June 2015 - Wind Surf to Europe - Mediterranean
Having just sailed into Rome on Cunard after staying in The Grills for 9 nights I suppose Windstar had a lot to live up to. But if a cruise company has a motto of 180degrees from Ordinary then expectations are high.
The Windsurf is a motorised sailing yacht and she is an attractive vessel especially when the sails are out on sailaways and occasionally when she is at anchor the sails are raised so that from the shore she can be admired. The same Vangelis music is played on all Windstar ships as the ship sails' out of port which is a quaint touch. Even now if I hear that tune I think of Windstar fondly.
Embarkation was quick although they hold you on dockside until 1pm in a tent with toilet facilities and beverages, so if you expect to board early it wont happen. Arrive as near to boarding time as you can to avoid having to wait around. Some larger cruise ships boarding starts much earlier but apparently not on Windstar.
The bags are taken from you by porters and take 100 yards to be put through the dock security scanners. The porters wait for a tip which I was surprised with as boarding Cunard in Southampton the porters gladly took your baggage as that is their job without the expectation of a tip.
Once on board after minimal paperwork the cabins were ready. Although again surprisingly passports are taken from passengers for the duration of the cruise and were only released whilst in Monte Carlo if you planned a visit to the casino as part of the special event put on by Windstar.The passports then had to handed back to reception and kept again until we disembarked on the morning of arrival into Barcelona.
We were disappointed there was no wine package available although a drinks package of 116 US$ per day per stateroom plus 15% service charge was available which we considered to be really expensive. I do understand that some cruise companies are no longer offering the wine package which is a shame as it is nice to be able to choose a wine for your particular taste preference and match it with what is on the menu and not just have what is available on the drinks package. We chose to have wine by the glass but again were left disappointed as a glass of wine size was not mentioned on the menu i.e. 125 or 150 ml so when buying a glass I always noted that we were served a small serving where as the customers on the drinks packages were always being poured a larger serving.
We were pleased that we brought two bottles of wine onboard during embarkation to drink in our cabin. However we were pleasantly surprised that on three occasions the Windsurf did give free drinks at the Captains cocktail reception, an invite to a returner drinks reception and the night of the special event in Monte Carlo the wine flowed freely in the dinning room. In hindsight we were glad we didn't commit to a wine package has it really wasn't necessary as we are not big drinkers. Soft drinks are all included in the basic cost of the cruise which did include fresh juices and virgin cocktails for example.
The ship is well maintained. We were lucky the weather was beautiful for the duration of the cruise so we were able to spend a lot of time on deck sunbathing, in the Jacuzzi or cooling down in the pool. The Jacuzzi and pool are both salt water which was an added bonus. The only negative comment were the lack of towels on the sun beds. The crew did their best to keep the supplies topped up but everyone always seemed to be waiting for fresh towels which appeared to come directly from the laundry so maybe more towels need to be provided generally onboard the ship. Top tip are spare towels are kept hidden under the bar area.
Apart from the main restaurant the Amphora there are two speciality restaurants on the Windsurf the Stella Bistro and candles which is the outdoor area of the veranda restaurant where breakfast and lunch are served. We were not advised that we needed to book our reservations for these two speciality restaurants immediately otherwise there may be difficulty obtaining reservations for them even by the next day. Luckily we saw a queue of people gathering and realised what was happening so we managed to secure a reservation in both restaurants. However it was obvious that some people didn't manage to get reservations and daily we heard complaints at the reception desk.
Not quite sure Windsurf lived up to the 180 degrees from ordinary.