November 2018 - 12 Night Cathedrals & Countrysides (Venice To Barcelona) Cruise on Riviera
Sail Date: May 03, 2015
We had a very good experience on the Avalon "Luminary" even though we were diverted to a 2 night hotel stay due to high water levels on the Danube. Though we were all understandably upset to have to pack up and miss some of our itinerary, we really enjoyed Munich and the additional tours that Avalon arranged for us at no additional charge. Avalon covered all of our hotel and meal expenses while we were off the ship. We had some great food experiences at the lovely German restaurants and were actually very happy that we got to tour this region. After the 2 nights in Munich, we were able to rejoin our ship and finish the cruise. Our tour director and Avalon really took excellent care of us and we have no complaints with the revised itinerary.
The Avalon "Luminary" is a very clean and comfortable ship. The crew really goes out of their way to provide friendly and excellent service. We liked our smallish but thoughtfully arranged cabin with the large sliding glass doors. There is plenty of storage and the bed is comfortable. We would have preferred down pillows though.
We can only give the food three stars, especially compared to the larger ocean cruise ships. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style and have decent choices, but nothing exceptional. They could really work on their dinner entrees, the fish dishes especially were disappointing. They did serve a very nice rack of lamb one night and the beef tenderloin was especially good. But, very few vegetables and salads were offered with dinner and the desserts could use improvement too.
Overall, we felt that we had a very nice cruise experience. The itinerary was good and we saw some very beautiful and dramatic scenery along with some quaint towns and exciting cities. The local guides were fun and provided a lot of interesting information. We did like that there was something to do at least once a day off the ship, unlike the large cruise ships that have several at sea days. Avalon does a great job with their personnel and we felt pampered and appreciated.
Sail Date: March 05, 2016
I had read a lot of mixed reviews about Windstar and the Star Breeze before taking this cruise, so I was pleasantly surprised to join the group of Star Breeze fans. The ship is lovely and never seemed crowded even though it was completely booked. We never had to wait in line and embarking and disembarking was fast and easy.
The very best thing about the ship is it's crew and the service. The staff really tries hard to make this cruise a wonderful experience for the guests. The dining room staff and our cabin steward always greeted us by name and made us feel pampered and appreciated.
We did enjoy the food in the dining room and the breakfast and lunch buffets, it was very good. But we really enjoyed the food served at the beach BBQ, dinner at the Candles restaurant, and the dinner BBQ on deck. Those events are not to be missed!
The rooms are lovely - large and spacious but the bed could have used a topper and some down pillows. The bathroom is also large and had great lighting.
We went on several shore excursions all booked through Windstar. We were not crazy about the Arial Tram in Balboa, a lot of driving for just an OK gondola ride in the forest. Kayaking in the ocean and Mangroves was a bit better but you do have to paddle quite a bit in the ocean to and from the Mangroves. Horseback riding at Drake's Bay was interesting - small Costa Rican horses take you across beaches, streams, and up and down steep forest trails. The beach pickup and landing was extremely wet and somewhat dangerous. We also did the river rafting trip in Quepos which was our favorite activity. On the post cruise excursion to the Arenal Volcano area we did the Arial Tram with the most terrifying zip lines - 600 feet above the forest floor and the longest was 1/2 mile long and super fast!
We are a fairly active couple (60 and 68) but found that the Windstar excursion literature usually underestimates the potential severity of the activities. It was fine for us, but anyone unsure about their abilities or mobility should really talk to the excursion staff for advice. Also, be aware that the ship is anchored and not docked at almost all of the ports. So, Zodiacs are used for transportation and getting in and out of the boats can be a challenge. You will get wet getting out of the boat sometimes knee deep so be prepared. Also, these are small ports with really not much to do unless you take a shore excursion.
The reason that we rated the cruise 4 stars instead of 5 stars was mainly because we felt that the bed should have been more comfortable and we didn't really get to experience the Panama Canal during the day. Our ship entered the first lock about 5 pm and then it got dark and you couldn't see a thing except the lights marking the way through the lake.
All in all though we did enjoy the Winstar experience and would not hesitate to recommend the cruise.
You must be prepared to do a lot of walking and stairs. Sometimes the ships are docked next to each other and you might have to walk up and down several flights of stairs to cross over the ships. There is a lot of walking on cobblestone streets so bring very good walking shoes!