We absolutely loved this cruise! The staterooms on the Star Pride are larger than a hotel room and beautifully appointed. The food is excellent, the staff friendly and always willing to assist. The ports are some of the best in the Caribbean. The only caution I have is that there is very limited entertainment on the ship so if you are looking for the big live shows found on the large cruise ships you will be disappointed.
Windstar has spoiled us. We are already planning our next cruise experience with Windstar!
This is my second review of the "Star Pride" --- my first was the maiden voyage in 2014, immediately after the ship was acquired from Seabourn. I noticed several changes, almost all of which were positive.
Our cruise started in Colon, Panama and traversed the Panama Canal, with later stops in several small ports in Costa Rica. The voyage through the Canal was interesting, but not particularly scenic. Some recent passengers have complained that the Costa Rican ports are relatively unknown, but I really liked seeing the smaller venues that feature local culture and wildlife.
Like us (13 previous cruises), over half of the passengers were Windstar alumni cruisers. Also in attendance were the new Windstar President John Delaney, and several members of his executive team. I had the opportunity to spend some “quality time” with John, and found him to be attentive, engaging, and passionate about small ship cruising, with many ideas for improving the Windstar brand.
Prior to our embarkation, we flew into Panama City and stayed at the Bristol Hotel, located in the middle of the banking/financial district. Panama City is located on the Pacific coast, so we took an hour-long bus ride over to Colon’ on the Atlantic coast before boarding the ship. This might seem a bit odd, until you see that Panama City is a modern metropolis dominated by skyscraper hotels and high-rise office buildings, while Colon’ is mostly industrial, with little to offer tourists.
My husband picked this cruise called the Best of the ABC Islands as his retirement cruise; we liked the itinerary as it was to return to some of our favorite ports in the Grenadines and the ABC islands. Only two ports would be new to us - Tobago and Bonaire. We are avid snorkelers and all the ports featured snorkeling excursions except St. Lucia; we did snorkeling excursions in all but two of them: St. Lucia and Mayreau which did offer an excursion to three locations, but we elected to snorkel at the end of the beach there (there was a day-long beach BBQ event included). We sailed November 16, 2016, from Barbados, spent Thanksgiving in Curacao, and disembarked Black Friday in Aruba. A busy and eventful 9 days it was, but it was also a restful vacation!
Embarkation for us was very simple as we had arrived 2-1/2 hours after it began due to the scheduling of our flights. There were only 139 guests out of 212 full capacity, so we missed lunch and the Shore Excursions Mgr. Gonzalo was about to give his presentation shortly after checking in, followed by the safety drill.
We had done research about all aspects (including Cruise Critic reviews and YouTube videos) of the Star Pride. We found public rooms were well maintained and included two lounges, two bars, a complete spa and gym, counter-current swimming pool, two hot tubs (one near pool & one at bow on deck 5), the Yacht Club (for views, books, early morning continental breakfast or lunch sandwiches), library next to casino, and Signature Shop. Specialty coffee is complimentary at any venue. See Cabin review below for details of our stateroom. The ship also has a Sports Marina aft with non-motorized equipment for use when anchored. Snorkeling equipment is available complimentary for the entire cruise as well. Two tenders are also stored in this area.
The main dining room AmphorA restaurant was open seating from 7-9 p.m. daily for dinner only. You can ask for whatever size table you desired and change the option nightly. Verandah which was aft on pool deck was used for Breakfast (7-9:30 am) and Lunch buffet daily (usually 12:30-2). There was indoor seating, but most guests ate on deck. There were always 4-5 options for special orders or you could help yourself - I never found any type of food to be lacking, though the hot lunch buffet variety was not there. Many ate fresh fruits and salads, and there were always several desserts of the cake/pastry variety and two frozen options (ice cream and sorbet) with toppings of all kinds available. Verandah is transformed into Candles at night for an upscale (think Specialty dining) experience out on deck which all guests are complimented once during the sailing; however, reservations are required due to limited space (book at embarkation). Service was always excellent at all dining venues.
