Year Started: 1984
Ships in Fleet: 4
Summary: Three small (200, 200 and 350-passenger) sail-rigged motorized sail ships. Great open-air sailing with port-intensive itineraries - and now three former Seabourn yachts.
Regions:Caribbean, Central America, Mediterranean
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Central America, Mediterranean
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
My wife and I spent a week on the Windstar Sprit cruising from Athens (7/14/2012) to Istanbul (7/21/2012). We had a very good time (A-), but the heat was terrible with the temperature over 100 degrees most days. There are not many online reviews of the Windstar line or this itinerary, so I hope this review helps. We are not "cruise people" and the only other ship we have been on is the Disney Dream with our children.
The Sprit is a motorized sailboat which carries about 140 passengers and 96 crew. It is much smaller than a large ship such as the Disney Dream. On average, the sails provide 20-30% of the propulsion.
The atmosphere is very casual with no formal dinners or theme nights. For dinner, they request men wear slacks and a collared shirt. You can visit the bridge anytime the boat is sailing. The crew members are almost always willing to talk to you and answer questions. The average passenger is about 50 years old and most are married couples ranging in age from 25 to 70. There were a few teenagers and a few friends traveling together.I did not meet any passengers who were traveling alone. During our trip it was 100+ degrees most days and you needed to be somewhat physically fit to tolerate the heat and climb the ruins. The few passengers over 72 y/o struggled at times on some of the tours.
It is easy to meet other passengers. At dinner you are asked if you want to sit with another couple. Tours typically have 5-20 people and you quickly get to know your tour mates. Almost all the passengers were very friendly and would stop and to say hello if they saw you while exploring a museum or local street. We had prolonged conversations with about half the other passengers by the time we left the boat.
This is an American boat serving English speaking passengers. All transactions are in US dollars, no language other than English is spoken, and the food served is typical for an American restaurant. More than half of the passengers came from the USA with a few Australians, English, and Canadians. Maybe 10-15% of passengers did not speak English as their first language. Despite sailing from Greece to Turkey, there was not a single passenger from either country.
A typical day begins with an early breakfast in port. Tours provided by the boat leave between 8:15 to 8:30 am. On any given day, about half the passengers go on the tours provided by the boat and the others explore the ports or set up outside tours on their own. Most tours return in time for lunch which is served from 12 to 2 pm. About half the passengers returned to the boat to eat lunch and the others ate at local restaurants. A few tours extend into the afternoon and included lunch. Most passengers explore the ports or visit local beaches during the afternoon. The boat leaves port between 4 and 11 pm so it can arrive at the next port around 7 am. Dinner is served between 7 and 9 pm. Many dinners extend past 10 pm and most passengers seemed to go to bed shortly after dinner. This is not a party boat. Although there is some entertainment, few passengers spend the evening dancing or stayed up late.
Room - (B+) almost every cabin is identical. The cabins on deck 1 (one up from the engine deck) are a bit less expensive than those on deck 2. I saw no reason to pay the extra money to be on deck 2. The rooms are about 10 by 20 feet with a queen size bed (or 2 small singles), a built in dresser, 2 closets, other storage and a small but very functional bathroom. A small refrigerator containing water and soft drinks (included) and beer and alcoholic beverages (not included) is provided. Although not luxurious, the rooms are very nice and we found ours to be very comfortable. The only thing missing was a couch (only a small chair was provided.
Food - (A-) breakfast is served in the veranda (on deck 4) and includes many cold items, fresh squeezed juices, fresh baked croissants and other items, and a hot food station. Eggs, pancakes, etc can be ordered from the staff. The breakfasts were very good with a few exceptions such as the dry bacon. Lunch was served buffet style in the veranda and the quality of the food was variable. Dinner was served in the dining room (on deck 3) and was usually very good to excellent. The dinner cuisine was modern American with 4 courses. One night there was an excellent buffet (with some local foods) and barbeque around the tiny pool (deck 4). Breads were good to excellent, deserts were at times a bit weak and the appetizers served before dinners were only fair. The meat was almost all frozen and imported from the USA except for some fresh fish the chef obtained at the ports. The beef was top choice (Angus) and excellent. Most of the produce was obtained in Athens and Istanbul. Overall, we enjoyed to food.
