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162 Windstar Romantic Cruise Reviews

We chose the Windstar Windsurf itinerary to celebrate my husband’s 55th Birthday and we are so glad we did!! It was a very nice change to sail on such a small ship as we enjoyed the beautiful views of the gorgeous islands and ... Read More
We chose the Windstar Windsurf itinerary to celebrate my husband’s 55th Birthday and we are so glad we did!! It was a very nice change to sail on such a small ship as we enjoyed the beautiful views of the gorgeous islands and beautiful yachts surrounding us. The cruise staff were truly amazing people that went out of their way to make our cruise a memorable experience. From the food to the service and their constant attention to our safety makes me only hope that we can enjoy a future cruise with Windstar!! We started our cruise a week before the pandemic required strict travel bans and for good reason but we ended our journey with an overwhelming sense that this company truly cared for the safety of their passengers and crew far more than the loss of future fares. We are very lucky to have enjoyed this cruise experience and we will forever be grateful for our week of fun and sun on such a beautiful cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2020
Two years ago Windstar announced the plan to stretch the Star ships increasing the guest capacity from 210 guests to 310 guests. We love the small size and hope that the increase in size doesn’t change the friendly atmosphere on the ... Read More
Two years ago Windstar announced the plan to stretch the Star ships increasing the guest capacity from 210 guests to 310 guests. We love the small size and hope that the increase in size doesn’t change the friendly atmosphere on the ship. We looked forward to another small ship experience before the scheduled stretch. Ship is still beautiful. The gorgeous woodwork, marble bathrooms, and spacious suites are exquisite. There are some signs of wear. Most annoying was the missing sun umbrellas on decks 7 and 8. On previous cruises, there were lots of umbrellas to provide shade. This cruise had only one. We were told that the umbrellas blew away or broke. They are to be replaced. Certainly hope that there will be more shade areas on the stretched ship. Service was superb. Food was delicious. We chose to sit at same table each night for dinner. Our waiter, Melkih, remembered us from previous cruises on the Breeze. He was excellent. We enjoyed the BBQs, beach parties, music by the duos, excursions, etc. we enjoyed the yacht club. Still wish that the yacht club would serve coffee/tea after dinner. The ports were mostly small islands where the big ships don’t go. There wasn’t any big shows. The crew show was fun. Cruise was relaxing. We had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Everything about this cruise was perfect except for the weather. December is apparently the rainy season, something I didn't realize when I booked. So be warned. It didn't ruin the experience, but more sun and less clouds and ... Read More
Everything about this cruise was perfect except for the weather. December is apparently the rainy season, something I didn't realize when I booked. So be warned. It didn't ruin the experience, but more sun and less clouds and rain would have been nice. The best weather we had was the 3 days we spent at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort for 3 days before the cruise. Embarkation was fast and efficient.The ship is a little tired, but I understand it's about to go into dry dock soon for some much needed sprucing up. Still, everything was clean and the wonderful crew more than made up for this. We loved that the ship had around 120 passengers and enjoyed getting to know many of our ship mates. The food was outstanding. Breakfast and lunch are mainly buffet style but there are things you can order off the menu. Enormous variety of food and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is possible to maintain healthy eating and also to totally be a glutton if you so desire. Dinner in Amphora restaurant is excellent. It is open seating and you can choose to be seated with others if you want. We met some really nice people. The service is excellent. Our only disappointment was the 'special' dinner in the Candles restaurant where the food was sub par. I would skip it next time although maybe they were just having an off night. If you are looking for ritzy entertainment and casino type things you won't like this cruise. There is a duo in the lounge at night and they were very good, but it may be too low key for some. There was line dancing on deck one night and a Polynesian show on an Island one night both of which were fun. The itinerary is perfect, you get to see a lot of different islands. If you like shopping, you won't find too much to buy except black pearl things. We did a snorkeling or water based excursion every day. They were all good but expensive. We should have done less. The snorkeling was good but the reefs they take you to have been damaged by too many tourists. I'm sure there are many unspoiled reefs, but don't expect to see them on these tours. I can understand why they would take tourists only to certain spots given that you see people doing stupid things like standing on the coral. Also I really objected to the fact that on some of the tours they fed the rays and then just tossed the excess fish parts in the water which attracts black tipped reef sharks. I read that this is illegal inside the reef but they do it anyway. The guides assured us the sharks are benign, but they are sharks and it seems irresponsible to feed them or attract them. Also some of them were about 5 feet so if they decide to bite you it would be bad news. Our best tour was the jet ski around Bora Bora. It was AMAZING and 2 hours went by in a flash. Worth every penny! I would go on this cruise or a similar one again but in the non-rainy season. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Windstar has only 6 ships so and they are small ships focused on going to areas the bigger ships cannot get to. While the ship itself is a little dated, it is slated for a big makeover this summer which is explained here: ... Read More
Windstar has only 6 ships so and they are small ships focused on going to areas the bigger ships cannot get to. While the ship itself is a little dated, it is slated for a big makeover this summer which is explained here: https://www.windstarcruises.com/starplus/. The cabins are suites with a sofa, chairs, a desk, a full bathtub and a walk-in closet – plenty of room for the 2 of us. There is a spa which we did not use and a decent fitness room, which I admit, I intended to use, but did not. I had too much fun doing the excursions. The best part about Windstar is the service. All the staff are friendly and really try to make the passengers have a good experience. There was a challenge with the first port so as we were boarding we learned we would not be going to an island off Puerto Rico but to St. Thomas instead. We were given new excursions to pick from. The last two days we were feeling the effects of a storm, so we couldn’t tender to Virgin Gorda. I was extremely bummed as I wanted to go back to The Baths, but the captain and team rallied and took us to Tortola where they quickly assembled 2 excursions for us. The food is decent. You have 3 choices for dinner – either the big dining room, the area where you have breakfast & lunch that they convert to a ‘romantic dining experience’ or room service. We did all 3 options. Yes, we got a little bored with the food selections but at least we didn’t overeat too much. We also bought the Package which included a full liquor selection, WiFi and Laundry Service. If you are looking for nightlife, this is NOT the ship for you. On our ship, they had 2 different 2-person bands playing during sunset and after dinner and I saw they had a small casino set up at night but we never went to see it. There was a show put on by the crew Thursday evening but we skipped it. Also, the only child we saw was the captain’s daughter. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
This is basically a wonderful ship, with a few glitches. It was recently bought by Windstar and is due to a major renovation/refit in 2020, so these comments might not apply to later sailings. This is a small ship with huge cabins. The ... Read More
This is basically a wonderful ship, with a few glitches. It was recently bought by Windstar and is due to a major renovation/refit in 2020, so these comments might not apply to later sailings. This is a small ship with huge cabins. The staff and officers are very competent and caring. Food was somewhat variable, ranging from OK to very good. Prices were affordable considering the size and staffing ratio. (We got a last-minute cruise for $999 each in the lowest cabin category, which was just fine for us.) The ship was surprisingly stable and quiet, given how small it is. Embarcation and debarcation were flawless and fast. Passengers were almost all English-speaker, mostly from the US and Canada. Their ages ran from 30's to 70's. None of them seemed like serious party animals. There were a few glitches: 1. There was very little ability to sit on deck in the shade. We understand that some umbrellas had been washed overboard during a previous storm. However, the crew should have explained to passengers that they should not put a book on one of the few available chaise lounges and then walk away--this is unfair to other passengers. A related issue is that this ship would be at a disadvantage in bad weather, such as what one might encounter in their Alaska cruises. 2. Water was an issue: no hot water for a few hours, and then a couple of days later, no water at all. None of these were major issues. 3. Linens were a bit tired. 4. Bar prices were high, though not ridiculously so. We recommend buying wine at the CVS across from the San Juan dock and paying the $15/bottle corkage fee. They don't allow you to carry on hard liquor, although I doubt a few miniatures would cause problems. 5. The all-inclusive bar-WiFi-laundry package is ridiculously overpriced. Anybody other than a really serious drinker would have a very hard time making it worthwhile. 6. This ship is not handicapped accessible. Nobody who needs anything more than a cane should be on this ship. It is not suitable for children as there's nothing for them to do (the only child on board was the Captain's daughter, who was a delight.) 7. The base price ($999 in our case) is a bit misleading, as you must add port taxes, basically-mandatory service charge, and bar bills. Our total came to a bit over $3,000 after all these items, plus air fare to San Juan. 8. WiFi is slow and not totally reliable. I appreciate that they warn up-front not to expect too much. We got the unlimited plan ($240) which, however, doesn't allow more than one device per cabin to be logged on. Consider one of the individual plans. 9. Shore excursions were very mixed. Because of their cost and the lack of interest in most of the ports, we only took two of them: 9a. Historic Tastes and Treasures of Fort Napoleon (Les Saintes): well worth the money. We learned a lot about the history of the French Caribbean, and saw a really good little museum at the fort. The tour ended with a tasting of various Caribbean finger-foods and 5 types of rum, which was a good way to end the tour. Our leader, Jean (I believe) was very well informed and fluent in English. 9b: Clear Bottom Kayaking (St Georges,Grenada): eminently forgettable. After paddling a mile to where we should have seen lots of fishes, there were absolutely none to be found ... until one minnow literally landed in our kayak. (I threw it back.) Basically, clear bottom kayaks are no substitute for snorkeling or scuba diving--the view was very poor. The rum punch at the end was pretty awful. 9c: The company wanted entirely too much money for pre- and post-cruise accommodations and transportation. My suggestion is to take a cab (regular cab or Uber) to the Sheraton hotel across the street from the cruise terminal, for a fraction of the cost of what Windstar wanted. The Sheraton was a rather nice, modern, business-class hotel, and not terribly overpriced. 10. Some people have complained about being pressured to spend additional money. This complaint is basically correct. The evening "shows" were mostly commercials for shore excursions and repeat cruises. I could have done with less of that stuff. 11. No real "shows" in such a small ship, through the crew put on an evening program that was a lot of fun. 12. The "swimming pool" was basically a large hot tub with underwater jets to supposedly allow one to swim up-current. Too small to be useful. 13. The sports platform was open a lot less than promised because the slightest wave action caused it to be closed. 14. The food was never less than good and sometimes excellent. One common complaint was that red meats tended to be over salted. A couple of their pork roasts were mostly fat. Finally: YES, we look forward to another Windstar cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We were very impressed with this smaller ship. Although full there were no lines, no queues, no crowds, easy tendering and embarkation and so on. Easy to get around. Lots of outside space. with various bars with decks. Always a seat or ... Read More
We were very impressed with this smaller ship. Although full there were no lines, no queues, no crowds, easy tendering and embarkation and so on. Easy to get around. Lots of outside space. with various bars with decks. Always a seat or lounger when wanted. Coffee Bar and snacks service was free. All restaurants had noticeably great and varied food without being 'poncy' ( yes we are English). The weekly BBQ is an experience not to be missed. Even lunches were well thought out. The buffet lunch also had waiter service if wanted with nice dishes. No formal nights which was great. The Breakfast and lunch outside seating was the best I have experienced -lots of seating and lots of shade or sun as you prefer. Guests all dressed well but smart casual. All seating is open so no crowds and mainly we ate from 7- 9.30 ish while talking to the various interesting fellow cruisers on our tables. Service throughout was first class, attentive and professional but not stuffy. Crew were well motivated and friendly in a noticeably genuine manner. Our names were remembered quickly. We were invited to dine with an Officer on one night. The ship is a good size with some 6 decks to wander about. Our Cabin on deck 2 was well furnished and had excellent storage. A very good and attentive cleaner. All suitcases went under the bed. This was a 7 night destination cruise with ship only moving at night. I prefer some sea days but my wife doesn't! All ports were fine for us. I liked the new smaller ones. Mainly Americans and Canadians on this particular cruise which was great, interesting people and no problem at all for us well travelled British folks but it might be for some who wanted to talk about Brexit, Boris and football! Many people had sailed with Windstar before. We will also book other Windstar cruises. This is not a ship with lavish entertainment -we knew this and it was fine with the long Dinners and chatting. The Music performers were terrific and suited us with the informality of the Ship. The small bar came into its own in the evening with music. Both music groups were very good. The music and dancing on the BBQ night and the Crew show were worth the trip in itself. ( I might have wanted the occasional 'Enrichment talk' but no big deal on a one week cruise). Perhaps the library could be bigger. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
