Hello – DH and I recently sailed the December 19 – 26 itinerary of the Star Legend. This was our first cruise on Windstar, having sailed previously with Celebrity, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. We have sailed ... Read More
Hello – DH and I recently sailed the December 19 – 26 itinerary of the Star Legend. This was our first cruise on Windstar, having sailed previously with Celebrity, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. We have sailed the most with Celebrity (maybe 10 times in various cabins up to and including Aqua Class) and twice on the PG in French Polynesia. We are in our 40s/50s and enjoy active pursuits including scuba diving, windsurfing, snorkeling, sailing and other water sports. We also enjoy the food and beverage aspect of cruising. The main reason Celebrity became our favorite line 15 or so years ago is its reputation for excellent food. Sadly, the food quality on all of the lines has apparently diminished (in our experience and based on the many comments on Cruise Critic). Since observations about food are very objective, this review will not go into that in any depth. We found the food on the Legend good but with room for improvement.
Many of my other comments have already been discussed in recent reviews, so I will try to cover new territory or answer questions that I have seen discussed on the boards recently.
We flew directly to San Juan the day of the cruise, arriving about 12:30 pm, and went straight to the ship docked at the Old San Juan pier (not the Pan American pier where the big ships dock). Some information said that we couldn’t board before 5:00 pm but other info said 1:00 pm, so we gave it a try and were one of the first couples to board the ship when it opened shortly after 1:00. The taxi was about $25 with 4 pieces of luggage.
Our stateroom 106 was on the fourth floor and it was beautiful – and although it was in the cheapest price category, it was the largest cabin we have ever had on a ship. Other people have discussed whether or not Windstar is a “luxury” line, so without taking a position on that, I can say that our cabin was truly luxurious to us. The appointments in the cabin exceeded the appointments in the rest of the ship IMO.
Others have mentioned the firm mattresses and pillows. I did request and receive a softer pillow, and I was comfortable on the mattress. There were plenty of nice, wooden hangers – with normal hooks that can be lifted off and moved around – in the walk-in closet. There was a full-sized bathtub with a Grohe hand shower and brackets to attach it at two different heights. I didn’t have any problem with the shower and thought the water pressure and consistency of water temperature were perfect.
We brought on two bottles of Champagne in our checked luggage and we bought a third at a wine store in Old San Juan later that afternoon. The policy is vague – whether it is 2 bottles per stateroom or 2 bottles per person – but in San Juan they are pretty flexible and didn’t even look at the one bottle that we were obviously carrying on. The cabins include a refrigerator and a selection of wine and bar glassware, including Champagne glasses, so we often enjoyed a glass of Champagne in our luxurious stateroom before dinner. Our attempts at room service (one breakfast and one snack after we missed lunch) were not satisfactory but we did not go hungry.
The muster drill was at 4:15 pm. (I don’t know what happened to the passengers who obeyed the instructions to board after 5:00.) That was followed by the typical spa raffle at 5:00. DH and I were both happy with the spa treatments we booked. I will give a shout out to Genevieve who gave the best pedicure I have ever had and in addition was lovely and interesting.
We walked around the ship to familiarize ourselves, and I can report that the library was well stocked for a ship of this size. We didn’t borrow any books but our visit resulted in meeting a nice couple that we socialized with at various times during the week.
Entertainment consisted of two musical duos – an acoustic duo who played mostly indoors and the livelier “Splash” who played mostly at the outdoor bar. Both were good, but Tori, the female singer of “Splash,” fulfilled the dynamic role on the ship that is normally filled by a cruise director (talking between songs about their experiences in port, narrating the sailaways, engaging with the crew and passengers nearby, etc.). There was an organized presentation each evening about the next day’s port.
We had purchased the laundry package at $109 per cabin for a 7-night itinerary, and we used it daily. It does not include dry cleaning but everything (including a linen shirt that was labeled dry clean only) came back fine. If you put the bag out by 9:00 am the clothes will be back by 5:00 pm the same day. We considered that a nice luxury and even sent bathing suits.
Unfortunately, we had a blustery, rainy week but we didn’t let it spoil our otherwise nice vacation. The first stop being a good example. It was probably my favorite port even though we were subject to two downpours. I overheard both crew and passengers (just one of each) complaining that this was not a good port, so it depends what you are looking for.
This was maybe the third sailing of this itinerary for the Star Legend which started sailing for Windstar in May. We had read unfortunate reports about the tenders before we left home. For those to whom this may be news, the Star Legend only docks in San Juan. All of the other ports are accessed by tenders that ferry the passengers from the ship to a dock on the island. The Legend is equipped with two tenders that are stored inside the rear of the ship. They were apparently designed to fit tightly inside that space and it appears they are the same age as the ship, or approximately 25 years old. They do not appear to have been maintained as well as the Legend herself. There were numerous problems with the tenders in the two sailings prior to ours and some problems on our sailing too. We were able to reach all of the advertised ports, unlike some of the prior sailings, however we consider ourselves lucky, and it is the tender situation alone that will prevent us from booking another Windstar cruise in the near future. We suspect and hope that management is squeezing the last drops of utility from those tenders and will purchase replacements in the near future.