Service - (A) was almost always excellent and the crew tried so hard to please you. Our cabin steward always had our room clean when we returned from a meal or excursion. He was always concerned that we had what we needed in our refrigerator and room. The on-board tour guides were always helpful and informative. The only significant flaw in the service was the difficulty I encountered obtaining soft drinks (and refills) at dinner. The service staff were all men from Indonesia and the Philippines. The officers were mostly British except the captain who was American. The engine crew were all men from eastern Europe. There were only a few female crew members: a first officer, the spa staff, a few reception desk and boutique ladies, and Elsa the spunky Greek tour guide.
Tours - (A) 1 to 4 tours were offered at each port. We found Windstar phone support in the USA was not good and they did not know much about the tour packages. There is no need to book the tours in advance. They almost never sell out and on-board destination manager is very helpful in explaining what each tour involves. Most tours are $49 to $99 and cost about twice as much as what it would cost for you to set up the same tour on your own. For example, the Delos (a ferry ride from Mykonos) tour was $89 each. A couple we meet took the ferry to Delos ($20), paid the Delos park admission ($6) and found a good guide who spoke English ($12) for $38 each. The tour guides provided by the boat are usually excellent and you have to decide if it's worth the hassle and risk (knowing where to go, finding a good guide) of setting up a tour on your own.
Here is a list of the attractions we explored (A=highlight not to miss, B=very nice, C=average):
Athens (before cruise) - City A. Stayed at the AVA Hotel and Suites (15 rooms, Plaka, A-) which was 3 blocks from the Acropolis. This was the top rated Athens hotel on TripAdvisor with a great location, big room (not really a suite), and a very good breakfast (included). We enjoyed our stay, but the bathroom was too small for me to call this a 5 star hotel - 4.5 stars would be more accurate. 1.5 days gave us just the right amount of time to see the major sites in the Plaka area (B+): Acropolis and the Parthenon (A) - get there early to beat the crowds and heat, New Acropolis Museum (A), Ancient Agora (B), Hadrian's Library (C+), Roman Agora (C-), Temple of Zeus (C-). It was hot.
Mykonos - town (B). Ferry to the small island of Delos (A) which was a port city of 30,000 people 2000 years ago. Nice ruins and a small museum. It was hot.
Santorini - is a spectacular sight with steep cliffs rising from the sea. The boat ancores at the capital of Fira (B+). Skip the donkey ride at Fira and use the cable car. Island overview and Oia village tour ($99, B+) was nice and drops you off at Fira. A cab trip to Oia village (picturesque whitewashed houses) would have been cheaper and almost as good. It was hot.
Rhodes - Although the Colossus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, there is not enough is left to justify a visit to the site. The walled medieval city of Rhodes (A-) is easily accessible from the dock including the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters (B). The Scenic Drive to Lindos Tour ($69) takes you to the summit of the Acropolis (A-). This is the perfect place to take a donkey ride up to the Acropolis, especially when it's hot (5 euro, ignore Elsa's bath mouthing of the Donkey rides). It was hot. Bodrum - a Turkish port town (C). We skipped the Windstar tours here since the sites are easily accessible and the tours do not take you around the city. For half the cost of a tour, we took a cab ride (30 euro) to the ancient theater (C), Myndos Gate (C-), and what's left of The Mausoleum of Mausolus (B) - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Bodrum Castle closes for lunch, so we returned to the ship to eat. In the afternoon, we toured Bodrum Castle, which is primarily a Museum of Underwater Archeology (A-). We rented an audio guide that was reasonably good. It was hot.
Kusadasi - the town is nice if you like buying carpets, but otherwise not a very exciting a place to visit (C). The highlight of the trip was our tour of Ephesus and it's Ancient Houses ($79). Ancient Ephesus (A) was a town of 250,000 about 2,000 year ago which declined due to Malaria and was eventually buried under mud from earthquakes. About 1/7th of the town has been excavated and you feel like you are walking through history. The Terrace Houses (A+) were owned by the wealthy and are remarkably preserved with their fine decorative mosaics and frescoes give a fascinating insight into ancient lifestyles. Don't waste your time on the tour that goes to Ephesus and the "Virgin Mary's home" since it does not include the Terrace Houses. If you must see a home selected through the vision of a 19th century nun, get the all day Concierge Tour that includes everything. It is hard to believe, but only half of the passengers went to Ephesus. After the tour, the guide brings you to a carpet-making demonstration (nice) which then turns into a hard sell to buy carpets (the boat gets a kickback). It would take hours to bargain them down to a good price, you can't return the carpet, and you feel trapped since you ordered free a free drink and food. If you escape without buying a carpet, they try to sell you jewelry as you try to find your way out the maze of similar looking doors. Our guide saw us and helped us find the disguised exit.