I have wanted to go to Tahiti and the surrounding islands since I read "Mutiny on the Bounty" and saw the movie over 50 years ago. This has been number 1 on my bucket list and after seeing advertisements for Windstar over the ... Read More
I have wanted to go to Tahiti and the surrounding islands since I read "Mutiny on the Bounty" and saw the movie over 50 years ago. This has been number 1 on my bucket list and after seeing advertisements for Windstar over the years it just seemed the perfect way to see these spectacular islands and it REALLY was. I won't do a lengthy review as more than enough people on this site have already done so and I concur with all the superlatives. Great food, great destinations, and an EXCELLENT crew that are so very helpful and generally just really very nice. Customer service to the max! A special shout out to Nicola and Kristy that handle most of the day to day customer service items and excursions. And another shout out to Shane for taking people to the Motos for the wonderful island lunches and dinners as well as other excursions. Also the food service/wait staff are incredible and we enjoyed every meal we had on board. The only concern (and it is minor) is that if someone has mobility issues with walking, the stairs may present a problem. Unlike the big ships Wind Spirit does not have an elevator so that may be an issue for some people. I would advise someone to stay no lower than deck 2 if you have an problems with stairs. A fantastic cruise that lived up to every one of our expectations and then some. Highly recommend!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
We chose this ship because of the reputation of Windstar and the itinerary offered. We were starting out trip with a few days in Lisbon and wanted to experience the southern coast of Spain. The Wind Surf is a small ship and the all ... Read More
We chose this ship because of the reputation of Windstar and the itinerary offered. We were starting out trip with a few days in Lisbon and wanted to experience the southern coast of Spain. The Wind Surf is a small ship and the all aboard was called for 4:00. We arrived at 2:45 and were able to walk right on. Disembarkation was equally easy. What was so disappointing was the condition of our cabin (142). The rug was old and worn. Overall, tired cabin. The third night the air conditioning stopped working. I have a picture of my travel clock showing the temperature was 80 degrees. Sleep was disturbed and fitful. The staff’s reaction when we complained was that they were clearly aware of the situation and had chosen not to address it with the passengers unless we brought it to their attention. Their remedy was a flat $200 credit. The next day, the captain announced we would miss Cartagena because one of the engines had stopped working and since the ship was running slow and the port call was only 5 hours, we would not be stopped. Windstar’s remedy for this was to refund our port fees and free alcohol for the day. The staff was, for the most part, wonderful. They work very hard. There is clearly a preference for return passengers and one night at Candles we waited 20 minutes for a cocktail order but otherwise, no complaints. Similarly, the food, though not exciting, was very good in all the venues. With so many choices, we will not choose Windstar again and we will pay much closer attention to passengers’ reviews. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
We had been on a cruise with 600 passengers and decided it wasn’t for us. Wind Spirit has only 130 passengers and 100 crew and our experience was so different - we loved it. The crew was charming, helpful, knowledgeable and attentive and ... Read More
We had been on a cruise with 600 passengers and decided it wasn’t for us. Wind Spirit has only 130 passengers and 100 crew and our experience was so different - we loved it. The crew was charming, helpful, knowledgeable and attentive and our cabin was very comfortable and kept spotless. We enjoyed the most delicious food with lots of fresh tropical fruit, an amazing variety of salads and superbly cooked meats with a large selection of desserts. For dinner there were two fine dining restaurants and a wide ranging and interesting menu. The shore excursions were well run - since this cruise was round Tahiti there was snorkelling, diving, picnics on beautiful little “motus” or tiny islands, tours with local historians around the islands and visits to pearl farms and vanilla plantations. But what made it for us was the charm of the Captain and his crew - they were all friendly, approachable and made everyone feel very much at home. We recommend this cruise so very warmly. There is nothing we didn’t love about it.... Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
After planning for over 1 year I finally got to go on a Windstar cruise. I was expecting a lot and, for the most part it, met all expectations. Prior to going on the cruise my initial cruise was cancelled as the ship was chartered. ... Read More
After planning for over 1 year I finally got to go on a Windstar cruise. I was expecting a lot and, for the most part it, met all expectations. Prior to going on the cruise my initial cruise was cancelled as the ship was chartered. They gave us a $500/pp credit and paid to change our airfare. I loved the small size of the ship. The cabin was small but functional. The bathroom had nice bath products and good water pressure. The outlets were 110v. I brought a small power strip without surge suppressor and multiport USB charger. Otherwise there were 3 outlets in the cabin and 1 in the bathroom. There is a small minibar in the cabin. It has a bottle opener. We brought 2 bottles of wine and took glasses of wine with us to the dining room. I missed having a private balcony. I didn't think this would be a problem but there were always groups of people drinking and music up on deck. Smoking wasn't really a problem. The deck closes around 6 PM to set up for the restaurant. The food was average to good. Dinner was the best meal. Breakfast and lunch were buffet, with a variety of daily specials. Breakfast would close at 10 AM one day and at 9 AM the next so you have to check your daily program the night before. They do have room service included but it would take 30-40 minutes. Service is very good on the ship and getting a drink at a bar was never a problem. They usually have 1 or 2 happy hours/day with discounted drinks for $5.50. Typically drinks are $8-9 and a beer is $6-7. At $59/person/day I skipped the unlimited beverage package. They had a musical duo in the lounge every night as well as DVDs to take back to your cabin. One night they brought in a local dance group to perform. You were allowed in the bridge when they were underway. The sails were rarely up as the conditions have to be just right. We saw them once during a sail-away. The pool is small but refreshing. Probably much larger per person than the mega ships. I was most interested in the water platform. Due to sea conditions we only had it for one out of 4 planned days. The gym was also small but adequate but being that you can get off the ship everyday I was able to go for a hike onshore. We had to skip Mykonos due to windy conditions which would not allow us to tender. The tenders ran every 1/2 hour which was not a problem except that there was a Tauck tour onboard consisting of about 40 people and they would leave as a group and take a tender so if you didn't time it correctly you had to wait for 1 hour to get a tender. The other passengers, for the most part, were very nice. Most tended to be in their late 60s to early 70s and were a friendly group. There were a couple of newly-weds. We brought our teenaged children with us and they were the only children on the ship. They had a good time but would have liked it had there been people their own age, however, I was expecting this so they weren't disappointed. I did some laundry mid-way through the cruise for under $30. We gave it to the steward before 9AM and we had it back before 5 PM. Towards the end of the cruise they had an all you can stuff into a large laundry bag for $45 deal. Both options were less than the unlimited laundry for $7/person/day. We did get the kids the unlimited WiFi which is, as others have said, slightly better than nothing. I was able to get cell service everyday when we were in port. We went a few days early and stayed for one night at the Hilton and 2 nights at the Electra Metropolis, near Syntagma square. I liked both of them as they both had pools but liked the location of the Electra better as you can walk everywhere. We went on one ship excursion in Turkey but otherwise we did our own thing on the islands. I found the prices for the excursions to be on the high side and they tended to be 3-5 hours long. They had a port talk in the lounge the night before and a local guide would be in the main lobby to answer any questions you had about the island. They had a special dinner in Ephesus for us. The setting was great. The food not so great. The advantage of the smaller ship is being able to go to ports not visited by larger ships. I really enjoyed the ports of call. I was disappointed not to see Mykonos but we were able to go to a small beach in Samos. After Samos we went to Kusadasi in Turkey then to Patmos, Santorini, Monemvasia and finally Nafplion. We finished in Athens where I used the remainder of my OBC to get a private van to the airport for $118 for 2 ppl or $236 for the 4 of us. A taxi would cost 50 Euro. Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly. Boarding began at 1 PM. We arrived around 1:30 and had to wait on line for 15 min to register. You are required to leave your passport with the ships bursa and it is returned to you on the last day. Luggage is out of your cabin by 6:45 AM and you leave by 8 AM. When I initially booked I paid $5,000 for the AX cabin and $4,500 for the BX cabin. Shortly after the price dropped and they let me cancel and rebook for the lower price. I did this 2 more times. There is no problem as long as it is 120 days out. Many passengers booked within 45 days of sailing and paid $3,100 for the same cabin that I paid $4,000 for. Not a big deal but I would not book a Windstar cruise far in advance. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
My spouse, and my brother and sister with their spouses decided to try to get a vacation together and visit the South Pacific. it was easy to pick the islands around and including Tahiti. Should we cruise to do land tour. After only a ... Read More
My spouse, and my brother and sister with their spouses decided to try to get a vacation together and visit the South Pacific. it was easy to pick the islands around and including Tahiti. Should we cruise to do land tour. After only a brief discussion, we chose Windstar Cruises, Wind Spirit and, boy are we glad! The ship is small, only 148 passengers tops. The staterooms are on two decks, every one of them nearly identical. Practical room with room to hide suitcases. Bathroom only accommodates one at a time, but it works fine. Food, what can we say but, great! Great variety at all meals starting with breakfast. The one "specialty" restaurant is Candles, overseen by Assistant Maitre'd Prast. He and crew of wizards lay out great dinners under the stars on the rear deck. The Wind Spirit's entire crew are always welcoming guest when they see them, a very nice touch. The have a open Bridge Policy. You can tour the bridge at almost anytime. We met several very friendly officers while on the bridge. The Captain, Lyubo Garcityanov is available at all times. We had several very nice and long conversations with the Captain, who told us he evens call his mother regularly. A really nice man. Between ship arranged BBQ's on Motus and crew talent shows, it hard to thinks of a funnier cruise ship on the seven seas! The Wind Spirit is just the ideal ship for those who don't like crowds, who want good food, and the most beautiful islands anywhere. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
We are long time Windstar cruisers. We have been on 15 plus cruises over 25 years. We have been through several owners and have been on almost all the ships. The quality of everything ebbs and flows but the consistently fabulous, warm ... Read More
We are long time Windstar cruisers. We have been on 15 plus cruises over 25 years. We have been through several owners and have been on almost all the ships. The quality of everything ebbs and flows but the consistently fabulous, warm and friendly crew keeps us coming back. This particular cruise was a standout. So many things have improved....the food was better than usual and in some cases outstanding. The tours and itinerary were really exceptional. We really enjoyed the Concierge tours. They were well worth the slightly higher fee. We also enjoyed the lecturer they had on board. This was a first for us on Windstar and we really liked this extra information about the world we were visiting. I expected St Petersburg to be the highlight of our trip. I loved our days there. We hired a private driver and tour guide which we did independently but the other ports were equally if not more interesting. We had a professor in Poland, a diplomat in Estonia and a former British attaché in Lithuania for tour guides.....all excellent tours arranged by Windstar. Getting on and off is a cinch with only 220 people on board. The ports where a tender are needed can be tricky if you are unsteady on your feet. Never waited in line for anything nor did we have to time our meals to avoid a crowd. We always use the on board laundry service. Even if not included in your package it is well worth the money not to have to bring tons of clothes and they do a beautiful job. We travel with carry ons. The cruise director was terrific and the hotel manager was everywhere making sure all the service was perfect. The Captain was also very personable as was his wife who was traveling with him. As usual, we met some very nice people, saw crew members we met from other trips and even were able to spend time and a few dinners with a couple we had traveled with a few years ago. We are very partial to the motor yachts. The large rooms and French balcony are now a must....the sailing ship rooms are considerably smaller. The Star Pride is a little tired and needs an uplift. We are excited about the planned upgrades for all the motor yachts. We were worried about having more people aboard but after seeing the plans we think the new scheme will enhance our future experience. If you like night life, shows, working out and dressing up, this is not the cruise for you. If you like visiting new places, meeting nice people and relaxing with a drink with new friends, the Star Pride is the ticket! Your fellow travelers will be well traveled, relaxed, interesting and friendly. You can be social or not.....whatever you want to be as everyone is respectful of your space and you never have to eat with a stranger.....unless you want to. The crew is always there to get you anything you want and even things you did not know you wanted! Never little kids, which we like and encourage Windstar not to encourage. Spa is small but I always get a better than average massage. Can’t wait for the next trip.....thinking Australia! Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
