and the fact that of the 160 passengers, there were no children. I would agree with the term of casual luxury. We loved going to dinner in Aloha shirts, and wearing topsiders. The front line staff, cabin stewards and waiters were awesome. They could not do enough for us, and they always had smiles on their faces. I have always been a morning person, so even on vacation I was up at 530am, into the shower, and then up to the Yacht Club, where I was met by Yahya, had a coffee, juice and pastry. Most days I was the only one in there until 630 or so. Very peaceful and relaxing. On day three after we left St. Malo, I jumped in the shower only to find no water. Same for the sink and toilet.. I headed up to the Yacht Club to learn the water systems were down and they were working on it. The captain finally came on at 9am to say they were diverting to the town of Brest where there was a French Naval Base, and engineers who could fix the problem. We were in Brest until 3pm, and it wasn't until we departed that the Captain came on and apologized for the inconvenience. No offer of any compensation. If it was me at one of my events, the bar would have been thrown open. I know from experience that stuff happens, but the key is how the problem is addressed. As for shore excursions, we booked two of Windstar's offerings, and I booked two private guides on my own. No comparison. At El Ferrol, we went on the Windstar excursion to Santiago de Compostela. Cost $189pp. Most of the time was spent on a coach with 40 other passengers. We then marched around this UNESCO World Heritage Site following a guide listening to her commentary through a headset. Not so good. In Porto I hired Douro Exclusive and the owner Marco picked the 4 of us up, visited wineries in Douro and then had the most amazing lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant on a deck overlooking the river and vineyards. Cost $150pp.. In St. Emilion we took the Windstar excursion to Chateau Soutard. Again 40 pax on a coach. The winery was not ready for us when we got there, and were then dropped off in the old town of St. Emilion with no instructions on when to be back at the coach. I wanted to grab the microphone and take over. Not good at all. In Lisbon I hired "Your Friend in Lisbon" to take us on a port and tapas tour of town. Again an incredible experience. Cost $100pp. In addition to their "offered" excursions, Windstar included a dinner at Chateau Giscours in Bordeaux. This was a fabulous evening, with great coordination, food, classical music, and premium wines, all held in the great room of this fantastic old Chateau. This was included in the cost of the cruise, and it was fantastic. Now the guest sommelier was going to do a tasting each evening at 6pm in the main dining room. Each night there were three wines, one from each of the countries we were visiting(France, Spain and Portugal). I found the speaker a bit overbearing in his method and style. Almost like being talked down to. We went the first four nights, and then I decided I had had enough. Since we were going to have these wines at dinner, I didn't want to sit through the "talk". Our traveling companions did go every night, and said that by the end of the cruise the room was only 1/2 full. Not sure if Windstar did their due diligence on this selection. As for disembarkation, it was also a breeze. Finally my biggest gripe with this cruise is what happened on the front side. We booked in 17 months in advance. Paid the 10K final payment 3 months in advance, and then 2 days after making that payment, I was showing a colleague the cruise on the Windstar web site. I was shocked to see they had lowered the price $800pp. So I called our travel agent and she too was surprised by that amount and that she was going to call Windstar in Seattle. When she got back to me, she said Windstar offered a $100 per cabin shipboard credit, and she didn't think that was fair. Since this agency belongs to the Virtuoso organization, she told me they have pull, and was going to have her manager call. In the end they offered a $200 per cabin shipboard credit and upgraded us to the "balcony" suite. Being able to open the window in the cabin was nice, but certainly not worth the premium that Windstar assigns to those rooms. It was not so much the money (as the price we paid was what we had budgeted for), again it was the way it was handled. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have held elite flyer status with Alaska Airlines for years. Their policy is if the fare goes down before you fly, you get a credit. No questions. As for Windstar, if I have learned one thing over this past year is that premium cruising is a very competitive business. Here they had two couples, right in their demographic wheelhouse. We are on the cusp of retirement, have disposable income and the time to spend it. And they decide to play the nickel and dime game. I'm sure their argument would be, well our cabins are highly perishable. The minute the ship leaves, it is revenue that cannot be recovered. We held that cabin for you (albeit with $1500) for 17 months, and you were able to be sure you were on the ship, and make your air travel plans far in advance. There may be some weight in that, but in the end it is very short sighted. Even before I stepped foot on the Star Legend, I was pretty sure that if I ever cruised again it would not be on Windstar. And now after the cruise, I feel the same way. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
Some background before I write this review - we have taken numerous cruises on all levels of ships around the world (small, medium, large, riverboats, etc.) so we have a lot of reference points on what we like and expect as a function of ... Read More
