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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Hello! My husband and I just returned from a 7 night Caribbean cruise aboard the Star Legend. We're fairly experienced cruisers, having been on a total of about 8 others, all on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. In fact, we've run ... Read More
Hello! My husband and I just returned from a 7 night Caribbean cruise aboard the Star Legend. We're fairly experienced cruisers, having been on a total of about 8 others, all on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. In fact, we've run out of itineraries on the big ships. It was either try a smaller line or start repeating - hence our first Windstar cruise. A bit about us. We're late thirty/early forty-somethings who, while not really athletes, tend to be active do-ers on our vacations. We like exploring, drinking cocktails and collecting experiences, not t-shirts. For the sake of space, I'm not going to discuss ports here. Instead, I'm going to focus on the cruise, ship and staff. Here are some notes about our experience. First impressions: Wow. From our hotel on the beach in the Condado area of San Juan to our stateroom took about 45 minutes. I brought 3 bottles of wine aboard in my carry-on (for two people) and no eyebrows were raised. The gangway was truly a gangway, complete with wooden stairs to climb. I didn't ask, as it wasn't relevant to us, but I would assume there must be a provision in place for those with mobility issues as the stairs are a bit narrow and steep. In less than 5 minutes we'd been handed a glass of complimentary rum punch, checked in and traded our passports for room keys. We were then greeted by a steward who walked us to our room and opened the door for us. Inside we found a plate of fresh food, a vase of orchids, and...SPACE. A full sitting area with a couch, coffee table and two chairs separated by draw curtains from a sleeping area with a bed, end tables and dressing vanity. There was a backlit cabinet of various wine and cocktail glasses that contained a concealed mini-fridge. There was a Bose sound dock and a flat screen tv. (Tip: bring an auxillary cord to connect the sound dock to your particular device. We had to go back out to CVS to buy one.) There was a WALK-IN CLOSET with more than enough hangers and hanging space. It contained storage shelves, a few small drawers and the safe, which had a digital combination lock. The bathroom had decent storage space and a full tub. (Tip: Despite improved bathroom storage space I was still grateful for my over-door shoe holder to keep the sunscreen, stain sticks, etc. No comments from our steward about their not being allowed.) Overall, the room felt spacious and luxurious. The neutral tan/grey interior was a vast improvement over Carnival's inexplicable orange theme. We were in a basic room on deck four - the lowest guest room deck. We had no noise from above or below. There were no odors or moisture issues. Our window was huge so the room was bright and cheery during the day. We book balcony rooms on the big ships and our door is never closed. I thought I'd miss that, but justified it with the old "but you're never really in your room," excuse. As it turns out, no, I didn't miss the balcony and to my pleasant surprise, the room was so nice and spacious that I enjoyed spending time in it. Throughout the week we noticed dozens of little touches that separate Windstar from the Big Box lines. For example, drinks came in glasses. Everywhere - even on deck. No cheesy plastic cups or giant pineapples with straws through them. Wine came in wine glasses. Cocktails came in cocktail glasses, etc. There are no paper towels in the public bathrooms - just cloth hand towels. All drinks but alcohol are included. I inquired about a "soda package" on day one, which garnered gentle chuckles. We didn't purchase the alcohol package so I can't comment as to its value. The pool deck area was an oasis. No hairy chest contests, belly-flop duels or blaring hip-hop. The loungers were all cushioned and there was an unlimited supply of oversized towels. The loungers on the upper deck were all paired with oversized umbrellas, which was nice. While I thoroughly enjoyed the peace of the pool deck, I do think that perhaps Windstar could lighten up a bit on the music. I appreciated not hearing the Wobble or Cupid Shuffle twice per day, but the deck tunes definitely skewed a bit old for my taste. Four Barry Manilow songs in 1.5 hours? Remember, if we're all asleep we're not buying drinks! The two hot tubs were comfortably hot, and while the pool was small, it was one of those "swimmer" pools, in which the push of a button created a current against which one could swim for exercise. The food was exquisite. Nothing tastes mass produced. We ate in the Veranda for breakfast each morning. I always ordered a custom omelet, and never waited more than 5 minutes for it, at the most. We were never on board for lunch. We ate dinner in Amphora most