Booked this island cruise long in advance. The highlight is a candle light dinner in the ancient library of Ephasis. Violin quartet, lovely meal under the stars. This was exceptional and only Windstar had the relationship with the ... Read More
Booked this island cruise long in advance. The highlight is a candle light dinner in the ancient library of Ephasis. Violin quartet, lovely meal under the stars. This was exceptional and only Windstar had the relationship with the Turkish ministry of culture to do this event. All the locations were wonderful. Excursions well managed and ship processes very smooth with a well led crew. The evening meals were fabulous with variety and a great selection. Breakfasts and lunches were well done; a good selection of buffet items in each. Embarkation and debarkation procedures were efficient. Easy to do with only 136 pax. They will push for you to buy the alcoholic drink package. With the average cost of drinks about 9$, you'll need to personally drink about 6 beers/wines per day. With the bigger mixed drink package as well, you'll need to have about 8-9 drinks a day. They will add on a 15% service charge on top of the cited package prices. We found it not worthwhile to buy a package for how much we drink. The top line wifi package is $350. The wifi reception in the cabin is poor and even on deck you shouldn't expect good bandwidth for much more than email or a basic news read. We cancelled after a day and they accommodated our request with a refund. This is still a solid value cruise. You get to meet a lot of folks but it's never crowded. Don't expect big shows or entertainment. There was one capable piano/singer duo on the cruise each night and a Cretan Greek dance group one night in Agios Nikolaous that was excellent. The service was personal and attentive from the bar to the dining room to the cabin. The Captain and senior officer in charge of "Hotel services", essentially all the guest interactions, were involved and interacted well with both pax and crew. We've been to Greece a lot; even lived there for a while and this cruise was a very fine way to visit Athens and the islands. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We booked this cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary. This is our third Windstar cruise in the past 5 years and it was amazing. 140 passengers, 102 crew members that spoiled us for 11 days. Our trip included airfare and all the ... Read More
We booked this cruise to celebrate our 40th anniversary. This is our third Windstar cruise in the past 5 years and it was amazing. 140 passengers, 102 crew members that spoiled us for 11 days. Our trip included airfare and all the transfers during the trip. We were met at the airport and taken by bus to the Intercontinental Hotel for our overnight stay. This hotel is a lovely oasis with a variety of pools, a lagoon and beach with plenty of water sports activities. All the transfers were smooth and efficient. The check in process at the ship the next afternoon was smooth and fast. Our cabin was mid ship on the first level. The cabin is small, but very well appointed. Plenty of space for our bags, our clothes and snorkeling gear. The cabin steward kept the cabin clean and neat throughout the trip. We purchased the laundry plan and each morning a bag of dirty clothes were picked up and at the end of the day clean clothes were waiting for us in our room. It allowed me to pack all the clothes I need for an 11 day cruise including my snorkel and mask in a single carry-on suitcase! My wife has some food allergies and wait staff on board made sure that her food was prepared in a manner to not allow any cross contamination that might impact her health. Breakfast and lunch were served with the choice of indoor or outdoor seating. Breakfasat included a nice spread of fruits, fresh baked goods, buffet style eggs, bacon, sausage, etc or you could order a made to order omelet, or a choice of about a half dozen other entries that were varied each day. (Pancakes, french toast, eggs benedict, ....). Lunch included a choice of salads, a handful of buffet style entries and a fresh food station that varied each day (tacos, pasta, roast). The wait staff provided excellent service. Dinner was served most nights in the large indoor dining room, and one night on deck in the open air. Each night the menu offered an amazing variety of starters, main courses and desserts. The dinner on deck featured grilled seafood, steak, pork and chicken options. We took a number of tours that were arranged thru WindStar. The Blue Lagoon tour on Fakarava was sold out before the cruise, so we took the Snorkeling at Pufuna tour. There was a strong current that afternoon and this tour was probably our least favorite of the cruise. Book the Blue Lagoon if you can, the people that took that tour said it was very good. On Rangiroa we took the Snorkeling at the Aquarium Coral Garden trip. It was a short boat trip to the coral reef and water was teaming with colorful fish. That afternoon we took the tender into the dock and walked around the island. We had a very pleasant stop at Josephine's overlooking the pass. The day at Motu Mahaea was excellent. We did not do an excursion that day. We swam in the waters off the private beach, enjoyed the excellent bbq lunch and strolled around the island. It was a fantastic day. The two days at sea were a little rocky. I would recommend getting the seasick patches beforehand. On Huahine we took the Sacred Sites & Cultural Walk. Our guide Manu was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the Polynesian people. The hike up to one of the sacred sites was not for people with mobility issues. Bora Bora was fantastic. We booked a trip via Trip Advisor with Tohora Bora Bora that was outstanding. We also booked the Shark and Manta Ray encounter with WindStar. Swimming with the sharks and rays was a highlight of the trip! For my money, Moorea was the most beautiful of the islands. My wife booked the Dolphin outing and had a great time. I booked the photo tour with Eyes of Moorea. Reno took us up to Magic Mountain and the Belvedere lookout and gave us some great tips on how to shot interesting travel photos. Overall, the tours and excursions that we took really added to our enjoyment of the cruise. Since this ship is smaller than most, it can anchor in areas away from the larger cruise ships. In fact, we only had one day out of 11 where we saw another cruise ship at the same port as we were visiting! We enjoyed the back of the ship sports deck and equipment a number of times. My friend took out the sailboat and kayak and we found that swimming behind the ship was a great way to relax after a morning of visiting one of the islands. This cruise is a great way to see French Polynesia. Excellent service, food and activities. My wife and I have traveled extensively over the years and I have to say that this trip is one of the highlights of all our travels. I look forward to returing to these islands again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Our first Windstar cruise, based on a recommendation from a friend who knows that we like smart and engaging people, don't like rowdy drunk crowds, and want a genuine experience. We learned a lot and immediately signed back up for ... Read More
Our first Windstar cruise, based on a recommendation from a friend who knows that we like smart and engaging people, don't like rowdy drunk crowds, and want a genuine experience. We learned a lot and immediately signed back up for more Windstar! What can I say other than "amazing!". While the large ship experiences bring their own attributes, this ship size, itinerary, and staff have us sold on Windstar, since they brought so many terrific benefits. I could go on forever, but I'll limit it to a few key topics, and a story of special coverage by the crew that was exceptional. SHIP: small, as cruise ships go, but never felt crowded, never waited in lines (except for the topside cookout in which everyone rushed the line but ten minutes later was cleared). There are plenty of places to get alone by yourself, do morning stretches, have a quiet moment with a loved one, etc. BARS: the outdoor topside bar was by far the most popular given weather, ability to spread out, but also to meet nice and interesting folks. FOOD: Terrific all around! Main dining Amphora was stellar every night. Candles night was intimate, delicious, and fantastic! Breakfast and lunch buffets are great, fresh, and the staff is totally focused on making your meal ideal, so just ask for anything special. All-day breakfast and sandwich counter made a great fill-in when we got back from sightseeing. OFFICERS, CREW, & STAFF: This is where I have to focus most. Incredibly nice, friendly, accommodating, and professional from top to bottom. Every individual we met was terrific. But the real story was about a bad situation that they made infinitely better. Just prior to the cruise, a family friend passed away, who was not only my godfather but also as much a father to me as my own, and in recent decades more so, and a dear friend. Our families consider each other extended family. The funeral had to occur during our cruise, on Day 8 of 10, so we worked with Windstar to allow us to disembark in Grenada, fly home to make the funeral, of which i was to officiate and sing. Needless to say, a very emotional situation. We had shared the fact that we were leaving early with staff that would be affected or those that simply asked and expressed condolences. We disembarked, went to the airport, and long story short, found that our flight was cancelled, and at 5pm found out that we would NOT be able to leave the island until the following afternoon, thereby missing the funeral we worked so hard to coordinate to make. With literally NO time to spare, we called the ship, asked if we could reboard, sailed through customs with the help of American Airlines staff, had a cab fly through town, and we made it to the pier with just minutes before Sail Away. Although devastated by the events so far, the next 24 hours were incredible. The Chief Pursor, front desk staff, Hotel Manager all met us and assured a smooth process, even to the extent of them asking if there was anything at all they could do to help. They were amazingly empathetic, and genuinely worked that day and the next to give us every assistance we could want, including calls, Internet, etc. The Dining staff gave us special attention, delivered us a wonderful in-room meal, and the bar staff brought us wine as we "licked our wounds". The next day, every staff member we came into contact expressed genuine concern, and went out of their way to help us enjoy this day at sea with tons of kindnesses and support. We were incredibly moved at the empathy and wonderfulness of the entire crew including officers, the bar team, the dining team, the breakfast cooks, and so on. While they may have forgotten us as they move forward to accommodate every guest every day, we will never forget them. Thank you Windstar! Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We spent our 25th anniversary on Moorea 27 years ago and decided it was time to revisit our memories. We had never been on a smaller ship and decided this was the way to see the other islands. It didn't disappoint. There were 142 ... Read More
We spent our 25th anniversary on Moorea 27 years ago and decided it was time to revisit our memories. We had never been on a smaller ship and decided this was the way to see the other islands. It didn't disappoint. There were 142 passengers to 101 staff. It made it seem quite intimate and friendly. The staff make a point to remember everyone by name. Some of the small things I appreciated were no poised photos every time you got on or off the ship. There is no pressure to sign up for a future cruise. Plus it's all very relaxed with few dress codes (no dress up nights). The majority of the people were between 60-75 with about 5 honeymoon couples. We met some of the nicest people on this cruise. Our room was adequate with plenty of storage, comfortable bed, porthole view and nice toiletries. There are no elevators so all rooms have stairs. There is one dining room & the outdoors deck, Candles. We found the food to be very good. The special moments were the deck BBQ plus the special BBQ at Bora Bora on a private motu. The pool is very small & there is a hot tub. The deck had adequate chairs but without shade it was just too hot to set in the sun. Moorea is a lovely island. Best excursion is through Alberts Transport Lagoon where you get to snorkel with sharks & rays & have a great BBQ on a private motu. Siki was a great guide. Also went snorkeling at Temae Beach which was great. At Raiatea we wandered around town & then found an excursion up the Faaroa river, the only navigable river. At TaHa'a we did the cruise ship excursion of the coral drift snorkel. It was fun but definitely not for someone who hasn't snorkeled. The current was strong the day we went & if you didn't have flippers I'm not sure what you would do. It's important to keep up with the person in front so you don't get caught on the coral. We did this three times. Bora Bora is very pretty. It's all about over the water bungalows. We went on an excursion we found at the dock. It turned out to be great. We snorkeled with lots of sharks & rays & got to go around the whole island. We had a private tour around the island learning of the history of the US building the airport to protect the island during WW2. The ship put on a superb BBQ complete with fire dancers & Tahitian dancers. Great food. Our last stop was Huahine. We joined 7 others from the ship & hired a private boat to take us snorkeling. It was some of the best snorkeling we've ever done. But really wished we had more time there to explore the island which most people thought was the most unspoiled. We loved the small ship, meeting great people & having a relaxed atmosphere. Tahiti is living the dream. Absolutely stunning. We'd definitely sail with Windstar again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
