Just returned from Windstar's Costa Rica cruise and wanted to share our experience. We went right after New Year's, which is normally one of the slowest weeks for cruising. We only had 56 passengers on board – no crowds here! Mostly couples on board - a few newlyweds and the majority were in their 50s & 60s. We were somewhere in between and enjoyed the variety of ages and backgrounds. Never felt the cruise was dominated by any one age group.
This was only our second cruise, first was on a larger ship to Alaska. I think the small ship experience has spoiled us! Truly, bigger ships still may be a better idea for families with children and multi-generation groups. You might also be bored if you are looking for exiting nightlife and shows. There were many times we were the only ones in the lounge or casino but that seemed to pick up a little towards the end of the week. I enjoyed the feeling of being on my own personal yacht and the quietness provided a much-needed break from the real world. Plus, quieter evenings ensured we ready for earlydays at port!
A concern I had before the trip was whether the service would be too "over the top". I enjoy good food and pampering, of course, but didn't want it to be overdone. I was relieved to find that the staff was very attentive but weren't tripping over themselves and treating you like royalty. Very nice people that seemed to enjoy what they do.
The ship itself was nice. Not new but everything seemed well maintained. Our stateroom was plenty big. Two closet areas, cabinet space and room under the bed for suitcases. The bathroom was laid out well with lots of storage and room to get ready. We especially enjoyed the flatscreen TV and DVD player to catch up on movies we don't seem to have time to see at home.
The food was fantastic. A full breakfast was served each day in the Veranda where you could choose from indoor or outdoor dining. Pancakes, waffles, eggs, omelets were available every day and made-to-order. They also had a full buffet of fruits, pasties, yogurt, cereals and oatmeal to choose from. I found everything to be very tasty and fresh. They also serve a Continental breakfast by the pool for several hours during the morning to take care of the early/late risers. I didn't find these items to be quite as good (milk wasn't too cold) but was convenient.
Full lunches were served every day in the Veranda. Salad bar, meats & cheeses, fruits, desserts were available in the buffet. Could also order specialty sandwiches. A hot buffet was prepared each day and was different ethnic foods (Mexican one day, Indonesian another day). The last day of the cruise, there was a nicely done beach barbeque with a variety of grilled foods & salads).
Dinners were wonderful and served in the dining room. There you could choose between a table for 2, 4, 6, etc. There were 5 courses (starter, soup, salad, main & dessert) and could choose one or more items from each category. Menu changed every day but there were a few "standards" like grilled chicken & salmon that were available every day. As a vegetarian, I was happy to see a good selection of things I could eat. The meals were filling, but I never felt that they overloaded people to the point that lots of food was wasted. On most nights, they also had dining at Candles available (unless too windy). A few tables are set up on deck with white tablecloths and yes, candles, and they serve the same menu all week (seafood, fish & steak). My husband said he enjoyed one of the best fillet mignon's he ever had. Atmosphere was romantic and something different to try – no additional charge.
We also tried room service a couple times during the week and found the meals to be hot and tasty. It was nice to have this option available 24 hours a day. They will also serve popcorn to go with your movies!
Did want to comment on the dress code since that was a topic I was interested in before we went! Very casual during the day. Most people were off to see a port and dressed appropriately for whatever activity they were doing. We saw a lot of sport sandals and walking shoes. It does get hot during the second half of the trip so lots of tank tops and shorts worn as well. At night, people were well-dressed but not dressy. For men, mostly Dockers or linen pants. No shorts were allowed (or noticed). Most wore polo type golf shirts or button up shirts (like Tommy Bahama, Hawaiian print, or long sleeve dress shirts). I did see sandals on men at night, and they looked fine. Many also wore loafer-type shoes. For ladies, lots of sundresses were worn. Also saw pants and capris with nicer tops (no jeans). The dress seemed to get a little more casual by the end of the week when we wanted to wear the dresses and jewelry found at port! I wore sandals with a heel (which many also wore), but also wished I had brought a dressy, flat sandal. One evening was more casual when they did a poolside party for dinner. To summarize this LONG review, I would definitely take Windstar again. Only con would be lack of choices at some of the ports. We like to do our own research & planning so I was able to book other tours I was interested in. I enjoyed everything onboard (food, service, staff, atmosphere) and would have a hard time cruising with anyone else!
The Wind Star cruise had some nice aspects - good service by the crew and fairly good food (although a little dull). The shore excursions offered were also well-done.
I really didn't like the evening entertainment. It was generally one bad singer singing folk songs or similar - nothing you could dance to, or even tap your fingers to. I found the nights endless on this ship. Also, the crowd is not that friendly. I'm in my mid-fifties and certainly don't consider myself a hell-raiser, but this ship was pretty boring. If you want to go to bed at nine, this may be for you.
The Wind Star skipped a port that was on the itinerary, one that I really wanted to visit. The substitute port was not up to par. The Windstar ships frequently skip ports because of weather, so don't place all your hopes on seeing one place on the itinerary.
All in all, I don't think I would sail with Windstar again.
