Great crew and food. Great atmosphere. We felt really spoiled. Loved the on deck chair massages. Wished the water sports platform had been open in the last two ports.
Great crew and food. Great atmosphere. We felt really spoiled. Loved the on deck chair massages. Wished the water sports platform had been open in the last two ports.
The Order of the Ditch is the award you receive when you transit the Panama Canal. We did so on 1/29/17. We boarded the Sea Breeze in Colon and did the full transit in daylight. It was a fantastic journey. The experience was memorable, but our fellow passengers, the staff and crew made the journey even more special. Traveling on a small ship is exciting, but there was nothing small about the services, food, activities and energy throughout the 7 day journey from Panama to Costa Rica. Every detail - the barbecue on the beach, the tours, the cultural shows on board, the "sail away" each evening - all made this journey very special. If this trip is on your "bucket list" - do it with Windstar - they really excel!
The entire cruise from the time I got on the ship till departure was an example of exceptional service. This was a Christmas cruise so there were more children than the ship usually gets. The staff was always coming up with activities. The dining was outstanding. This has spoiled me for sailing on bigger ships. I never felt rushed, crowded or lacked for things to do. The best part is that the ship doesn't stop at large ports so still got to see places as they are. Had to get used to wet landings in Zodiac but once you master that all is good. The only issue is that both the embarkation and disembarkation occur at shipping ports. The port in Colon is not it the best part of town and Panama has some strange rules on how they run their ports.
Favorites included the Bonaire Snorkeling on uninhabited island, the Panama Canal Expansion tour, and the trip into the Embria Indian Village.
Windstar cruises are one of the best; great food, service and crew, However, on this itinerary could have done without Santa Marta with more time in Cartagena Columbia...many aboard felt the same. The Cruise Director on this ship was a bit "stiff" on his presentations of the ports, sharing only history and maps; should have highlighted some interesting things to do and places to go in each port, other than the published excursions.
The Bristol Panama Hotel was a great post cruise stayover and located perfectly to all city sites. I had prepaid my transportation to the airport on Dec 11 thru Windstar and had a notice that my pickup time would be 3PM; However, and for whatever "hicup" occured they did not show and the hotel kindly got me a cab and paid the transfer cost.....probably need to follow up on this one
Star Breeze has been one of the best cruise ships I have been on.
Nice staff, they will always greet you with a genuine smile, and they know how to plan a great picnic and party
In this itinerary, they have Eddie, a naturalist that would enchant the audience with presentations about animals, tree and monkeys. Everything was amazingly planned, there was not a dull moment in this cruise
I recommend it.
From beginning to end this was a restful and relaxing experience with interesting excursions and wonderful food. Our first Windstar cruise will likely be one of many. It was enjoyable and exceeded our expectations. The suite was better than expected, the staff were friendly, and the ship well maintained. When something was needed, it was provided. More than once staff anticipated our needs. We used room service for breakfast and that was terrific.
The Officers, Wait Staff, Cabin Stewart and the entire crew were excellent!!! The food was beyond great!!! The ports were near perfect...St Martin, Aruba, Cartegena and Panama...gems of the Caribbean!!! The suite was very spacious and opulent. Activities were a bit light in terms of quantity, but the entertainment was excellent...very talented duos and the crew was quite entertaining.
We think the service and food were great, however the ship is small and there is not much going on during days at sea.
For a small ship, touching more ports would be nice.
Average guest age around 50's +
First off let me say that the Star Breeze cruise ship and staff are beyond words. The suites were large, extremely comfortable and well designed. The staff always had a smile on their face and you never waited or wanted for anything. When it would get chilly out on deck, there were staff handing off blankets, before you even thought of asking for one. Some of the ports of call were questionable. Why go to Portoferrairo when everything is closed on a Sunday? Why dock at on the side with all of the machines, oil rigs?, train parts, etc. on La Spezia when there is a gorgeous dock we could have been at? Everyone on the boat was not happy about this. It looked like we docked at a wasteland....literally. That all being said, everything was executed flawlessly. Before cruising on Windstar I cruised on Disney, Princess and Carnival. I hated each of them. I finally found my cruiseline in Windstar! Everything is top notch (food is to die for) and no lines ever. Heck we never even waited for the elevator when we opted to take it. The spa was incredible and they never tried to upsell....that in itself is rare, but I appreciate that. The private event in Monte Carlo could (and should) have been much better, but I had high hopes for that and was let down. I am already looking to book another Windstar cruise and have my eye on the one Caribbean ones the Star Breeze goes to as well as Tahiti (sad only the sailboats go there). Windstar just made a lifetime fan out of me, I wholeheartedly recommend and will cruise with them until I die.