First, we are a French Canadian couple in our early 50’s from Montreal. We sailed 5 times with Celebrity prior to sailing on Wind Surf for the first time in 2013. We have since sailed 7 times with them, all in the Caribbean with cruises ... Read More
First, we are a French Canadian couple in our early 50’s from Montreal. We sailed 5 times with Celebrity prior to sailing on Wind Surf for the first time in 2013. We have since sailed 7 times with them, all in the Caribbean with cruises on the Wind Star (1) Star Pride (2), Star Legend (1) and Wind Surf (3). What we love about Windstar is the small ships, the fact you can do things independently easily, the relaxed dress code, the food, which keeps getting better, and last but not least the great service staff which goes out of its way to make your cruise memorable. This was our first cruise back on a sail ship after 3 cruises on the motor yachts. We did Classic Caribbean itinerary from Feb 2nd to 9th as we had done the Yachtsman’s Caribbean itinerary twice already and did not like the fact they had changed some of the stops in the BVI. In the end we really enjoyed this itinerary with Barbuda and Dominica being new stops for us. The weather was just about perfect and seas were the calmest of all our cruises. We noticed the demographics of this cruise were probably a little older than our previous Windstar cruises with a good majority of guests over 70-75 but this did not hinder in any way our enjoyment as fellow Windstar passengers are all fairly active and well travelled. Finally, we travelled with another couple for which this was a first cruise on Windstar and likely not their last. Another great cruise with Windstar Booking: We booked just over 2 months ahead by pure accident as we typically wait for annual Christmas Sale as we feel prices get better closer to sailings (we always go for lowest priced cabin as location is not necessarily important to us). We called the company directly (we do not use a travel agent) to inquire about availability and they said that there was a promotion for Canadian residents with a $500 discount on the cruise price. I could not find this special on their website and the timing of my call was perfect as this special did not last very long. The 4 of us each got the $100 referral OBC which in our case was applied against our drink package purchased when we got onboard. We were assigned room 153 at front of ship and we were “upgraded” to 141 more in the center a few weeks later. Our friends were also upgraded from 103 to 122. Windstar also offered a 20% discount on the price of internet, drink package and laundry if all taken together prior to cruise which we did not take as we did not care for the ship’s slow and expensive internet (we had access to a good roaming package which we used most of time as we were always close to islands). Embarkation Although we typically fly in the day before, our schedule did not allow for such luxury this time around. Our plane landed in SXM at 16h30 on departure day (ship’s departure scheduled at 19h00) and we got out of the terminal around 17h15. Cabs were plentiful and we ended up sharing one with another Canadian couple on same flight that was also boarding the ship. Cab ride was $30 for the 4 of us and took 30 minutes. We boarded the ship at 17h45 and check-in was swift at front desk given our tardiness . Sail away was on schedule at 19h00. Not the ideal situation for travel but things worked out nicely. We were told our cruise was fully booked, so around 310 passengers on board. This was not an issue throughout the cruise as the Wind Surf remains very spacious with nooks and crannies for everyone. Cabin: We were in 141 and our friends in 122 (both added to Wind Surf stateroom sticky forum). Cabins are well designed with plenty of storage if required. 141 was quiet and had no issues although on 3 occasions, we had to call maintenance to fix our toilet as vacuum system had problems and toilet risked overflowing. In all 3 cases (one time at 3 am) the problem was fixed quickly by maintenance staff. Our room attendant was attentive although we did not have any special requirements. Reusable water bottles we refilled every day (one with flat water, the other sparkling) and our ice bucket was kept full with ice every day. Our friends in 122 complained about regular banging noise which we suspect was due to some gangway or tender equipment hanging above their room. We were also wondering how we would find going back to the smaller sail ship staterooms after experiencing the larger suites on the Star ships on our last 3 cruises. Well it wasn’t an issue as the rooms are very well designed and we were really only in our room to sleep or change over for dinner. We did not use room service nor laundry service this time. Bathroom was compact and well designed but starting to show its age. Occitane toiletries are provided in all rooms. Bars and Entertainment: Drinks were mostly taken outside at Compass Rose or Pool Bar. Did not go to Lounge except for Talent Show but band seemed competent. Bar service was always good. Duo at Compass Rose was OK and had guests dancing and when finished around 11pm, guests would come in to plug IPad playlists in system to keep party going a little longer. This happened a few evenings with people dancing a little past midnight. A lot of fun. Food: Again food was a highlight. We ate at Amphora 4 times, one time each Candles and Stella Bistro and Deck BBQ on the late night in St-Kitts. Menu was varied although gluten free items remain limited (our friend suffers from gluten intolerance and we were just more sensitized to his diet challenges throughout the cruise). Breakfast was good with buffet or a la carte items available. Couple of things we noticed were the poor quality of orange juice which in the past was freshly squeezed and now is a watered down Tropicana version and the fact there were no fresh peeled orange slices on the buffet whereas these were always on buffet in the past. We had good lunches at Veranda when we made it back in time from the island as the venue is only open from 12h00 to 14h00. We were late a few times and had to settle for food at Yacht Club. Lunch should be extended to 14h30 to accommodate those with dietary restrictions as the menu at the Yacht Club, while good, remains limited for them. Service in the dining rooms at dinner was fast and efficient (sometimes too fast) with meals lasting 1.5 to 2 hours. We mostly had dinner around 8pm and never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table and by the time we were finished, most of the time we were the last table in dining room. Menus were varied with several fish, meat and vegetarian dishes and all 4 of us were impressed by the quality and presentation of food. Deck BBQ food was great although lobster was a little chewy. We did not do the Dining Under The Stars (offered twice on our cruise) as it was not offered to us. This was a bit disappointing. Beach BBQ was held on Pigeon Island, which is our least favourite Windstar Beach BBQ location (the others being Mayreau and Virgin Gorda). While food was good, beach is too small and not necessarily the nicest. A couple of evenings, we were treated to canapés at Compass Rose before dinner. Usually had 2 different types of them but just one tray so these would disappear very fast with literally no chances for seconds. I suspect these were also served in the Lounge but we never went to the Lounge for pre dinner drinks so cannot confirm. We are a bit picky about our coffee and the caffe lattes at Veranda in the morning were good (regular coffee not so much) but even better at Yacht Club. We did try a few of the the latter’s sandwiches and sweets offered in the afternoon on one occasion and all were good. 3 of us were on the recently introduced TopMast Discoveries drink package at $49 while the 4th party was on the CaptainsExclusive package at $59. This created confusion with servers with several drinks (liquor) being charged to our room although drunk by our friend on the full drink package. All charges were reversed but this was a hassle as we needed to check bill daily to ensure charges were being reversed overnight and that no new ones were being added. Drink package probably makes sense if you have 5 or more drinks per day and even though we were drinking our quota, we generally felt that the value proposition of the drink packages had come down markedly from the previous iterations with price of package going up $7 and the wines offered having a price point no higher than $9.50/$10 vs a max of $11.50 under previous package. We will likely need to re-think this aspect on our next cruise. Marina We did not use the marina this time around but it was open in Barbuda, Les Saintes and St Barth. We saw several people using it when available. The water toys were also brought to the beach on Pigeon Island for the Beach BBQ Spa: Our friends each got a $50 spa voucher (good on port days) offered by Windstar to all first time cruisers which they used for a very relaxing hot stone massage. Gym: we did not use gym but it looked clean and well equipped and did not seem overcrowded Tenders: Tenders were used in all ports except Dominica where we were docked at the industrial dock, not the more central cruise ship dock (occupied by Silverseas on that day). While tender service was good, the tenders themselves are in need of a total overhaul. During our cruise we got to see the Seabourn, Club Med 2 and Star Clipper tenders and all of them were in substantially better condition than the Surf’s. They will be changing the tenders on the Motor Yachts, they probably should do the same with the sailing ships. Bridge Did not visit the bridge this time around and whereas in the past there was a photo opportunity at the bow of the ship, we did not see this on this cruise. Stops and excursions: We generally are not the type to book ship excursions as we feel they are overpriced and like to do things on our own. I typically like to do my own research and do not like to plan too long ahead. Barbuda: Nothing planned. Only tour offered was to view frigate bird sanctuary which did not interest us. We instead took a cab to Princess Diana beach ($30 each way). Very nice pink sand beach with nobody other than a few fellow cruisers on it. No facilities so bring water and some food if you are going to spend a long time. We were there for about 3 hours and got on the ship around 2pm just in time to catch lunch at Veranda. The ship leaves early at 3 pm on this day. Dominica: Again we stepped out of ship and hired a cab to go to Ti-Tou Gorge and Trafalgar Falls. Cost was $160 for the 4 of us and lasted 2.5 hours. Ti-Tou Gorge is not to be missed as you swim in a crystal clear river canyon up to a small waterfall. Very nice. The drive to both these spots is also spectacular as the road sits at the top of a high mountain ridge. We were back on the ship by 1h30 and had lunch at Veranda. Found a chair on deck for the remainder of day and used pool and hot tubs. Although the Island suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria in Sept 2017, the island infrastructure and vegetation is recovering nicely. Pigeon Island: This was our 4th time to Pigeon Island and it is our least favourite spot for the Beach BBQ. The beach is small and crowded although the area in the back where they actually serve the BBQ is nice. The water toys were brought to the beach, as well as paddle boards and kayaks. They also offered waterski and wakeboardings runs for those who wanted. Club Med 2 (Wind Surf’s twin) was also in port that day which made for interesting pictures. Les Saintes: This was our third time to Les Saintes and we continue to enjoy this stop. There is a quaint village with some interesting shops and a Fort (Fort Napoleon) from which the views of the bay and our sail ship are simply breathtaking. Note the Fort is only open until 12h30 and bring €5 cash if you want to get in. We rented a 4 seat electric golf cart (cost €75) from Green Car Rental to tour Island but you need to reserve it in advance as these get taken up very quickly (we had learned this the hard way the previous time we were there). Wanted to go to Pain de Sucre Beach but path is somewhat steep and rocky which required shoes we did not have. Instead went to Pompierre beach (no facilities). Nice beach but the palm trees have taken a beating as a result of hurricane Maria last year. Had a good lunch in town at Cafe de la Marina with a nice view of the port while the ladies shopped linen at Mahogany next door. Basseterre St-Kitts: Our initial plan was to get off ship, take the 9h30 ferry to Nevis ($16 each way/pers), hire a cab for a few hours to do tour of island, visit plantation and get dropped off at Pinney’s Beach. However we were a bit tired that morning and thus proceeded to a less intense plan B which was to take a cab ($30 each way) to go to Cockshell Beach at the far South end of the Island. We rented chairs ($5 each) and umbrellas ($10) at the Spice Mill and also had good lunch there. Beach is nice and was somewhat crowded, something rare on a Windstar cruise but there were another 2 ships in port, so this was to be expected. Ship left late at 10pm and this was night of deck BBQ. St-Barth: We had reserved a convertible Mini Cooper to tour Island ahead of time with Sixt Car Rental. Called them up 30 minutes prior to going to shore so they were there to pick us up and take us to airport to fill out docs. Cost was a bit steep at €105 but we had fun touring. Went to Saline and Gouverneurs beaches, did some shopping and had lunch at Nikki Beach in St-Jean. Lunch was good although this is St-Barth and everything is pricey. Returned the car at airport, got shuttled back to port and did some more shopping in Gustavia. Took tender around 6pm back to ship. Debarkation. Debarkation was trouble free. Had breakfast around 8am after picking up our passport and having face to face meeting with Immigration on board ship around 7h30 (this is new as we usually just picked up passport on ship and passed Immigration once on shore). Our flight was late (5pm) so we took a cab to Holland House, took up their day pass offer which for $25 includes 2 chairs, 4 drinks,use of shower, Wifi and facilities. Had good lunch at their restaurant and left at 2h30 for airport. Ride was $30 for the 4 of us and took just under 30 minutes and this concluded another wonderful Windstar cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
