This was our first voyage with Windstar and first on the Pride since it came over from Seabourn. This was our sixth cruise, having done Seabourn, Azamara, Celebrity, and Crystal before. The route was Singapore-Saigon-Nha Trang-Qui ... Read More
This was our first voyage with Windstar and first on the Pride since it came over from Seabourn. This was our sixth cruise, having done Seabourn, Azamara, Celebrity, and Crystal before. The route was Singapore-Saigon-Nha Trang-Qui Nhon-Danang-Hanoi-Halong Bay-Hong Kong. Our priority was seeing Vietnam, and the ship's condition was of secondary importance to us. We kept our expectations in check upon boarding per the prior reviews of the ship. So, we ended up having an enjoyable journey and overall experience in Vietnam. Things to note:
- The ship was only half full, so we had lots of room and lots of attention from staff, who were exceptional.
-This was a holiday voyage, so crew made very nice Christmas and New Years Eve celebrations, in addition to a wonderful on-shore event in Hoi An.
-I would call this a voyage or sea journey, rather than a cruise, since it was full of adventure and it was certainly not a relaxing vacation!
-Embarkation was excellent (good for first impressions!). Singapore main cruise terminal is crazy busy and once we found where to drop our luggage and make our way upstairs to Windstar greeters, we were whisked ahead of all other cruise ship passengers on the larger ships right to our ship. Check in was seamless and were shown to our suite in minutes.
- This ship is tired, as others have mentioned but not any worse than some other older ships we have been on. We did have a problem with our suite - the tempered glass that sits below the french balcony railing shattered, so we were moved to another suite so that they could do repairs at the next port. Our new suite had some uneven flooring under the carpet, but otherwise was fine.
- We had very heavy seas for several days in the South China Sea, with the worse a Force 7+ wind for one night. Most of us were a bit seasick or woozy for for several days at the beginning of the voyage. But the second half of the voyage was much more pleasant. Most of us had thought we would have several sea days lounging in the sun in our swimsuits, but that was not the case! I think I saw the tiny swimming pool used once and the jacuzzis used a few times only.
-This was the maiden voyage of the Pride along this route, so the captain and officers had their work cut out for them dealing with Vietnamese port authorities, language limitations (no one on board spoke Vietnamese), and the heavy seas. But it all made for an interesting adventure!
-We took some time to adjust to the laid-back philosophy of Windstar and its crew. No stiff/formal presence as on the finest ships, such as Crystal. We ended up very much liking the casual atmosphere for a change which I think suited this Asian destination.
-We arranged independently for private guides ahead of time in Saigon, Danang, and Hanoi so that we could get the most out of our visits there. (We arranged through Toursbylocals.com and used Chau Le in Saigon, Thuan Pham in Danang, and Leon Le in Hanoi - all were excellent and we highly recommend them!) We did a Windstar shore excursion in Qui Nhon to visit the Cham Towers which was good but we could not understand our guide very well. We also did a Windstar shore excursion in Halong Bay, kayaking from a local boat with lunch included - very fun activity with other shipboard guests and the guide was very good.
-We thought the food onboard was very good and appreciated there wasn't a ton of food always available - jut the right amount and dining times were limited which we thought was a good thing! Candles, the private dining venue, is not very atmospheric if you have to sit in the inside portion due to weather. Outside seating is much better.
-The watersports platform and equipment was not used at all during the trip. I had thought they would use it in Nha Trang and Qui Nhon, but both those ports we were due to dock, not anchor off. There was a possibility they would open it while in Halong Bay, but it was obvious where we were anchored just off Halong Bay town, that it was a heavy ship and boat traffic area and not conducive to using water sports equipment.
-There was a very good mix of ages, nationalities (17), and backgrounds of guests onboard. It was really easy to get to know many people since there were only 92 of us!
- For pre and post voyage hotels, we used Fairmont in Singapore and InterContinental in HK. Both were great. The Fairmont is in the heart of the city and across the street from Raffles. The Hop On-Hop Off bus was a great way to get your bearings in the city. The InterCon in HK (Kowloon) has the best location on the waterfront to see the nightly Sound and Light Show. There is however major construction going on on both sides of the InterCon, but if you aren't using the pool area, you are pretty insulated from the noise and intrusion.
- We would definitely go with Windstar again if the destination suits the style of this cruise line. i.e. - if we are going someplace laid back (islands etc) or developing world. It is good value for the money. We had originally booked a holiday cruise on the Crystal for similar dates, but they completely changed their itinerary. We found out from friends on board Crystal that they ended up only going into Saigon and completely bypassing the rest of the coast, going direct to Hong Kong! And they paid triple the fare of the Windstar!