Istanbul (after cruise) - City (A). Stayed at the Millennium Suites (7 rooms, Sultanahmet, B) which was 3 blocks from the Acropolis. This was the top rated Istanbul hotel on TripAdvisor with a great location, big room (not really a suite), and an OK breakfast (included). Although they try very hard, our bathroom was not very nice and was undergoing some repairs. TripAdvisor called this a 5 star hotel - 3.5 stars would be more accurate and I might look elsewhere. 2.5 days gave us just the right amount of time to see the major sites in the area, most of which are covered by the Museum Pass: Topkapi Palace (15th century palace, A) and Harem Tour (not on pass, A+), 15 minute tram ride to the Dolmabahce Palace (not on pass, 19th century palace, A-) - get there early for the limited number of entries with only guided tours provided, Hagia Sophia Museum/Church (B+), 25 minute tram ride to the Chora Church and its beautiful mosaics (B+), Blue Mosque (free, C), Mosaic Museum (C), Grand Bazaar (lots of junk, D). A little less hot.
To Whomever it may concern,
I was not going to send this email but after calling to try to get my rehearsal dinner dress back that I left in the ship and I was put on hold for 15 min and then transferred to a voicemail of who NEVER Called back. I am extremely upset that it has been 2 weeks and no one has even attempted to return my call. Not to mention we never got a call after the trip asking us why we chose to get off the ship- the only reason I can think this courtesy call never happened is because windstar must get unhappy people getting off the ship all the time.
My husband arranged our honeymoon with a travel agent and by looking at the windstar website, They told us it is a "high-end" special way of traveling with beautiful wind sails, special treatment of guests, and wonderful food, not to mention stopping at wonderful ports in Italy and Croatia. From the moment we stepped on this boat, we were dissatisfied (this is an understatement) They were working on the ship fixing it when wegot on the boat- we could not even see out our window for the first day, the wind sails were NEVER put up as described in the website, and it was an old rusty ship. as We walked in, we signed up for a free treatment head-massage and continued on to our room, of which the TV was broken and the guy just told us that he couldn't fix it.
We then went to have a bite to eat. I have never been so disgusted by food in my life, it was like pre-heated convolecent home food. I ate bread and butter for the first two days. A complete disappointment because we came to Italy to eat food! Then we come to find out that we can only eat in the "nice" restaurants only once or twice the entire trip.
That night we went to a raffle in the spa and I won a free head massage. I made an appointment for the next night. Our friends had also purchased a massage for us which I scheduled at the same time. The next day I was excited to get off the boat and see Italy and eat REAL food, we ordered breakfast- completely un edible once again. We went upstairs to meet our tour guide and the cheesy announcer says that because there is a union problem we would be circling the island of Capri all day long.
I was soo depressed I went back and slept all day and eat the most disgusting cheeseburger of my life- I don't understand how someone could even mess up something that simple.
We got our "free" 2 limit DVD's and watched scratched old movies. I was excited for a free scalp treatment- so I went. The guy was soo creepy and he put you in front of a mirror and told you to close your eyes. I was soo creeped out after this 15 minute treatment that I gave my free massage that I won at the raffle back and told them to give it to someone else at this point I cancelled my massage that our friends had purchased for us.
That night we ate one more disappointing meal at the supposed "nice" restaurant. Totally depressed, we went back to bed- in which our ship mate walked in on us 3 times the final walk in was at almost 10p.m. I can't believe that it would even be acceptable to any hotel to just barge in at that time.
The next day we watched pure Kaos waiting to get off the boat in Taoromina, the tour guides were yelling into their phones trying to find more tour guides, they were loading people onto the wrong places, and it was a complete mess. We met another couple who had had a similar experience and we decided to get off the boat, Our final experience was arguing to get our passport back without signing some poor form to not get your refund back, which makes us think this is a thing that is not out of the ordinary.