We were really looking forward to Culebra, which had been cancelled the previous week due to the tender problems, so we were happy upon boarding to see that Culebra was on the agenda for the first stop the next day. Culebra is the home of Flamenco Beach which is on most lists of best beaches so we were planning a self-guided beach day. I still recommend this. There is no need to rent a car or book an excursion. It is a small island with numerous taxi buses that cruise around looking for passengers. We paid $3 pp each way to Flamenco Beach and back. The taxis hold about 15 people so if they are not full the drivers call out to people on the road to and from the beach and in the little town (and this was the Sunday before Christmas). The beach is advertised as walking distance but it would be a pretty long and boring walk. The beach itself has restrooms and concessions, as well as life guards and picnic tables. We didn’t buy any food but my pina colada was about $7 and I think DH’s beer was $4. Two different downpours found us huddling with strangers under covered picnic tables but we enjoyed that. We did not enjoy the sand flies or similar biting creatures that left our legs covered in itchy red dots for 3 or 4 days. I highly recommend bug repellent for this location. The itching was so bad that both DH and I were awakened by it during the night and had to slather on more hydrocortisone. On about the third day I paid a visit to the ship’s doctor for alcohol swabs. He was nice and helpful, and there was no charge for a little thing like that.
That evening was the welcome reception by the captain, so this may be a good time to let you know that our captain was James Griffiths. I believe he just came on for this cruise and had not captained the previous versions of this itinerary. Some other reviewers mentioned that they didn’t see enough of the officers, but I saw Captain Griffiths out and about plenty. We don’t seek out the officers or try to sit at the Captain’s table so maybe it is a matter of perception. It was a small ship, and I certainly saw officers. There is an open bridge policy (we did not visit) so anyone wanting to see the officers could certainly do so. There was also a galley tour but we did not take that either. Captain Griffiths was very personable during the welcome reception and I saw (and overheard) him eating meals with and chatting with passengers in a pleasant way. If he had joined us for a meal I would have welcomed him, but we were normally seated at a table for two.
The first night we “sailed” to St. Barth’s which was probably the longest sailing of the week so that brings me to the motion. There was some. We don’t usually get seasick and we didn’t this time either. For those who needed it, there was a supply of meclizine out on the Reception desk for the taking. Since we were at anchor every day, the only motoring was at night and the motion was enough to wake us a number of times. We were in the lowest category and in the forward category so there were probably just a few less rocky cabins closer to the center of the ship. I don’t think I would pay extra to be in that low, center category if we had it to do over again, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be any higher either. I took extra sleeping aides (more than my usual) after the first night and they helped. Although when a crew member said they don’t take sleeping pills so they can respond in the event of an emergency, and then we had the news of the grounding of the Star Pride in Panama, I began to think that I should reassess my coping strategy of ear plugs, eye mask and two different OTC sleeping aides.
We were happy to see St. Barth’s but it is now off the checklist. We rented a car and drove the whole island. We thought we might windsurf at a place known for windsurfing but it didn’t look interesting so we kept going.
The tender made it back to the ship but just barely. The engine cut off 5 or 6 times during the pretty short trip. It was interesting to see all of the super yachts in the harbor.
We were advised the previous evening that our excursion was cancelled. This was the only Windstar excursion that we booked, and apparently we were the only two who booked it, so they cancelled due to lack of participation. It was a “Coastal Boat Tour” down the coast to see the volcano and the volcano damage from the water. After the full day in the rental car on St. Barth’s we did not have any interest in a bus tour so we took advantage of this morning to have our spa treatments. After lunch we took the tender to the island and walked around a little. There is not much to see where the ship tenders on the north side of the island but we wanted to support the tourism efforts by purchasing some souvenirs and drinks. Then we returned to the ship and were happy that the captain did a sail-by along the coast to see as much as we could through the clouds and fog. It is a desolate place.
The ship anchors in the harbor at Marigot, on the French side of the island. We have been to both the Dutch and French sides so for this day we had reserved a rental car to go to a windsurfing beach. On a previous cruise we did the America’s Cup excursion and we do recommend that as great fun.
Unfortunately, our plans this day were disrupted by the tender problems. I think they were only running one tender this morning due to problems with the second tender. That led to back-ups of people trying to get off the ship. That was compounded by them using the one working tender to ferry groceries onto the ship. Then the tender ran out of fuel and had to be refueled – a “Keystone Cops” exercise of trying one side and then another to see how far the hose would reach - before we were finally able to make it to the island, at which time the rental car agency was closed and there were no cars available at the other agencies. We had waited for our tender in the Lounge for 1.5 hours – from 10:00 am to 11:30 am.
