We loved our trip with Windstar Cruises but realize these are not for everyone. If we had it to do again, we would do less of the ship sponsored excursions. The most enjoyable ports were those where we weren't being shuffled around with a tour group. I expect the excursions we were on were better than you might find on the larger ships (most had about 20-25 people) but you still have to move when you are told to move and you aren't free to do what interests you. I will definitely consider hiring a taxi again - I assumed this is very expensive but when you compare the cost to what it would cost to book two excursions, it is pretty cost-effective.
Would we cruise with Windstar again - I think so but I haven't found the right trip to take yet. Although we haven't done many cruises, we've been traveling all over the world for many years and just now starting to appreciate the convenience of having our hotel room travel with us. We have done one party cruise, one river cruise, this small ship ocean cruise and have two more booked in the next year.
5 out of 5
Embarkation on Windstar Star Breeze was so easy. We got there about an hour before we left port and literally walked straight on the ship. They took our luggage, checked our documentation, sent us through an extremely easy security check, and we were on board. Next we got our room key cards, had our pictures taken, and were shown to our rooms.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
The main dining room was comfortable and easy. We sat with different people every night, which was our choice, and enjoyed our meals each and every night. The other options available to us were a second small restaurant called Candles (no charge but you needed to make reservations) Room Service. We enjoyed the dining room so much that we didn't take advantage of either of these options. Breakfast and lunch were both buffet meals in the Veranda. We had breakfast most mornings and lunch whenever we were on board. The options available were smaller than a larger ship would offer but there were ample choices and there were always 'Cook to order" options as well. The service was always friendly, although minor mistakes did occur periodically - the servers were always quick to fix once these were pointed out. The food was good and at times, great. One night on board all Windstar cruises, they offer up a decktop barbeque - unfortunately, the weather on our cruise wasn't warm enough to offer this on deck so it was served in the main dining room - it was good but not up to par with the meals we had on other nights. The alcohol on board was expensive, as can be expected, and we don't drink enough to warrant signing up for the beverage package. On the other hand, the selection was quite good.
4 out of 5
This is a small ship and we knew going into the trip that there wouldn't be lots of onboard entertainment. It was a pretty rainy trip so we didn't spend much time on deck. We attended a couple of lectures (good), some local entertainment brought on board one night (very interesting), and a crew talent show (lots of fun). Lots of folks on board spent time at the bars on board (listening to the singers or piano player on board) and they all talked about how fun that was - not something we did much of. There is a small fitness center and spa on board that we took a tour of but didn't utilize. There was also a Port Talk each evening and we attended all of those - very helpful. Communication was good on board, particularly for the one port that was changed due to bad weather.
4 out of 5
There was a pianist on board that played daily and many people enjoyed him - we heard him periodically and he was actually very good but we didn't go to the bar often so our exposure to him was limited. There were also two singers that played in one of the bars each evening - again, we heard them but not enough to have an opinion. There was a group from Scotland that came on board and performed for us one evening - they sang and danced. They were surprisingly good. The best entertainment was when the crew did a talent show two nights before our cruise ended. Seeing all the crew performing - some for fun but some were actually excellent - was great fun and gave us a chance to get to know the crew a little better. The only reason I only gave this four stars is because a small ship like this cannot compete with the entertainment offered on a larger ship but for us, it was exactly what we were looking for.
No children on board this ship.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
The crew was wonderful from the minute we got on board until the moment we disembarked. Everyone was friendly and engaging and we felt like they were genuinely concerned for our well-being and comfort. For example, if we left our room for an hour, we came back and it had already been cleaned. If we asked for something special at a meal, we were asked if we wanted that at the next meal. We brought our own tea on board with us and called for Room Service each evening to deliver hot water, milk and sweetener. After doing this twice, they found a larger thermos to send to our room so we had hot water all evening. The excursion crew was very good at keeping us informed of the information we needed before getting off the ship. But the biggest reason I gave this five stars is because one day, we had to tender to shore and Windstar carries their own tender boats. While we were on an excursion, the weather got worse and when we got back to the tender boats, it was raining and very windy. We had a very rocky trip back to the ship but the wind was so bad that getting everyone back on board was tricky. After half of the passengers got off the tender, things got worse. They took the tender boat away from the ship and waited until the ship could turn (so that it could block most of the wind). In the meantime, we were asked to put on our life jackets, and when ready, the crew had us positioned to get off the tender as quickly as possible. There were people on board to help us get back on the ship safely. Everyone crew member involved in this was well trained and had our safety foremost on their minds. Although the situation was a little scary, the crew was well trained and handled the situation so well and we felt like we were in really good hands.