Great vacation aboard the Star Breeze.
The ship and the crew members were outstanding!
Would like to mention: Allen, Chris, Jocelyn, Rojid. Claire, Eugene, Sergio and Laura who entertained us every night.
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.
By way of background, my wife and I have taken two previous Windstar cruises. The first we enjoyed immensely on the Wind Surf, and we took other family members along with us. The second was one of the early voyages of the Star Breeze which was not nearly as well executed due to Windstar having recently taken over the ship and crew, as well as subsequently learning that the ship was being taken out of service to complete the advertised full refurbishment. Nevertheless, it was an acceptable cruise.
This year, we booked the Panama-Costa Rica trip, and again were bringing two additional family members with us on the trip. As the date drew near, we became increasingly concerned about the reports about the spread of the Zika virus. My wife's brother had suffered from the auto-immune disease, Gillian Barre which has been linked to Zika, and we have a daughter-in-law who is pregnant, and did not want to risk any type of exposure by her.
We contacted our travel agent o see if they would issue a credit for future travel. He inquired and the request was denied. Each of the three airline carriers we were using for this trip quickly issued credits to us for future travel.
I wrote an email to Windstar's "Customer Service" department directly and did not receive a response. After waiting a couple of weeks, I wrote a similar email to Windstar's VP of Sales detailing the situation, our prior cruise history, etc. Once again... no response. Finally, I wrote to their CEO, and received a call from "Customer Service" about a week later. I was told that they could not issue a travel credit to me because I had not taken out their insurance with a "cancel for any reason" provision, and that it would "not be fair to other travelers" if they allowed me to receive a credit. Instead, they offered a $100 on-board credit for a future cruise!!
We had third party insurance to cover illness or death, but the issues around Zika don't fall within the areas of coverage. We lost our cruise fares, and Windstar lost formerly happy customers. Their short-sighted attitude and non-enlightened view of "customer service" is really an embarrassment to their brand. We will never travel with their cruise line again.
The most amazing cruise we have ever taken! We were supposed to share the beautiful ship/yacht with 200 people, and instead only shared with 130 other passengers. The crew were so amazing I never wanted to go home. Absolutely the best vacation hands down!
Our ship was redirected to help the sister ship, Star Pride, which ran aground. Nearly all of our shore excursions were cancelled and we did not have the opportunity to leave the ship after day 2 (of 7). By the end of the cruise, Windstar offered the passengers a 75% refund of cruise fare and this same amount to be discounted on a future cruise.
Though it was a bit of a bust, I must say that the crew (who were working nearly around the clock) were awesome the entire time. Food and service were great!
Pillows and mattress were not very good (I'll bring pillows next time), limited energy outlets in the cabin, and the presence of an imperious officer's wife were the only negatives. She demanded to know our suite numbers on the only shore excursion that we took because we asked the tour guide to stop and translate for us at a pharmacy (15 minutes in the store). I'm still wondering why she was there, and why she was so unpleasant.
The cruise exceeded our expectations. The staff was wonderful, the food was awesome, the ports were beautiful. I would recommend Windstar and this cruise in particular without reservation.
We have been on seven (7) Windstar cruises total with six (6) in the last nine (9) years. Until now, we were Windstar loyalists and had started taking Windstar cruises every year. We had such a great time on the Tahiti Windstar cruise last year that we booked two back-to-back cruises this year: one was from Istanbul to Athens and the other was from Athens to Venice.
First the good news. The itinerary and ports on both cruises were fantastic. There was not a single port we did not enjoy. There was only one sea day in the 16 nights we were onboard so the cruise was definitely action-packed. We saw 15 ports in 16 days.
The staterooms were huge and very comfortable. There was a full bathtub and a walk in closet as well as a separate living room. With the balcony stateroom, you can see the ocean from the bed. The balcony has floor to ceiling windows that open up. It's not a real balcony you can sit on but you can stick your head out as well as open the windows and feel the sea breeze. On the sailing ships, the rooms are about 2/3 the size and just have a port hole. So the rooms on the Sea Breeze were certainly an upgrade to the Windstar experience.