My wife & I sailed on 1/12/19, Our 6th Windstar cruise, 3rd on Wind Surf. Room 126. The ship – Wind Surf – was built in 1990, and is showing its age in too many areas. Rust, loose planks, paint peeling, bent railings, and I ... Read More
My wife & I sailed on 1/12/19, Our 6th Windstar cruise, 3rd on Wind Surf. Room 126. The ship – Wind Surf – was built in 1990, and is showing its age in too many areas. Rust, loose planks, paint peeling, bent railings, and I could go on. The most odd part is that I didn’t see any maintenance crew guys doing repairs. Which to me means that there is something else, a problem that goes deeper but I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the cruise Captain, or it’s the upper management cutting back on costs, I really have no idea. Also, FYI – Windstar Cruise line is pulling out all the casinos. Which means that in the evening, for entertainment outside of your cabin, your only choice will be the band, or duo. That’s it. Granted the casinos are rarely filled, and are never very lively – but that’s the casino staff’s responsibility and they fail here. And it gives you another form of entertainment. The other crew members – bar, serving, house-keeping staff all seemed to be a little less friendly this trip. What’s going on ? Some were good though – Maria, Ace, Mel, and Eugene were great bar people. Alex was a super room steward. But other than those 5, everyone seemed a bit agitated, or distracted. The people/fellow passengers seem to always consist of “my kind of people” unlike the larger ships. Almost everyone is friendly, classy, and talkative. Again, this was now our 6th cruise and we have never had a problem with our fellow passengers. This sailed of St Maarten, 7 nights, 1 sea day. I didn’t really care for the sea day but I certainly got a great tan. The ports were all good, as always. A bonus I thought was that the normal stop for the beach party was still in ruins, so they parked at a different side of the island. And this stop was a short cab ride to the Baths. No tour needed. All in all, we had a great time. But I expected a little more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We typically choose active, land-based travel but decided to do a cruise for a special anniversary. We chose the Star Breeze for its mixture of small luxury ship with casual attitude, small ports of call, and availability of water sports. ... Read More
We typically choose active, land-based travel but decided to do a cruise for a special anniversary. We chose the Star Breeze for its mixture of small luxury ship with casual attitude, small ports of call, and availability of water sports. We wanted to have fun, but we did not want the fussiness of formal dinner nights. We were not disappointed. The ports of call included a good mix of those with many tourists and those with very few tourists. (It was helpful to know some Spanish but not necessary). We booked one excursion with the cruise line in Puerto Jimenez, but explored on our own the other days. We were able to do water sports off the ship in one port of call and on the private island day. For some reason, they couldn't offer waterskiing, although the equipment was available. Not a big deal, but it was something we were looking forward to. Otherwise, the crew really worked hard to impress. The cabins were spacious, well appointed, and serviced several times a day. Service was phenomenal and always with a smile. The food was excellent. We liked that they sourced fresh seafood from locals and that the chef made all of his stock on board. No corners were cut! We dined most nights at Amphora, which was consistently excellent. We did take advantage of Candles, which is a romantic steak house offered for free once per voyage. The special BBQ night was a highlight and not to be missed. Breakfast and lunch offered the ability to order a la carte or dine from the buffet. One exception: the coffee at the Veranda had an odor. I typically took my coffee at the Yacht Club (which offered continental breakfasts, non-smelly coffees, and light lunch fare) and then went to the Veranda for a full breakfast. Late afternoon activities included cultural talks and/or performances, with a next day port briefing just before dinner. The ship has a "pool" (it's really just a large, warm bathtub) and 2 hot tubs. We never had a problem finding a poolside lounge chair. The 5th deck hot tub is a great place to stargaze at night (or look for porpoises), but carry a cellphone for the flashlight. We did go to the gym several times, which was better than I expected. The ceiling is low, so tall people would have a problem with the treadmill and one cannot do overhead weights without sitting down. The fitness classes are basic and nice for a good stretch. With the average guest age being in the 60-75 range, there was not a lot of night life. We enjoyed the guitarist, who sang a mix of contemporary slow pop, Latin music and oldies but goodies. He also played great dance music. The other couple, the Radio Stars, were fine for music while you sunbathed but really not good for evening entertainment. The crew also entertained us with a crew talent show one night and line dancing after the outdoor BBQ. A number of activities were offered on our day at sea, including a cooking demo, galley tour, and blackjack tournament. We were saddened to learn that Star Breeze will go into dry dock this year and its size will be increased by 50 suites. We think this will alter the small ship experience significantly. In summary, this ship is great for couples aged 45+ who want some interesting port adventures and some luxurious pampering without the stuffiness of a more formal cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations ... Read More
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations are a wonderful experience. The Panama Canal, Panama City and Costa Rica in January are absolutely must-do experiences. The destinations are 5+. Windstar (really Xanterra, the same folks who service many of the U.S National Parks), on the other hand, was disappointingly lacking in some ways that compromised an otherwise fabulous cruising experience. The ship Wind Star (the initial ship in their fleet) was commissioned in 1987 and is showing a lot of age. I find most complainers to be boorish, and, all-in-all I want to like Wind Star for the many positives they bring to a cruise; however, it seemed like this particular ship brought with it a number of issues due to age and lack of attention at the management level. Throughout much of the cruise, the deck spa was broken and leaky, requiring days of repair work. It appeared to be working toward the end, but it continued to make a loud ghastly belching noise every minute or so. The cabins are small and manageable, but even the premium cabins have only two dirty portholes for an outside view. Each cabin has its own thermostat, but they don’t work. Our first night on board, our cabin (221) was very stuffy. We prefer about 20 Celsius, but when I adjusted the thermostat there was no response, just the same weak movement of slightly cool air through an overhead vent. I then moved the thermostat down as far as it would go and no response. I reported the problem to the onboard reception desk where I was promised that someone would come by and check out the problem. No one ever arrived. Finally, once the ship began to move, the room cooled slowly to a reasonably tolerable temperature, but, the thermostat was never inspect and we had no in-room temperature control for the entire cruise. We witnessed at least three water leakages within the first week of our voyage, one of which flooded a cabin and out into the hall. Another occurred in our own cabin (221). The toilet wouldn’t stop running at 11:00 p.m. and began flooding the bathroom. No one answered when we tried to phone for help, so, my wife kept flushing the stool while I went out and found help. Once found, both crew members were very attentive and repaired the problem via a hallway access panel, allowing us to go back to bed and sleep. Finally, Cabin 221 is midship upper deck and I selected it months in advance. It is directly beneath the entrance to the main dining room, which was no problem except one night at 10:00 p.m. when the management directed staff to strip the wooden floor of the dining room entrance and wax it. I was in bed trying to sleep, and I assumed the movement of furniture and associated noises directly overhead were temporary and would subside, but after an hour, I decided to go upstairs to investigate and found out what was going on. I apologized, I knew the workers had a job to do but I told them that the noise from their work was keeping us awake. They apologized and said they would tell their boss. Apparently, they did, and the noise stopped, only to wake me up when it restarted at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Most disappointing was the fact that the original itinerary called for a day of snorkeling on an island just off the Panama coast. This was cancelled a couple of months before our sailing date. When I phoned about this, I was assured that Windstar would find a suitable and equal substitute. However, the day that we boarded, we were told the alternate landing site had not worked out, and we would be staying in the Panama City port of Balboa a second day. Just about every passenger had arrived in Panama City for the trip and many had already seen Panama City prior to the cruise, so adding a second cruise day in Panama City WITHOUT any excursion was a true breach of contract on behalf of Windstar. The weather was beautiful and the sailing conditions excellent, but Windstar had not done its due diligence over the months prior, leaving their guests to fend for themselves during Day 2 in Panama City. What was the compensation offered by Windstar? An open bar one evening. My wife and I don’t drink. Thanks very much. To further compound Windstar’s negligence, they offered no suggestions of how their passengers might spend the extra day, despite the fact that a wonderful Smithsonian wildlife refuge and a fantastic Frank Gehry-designed Bio Museum were both within walking distance of the port. We did both and ended up having a day well-spent, but no thanks to Windstar! Some excursion descriptions appeared to be intentionally misleading. For example, the descriptions for both Corcovado and Carara National Parks led guests to anticipate hikes through trails plentiful with some of the most diverse fauna (birds, mammal, reptiles, etc.) in the world, when, in fact, Windstar personnel know full well that the chances of such sightings are very low. I understand the disclaimers not guaranteeing sightings, but the descriptions are written to infer that no sightings are the exception, not the rule. The diverse wildlife does exist within these two parks, but primarily in the interior, not as commonly along the perimeter trails that are open to the public, and certainly not at mid-day! Prime time for wildlife sightings in these parks is within 1-2 hours of sunrise or sunset (5:45 am. and 5:10 pm. in January. When were we present in the park? 9:45 am – noon. The absolute worst times to see wildlife, and we indeed SAW NOTHING except for a couple of lizards at Carara. We did see a Macaw at both Corcovado and Carara, and in both cases the bird was too far away to see well even with a sighting scope. During the dry season, the hours of operation for Costa Rican national parks are 7 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., so, even though these hours prevent Windstar from having guests at the parks during prime sighting times, to fulfill the expectations Windstar creates with its customers, their excursions should be at the parks at 7:00 a.m. ready to go. Windstar’s current approach is intentionally deceptive and misleading and certainly not worthy of a company that wants to be regarded as a step above their competition. Old ship needing work, a last-minute downgrade to the itinerary and a failure to provide useful information to their customers are all marks of a cruise company with some serious management flaws. On the good side: Windstar offers small boat sailing catered to older customers. Their waitstaff and room attendants are first class. Of course, staff members are standard cruise personnel comprised of young people from economically-deprived countries who are worked to the bone, but they each work as hard as they can to provide the highest quality personalized service possible. I have now sailed Windstar twice. Will I cruise with them again? Quite possible, but I would not want to return the ship Wind Star, and, if I return, it will be with a jaundiced eye and less loyalty than I felt when we agreed to cruise the second time following a very pleasant initial cruise in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Crew – 5 stars, Food – 4 to 5 stars, Ship – 4 stars EMBARKATION – in Aruba – a long walk from where the cab drops you off to the yacht, because only the big ships get front docking. They have a shuttle, but we elected to walk ... Read More