nights. The menu was varied and we tried a bit of everything. The staff were gracious when my husband, a bottomless pit of an eater, ordered double appetizers or even two entrees. Our only complaint, re: food, is that there are periods through the day, such as late afternoon/early evening, and after 9 pm, when room service is the only option. We would return to the ship around 5 pm after busy days in port, starving, and there wouldn't really be much available. On St. Martin night we almost skipped dinner on board as we'd been advised that all the restaurants would be closed in favor of a top deck barbecue. We chose to go to it at the last minute and were so glad we did. Delicious! Best meal of the trip. Don't miss it. We also did eat at Candles one night. The food was excellent, as expected, and the breeze was nice, but its located at the very back of the ship. The engine noise was surprisingly loud. We decided that we liked the main dining room better. My husband, who hates to iron only slightly more than he hates to pack, has a habit of shoving all his dinner shirts into the suitcase then sending them for pressing on the first day. He's also a clothes guy, who likes options. On Carnival and RC, this combination has led to pressing bills of $60 to $75 to start our cruise. Surprisingly, he sent 8 shirts for pressing on day one and our total bill was less than $20. The other major difference I noticed on this cruise was the crew. Naturally, on a smaller vessel one gets to know both crew and fellow passengers better than when there are 5000 others aboard. But the Windstar crew were around a lot. We saw them at port. We drank with them at the bar (off duty, of course.) Even the Captain, when he was off duty, would come and have a drink and mingle. They were delightful, accessible and very much part of the Windstar experience. Our fellow cruisers appeared to range in age from 20 to 80+. There were no children. (I received mixed reports about this. Not sure if its a Windstar policy or just a gentle recommendation. But another Tip: This ship is just not for kids. They would have been bored to death.) Everyone I met was pleasant. Most were very well-traveled. Multiple US states and nationalities were represented. As has probably been reported, we learned upon arrival that a broken tender vessel meant that we would be unable to go to Culebra. Instead we went to St. Thomas. I appreciate the fact that the ship made provisions to find us an alternate port, rather than just skipping a port day entirely. I do believe that the problem must have been fixed by the end of St. Thomas day, as for the rest of the cruise we appeared to be using just ship tenders with no issues. We had two small problems while on board. The first, involved our plans for St Martin port day. We'd planned to take the ferry to Anguilla for the day, which required our passports. I made a mental note to stop by guest services the night before to ask for them - then promptly forgot to do so. The next morning, we went there first thing to retrieve them, and learned that both the purser and the assistant purser had gone ashore early to process some new crew. The guest services staff tried several times to reach them via walkie-talkie and were unable to do so. We ultimately had two choices - wait an indeterminate amount of time - perhaps two hours or more - for them to return, or switch gears and find something to do in Marigot instead. We opted for the latter option. As we exited out to the tender area, we chanced upon the first officer. He stopped us and apologized, stating that he'd heard what was going on. He was trying to reach the purser to get permission to go into the safe without her. He said that if we wanted to wait, he'd find us onboard as soon as he heard something. At this point, we'd resigned ourselves to the change of plans, so we simply thanked him profusely for his attention and left the boat. The second problem occurred on Jost Van Dyke. We were up bright and early and ready for the first tender. Upon reaching the tender deck, we were informed that the first few tenders were going to be full of guests who'd booked ship-sponsored excursions. It would be about an hour until one was available for "independents." I've learned that one can always catch more flies with honey, as they say, so I simply smiled and said, "No problem. We'll wait. Maybe we can squeeze onto one." Sixty seconds later he was on his walkie-talkie and arranged for the Zodiac raft to bring us to shore. Instead of waiting an hour, we were literally the first two guests onto Jost Van Dyke by about 30 minutes. The point of those two stories is simply to illustrate that the customer service on Windstar is outstanding. In both cases, we had problems (one entirely of my own making, I might add) that staff went out of their way to try to solve for us. Would this have happened if the officers in question didn't know us by name after seeing us around the boat for the past few days? I doubt it. Evening entertainment options are limited. There are a few bars on board - all of which were well staffed. There was a duo that sang in the lounge, and one that sang at the pool deck bar. The casino is limited to a few slot machines and two tables. I'd browsed the single store through in about 20 minutes. As I mentioned, we're do-ers. We're up early and go all day. Usually, one after dinner drink, a walk up to the front for some star-gazing and we were ready to go to sleep. But those who enjoy shows and lots of evening action might be a bit bored in the evenings. Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation. We awoke, cleaned up, and went to the veranda for breakfast. Afterward, we scanned our keys "out" one last time and walked back down the steps. Our luggage was right there, as were porters. The customs line was very short. From breakfast to cab in about 6 minutes. Amazing. I cannot compare Windstar to lines like Seabourne, as I've not sailed them, but they were definitely a luxurious upgrade in comparison to the big boat lines. The minute our steward escorted us into our room I was ruined for life for the big ships. Our Windstar cruise was simply delightful. We felt pampered, relaxed and loved darn-near every second of it. We're already researching our next one. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
First of all, we are big fans of Windstar's sailing yachts and were a bit skeptical about the Legend, especially after reading some of the less than stellar reviews. We've done most of the islands on this itinerary but were very ... Read More
First of all, we are big fans of Windstar's sailing yachts and were a bit skeptical about the Legend, especially after reading some of the less than stellar reviews. We've done most of the islands on this itinerary but were very interested in returning to Montserrat as we were there in 1984 (on the old Yankee Clipper), and followed the devastation from the volcano very closely over the years. This was our first opportunity to return so we decided that the Legend was the way to go. As usual with Windstar, our embarkation was flawless although there was a bit of a discrepancy between the website information and the final boarding information that was sent to us. We did make it onboard at 1:00 p.m. even though we were not departing San Juan until 10:00 p.m. When we were shown to our suite I was blown away. We have reserved suites on the Surf for a lot more money and were stunned at the value in the Legend's suites. The walk in closet was amazing, large sitting area by the window, bathroom with full tub, etc. Everything was immaculate and our room steward, Eddy, was the best we've had on any cruise. This is not a brand new ship so there were signs of that but no more than a hotel room that was renovated 1 - 2 years before. We explored the ship and found all of the public rooms to be in excellent condition. Everything was immaculate, and in true Windstar style, a smiling and friendly crew. We ran into some crew that we had sailed with on the Surf and the warm greetings made us feel like we were home. Now - as for the sails and the sail away! It IS different than the Surf, Spirit, etc., and there were a few people on board who could just not get over it. Please people, it IS a different type of ship and hoisting the flag is NOT the same as the sails unfurling. But after the first night it was a non issue for us. We would suggest different sail away music though. It just doesn't feel right. Back to the public areas. The Yacht Club is lovely and quiet - great for reading a book. AmphorA had the best food we've had on Windstar which is saying a lot as it's always good. Candles is on the Verandah. My only quibble is that it feels more enclosed than the Surf or the Spirit but the food was excellent. Yougi runs the Verandah and Candles like a total pro. Bobby was the barman in Candles and we knew him from the Surf. A great guy! Breakfast and lunch was outstanding with lots of fresh fruits, omelets made to order, all of the "usual" that we expect from Windstar. Excursions were similar to the other Caribbean sailings. Lots of water things but we did get the opportunity for a French cooking class (more of a demonstration) on St. Martin in a lovely restaurant overlooking the water. Food was excellent, lots of wine, fun company. Loved it! My husband did the Stars & Stripes America's cup and had a blast. The highlight of our trip though was Montserrat and a private tour that we booked on our own. The ones that went from the ship were shorter in duration and we wanted to spend the day seeing what was and what is. The residents are excited that finally, after all of these years, some tourism is coming back to their island. They are resilient and hopefully they will make it. There are only 5,000 people left living there and they need our support. Jimmy Buffet made the island famous with his Volcano Song. We wish he would do one about their survival and encourage tourists to return. If anyone knows him (hahaha), please make the suggestion! We had a port