This experience is honestly nothing of what it portrays on the website and I am completely and utterly dissatisfied, with the whole experience even afterwards when I called to get a special dress back. We could have been on a much nicer ship for less with the best food and entertainment for less than half the price. working in an industry with membership and treating people with the best customer service- I am shocked that your company would not have a policy that gives people who get off the ship early a courtesy call to see how you can improve or ratify the situation- especially since it was so bad that people would let that much money be at risk.
With this email I am requesting it to be sent to the managers of your company and for someone to send my BCBG white Rehearsal dinner dress back to us- as well as to indemnify our ruined honeymoon.At this point in time, I would not reccomend WindStar to anyone who asked me- in fact I am so un-happy I would go out of my way to make sure someone I know did not get on any of their ships.
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!
My wife and I just returned from 2 weeks on Wind Surf, sailing from Venice to Nice with stops at Rab and Dubrovnik in Croatia, Corfu in Greece, Taormina in Sicily, Sorento, Civitacecchia in Italy, Banifacio in Corsica, Portovenere and Portofino in Italy, St. Tropez, and Monte Carlo in France.
Having sailed on two of Windstar's smaller ships, the Wind Song in Tahiti and Wind Star in Costa Rica, we were familiar with their program of open seating and informal dress in the dining room , as well as the open bridge and no tipping policies. We were deligjhted to find all of these characeteristics in place on Wind Surf as well as a very friendly and communicative captain who gave informative talks throughout the cruise. Andres, the host, (Wind Star does not employ cruise directors) was especially helpful as he was well informed about alternatives to the excursions at each port of call.
The food program on Wind Surf was creative with many unexpected treats such as crepes for breakfast prepared to order on deck, lobster barbecue at lunch on deck, and a sushi bar at cocktail time.
With 300 passengers and 15,000tons, Wind Surf has amenities not available on the smaller ships, which include a very well equipped fitness bar, a third dining area, The Bistro for dinner by reservation, two pools and two hot tubs.
We were delighted with the ship, the very friendly and accommodating crew, and the outstanding itinerary.
Our family of five (two parents, three teenagers) just finished a week of cruising the Southern Caribbean on Windsurf and found the experience deeply disappointing. The ship is certainly presentable enough, but one has to question the five star rating. There is peeling paint and varnish all over, the teak is in serious need of attention, and the boat looks just a bit shabby.
As other reviewers (and even the cruise line) will tell you, nobody in his right mind boards the Windsurf for traditional entertainment. The only show is a once-a-week very hokey review put on by the cabin and mess stewards -- most high school talent shows are better staged.
The main activity unique to the Windsurf is its connection to the sea and the water through its sail propulsion and its watersports marina. At least last week, however, the boat wasn't sailing much of anywhere. In fact, only three of the ship's sails were in any semblance of operation and the crew was apparently ignorant of how to trim them. This ship was built with the world's most advanced computerized masts and booms by Club Med. Unfortunately, under the newmanagement, nobody knows how to use them, rendering Windsurf just another steamship.
More to the point, we learned to our horror that we were sailing to some of the world's prettiest islands and beaches, but our ship would take us only into some of the world's ugliest container ports. That's right -- no beaches, no anchorages, no watersports, unless you want to buy overpriced and poorly designed shore excursions. Try two hours in a bus and one hour of kayaking for $100/person. It would have been easy for the ship to lower some boats and take us to those gorgeous beaches we passed, but that was not on the agenda. In other words, we spent day after day tied to a dead ship in HORRIBLE commercial ports.
Since I know the islands pretty well, I got good at hiring a cab to take us to great resorts, where for the price of lunch we could actually take advantage of those gorgeous beaches. However, that's not what we paid Windsurf's prices for.
This cruise line clearly has little regard and less respect for its customers. They own a magnificent ship (with decent food and cabins), cruise through paradise, and drop their passengers in the middle of hell.
Our cruise on the Windsurf was wonderful. Were there one or two things I could pick at? Sure - nothing's ever perfect but I have to say we all left the ship thrilled with our cruise and wanting to go back. The experience was great and we were very well satisfied.
We were a group of friends made up of 3 couples traveling together and all agreed that:service was excellent, with very friendly and attentive staff who remembered all our first names after our first interaction. food was excellent a lot of the time and at least good all the time. cabins were roomy and well - designed; we had room to easily store everything (and we packed heavily). NOTE: the bed linens and towels were great - they had recently done an upgrade in that respect and it definitely showed (I'm picky about sheets). the itinerary was excellent with no lame stops. We did a shore excursion through the boat and also did a few on our own...all were fun. the relaxed dress and free-style dining was a really nice feature...we enjoyed the restaurant but felt like the service in the Bistro was a little better and preferred it. One other small positive point: one of the couples in our group was a gay couple and we never experienced any taint of oddness or discrimination on the part of anyone on board at all, I'm glad to say.