Crew – 5 stars, Food – 4 to 5 stars, Ship – 4 stars EMBARKATION – in Aruba – a long walk from where the cab drops you off to the yacht, because only the big ships get front docking. They have a shuttle, but we elected to walk our luggage, so that was a bit hot in the blazing sun. Covered tent at the gangway with someone to check off your name and label your bags that the crew will take to your room. Once up the gangway, you’re taken into the lounge to register, get your photo taken and your room key provided, as well as sign up for a beverage package if you haven’t already. There really wasn’t much of an orientation or anything, then you go to your room and wait for your bags (relatively quick). The process was average, but not difficult. There really didn’t seem to be much of an orientation – you could take tour of the common areas that was scheduled within an hour or so after you boarded – otherwise you were pretty much on your own. DISEMBARKATION at the end of the cruise – in Puerto Caldera Costa Rica – one of the worst things they did on this cruise. The good thing was that your bags didn’t have to be outside your room until 6am on disembarkation day (but you were welcome to put them out the night before). And you received colored tags depending on what time you were scheduled to disembark, and that schedule was provided with the program the evening before. Disembarkation morning, they were way behind schedule, and almost every passenger was in the lounge at 815 am (first group was supposed to be off by 7:30am) and no announcements had been made about what was causing the delay and there were no crew around to ask, and there was standing room only in the lounge (and everyone had their carry on bags). The gangway was down, and luggage was out on the pier, but folks weren’t allowed to get off. Finally, a group decided to leave the lounge anyway, which caused a herd mentality to exit into the lobby area, which only got more confusing and congested. When I asked a receptionist to at least make an announcement (because security had finally started letting people off because it was too crazy in the lobby now), she just said they would make one in a few minutes! Anyway, by the time they finally made an announcement (10 minutes after I’d requested), most of the first two groups had disembarked and were trying to find their luggage. Once it was our turn, we got off, identified our bags and they were swiftly put on the bus – we were about an hour behind, and our group was doing a city tour and then airport transfer. More on that when I mention excursions later. SMALL SHIP VS BIG SHIP – doubt we’ll ever do another big ship again. We don’t need an abundance of evening entertainment. We go onshore at every port, and almost always do an excursion. We love not having ridiculous crowds, the ease of getting on and off the yacht in port and by tender, the crew ratio, the personalized cooked to order meals. Liked that there’s an open bridge policy so you can almost always wander in and look at the equipment, see what’s going on (we never did). We felt more motion on this ship than other others in the past, and even had a slight queasiness the first few days; I’m not sure if it was the ship or the seas (weather was good). If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, you might want to be prepared with the bracelets or Dramamine, and make sure your room is in the center of the ship. All that being said, we’ve heard Star Breeze is about to undergo a major refurb where they cut the ship in half and insert another 50 rooms, more restaurants and deck space, all doing a refurb on the rest of the rooms at the same time. I’m sad about that – really loved that there were only 200 passengers on this yacht. Often when the yacht is anchored, they’ll open the back sports deck and put the pool/ocean toys out (noodles, SUP’s, mats, ocean raft/trampoline), so you can swim in the ocean just off the ship. If you're not used to cruising, read your daily program!! You'll find almost everything there; you're responsible for finding things out yourself! There aren't a ton of announcements. Love the Sail Away song and flag raisin on the deck when sailing away from certain locations. INTERNET – really really slow and spotty. The price you pay for an internet package is ridiculously expensive and then it’s too slow to upload anything, often don’t get or can’t see emails and can’t get to many websites. Forget about posting much to Facebook. There are many spots within the yacht that have no service. ROOMS - the room size is excellent! LOVE the big walk-in closet and the bathroom with two sinks. The rooms with the opening French windows have a step-in tub/shower combo, but you can get a walk in shower in rooms with stationary windows. We were SO HAPPY to have upgraded to a room with the opening doors/windows – there’s a tiny platform you can step out on, but the doors open so you have floor to ceiling opening (glass balcony too) that allows in fresh air day or night – well worth the extra spend! The room finishes and many of the common area finishes are dated, and you can tell the ship is old by the many layers of paint, chipped marble/floor tiles, missing/stained grout, etc. The room furniture was dated, sort of beat up and chipped – but the size of the room made it ok. Wish there were more power plugs – only two US ones in the room – one in the bathroom and one at the little desk in front of the bed. We were constantly alternating charging things. There’s a small fridge with stocked mini-bar and a DVD player for your small tv (big enough to see from the bed and the living area). The walk-in closet had shelves, a couple of drawers and plenty of space for hanging clothes (and they brought us extra hangars immediately upon request). There were a couple of drawers in the little desk opposite the bed. The room’s walls are metal, so you can bring your own magnets and put up your daily programs, excursion tickets, etc, and not clutter your desktop with them. There’s plenty of storage in the bathroom, too: open corner shelves on each side adjacent to the mirror, a long shelf under the sink, and a small cabinet where you can put other toiletries. We had more than enough room, and I bring lots of different lotions and sunscreen. There’s shelving in the shower with enough space for your goodies, and a small ledge along the tub. Their L’occitane products are good if you don’t want to bring your own shampoo, conditioner, body gel and soap. We were glad we brought our own air freshener (car-style, paper) for the restroom, though the vacuum system seemed to take a lot of any odor out. We kept our French windows open most of the time, too, so maybe that helped. When you’re choosing your room, think about what direction your yacht will be traveling, and what side you’ll be on so you can choose to see sunrise or sunset from your room. We prefer sunrise, since I’m always up early and don’t necessarily want to go right upstairs at 5:30am (especially since you can’t get fresh coffee/latte until 6am). And with French windows, you can just open the doors wide and see the most amazing sunrises!! For sunset, we’re happy to be on deck having a cocktail, so didn’t care if we could see from our room or not. CREW – the staff is absolutely outstanding! Our cabin steward (Hasan) knew our names the first day, and always used them, even out of context when we saw him around the ship or on a port tender. He was personable, always greeted you with a smile and asked how your day was, was always upbeat and always asked if there was anything he could do to make our trip special. We’re not high maintenance, so didn’t ask for much, but he was quick with ice when requested, provided a spectacularly clean room, and once, when I came back early from dinner to retrieve something, he gave me personal instruction on how to make a towel animal. The wait and bar staff were phenomenal, too! They got to know our names really quickly, and even what our preferred drinks were. Yogi in the Yacht Club coffee bar, knew my preferred drink style and every day when I was up there at 6am, he’d greet me by name and make my Americano just the way I liked it! I still miss his morning greeting and coffee. I had no idea he worked both the dinner service and the 6am coffee service until I saw him at dinner one day (he was usually at tables toward the back, and we were always at the front) – not sure how he managed to keep his amazing attitude with hours like that, but as the first person I saw every day (my husband was usually still asleep when I went for coffee), he really started every day out for me with sunshine! Some of our other stellar crew: Apple, both bartender/waiter in the deck bar and wine steward in the dining room. She’s also phenomenal, again greets you by name, and knows your preferred drinks within a day, and can recommend others based on what you seem to like. She went out of her way to make other things special, too, whether your food, dining table, just anything. And she’d come over and say hi and see how you were doing, even if you weren’t seated in her area. After our first dinner without her, we asked to be seated at one of her tables every other night. We also made that request, because then our waiter would be the same – Deva! He was fun, funny, helpful, entertaining, and always wanting us to enjoy our time. Again, he provided breakfast service on the Verandah and dinner service, and even if he didn’t have our table at breakfast he would come by to say hi and make sure we were being taken care of. Noel was also another of our favorite bartenders/waiters – we mostly saw him only in the deck bar, but he would also always go out of his way to make sure we had everything we needed, could suggest alternative drinks, etc. I must also mention that every other crew member we came across, from people-facing, to kitchen and laundry, to engineering/maintenance – they always greeted you with a smile and wished you a good day! Really, I don’t know how the crew knows your names so quickly (I do know they post the photos in the galley, but still!) and what you like, OR how they keep their amazing friendly and helpful attitudes when they work the hours/days they do – whatever Windstar does to train their staff really makes the trip the absolute best! The funny thing is, the few times we saw officers (pretty rare), they were the least friendly! FOOD – from good/very good to excellent! For dinner, your entrée is cooked when you order. And if everyone goes into the dining room at the same time, there may be a bit of wait. But well worth it. Most of our dinners were excellent! With good variety from meal to meal, plenty of options of different meat, fish and vegetarian. We often chose to split an entrée as a starter and that was never an issue. If you want to blend two entrees – no problem! Two starters – no problem! Portion sizes are good, too, so you can avoid overeating (unless you over-order ). Plenty of greens available. We wished there’d been a pizza place or pizza on the menu – never appeared once and I bet the kitchen could make a mean pizza! Breakfast doesn’t start til 7am, which seems late to me, is outside or inside at the Verandah – buffet eggs, pastries, fruit bar, cold cuts and cheese, with bacon/sausage and potatoes. Fruit smoothies, too. Made to order specials every day (several kinds of benedicts, fruit pancakes, waffles, etc) and you can also order eggs any way you want every day. Full coffee service (brewed, lattes, etc). Another breakfast option, though, is the Yacht Club, which opens at 6am with coffee any way, pastries, smoothies, fruit and yoghurt. Lunch is also in the Verandah, and is full buffet with a huge salad bar, several hot options, a carving station with one different meat/fish every day, dessert bar. Lunch was usually pretty good, you’ll find something there, or you can order the special hot sandwich of the day (reuben, monte cristo, etc) or a grilled chicken sandwich or hamburger. Any pasta on the buffet was usually overcooked, but that’s hard to do. Our least favorite food was usually desserts – the lunch desserts often seemed tastier than the dinner. The sorbets were good, and they would have different ice cream flavors, but the cakes, puddings, etc, usually fell flat. There is one specialty dining restaurant, where you’re guaranteed at least one seating – it’s actually in the breakfast/lunch spot on the verandah (outside, but covered) and they put out tablecloths and candles. Same menu all the time, but they have steak (no lobster), which you don’t get much of in the regular dining. The steak was very good, but nothing else was better than the regular dining room, other than eating outside. We liked the dining room selections better so didn’t go back. They actually offered on-deck dining twice on our cruise – grilled meats and a salad and dessert bar. Food was good, but offerings not as good as the dining room – and since there’s very little seating, you had to book a reservation as soon as it was announced! We loved being able to sit outside as the temperatures were perfect. One night, dinner was a barbeque on the deck – this was AMAZING! The salad bar, cold cuts /cheese and dessert bar were huge with a ton of variety. There was fresh grilled lobster tails and lamb chops (while you waited), chicken, paella, and probably so much more I’m forgetting. Thank goodness again for a small ship, where lines were short and there’s room for everyone to sit outside on deck, once they added more tables and chairs (removed lounge chairs). And, of course, both the single and duo musicians played while you ate – really lovely. And one day there’s a special beach barbeque where the crew moves everything to a private beach and freshly grills hamburgers & specialty hot dogs, and arroz con pollo in the big paella pan, along with providing a veggie/salad and dessert buffet. You can sit in your beach lounge chair, or at one of the dining tables they set up. They also bring along full bar service (pay according to your drink package, if any). BEVERAGE / LAUNDRY PACKAGE – about a week or two prior to the cruise we received a notice of a discount package that would include our tips (they will charge you $13.50/day each no matter what), laundry service, internet service and a premier beverage package (includes all cocktails, all wines by the glass, and full minibar). We chose to do this for each of us. It seemed to make sense if we had 4 alcoholic drinks per day each. Which didn’t seem so unreasonable if you thought you might have a beer at lunch, a cocktail at sunset and two glasses of wine at dinner. And that’s probably about what we averaged. We loved the convenience of turning our laundry over in the morning and having it back by 5pm every day! They handled it all perfectly, including the cold water wash. It allowed us to pack a bit less, and we liked that, too. I would be we about broke even on this discounted deal. ENTERTAINMENT – the crew does a talent show – do not miss it! It takes guts, folks, to get up in front of a crowd and sing, dance, play music, or put on a skit – kudos to them for making it so fun! They appreciated our encouragement and applause before during and after the show. We missed the line dancing they did on deck one night – we hadn’t realized it was the crew starting it off (for 20-30 minutes) and thought only it was music for passengers. The music duo played mostly older music that at least was good background for the lounge and bar, and there was a solo male who played a bit more current music at the bar. One of the at-sea events was a towel animal “seminar” – it was not a convenient time for us, so we missed it – wished they’d had more than just the one. Also, we’d heard their galley tours are fun, but they never did have one on our trip – wish they had! SPA - we didn’t use – prices seemed a bit high for massages, nails, etc. But they did have stretching and yoga classes almost every day, though I heard it was hard to do some with the ship’s movement! There’s basic gym equipment, but it’s older. DECK CHAIRS – there aren’t enough to go around. And unfortunately, people go up early and put stuff on the chairs to hold them, but don’t show up for hours – some seemed to be vacant all day. Windstar should not allow this and should either provide more chairs or move belongings if a chair has been vacant more than an hour. We could usually find a table and upright chair at the bar. SHORE EXCURSIONS – the good thing about going with Windstar’s is that if you’re late, or your port is canceled, etc, Windstar handles the logistics. For most of the ports, you’re a ways