change from Culebra to St. Thomas as one of the tenders was on the fritz. A bit of a disappointment but things like that can happen. Windstar did provide lots of opportunities for things to do that day so it seemed to work out okay. Probably our biggest disappointment was being unable to disembark on Virgin Gorda unless we took a Windstar tour. We were especially looking forward to this stop as we love the Bitter End and Pussers and going there each year has become kind of a tradition for us. Since we had already done the usual tours on this island, I stayed aboard and read a great book, my husband went to the beach BBQ. This is the big "private event" on this trip but I had enough sun and beach by the last day. Our fellow passengers who had not done this itinerary before loved it. The crew works hard and does a great job out there. Disembarkation was almost too easy! We were off the ship and on our way very early in the morning. Since we had a late flight we did the ship's rainforest tour outside of San Juan. It was worth the money and the experience. Included was a drop off at the airport so it all worked out. In summary - we would go on one of the sailing yachts again in a heartbeat. No hesitation - none! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Background: This was our first Windstar cruise, although we have logged 30+ together (mainly Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, but also Seven Seas Navigator and Paul Gauguin.) We are in our late-40's/early 50s and consider ... Read More
Background: This was our first Windstar cruise, although we have logged 30+ together (mainly Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, but also Seven Seas Navigator and Paul Gauguin.) We are in our late-40's/early 50s and consider ourselves very active, primarily interested in water activities. Travel to Embarkation Port: Non-stop flight on Delta from Atlanta arrived on time with no issues. Hotel: We flew in the morning of embarkation, so n/a. Embarkation: This was the easiest embarkation ever. Not another passenger in sight as we alighted from our taxi at the pier in Old San Juan. We quickly showed our documents and met up with a porter who accompanied us all the way to the gangway. We watched him transfer our luggage onto the ship and stepped onboard. We checked in at the Lounge and were directed to our cabin by our actual steward, Jajat. It seemed as if we never stopped moving, and our luggage somehow made it to the cabin at the same time that we did. Ship Information: This was the smallest ship on which we have sailed to date. There were 172 passengers onboard our sailing. Facilities (except tenders, more on that in Port section) seemed entirely adequate for the number of passengers onboard. We never experienced lines, chair hogs, or a wait of more than a few moments for anything except tenders. Activities: This is not a cruise for those who need to be entertained. When we were onboard, we occupied ourselves with swimming off the watersports platform (sunning mats, a large water trampoline, and kayaks and a paddle board were available), visiting with other passengers by the pool or Star Bar, or relaxing ondeck or in our cabin with a book. Dining: Dinner in AmphorA was usually very good to excellent, with a few misses. Menu highlights for me were the Ahi Tuna appetizer, seared Tuna entrée, seafood risotto and soups. I would say that the beef was of good quality, but not consistently cooked. (On the night we had beef wellington, mine was undercooked and DH's overcooked.) Desserts were hit or miss for me. The deck party was one of the highlights of the cruise. An incredible selection of food, with dining on white tablecloths under the stars. We were somewhat underwhelmed with Candles. On the night we went, we were tendered at St. Barths', and the orientation of the ship combined with the canopy over the dining area gave us no view. The food was good, but I would not rate it higher than AmphorA. Breakfast in Veranda was consistently good with a wide variety of hot, cold, and cooked to order selections. (Always omlettes and classic Eggs Benedict available, with a specialty version of EB, pancakes and French Toast each day. Lunch in Veranda was a challenge for us, probably because we typically have a salad, and the salad selections were somewhat lacking. That said, we were always able to find something to eat! We ordered room service one morning, and our order was delivered on time and complete. Service: Here is where Star Legend really shined for us. We enjoyed excellent service in every dining and bar venue onboard. The servers miraculously learned our names and preferences almost immediately and seemed genuinely interested in making sure that our every need was met. Service on this cruise was warm and personal, but not formal. Servers and staff uniformly addressed us by our first names, which was fine with us. But others who expect a more formal approach might be disappointed. Special mention: Endro (dining server), Lyn, Edison & Jeem (bar servers), Jajat (cabin steward), and Janelle (water sports). Kid's Club: n/a Entertainment: Entertainment was limited, but not lacking, in our opinion. There were two duos who entertained in the lounges and on deck in the evening. We particularly enjoyed Splash, an engaging and energetic couple, who seemed to able to play any type of music that you might think of. We danced to their sets every night of the cruise. The other duo, Double Malt, performed acoustic music, which is just not as much our style. Port & Shore Excursions: As opposed to another recent reviewer, we were excited to be anchored (vs. docked) and tendering into the smaller ports away from the giant ships and crowds. This also gave the advantage of having the water sports platform in operation each day (except the Prickly Pear beach experience day, when the toys were taken to the beach.) BUT, it did result in the biggest negative of the voyage, the tendering operation. I agree with the previous reviewer who declared the equipment to be substandard and the operators poor. I was surprised to read that tender problems had occurred on earlier voyages, as the malfunction of one of the tenders on St. Barths' day seemed to have taken the staff by surprise. It really messed up tours that day, but I was impressed how fast they contracted with local options for the rest of the week. (Now not so much impressed if they had problems previously.) We came to call their docking procedure the "crash landing" approach. Also agree with previous reviewer that the path taken to the tenders was not very pretty (down steep stairs and through maintenance/crew areas). But this seems to be dictated by the design of the ship and location of platforms, so I'm not sure what could be done to improve/correct. Culebra: We taxied to Flamenco Beach, which would have been beautiful on a pretty day. However, it was rainy and windy when we were there. St. Barth: We took the ship's Catamaran Sailing Adventure tour. It was a lovely catamaran with a small number of passengers (tour limited to 20). Snorkeling was just OK, not great, so we did not think it a great value for the $149 pp price. (Also, our time was reduced due to the tendering delays, so it ended up being a shorter tour than advertised.) Montserrat: The ship's Buried City tour was a highlight of our trip. The island is just gearing up again for tourism after the 1997 volcanic eruption, and we were one of the first ships to call there. The tour is a new one that takes you into the "Exclusion Zone", which is considered to be a danger area if the volcano were to erupt. The tour guides were in constant contact with the Montserrat Volcanic Observatory to make sure that we were not in any danger, and safety seemed to come first. We actually had the opportunity to walk around the devastated city and were taken to an overlook to get a long-range view of the volcano. Last stop was a tasty lunch and steel drum entertainment at a new facility on a black sand beach. There were some logistical hiccups, but it was a very unique and informative tour. Marigot: We walked around town, visited the Catholic Church, and climbed to the top of the Fort. It was very hot, and we were very glad to find the air-conditioned mall. Jost Van Dyke: We took the ship's Sailing and Snorkeling Tour, which was a bit of a misnomer, as it was a power catamaran rather than a sailing vessel. There were only 36 passengers on a boat designed for 50, so again no crowds. A couple of decent snorkel stops, and a stop at Foxy's Taboo for a Bushwhacker or Painkiller (not included in tour price.) When was arrived back at the tender pier, we hopped in a taxi for a quick trip to Soggy Dollar Bar for a drink and photo op. Since it was getting late in the day, we were worried about getting a taxi back. Our driver said not to pay him, he would wait for us and collect the round trip fare back at the pier. Virgin Gorda: We had planned to do the Bathes & Highlights tour, but just couldn't imagine spending another half day touring on buses when we had already been to The Baths on another trip. Good decision, as those who had gone on the tour later reported that it was a couple of hours too long for their interest. The Prickly Pear Beach Experience was excellent, similar to a private island day on other cruise lines, but without so many people. The buffet lunch was delicious, and it was fun to have all of the water toys there. Disembarkation: The easiest ever. We picked up our passports from Reception, enjoyed one last breakfast, and were off the ship and in a taxi in no time at all. Summary: Much has been said lately on the Windstar message board about the line no longer being "luxury." For me, luxury is enjoying wonderful food and service with friendly, well-travelled, interesting shipmates. These two things made our cruise most enjoyable. While every detail was not perfect, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and will be sailing Windstar again! Read Less
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