March 2014 - Wind Spirit to Panama Canal, Central America
We‘re just back from the Windstar Panama Canal to Costa Roca cruise on the Wind Spirit. This was our third and probably last cruise with Windstar. First the good news. The on board staff is wonderful; friendly, hardworking and professional. They do a great job given the deep cuts put in place by the new owners. The kitchen staff works wonders with the poor quality supplies they are provided. But even they can’t make up for the lack of quality food or the minimal quantity of pricier ingredients. Compared to our previous Windstar cruises, the lunch buffet was bare bones. No seafood salads or other interesting items. Instead we had lots of pasta’s and stewed/braised meats, the better to tenderize lower quality cuts. The afternoon teas were simply embarrassing. Dinners were usually better but the seafood was dreadful. One does not expect frozen fish as an entrée when visiting ports filled with local fisherman delivering wonderful fish daily. It is clear that Xanterra is cutting corners which has impacting bookings. Our cruise was only 78% occupied (125 passengers). At the Yacht Club (frequent cruiser) reception I discretely chatted with several other Windstar regulars who noticed the decline and wanted to share notes on other lines for future cruises. The staff at the corporate booking office worked to minimums and couldn’t care less about our past loyalty. Xanterra specializes in extracting maximum revenue from a captive audience. As operators of facilities within US National Parks, they serve visitors who rarely come back for repeat visits. So their modus operandi is maximum prices with minimal value. We sailed on the Seabourn Odyssey last year and the difference between the Odyssey and Wind Spirit is dramatic even though the Windstar line costs about the same.