away, and not within walking distance of anything interesting, so you’d have to book a private tour or cab if you don’t go with Windstar. However, it always feels like you’re paying too much for Windstar’s, especially when you consider the number of people going (usually 20-30 on the ones we went on). Know that some ports are docked at a pier and some anchored and you’ll need to take a tender. Windstar sometimes uses a zodiac boat (like a blow-up/pontoon) and sometimes local boats and sometimes it can be challenging to get onto the boat and/or out of the water – you definitely want water shoes or sandals – good strong sandals might be best if you plan on leaving them on and hiking/walking in them. CARTAGENA City Highlights – the fort, the dungeons (now artisan craft shops), the cathedral and the old town. We enjoyed this. The amount of time allowed for shopping was plenty. Liked the goods and prices at the dungeons a bit better than in the old town. Old town was pretty and well maintained, with some cools shops and restaurants – we really didn’t need any more time than the extra 40 minutes provided. Our guide provided good narrative. You could always go out on your own ($20-$30 cab ride each way?) and just go to the old town (Bocagrande?), but going with an excursion PANAMA CITY - Best of Old & Modern Panama – they don’t tell you it’s an hour bus ride to get to the city. The first part of “Old” means some boring ruins and a museum with a quick run through – with how Panama City came into being. More boring. You barely see any of the current modern city as you ride through with the bus, just that it’s dirty and uninteresting. Our driver was unaware of the upcoming Christmas parade and we got detoured and delayed. Then to the colonial “old city” with is barely in a gentrification stage – some quaint façades of old homes and buildings, but no time to shop or browse in the few stores. Then on to a marina area and a restaurant for dry fish or pork and rice and overcooked veggies, before the one hour ride back to the yacht. Wouldn’t do this again, though we did figure out we would not come to Panama City if we ever returned to Panama (expats must be going to the countryside – this did not look enticing at all). Also heard the locks and boat tour was not very good. PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT itself (on the yacht, not an excursion) – phenomenal. We were lucky with sunshine and beautiful weather, and our original start was rescheduled from 4am to 8am. They brought a guide onboard to narrate what was happening all the way through, but the ship’s speaker system wasn’t working and you could only hear them in two locations (that didn’t have the best viewing) – so we went through without hearing the details. PEARL ISLANDS – we anchored, they lowered the back exit and discovered the seas were too rough to go out. So we waited another two hours to see if they would calm and they did not. So we raised anchor and headed off to Isla Parida a day early. Somehow the crew managed to pull off landing at Isla Parida a day early, and a new stop in Puerto Jimenez to replace this one! ISLA PARIDA – this is the private beach where the entire crew gets off to set up and pull off a beach barbeque. They did a phenomenal job! They also bring the yacht’s own beach toys and kayaks. And there are plenty of lounge chairs and dining tables. See the food section above for the food. The hike they offer as an excursion is not worth it. You can walk the loop trail yourself, having a guide didn’t offer much benefit; the trail is a bit strenuous in a few parts. If we had known they had the beach barbeque there when we booked our excursions, we might not have booked the hike. PUERTO JIMENEZ - Tropical Gardens & Beach Scape - we were not told before booking it was an hour local boat ride across the gulf to visit the gardens (and that some of us would get soaking wet), nor that we would not have an opportunity to go into town when we did this; based on the port talk we thought we would end up in town and be able to spend an hour there if we wanted. The boat took us over by a bunch of pelicans in trees over the water – really not that interesting. The gardens were interesting, but really no birds (two toucans you could barely see as they flew by, and two scarlet macaws so high you could only tell what they were by their shape) and we were much more interested in seeing birds than the few orchids we actually saw. They should not have included the beach time - it's not a good beach there, and only one person did while the rest of us sat around for over 30 minutes waiting! QUEPOS – Manuel Antonio National Park Nature Walk – this is a quick bus ride from the pier. There weren’t as many varieties of wildlife as we might have expected, but we probably saw 8 to 10 sloths! Several were moving, and the guides have little scopes so you can look through a telephoto lens and see them up close; otherwise they are quite high in the trees and hard to see, much less get a good photo. The guides are also good at spotting other rodents, lizards and crabs. We finally saw a group of capuchin monkeys as we were about to leave the park – and we felt like it’d been a pretty good trip. There’s a break for a beach/swim spot, but it’s a pain to carry your stuff around on the walk, so that was a bit of a waste of time. We left and walked on our own for that 30 minutes until we met back up with the guide again. It’s important this tour is early morning, as only a certain number of visitors are allowed daily and once they reach their limit, they close, only re-opening later once a certain number have left. It’s also nice to walk through when it’s a bit less crowded. The marina where you tender to is a nice little place with a variety of restaurants and bars and a few cute boutiques. We had sushi at the restaurant Sunrice, with fresh tuna from the local fishermen – a much appreciated change of pace from the cruise meals. Town is only a few blocks from the marina, also walkable, for your standard tourist shopping. SAN JOSE – city tour and aiport transfer. As noted above, disembarkation was poor and we were an hour late to start. There were only supposed to be folks with the airport transfer and one hotel transfer on our bus, but somehow a number of people were booked into other hotels and thought they could find their way from either the airport or the other hotel, not really checking to see how far their hotels were from those drop-offs. We had also picked up folks from the Wind Star sailing ship which had docked right next to us, and they had told passengers to get on our bus and they would be dropped off at a downtown hotel – and they weren’t supposed to be. It was all a cluster. The San Jose city tour was worthless. The city is ugly (1960’s/1970’s almost communist-era looking architecture) and crowded and a bit dirty, though there are pedestrian ways for shopping. We went to a gold/currency museum that was half closed (not that interesting) and the Opera House (where we could only get into the lobby), and mostly dealt with traffic. I would have no interest in seeing this city. Waiting at the airport for 4 extra hours would have been preferable. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Decided to try Windstar after liking the smaller ship experience on Viking and Azamara and Viking River. Overall, the food was very good, the crew friendly and eager to please however we started off by delaying our sail away by a day due ... Read More
Decided to try Windstar after liking the smaller ship experience on Viking and Azamara and Viking River. Overall, the food was very good, the crew friendly and eager to please however we started off by delaying our sail away by a day due to "two small holes" in the hull that required underwater welding. This resulted in a sea day instead of our scheduled port of call in Cartagena which was the main reason for some passengers picking this trip. There really is not much to do on such a small ship on sea days - they could easily schedule more activities such as Trivia or quiz shows, but don't. During the first sea day, we hit some swells that resulted in furniture sliding across the floor, broken glass during a group screening of a movie on the Panama canal. They aired the film later on the in room TV but the sound never worked. They had open bar for one day to make up for the missed port, but that doesn't really do it, especially for those who didn't drink. The food overall we very good quality, but with there could have been more variety and I would have appreciated some menu selections reflecting the local cuisine. The staff seemed to bend over backwards for those passengers with multiple food allergies. The ship's excursions where easily double the price of Viatour or shorexcursions.com for the exact same activity. A few of the ports were "in the middle of nowhere" so unless you like hot, humid, sunny beach activity, there was not much to do. The weather in December in Central America is very humid - we had little rain and temps in the 83-90 degree range and we were all sweating like pigs. The gym is TINY and very hot - if there are 3-4 people in there it is too crowded. Someone took the 5 lb weights early in the cruise and the staff never did find or replace them. Lots of complaints about the sports platform not being operational at all during this cruise and the week before coming form Barbados to Aruba - we had not tried it before but were looking forward to using it so this was a disappointment too. The room itself was small but had adequate storage, no USB ports and one US and on European outlet by the bed. The bathroom was small with one of those plasticy shower curtains that some don't like (doesn't bother me). Our cabin steward kept it spotless. We met many friendly passengers, mostly in their upper 50 to lower 70's, mostly retired and very well traveled, mosty repeat Windstar customers. A common theme was the man wanted to see the Canal (the engineering, etc) and the woman wanted to go on a cruise. Some remarked that this Windstar cruise was not up to par in comparison to their previous sailings. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
17 nights on Wind Spirit in French Polynesia was the cruise of our lifetime. The ship, food, staff and amenities were perfection, and our clothes were wet with tears having to disembark. The staff literally knock themselves out trying to ... Read More
17 nights on Wind Spirit in French Polynesia was the cruise of our lifetime. The ship, food, staff and amenities were perfection, and our clothes were wet with tears having to disembark. The staff literally knock themselves out trying to please and make the experience something you'll never forget. We chose this because we sailed a 7 day on the original Windsong Tahiti 25 years ago- it was a dream of a cruise then and just as wonderful this time only 10 days longer. We are water people, former divers and long time snorkelers. Figured we'd never tire of being in the water with all but 2 days of 17 in port. We were right. A caveat- this is not a cruise for anyone with a mobility problem. Most of the excursions are for people with a moderate tolerance for physical activity. If you like the water you should be a decent swimmer and moderately good snorkeler, although there are beginner diving excursions. There are a lot of land tours on each island however that work for everyone. Had gorgeous weather. Just two days of rain in 17 days, the rest sunny and spectacular. It is the rainy season though so the humidity was high. We headed to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX. The flight was decent even though it was one of their older planes, good food, good service and right on time. I'd pre-reserved a router online with Tahiti Wifi that worked great in port everywhere but Fakarava and Rangiroa. Pick up at the airport in Papeete was easy. We met the B&B proprietor Beni from Fare Suisse right in the pickup point at the airport just as he did last year when we visited. Fare Suisse has simple, but comfy rooms, extremely clean and a nice breakfast. There are 10 rooms and they offer airport pickup and dropoff at the port. Beni and wife Therese could not be nicer more generous people. We visited the market down the street for some toiletries we'd forgotten. There's an ATM there too. Boarding started about 12-1pm. There was a short line to wait while staff did a manual luggage screening. It was quite cursory though, we had some airline type containers of alcohol and they weren't found although I saw they'd confiscated some full bottles. Then we were on board that sleek gorgeous ship with a welcome mai tai and off to a beautiful lunch spread in the Veranda. Always several hot dishes, and salads, incredible cheeses and breads and of course the fabulous desserts. There is also a special cooked to order daily, first day was prime rib. Bar service began that first lunch and waiters knew and addressed us by our names from then on. Our cabin was a BX Deck 1, #129. Wonderfully laid out and remarkably designed storage. The bathroom was very comfortable with a roomy shower and nice fixtures. Our cabin attendant Ady was superb. Explored this gorgeous ship for the rest of the afternoon spending most of our time relaxing on a deck chair on the bow. Husband is fond of working out and his only disappointment was the gym- decent equipment but small space. Get 3 people in there and it really heats up. There is yoga and Pilates every morning starting at 7am on the top deck. Dinner in Amphora, as breakfast and lunch, were just remarkable.The variety and consistency were mindblowing. We had the good luck to be booked on a James Beard Foundation cruise with a pastry chef who gave demonstrations every other day. On alternate days there were wine tasting (complimentary!) events. Most we didn't make due to excursions unfortunately but those who did just raved. Service in Amphora was superb- seemed we never had to wait for a course. The maitre d' gave us the same table for 2 almost every night in the quietest part of the dining room. Although service was so good we'd have been happy with any of the waiters we had. I'd probably choose Adhe as number one though. If I have a complaint it would be that the dining room is very noisy. But the FOOD- unbelievable. Infact Cruise Critic gave Oceania the nod for best luxury line cruise food...our most frequently traveled line is O and we give them a 4.75. We give Windstar a 5. I have to say something about breakfast! First of all as with lunch we could eat out on deck in a covered area looking out at the ocean. There was the usual gorgeous spread, fruits, pastries, to order eggs, bacon, sausage etc but there is a menu to order from too with different selections each day- eggs benedict, raisin brioche french toast, belgian waffles with raspberries and blueberries, flax seed pancakes. Try spoiling us more. Coffee