4 out of 5
The ship is older and is scheduled to be renovated in 2020. This age shows at times but it was never an issue to us. We knew this when we booked the cruise. I always felt that although it was a little tired, it was spotlessly clean at all times. The crew maintained the public areas constantly - you never saw empty glasses and plates left out and trash was always removed quickly.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
Our cabin was larger than expected and was spotlessly maintained throughout our cruise. It was very comfortable. There is a comfortable bed (king or two twins) as well as a pretty comfortable sitting area. The balcony is not a sit outside balcony - instead, there is a sliding glass door that opens fully. Actually, since the weather was mostly windy and rainy, this wasn't a problem but we could get fresh air in the room whenever we needed. The bathroom is larger than expected, although the shower is part of a bathtub configuration and was awkward for me to climb into (I'm short and it is a pretty high tub). I assume this will change when the ship is renovated. There is a walk in closet that we really enjoyed. We could keep all our stuff in the closet and not clutter up the room.
We found that most people on board were well traveled and were more interested in the destinations and less interested in the activities on board. That was exactly what we were looking for. Make sure you consider this before selecting to take any small ship cruise.
This was our favorite port. We arrived early and had two days to sightsee and loved our time. We stayed at the Principal George Street Hotel and loved it. It is so close to everything that we walked to most of the sights. Our only issue with the hotel is that our one dinner there was okay but not worth repeating. We got Hop On Hop Off tickets and checked out the entire city through the three different routes - great for getting oriented. Things we did in more depth was Edinbough Castle and the Royal Mile - spent hours walking through that area.
We booked a private taxi (Scotland Taxi Tours) to pick us up in Invergordon at the port and drive us to all the sites. This was such an easy way to see things and was cheaper than if we had booked two excursions with the ship. We did a scenic drive to Inverness, saw the sights at Loch Ness, and missed the crowds. This is the first time we have hired our own driver but we will definitely do this again. Once our driver knew what types of things we were interested in seeing, he offered suggestions. This gave us a wonderfully customized trip that was well worth what we paid.
Another great port. We took one of the ship's excursions that took us all over the island to see many of the sights. The convenience of having the ship handle it all in our limited time made this worth the price. The highlight of this tour was going to see Scara Brae - a prehistoric village that has been uncovered and partially restored.
Another wonderful port - we had time to walk around Portree, a small cute little coastal town. My husband did one of the more strenuous excursions in the afternoon, where they hiked to see the Old Man of Storr. He came back exhausted but happy. This was a tender port - our first experience with using Windstar's tender boats.
Tobermory, Isle Of Mull, Scotland
3 out of 5
We booked an excursion to see a weaving farm in the southern part of the island and were very excited, since we both work with fabrics quite a bit. Sadly, this was a disappointment. The bus ride was very long and mostly boring. We were under the impression that we would be able to see much of the farm and it's workings. We got ushered into a room where they talked about the large weaving machines for a few minutes, gave us some tea, and sent us to the gift shop. Than it was back on the bus for the very long bus ride back to the ship. We did have a few minutes to walk around before we left. Add to that the problems we had with getting back onboard the ship from the tender (see my comments under Service and Staff) and the awful weather, it wasn't our best day.
Portrush, Northern Ireland
Did not visit port
The weather was anticipated to be quite windy on the day we were to go to Portrush (where we were again supposed to anchor and take a tender to shore) so Windstar decided to dock at Belfast instead. This was a good option since we were still close enough to still take all the excursions that were booked. My husband again did a strenuous excursion to the Giant's Causeway and enjoyed it, although it was a much longer bus ride from Belfast than it would have been from Portrush. I spent my time walking around Belfast, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Douglas, Isle Of Man
4 out of 5
The Isle of Man is a really nice place to visit. We took an excursion on a steam engine train to see Castle Rushen. This is a vintage train and it was fun seeing it. The Castle is right in town and fun to explore but we got there so late that we had to rush to finish. If I had it to do again, I would have skipped the excursion and just gone down there on our own.
We stayed in Dublin for two nights in the Conrad Dublin Hotel before heading home. We again purchased tickets on the Hop On Hop Off bus so we could get a real feel for the area before we started to walk around. We spent our first day doing serious sightseeing and went to the Greyhound Races in the evening (we have two greyhounds ourselves). The second day, we decided to do something a little different and spent much of the day at the Dublin Zoo and walking around the park it is in the middle of. We could have spent a week there easily seeing all the sights but this was a great first trip.
4 out of 5
More confusing than the embarkation but compared to a large ship, it was easy. It took maybe a half hour to get out of our cabin, take care of settling up (we had no problems so that took no time), and we walked off the ship, found our luggage in a color coded area, found our transportation to our hotel and left.
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