When we finally got to the island and had no car we had a drink in the port area and went back to the ship for lunch and for our first (and only) use of the watersports platform. You can probably piece this together from other reviews if you are really interested but this day may have been the only day on this cruise that the watersports platform was open. Even on this day they only allowed swimming as the wind and current were too great for sailing, kayaking, and waterskiing. We heard various explanations for the closures on other days including wind, current and mechanical issues. The mechanical issue was not new as they supposedly encountered it in Europe also. Something about the hinge where the platform raises to the back of the boat to close it before they get underway. We were told that at some point in Europe it didn’t close and posed enough of a safety hazard that an itinerary was impacted.
But we had a nice time frolicking in the warm water and lingering on the large foam floats that they fasten to the back, and we would not have had that opportunity if the tenders had been running properly! So all in all a nice day. (I am even shopping for a foam float like that to keep on our boat.)
That evening (Wednesday) was the outdoor BBQ, which I understand is a Windstar highlight. It did not disappoint. The rain held off until almost the very end. In addition to the elaborate spread, including grilled lobster tails by the truck full, the evening featured music by both duos as well as music by various crew members, and then more music and dancing – specifically line dancing to many popular songs (think YMCA). It reminded me a little of the “crazy signs” that are a unique element of Club Med vacations. Both officers and crew led the dancing. Another shoutout to Tori of the duo “Splash” for acting as emcee.
Jost Van Dyke
We were here Christmas Eve and it was different than I had imagined. White Bay was very busy, very crowded with people and boats. I knew it was a favorite of cruisers but based on webcams that I had watched a few years ago it was nothing like this. Oh well, checked this off the checklist too. We were lucky to find a nice, quiet place that I will mention since we probably won’t be going back any time soon.
The ship anchors in Great Harbor, and from the tender pier you can walk to the right to Foxy’s Beach Bar (closest) or walk up a hill (8 minutes) to the left and see White Bay spreading out below you. White Bay is the home of the famous Soggy Dollar Bar, but we stopped at the first beach bar we came to while walking, Ivan’s No Stress Bar, and had a lovely, clean beach with chairs for the price of a drink. We could have stayed there all day but wanted to see what all the fuss was about farther up the beach so after a couple of drinks at Ivan’s we walked over to Gertrude’s (beyond Soggy Dollar) for lunch. We took a taxi back over the hill to Foxy’s ($5 pp) for a souvenir and then went back to the ship. Foxy’s was dead by then because it was Christmas Eve. The ship was running Zodiac rides to Foxy’s that evening until 11:30 pm (not the tenders but a rubber Zodiac from the ship), but we didn’t feel the need to go back out.
We had dinner in the main restaurant where we ate every night. We ate in Veranda for breakfast and lunch and were happy to have an alternative for dinner. Since this was Christmas Eve they had a traditional turkey meal, and although this probably won’t benefit anyone else at this point, I can report that the Christmas turkey was the best of any Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey that I have had on a ship (maybe off a ship too).
Virgin Gorda (Windstar “Private Event”)
This was not a stop at Virgin Gorda, but a stop at an island across from the Bitter End Yacht Club on the far end of Virgin Gorda, where Windstar presumably leased space for a private event. We have been to Virgin Gorda before so we didn’t mind, but I don’t think there was a way to get there if you wanted to go (other than taking the excursion offered to the Baths on the opposite end of Virgin Gorda that left at 7:30 am).
This was a nice day, punctuated by two blustery downpours that had us hunkering under and holding onto the large beach umbrellas that Windstar brings onshore for the guests. We came over on one of the first tenders and did not have a hard time getting a shady spot for the day. We took advantage of snorkeling and kayaking, and also lounging on those floating foam pads. The lunch was adequate but not as elaborate as the Wednesday BBQ. Windstar offered a welcome rum punch but further libations had to be signed for.
I understand the beach volleyball was exciting because we had a lot of young people onboard with their parents for Christmas.
For anyone familiar with the private island experience of Paul Gauguin on Taha’a, this was not as elaborate but still a nice day.
Disembarkation in San Juan
There was no problem with our invoice so we needed only to pick-up our passports at reception and exit the ship about 8:30 am, last call for disembarkation. Veranda was open for breakfast until 8:30. There were no lines or crowds. We caught a taxi to the airport just outside the ship ($25 total vs $35 pp for a transfer). The only problem was the long wait at the airport and a flight that was delayed. We took advantage of the Global Lounge through Priority Pass, but the food was horrible so I bought snacks in the airport. Drinks were free and they were make-them-yourself.
An alternative strategy, which we did on a prior cruise, is to check your bags at a restaurant in Old San Juan for the day and explore the city. There are a couple places that do this for a few dollars per bag. In hindsight this would have been better than the airport lounge, but arriving early meant we were through check-in in a flash.
Hope this helps others considering the same itinerary! Read Less