Some background before I write this review - we have taken numerous cruises on all levels of ships around the world (small, medium, large, riverboats, etc.) so we have a lot of reference points on what we like and expect as a function of the price point and the specifics of what the cruise line advertises and offers as compared to their competitors. Having recently traveled on Viking (river cruise in China which we absolutely loved!), we wanted to try another ship with a small number of passengers. After a thorough search, we decided to give Windstar (and the Star Legend) our business - per their advertisement - "fully refurbished boat, approximately 200 passengers, gourmet food and wine, world class gym, elegant staterooms and unique and memorable shore excursions'. So let's discuss what was accurate and what was off the mark - the pro's - very spacious stateroom, cabin attendant was excellent, on-board entertainment was very enjoyable, Candles dinning was great, majority of crew worked very hard to make the trip memorable, and select staff management (Elena and Bianca) worked very hard to listen to our concerns and to the extent practical within their control make our travels and pleasant as possible, and the people were so much fun to meet. The cons - (1) for a refurbished ship, the interior was in dire need of a fresh paint and varnish (age of the ship was not well hidden), the bathroom was not updated - pealing paint and wall tiles in shower were old and separating), (2) wine - not paired with dinner or the countries visited, wine tastings were poorly planned and executed (rushed so the room could be turned over for dinner, no wait staff to serve additional portions to the customers, and wine selections ran out during dinner, "wine expert" was not organized and could not keep the attention of the customers) - we stopped going after day four, quality of wines served were average to below average at best and had low Wine Spectator ratings, (3) on-board dinning service - very dis-jointed for the first three days - meals were late (i.e. not everyone was served at the same time), side dished were missing or wrong, and if you ordered fish it was guaranteed to arrive overcooked and dry, (4) food quality - got better as the days went by but serving three shrimps on top of rice is not gourmet, (5) bar service - with the exception of a few bar staff, very inconsistent service for mixed drinks - long wait (10 minutes), wrong order, glass half-filled - deferred to wine and beer to avoid the the hassle which was not our preference, (6) broken water system during seal day - no showers or running water - things happen at sea so my issue is not that this happened but how the ship handled the situation - the captain made an announcement at approximately 9 am and mentioned that the water system broke and we would make a stop at Brest for repairs - not apologetic in any form and tried to make a joke about it - not funny for the guests who were stuck on board without a bathroom or shower - in terms of compensation - NONE...we asked them to open the bar and provide free drinks and were denied....the system was repaired and then broke again around 10 pm (no notice from the captain) - I called the front desk and the staffer did not understand why I was mad as he did not get a chance to shower (paying customer versus employee....where is the training...), (7) off-board dinner in Bordeaux - very elegant, classical music, wine in the courtyard and then dinner - only one selection - a meat dish that was served raw to myself and three others at our table - after 15 minutes and sending it back twice I decided not to eat the dried out mass in front of me. Two wines were served of which one was a beautiful 2001 Margaux - we each had one glass and asked for another bottle - they "ran out" even then we observed other tables actively getting additional bottles, (8) world class gym - broken equipment and missing weights - need I say more, (9) excursions - unlike Viking or other high end cruise lines, Windstar only includes two free shore excursions and the guests have to pay for any other trips so desired - the selections were marginal at best with the most notable being a wine tour of a local vineyard in the Medoc region of Bordeaux - expected elegant wines and encountered less than marginal samples - would have expected a higher quality vineyard to be made available. We did email Hans (CEO) a note summarizing our experiences and have not received any reply as of this review - not terribly surprised since he already has our money and from the experiences listed above, apparently does not have a keen focus on customer service. Some final thoughts and impressions - we probably wont use this cruise line again unless Han's contacts us and don't recommend anyone else using them unless you do a full due-diligence on all high end cruise and read the review, the ship management fell flat on attention to details and building/maintaining a strong and consistent team to perform and execute their respective duties flawlessly every time, and if you are going to offer a marginal experience then charge a marginal price so expectations can be tempered with reality. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
My wife and I sailed on the Star Legend leaving Dover and going to Lisbon. We stayed on the next cruise which was Lisbon to Barcelona. The first leg was a food and wine cruise which featured wine tastings every night and free wine with ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the Star Legend leaving Dover and going to Lisbon. We stayed on the next cruise which was Lisbon to Barcelona. The first leg was a food and wine cruise which featured wine tastings every night and free wine with dinner. In addition there were free special events such as a fancy dinner at a top winery. The second leg also had special events as well. My wife and I have had over 30 cruises on many ships including Windstar and several luxury lines. We chose the Star Legend because of its itinerary, its small size, and we wanted to see how Windstar handled the Star Legend. There was a hiccup or two but in the end we felt it one of the best cruises we have ever taken. Guests on each leg of our trip were extremely friendly and the cruise staff were excellent. In particular, the Voyage Leader (Windstar's name for cruise director) Alina Moroz was excellent. She had an abundance of energy and made every guest feel special. If you sign up for a Star Legend Cruise make sure she is your Voyage Leader. Ram, our room steward was superb, as were the two ladies at the Reception Desk (who could handle any problem). Every one serving food and drinks were also great. A special shout out for Daddy, one of the senior food serving staff, who could always find your special foods. We enjoyed each port and the history that went with it. The deck BBQ's and dancing with the Officers were real treats. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
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