When we heard Windstar was purchasing the three ex-Seabourn ships, we were very excited and assumed the ships, after Windstar's renovations, would be a step above the sailing ships in quality. We were wrong. While we really enjoyed the balcony stateroom with floor-to-ceiling windows and the cabins were huge by cruise ship standards, the Star Breeze itself was a disappointing. Windstar is not maintaining the ship to luxury standards. There were dirty windows in the public rooms and staterooms as well as rust on the ship. Some of the carpets were worn out. The water platform was worn out and it had a couple inches of stale water in it. The spa is very small. It's hard to believe this was recently a Seabourn ship. Now I understand why they sold their three smaller cruise ships. They certainly are in need of more repair than Windstar has invested.
Overall, we had excellent service. However, service was slow at times, especially at breakfast time on the Veranda. While our stateroom attendant tried his best, he seemed to be overburdened so our room was not cleaned as promptly as I was accustomed to. However, we still gave him an excellent rating because he did do everything we asked for and we know he is paid poorly and a bad mark will hurt him. When we had problems, the managers tried to sound concerned but they didn't take action on problems in a timely manner.
The special event at Ephesus was the highlight of the first cruise. It was spectacular to see the Celsus Library lit up at night. Overall, the food was good but not fantastic. The onboard barbecue has always been the highlight of the cruise. I wasn't as impressed with the quality of the barbecue on either cruise this time.
The Yacht Club public room was the nicest room on the ship. It had spectacular views and they seemed to clean the windows in that room. However, the sandwiches in the Yacht Club tasted stale. You had to go out to the bat to order drinks. In addition, on other Windstar cruises they offer a 4 pm tea time with snacks. They didn't offer it on this cruise.
Windstar no longer offers high quality, unique chocolates for turn down. Each night, we got chocolate mints, which we did not eat. I used to look forward to the nightly chocolates.
The pool deck was disappointing because the view is blocked by the life boats. The jacuzzi on the pool deck was not maintained at a hot enough temperature. The jacuzzi in the front of the ship was hot but there are no umbrellas out there to shield you from the sun so we didn't use it.
Surprisingly, the ships were not full. In the past, all the cruises we've been on with Windstar have been sold out. They have lowered the prices considerably at the last minute to try to fill the ships, which might explain the downgrade in quality. The ship seemed to be 70-80% full. First cruise had about 150 guests out of 212 and the second had about 170 guests out of 212. This was good for us in that Windstar was able to upgrade our cabin at no charge but we overpaid for the cruises because we booked early and prices went down after the 60 days window had closed.
I noticed there were many first time Windstar cruisers. I think we were probably the most experienced Windstar cruisers on both itineraries. In the past, Windstar cruises tended to have many Windstar repeaters. I suspect the repeaters were loyal because they like the sailing ships. I am not sure traditional cruise ships will be as successful for Windstar. The sailing ships felt luxurious because the quality is well above what one would expect for a sailing ship. However, the standard for traditional cruise ships are much higher and Windstar will need to invest a lot more in its new ships to compete with other luxury cruise lines. By the way, the only sailing ship Windstar owns that I like is the 300 passenger Wind Surf. The two smaller ships don't have enough guest space by the pool and they also are in need to more maintenance.
I do not recommend taking Windstar shore excursions. Many excursions were cancelled either due to weather or low bookings. The shore excursions manager had a defensive attitude when I made suggestions. The shore excursions are double or triple the price of what you can find by booking on Viator. We had fantastic tours through Viator for very reasonable prices.
Also, be careful at the Windstar-approved stores on shore excursions especially the Turkish rug and jewelry stores. Windstar will leave you there at the end of their shore excursion and they get a commission on whatever you buy. Don't accept the first or even fourth offer. Be willing to walk away and they will truly offer you their best price then. For example, one guest said the rug store lowered a $9000+ rug to $4000 when they weren't interested. They didn't end up purchasing it anyway but it just shows the Turkish rug stores are willing to slash prices by 50% or more.
I think Xanterra is lowering Windstar's quality and they don't know how to run luxury cruise ships. Xanterra's expertise is in national parks and land-based vacations. They do not seem to have experience in high end properties. It's a shame because Windstar was so fantastic in the past. I heard Xanterra plans to purchase and renovate 4 more ships. I think they are growing too fast and need to get it right with what they have right now. In fact, I hope someone else buys Windstar and restores it to its former glory.
In the future, we will consider "real" luxury cruise lines because Windstar is now overpriced for what they offer (although they are offering amazingly low priced deals at the last minute - I just saw a last minute promo for a Windstar cruise on Star Breeze for as low as $899 - what does that say about Windstar?). While the other luxury cruise lines may seem more expensive, they include more items in the price than Windstar does and they offer a true luxury experience on well-maintained ships.
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