This cruise, departing from Cancun's port, and featuring stops in Roatan, Belize and Cozumel, was our second voyage on the Wind Star (We had sailed on her one year earlier, on the ship's eastern Caribbean route out of Barbados). Clearly, we enjoyed the first cruise enough to sail with Windstar again, although our first experience was not trouble-free (for example, "The Veranda," the indoor/outdoor breakfast and lunch restaurant was closed for refurbishing, meaning that all meals had to be taken indoors in "The Restaurant"). After our second voyage aboard the Wind Star we decided we'd never sail on a Windstar cruise again.
We were met by a Windstar minivan at Cancun Airport, and then treated to a three-hour ride to Cancun's port -- a trip that should have taken no more than 15-20 minutes. For reasons that no one would (or could?) explain, we were driven first to a resort outside of Cancun, where our minivan dropped off two couples. The remaining couple and ourselves were bewildered, but were offered no explanation for this absurd trip. Then we were taken to another resort in Cancun, where we were dropped off. There weencountered the rest of our shipmates, who had no more idea than we did as to why all of us were there. We were told only that a bus would be coming for us, which it did, after a wait of a half hour or so. After we boarded the bus, we stood, with no air conditioning, for 20 minutes, for no apparent reason, before the driver decided to depart. Although we were hot and tired by the time we boarded the ship, we had to spend a half hour in the ship's lounge filling out forms, including the same customs cards we had already submitted when we arrived in Cancun. Nothing about this experience impressed us as luxurious.
The identical cabins are not spacious, but they are brilliantly configured to make the most of the limited space. Closets (and hangers) are sufficient, the queen-sized beds are comfortable, and the bathrooms are well thought-out, with ample space for toiletries.
When we got back to our cabin following dinner the first night, we found a large bottle of water on the dresser, and a notice on the bed explaining that due to a technical problem that could not be repaired en route, our water would be off-color (it was a murky beige-gray), although "safe for washing," throughout the voyage. Again, not exactly luxurious.
We had been informed by Windstar's literature that as "valued" repeat voyagers (members of the "Foremast Club") we would be invited to special events on board. Indeed, we had seen preparations for a special cocktail party the year before for repeat voyagers. No such events were held on our second cruise, however.
Food aboard the Wind Star is very good, but not extraordinary. Windstar chefs frankly acknowledge that the cruise line's cost accountants are exacting, and that menus in all parts of the world are the same, with no regional specialties. As we thoroughly enjoy the spice and flavor of Caribbean cuisine, we found this extremely disappointing. In fact, while well prepared, the food is bland. For me, lobster is the ultimate luxury, and I did not ever see it during the course of our two cruises. No alcohol is included, and drinks are very expensive.
Our itinerary featured a stop at Goff's Cay in Belize. This is a tiny islet with no facilities and no shade. Everyone wanted to snorkel, but this place was a snorkeler's hell, with very shallow water (two to three feet deep) all around the islet, lots of coral rubble, and a swift current! We boarded the next tender back to the ship, along with everyone who had been on our tender to Goff's Cay. The watersports platform was not in use (they only use it when the ship is at anchor), and so we had a totally wasted day.
The quality of the service is very good, overall, but the Windstar line is extremely coy about tipping, saying it's not expected, but encouraging it all the same. We found this annoying on both voyages.
When the time came for disembarkation, we were informed (by written notice the night before) that we were to arrive at 7:30 a.m. (but not earlier) in the lounge. We were careful to do just that, only to discover that it was too late for breakfast -- a fact that had not been explained in our disembarkation notice. When we protested, we encountered real attitude. Finally, and only because I raised my voice -- not something I enjoy -- the manager of the dining room interceded and arranged to have us fed.
On both our cruises aboard the Wind Star, our captains were handsome, genial Brits right out of central casting. The crews were professional and pleasant. However, on both cruises the couples who served as social directors were generally clueless, and the couples who served as watersports directors were not especially helpful or friendly.
Speaking of friendly, on both cruises our fellow passengers -- almost exclusively American -- were not. We traveled with Canadian friends on our first Windstar cruise, and they, as we, remarked that many shipmates were apparently incapable of responding to a smile or a pleasant "good morning." This, of course, was not Windstar's fault, but it was disappointing.
"180 degrees from ordinary" is Windstar's motto. How I wish it were true!
In the final analysis, our disappointments were with Windstar Cruises (and its parent, Carnival) rather than with Wind Star, the ship. To see her sails unfurl in the early evening as she leaves port is a thrilling experience, and, when the winds are fair, the captain turns off her motors, so that she becomes a true sailing vessel indeed. On our first cruise she operated under sail power alone slightly more than 50 percent of the time! My husband and I share wonderful memories of standing by ourselves at the bow before sunset and suddenly seeing a school of dolphin break the gold-tipped waves as they saluted us with an incredible acrobatic display. And we will never forget being out on deck at night, sailing under the full moon. If Windstar Cruises had proved a more gracious company, our voyages would have lived up to their promotional claims.