We were very pleased with just about everything but there were minor things they could do to make a great thing slightly better. I did not think the couple who performed in the Compass Rose bar at night were any good at all (they sang cheesy songs to recorded tracks) until I was there at the cocktail hour - they sang relaxing songs with an acoustic guitar and were wonderful. I say DROP the tracks and stick what you're good at. I HIGHLY recommend Windstar.
A Solid 8.5 - 9.0
Just returned from the Wind Surf, traveling from Cozumel to Honduras and Belize. A good mix of mostly US passengers, where average age was around 55 or so. This was a very good mid-level to semi-luxury cruise, with exceptional food and service from a continually smiling crew. With two restaurants, they served excellent tasting food (A solid 10), with a flair for presentation and options. The Bistro offers a nice alternative, although somewhat difficult to get a reservation there since some passengers book there every night on their first day, leaving few daily openings per the posted regulations. Also, it seemed to us and others that starting dinner service at 7:30 was a little late since it took about 2 hours to complete.
Rooms were larger than expected, with plenty of closet and bathroom space, and well appointed. The bed was fairly hard, although we slept well most nights. The hot tubs were great, but the pools were small and rarely used. Exercise room was very functional and the spa was nice. Several bars to choose from and great food during happy hour.
Main complaints were around the shoreexcursions, as the ship enjoys charging about double what you can book them for on your own. Also, choices were limited in Honduras, or very expensive ($400 pp for one tour to see some Mayan ruins that included air). Diving was $120 for most 2-tank dives ($200 for some specialty dives), although local operators typically charged $50-60. Some pasengers seemed irked by traveling to a 3rd world country like Honduras, but we thought it to be interesting. Also, if you are not on one of their pricey shore excursions, you are not allowed on the first tender to shore each day, even if you are waiting first in line. Also, we left port each day around 5:00, meaning we had limited time to visit a port after an excursion, and were contantly looking at the watch.
Drinks were also fairly pricey ($5 for a US beer), small and some tasted watered down. Room service was very fast with same great food as the restaurants. The Internet service only worked for one day, which presented other inconveniences.
A nicely laid out ship with two elevators for the elderly or tired. Casino was nice but not used much. Some of the senior level crew seemed to have an attitude to passengers, but others were truly great and made it clear they enjoyed their job.
Made lots of new friends, and did enjoy our vacation, but will likely try their smaller ships or Star Clippers as that is more our style.
My husband and I just completed this cruise (May 18 - 25th) and had a wonderful time. We arrived in Athens a day early and were able to wander around the Plaka and have dinner at a scenic taverna that evening, spend the night, go on a city tour of Athens (including the Acropolis/Parthenon) that morning and then board the Windspirit after lunch. We had been told that was all we needed to do in order to see the best of Athens and I believe it. Some people on our cruise had spent more time there but they had used it as a base to travel to neighboring sites.
Some advice about the ports (and the tours offered by the ship):
Mykonos: The tour to nearby Delos is worth it. Delos was revered by both the Greeks and the Romans as the birthplace of Apollo and served as a major trading port to several ancient civilizations. Wear sunscreen and a hat ---NO SHADE. The tour goes until lunchtime and you can either return to the ship for lunch or eat out. We had already decided to eat "local" whenever possible toget as much of the experience as possible (BTW the food on the ship is excellent). Afterwards, there is time to visit the shops or the beach; the ship doesn't sail until late.
Santorini: Because this route arrives here on Monday, the ruins at Akrotiri are closed. The only tour available takes you to the picturesque town of Ia (or Oia in some books). Visit the town on your own --- don't bother with the tour. This is one of the two big regrets of our cruise (the other was not staying longer in Istanbul). This tour took us to the highest point of the island, the Profitis Illas mountain, where you can see both sides of the island, which was not uninteresting but it was a big time-waster considering that the ship has to set sail at 4:30 pm in order to make Rhodes by the next morning (shortest port time on the cruise) by the time we arrived in Ia, we only had an hour and a half to see it. Another couple invited us to rent a taxi with them to go directly to Ia instead of the tour and we declined. Big mistake on our part; they had time to see the whole town and do some shopping as well.