was just ok with a weakness on the cappuccinos and espresso. Good but not delicious. With everything else so drop your socks coffee gets a pass. Was wonderful to wake up at 6am and enjoy the gorgeous mornings with coffee and pastries on a chair overlooking the ocean and the next island we were closing in on. Candles was lovely. We had four nites in Bora Bora and were fortunate to have both our nights in Candles on the overnight in Bora Bora- very calm and peaceful. Could have had more nites in Candles but the food in the dining room was so good it was hard to pass up the nightly selections there. Wine service was excellent, terrific selection with good prices. Cocktails reasonably priced too. Lucked out and had free laundry service for the whole cruise- what a gift. Not only could we pack lighter but everything came back in beautiful shape, even silk shirts and bathing suits. They said pressing was not included but everything looked pressed to me! In before 9am back by 5pm same day. The library had limited inventory as you might expect- bring your kindle. The shop was well stocked for the size of the ship. We aren't night people but passed through the lounge after dinner and sometimes sat to listen to the two person group softly singing popular tunes. The young woman had a spectacular voice- Time To Say Goodbye and Don't Cry for Me Argentina were outstanding. The gentleman sat on deck by the pool some afternoons and played softly. The deck party dinner was superb. Food selections and atmosphere were wonderful. As was the dinner on the motu in Bora Bora. The show including the fire dance was phenomenal. The motu day off Tahaa was a nice surprise too. Decent snorkeling, water toys, good lunch, beautiful location. The parts I love the best are the evenings. The sail away. The sails open and ahhhhh. So lovely. And the nights on the bow of the boat. The stars so bright and the moon on the water. Truly magical. One night we were out and one of the officers pinted out the constellations to us. Shore excursions.....did all but two independently. The ship's tours we took were surprisingly good as they seemed to be with most of the people we spoke with. Just a lot more expensive than independent. Fakarava- one reason I wanted to do this cruise was to do Fakarava. And to tour with the famous Ato. It didn't work out. He needed 8 people, we only had 6 a few days before the trip and he could not confirm us. So in order to have something we were assured of doing, I booked the Blue Lagoon with the ship. The day before the tour Ato emailed saying he'd take us, but at that late date I had no access to email. He showed up at the dock, but not me not ever thinking it was still on. So he ended up taking just 4 other people at only 75% of the price he quoted me. Not nice and I was sorely disappointed. Those folks said they had one of the best tours they'd ever taken just as I knew it would be. Dang. The Blue Lagoon was pretty good- saw a protected bird motu from a distance and visited the Blue Lagoon. Spectacularly colored water but we spent almost 2 hours just hanging around with a guide who carried on a long convo with some French speaking Canadians while the rest of us sat on a coral mound and watched crabs. We stayed so long there we had very little time to snorkel at Pufuna which would have been the highlight for us. Maybe 10 minutes there to get back to the ship just in time before it departed, and it would have been terrific snorkeling had we been able to stay longer. The excursion was OK but could have been better. Rangiroa- independent drift snorkel and the Aquarium. Very exciting. You need to be a good snorkeler. The day we were there the current was moving fast. You jump in and the current takes you past tons of fish while holding onto a small raft behind your guide. There's really not time to stop to adjust your mask so you have to be READY! A good reason to bring your own snorkel equipment so you know everything fits and works for you. We had three runs one of which was a mile long and marvelous. Afterwards we visited the aquarium with tons of fish, big moray and resting big nurse shark. Tahaa- the Coral Garden with the ship. It was terrific. Beautiful 30 min. boat ride with about 6 others to a gorgeous channel between motus. You get out of the boat and walk to the site where you begin your drift snorkel with water shoes carrying your fins(Yes bring water shoes. Neoprene gloves and pants or tights and rash guard too to cover body. Very sharp coral on this tour and we saw lots of injuries. You can find this stuff on Amazon for next to nothing) Then entering the water with your fins (with lots of direction!) you sail down a channel lined with coral seeing some gorgeous sealife. It was some of the best snorkeling I've ever done. This is not to be missed. Your guides will help you along the way. If the water is flowing fast it's a lot harder to stay on course but your guides will nearly pick you up and redirect your body. The water is very shallow- you can stand up. Everyone has to do this! It's one of the most incredible snorkeling sites we've ever done. At the very minimum pack water shoes. Mine were $12 on Amazon. Bora Bora- had 4 days there and did 3 different tours. The very best was Tohora Bora Bora. I was not expecting it to be so wonderful having added it on at the last minute. The guide Simon was fantastic. Exuberant, excited about teaching about his lagoon and island, and this was all about snorkeling with dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, stngrays, sharks and a coral garden with the clearest water I've ever seen. We were wowed not just by the scenery but also by a guide who was truly mesmerized still by his environment after living in Bora Bora for 20 years. If your go May through October he will take you to see whales! We also did Pure Snorkeling and Lagoon Service and while they were very good they were not quite as good as Tohora Bora Bora. Pure Snorkeling brought us to most of the same sites as Tohora did but the guide was very quiet while a very sweet guy. The guide at Lagoon Service was a little impatient with a few of the slower people on the boat telling them to hurry up while trying to get up on the ladder. It's not easy for new snorkelers to get in and out of a boat. Then they brought us to their gorgeous private motu for lunch. Everything was fine until we the time kept passing and we realized it had been 2 hours since we'd seen our guide. Thought that he was ready to bring us back to the ship about 2:30 until they brought out another guy who wanted to show us how to open a coconut. He loved to TALK and that went on for 45 minutes! The tour is great but just do the morning tour- no lunch. I should add that in the morning they brought us to the open ocean and we snorkeled with lemon sharks. It was worth it just for that. Moorea- jet ski with Moorea Activities Center. A blast! Exceedingly nice family company. We went most of the way around the island. My husband is a fast but terrible driver. Midway he told me "I can't see a thing!". We snorkeled about 3 sites and ended up in a shallow area full of stngrays. They are so sweet and loving. Like amorous cats. Do this. It was only $185 for 2 people. Ship was charging $399. The company picks you up right on time at the dock. Mid-cruise we stopped in Papeete as the 10 day part of the cruise ended and the 7 day began so we picked up more passengers. We took the ferry back to Moorea (easy) for a day stay at the Hilton Moorea. $90pp for all day, use of pool and beach and toys and fabulous lunch. Terrific snorkeling. Used Torea Nui Transport in Moorea- right on time. Another family outfit- nice people and they do island tours too. Reasonable. There are tons of stray dogs in Tahiti as there are all over the world. Tahitians don't believe in spay/neuter either. So lots of skinny, sad dogs but especially so in Moorea. A few are owned but most are free. There were lot of us buying food at grocery stores feeding along the way. It's heartbreaking. Our next day in Moorea we'd planned to rent a car and go to the Lagoonarium, but it rained very heavily all day so we returned the car early and went back to the ship. Raiatea- wow, another amazing day. We did L' Excursion Bleue with Bruno. Fabulous. He has a boat that accommodates 12 people but he'd just booked the two of us. Instead of canceling he took just the two of us around the whole island of Tahaa snorkeling- same tour as he does with the big groups probably at a loss to him. He's a sweet man. First place we stopped was teeming with sharks- there must have been 50 at least. We swam with them all around us and stingrays floating around too. The nicest thing was that he seemed in no hurry- he'd let us stay in the water wherever we stopped as long as we wanted. Another stop to snorkel and then a vanilla and pearl farm. Could have done without those but they were brief and no pressure to buy at all. Another snorkel stop and then back to the Coral Garden drift which we'd done before. We were so happy to be returning as it is so spectacular. He was a much better guide this time too. Huahine- another day with Sailing Huahine Voile. Did this last year. A beautiful sailing boat for 12 moored in Fare right off the dock where tender arrives. There were just 4 of us and it was a lovely day. Two snorkel sites with lots of background history and explanation of sealife. Again lunch a little too long and it's bring your own from the local market. Huahine is probably my favorite island. Very unspoiled. The couple who operate the boat are characters- a lot of fun. If it were possible we would have done Ile Aux Recifs in Rangiroa with Leon. They have a 6 passenger minimum. By the time I got the 6 together I stopped getting emails from them. But give it a try- it's supposed to be wonderful. revaultleon@mail.pf Sorry so long. But just returned last night and still coming off the high of all this. Everyone who has the means and the physical ability needs to do this. It's hard to describe how magnificent this cruise is. Just do it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
My husband and I had an excellent time on our 14 day southern Caribbean cruise. We spent one night pre-cruise in San Juan. Embarkation and disembarkation were flawless. The ports of call were fun and new places to explore. We especially ... Read More
My husband and I had an excellent time on our 14 day southern Caribbean cruise. We spent one night pre-cruise in San Juan. Embarkation and disembarkation were flawless. The ports of call were fun and new places to explore. We especially enjoyed our time at Maho beach in Saint Martin, Princess Margaret beach in Bequia and Grand Anse Beach in Grenada. The weather was great but the highlight of the ship was the service and the food. The staff are so well-trained to provide very personalized service without being in your space. The food was by far the best food I’ve had in 80 cruises. We loved the sailaway ceremony in each port. Swimming off the back water sport deck is a fun way to end the day’s activities. WindStar has become our new top cruise line after having sailed many mainline larger cruise ships. The decor and the flexibility of being on a smaller ship fit our cruising lifestyle perfectly. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Embarkation is a walk right on, and too long of a wait. They have different stations to visit, port excursions, spa, drink package, etc. They take your credit card and give you your key and you are free to go to your room and wait for your ... Read More
Embarkation is a walk right on, and too long of a wait. They have different stations to visit, port excursions, spa, drink package, etc. They take your credit card and give you your key and you are free to go to your room and wait for your luggage or go to lunch. Our bags came just as we were about to go to lunch, so we unpacked and barely made lunch. We chose this cruise for the islands. It left and returned to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and stopped in St. Maarten, Guadaloupe, Bequia, Grenada, and St. Lucia. The food was amazing, and the service is impeccable. They really do anything they can to make you feel like family. So genuine. The entertainment is not that of a larger ship, but there was usually one or two places you could go hang out with live music, dancing, or a hilarious game. The staff puts on a dance/singing show one night, also. It's a bit quieter than a large ship because there are not as many people on board. We enjoy being able to get on and off the ship without ever waiting in a long line. Even on days where they tender you off. We really enjoyed St. Maarten, Bequa, and Grenada the most for the beaches. In Guadaloupe we rented a scooter. Very small island! Just know that they close for siesta between 12 and 2:30, so don't expect to turn your golf cart or scooter in during those times. We were hunting for a rental place during that time and found one still open. Good way to go to the top of the fort, but they were closed too! We found a beach for the day. We got chairs on Bequia at Fay's and had rum punch all afternoon. We walked over to Jack's and had a delicious lunch. Walked back to the ship after a lazy day in the water and on the beach. Some friends took a cab back. The day we were supposed to have a shore excursion on Grenada through Windstar, it got cancelled the night before due to not enough people. You would think they would've said something earlier so we could recruit, but we enjoyed our beach day. We took a cab to the beach and a guy was delivering rum punch to us on the beach. Grand Anse is beautiful! St. Lucia (Pigeon Island) was lovely. It rained off and on, but there was a wonderful beach party bbq lunch. The property is next door to one of The Sandals Resorts. We had a fun day in the water, and floating lilly pads and trampoline. You can walk up to a fort but we didn't because we thought it would be too slippery with the heavy rain. It was beautiful! There are locals with jewelry set up as you are walking to the private beach. Windstar also was selling bug spray, sunscreen, sweatshirts. They had steel drum music being played, too. At Disembarkation, we signed up for a Windstar Old San Juan Walking Tour. Could have done that on our own for way less and seen more because our tour got cut short due to someone not able to walk any further and the van picked us all up and took us to our hotel or airport depending where you were going. Oh well! This was our 2nd Windstar Cruise, as we did Tahiti last year and loved it! Yes we are hooked. I don't love waiting in lines or crowds. I enjoy finding a lounger at the pool when I feel like going out on the deck. Nobody hogging them with their towels all day long and nowhere to be seen. We had a fun time! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
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