Rhodes: We took the tour to the Acropolis at Lindos and enjoyed it. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the area and from what I heard later had good advice about places to eat and shop in the town after the tour. Once on our own, we paid the admission so we could walk on the top of the walls around the old fortress (again, no shade, need good sunscreen and a hat) and visited the "Palace of the Grand Master" at the fortress -- probably the worst of the sites we visited because the pamplet and the signs explained little about the displays and the docents (if you could call them that) just said "I don't know" about everything we asked. Perhaps they didn't speak English but if so, they were among the few people we met who didn't.
BTW: We shared Rhodes and Bodrum with the passengers on the sister ship Windstar (the Istanbul-to-Athens route). We didn't have many opportunities to interact with them, but it was neat to see the two ships side-by-side in the ports.
Bodrum: The most relaxing and longest tour of the cruise. We hesitated taking this tour because it takes up the whole time the ship is in port and is the most expensive but it was worth it. We were broken up into groups of only 10 and taken to the port-side Museum of Underwater Archeology. Very few of the artifacts there are reproductions and span several centuries and civilizations. Then, we were escorted on board a small sailboat (called a "gullet") and taken to a quiet cove where we were invited to change into bathing suits and swim (water was a little too cold for me though) and sunbathe while the crew fixed us a wonderful lunch of local dishes. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and sunning on the gullet. We needed that after 3 days of sight-seeing. When we got back to the ship, we were entertained by a troup of local dancers along with a belly dancer in the ship's lounge and then it was time for the pooldeck BBQ. Tons of fun and great food and dancing under the stars. We also got the see the Windstar put up her sails and head to Santorini; good picture taking opportunity since you can't really get a good picture of the Windspirit with sails up. Many of us agreed that this was the best day of our trip.
Kusadasi & Ephesus: Before starting the cruise we booked a tour from a local company called byzance. We can't say enough great things about them and the tours they provided. Guide was waiting for us at the port, ready to begin our day. I requested that we try to avoid the ship's buses, and they did everything possible to make sure this occurred! It was a pleasure to enjoy the same places that the ship offered at our own pace, staying as long or as short as We wanted for a fraction of the cost! The fact that we were "alone" made it much more personalized. On most of our tours, we had around 30 people and each and every one of them RAVED about the great time they had. It always seems there is usually someone who may have a concern or complaint, however this was not the case with byzance. Our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. We will most definitely use them on future cruises and from comments made from our group, I can assure you they will also! Their web site is http://more.at/byzance
The Sea Day: We needed this time off at this point. We were just about "ruin-ed out" and needed a break. We took the tour of the galley that the Chef offered and had massages in the beauty salon. The dinner that night included beef tenderloin and lamb chops --- both were excellent and we celebrated over a bottle of champagne our last evening on board with two other couples we had become fast friends with.
Istanbul: You will regret it as we did if you do not spend a couple of days here. We used byzance here too. I could not be happier with the service we received from guide, I have never had a more positive experience with any company of any kind -- EVER! I don't know what more I could say. We had to leave very early the next morning after our arrival so we only had time to see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia and walk through a small part of the Grand Bazaar. That means we missed Topkapi Palace entirely (it takes 4-5 hours to tour properly) and several other places we wanted to see. This is definitely on our list of places we wish to re-visit one day.
We later debated "what if we had taken the Istanbul-to-Athens cruise instead?". The other route no doubt saw more port time at Santorini (& would have been there when Akrotiri was open) but on the other hand, their Sea Day came early in the trip instead of at the end when we felt we really needed it to recover and appreciate Istanbul. The choice is yours.
I hope this helps anyone considering this cruise. It was the trip of a lifetime for us and we have wonderful memories of the people we met and places we visited.
We enjoyed our second Wind Star trip in five yrs. The second was just as good as the first...maybe better...same islands as before with LOTS of time on the islands. St. John, St Barts, St. Martin., Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and Tortola....lots of beach time and the islands were not busy..
The ship is still romantic and clean...food was very good to great...our waiter was a young man who really "babied" us...even saved us a table at the bar-b-que on deck one night when it was a bit crowded...We love the Wind Star experience..maybe the bigger Wind Surf next Time????
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.