Activities - There were several events that were part of the planned activities which included a deck BBQ dinner in Grenada with local entertainment by the Angel Harps Orchestra Steel Drum Band after line dancing with Staff and Crew for a half-hour prior to sailing.
Another event was the Beach BBQ lunch on Mayreau, Grenadines (smallest inhabited Grenadine island). This was placed midway through the itinerary and made for a relaxing day after several busy port days. We, however, decided to explore the steep hillside to get views of the surrounding islands (definitely worthwhile). There was another town, Saltwhistle Bay which we had visited on a previous stop, on the other side which some of the guests explored as well.
A surprise came at our last port when after a full day in Curacao on Thanksgiving following our "Turkey dinner", we found that Willemstad had decorated for the holidays all day, and during our 9 pm sail away, the town was lit beautifully for our enjoyment. On the sea day, there were several tours and demonstrations one could attend such as towel animal folding demonstration, cooking demonstration with Chef Stany, galley tour with chocolate covered strawberries, cocktail demonstration, photography seminar, engine room tour, and an innovative Putt Putt Golf Tournament. A movie and Card, Wii, & Board games were also available. There is a small casino with a few one-arm bandits, and a blackjack table. Five of the nights in port, we sailed after 6 p.m. (between 8 and midnight) and arrived no later than 8 a.m., allowing ample time in port.
Entertainment - There were two duos, D'Harmony from South Africa and Mistura Fina from Argentina playing every night at the two venues of the Star Bar and Compass Rose. They also were featured during other events such as the Captain's party. There was also a Crew talent show at the end of the cruise, in addition to the local Steel Drum Band mentioned above.
Staff/Crew/Service - With such a small ship with few guests, it was very easy to get to know everyone. The crew learns your name within 24 hours and there is great comraderie among everyone. Some of the guest services staff, the photographer and occasionally an officer participated on shore excursions. The Captain, Alan MacAry of Scotland, was very approachable and we had several conversations with him and he posed for us (not in the formal dress whites) as well, even while on the bridge when tendering at small ports. There is a deck area in front of the bridge and guests did participate in viewing and photographing arrivals and departures from ports while simultaneously seeing what the Capt. and officers were viewing. The exception sometimes occurred when the port required docking. He also frequented the Star Bar for the entertainment in the evening with his Chief Engineer.
Pigeon Island, St. Lucia (anchored) - We had visited this island several times, but this time, we anchored at Pigeon Island where local water sports is in full view including parasailing and snubing (half snorkeling/half diving); on the way to the Rainforest Hike and River Pool excursion, we passed through Castries, the capital. Our only disappointment with the entire cruise was this excursion as we had taken another rain forest excursion 15 years ago and could compare them. This one was rated moderate to difficult, but the accompanying photos did not indicate the steepness of the hills, both up and down, nor the occasional steps being steep and with rotten wood. This was the end of the rainy season, and there had been quite a bit of rainfall, adding muddy conditions to the mix. We literally spent 90%+ of our time looking at our feet and determining where to step and therefore did not enjoy the tour. The guide was exceptional in helping everyone, but no-one could enjoy looking around at much, as there was little level ground (even when stopping to look). Our excursions manager did secure a partial refund for us.
Bequia (anchored) - Although we had visited less than two years ago along with Grenada and other Grenadine islands, we only had 4 hours then and really only walked through the town in 2015. We elected to snorkel and made two stops (our ship's photographer and a guest relations staff member was along as well). The tour also involved boating around the island a bit. We spent the afternoon exploring more of the town and some stayed ashore until late as sailing was at midnight.
St. George's, Grenada (docked) - We opted for the Shadowfax Sail & Snorkel as we had done this on our last visit, but due to the wind then, were not able to snorkel where the excursion is scheduled to - at the Underwater Sculpture Garden. The tour is with a large 60 ft., well-maintained catamaran and stops at Hog Island (think Robinson Crusoe) past Point Salines along the Atlantic side of Grenada for our lobster full lunch prepared by locals which was as good as the first time we did this excursion.
Charlotteville, Tobago (anchored) - Small quaint town. Our excursion Angel Reef/Glass Bottom Boat and snorkel, took us over the mountains to the northeastern town of Speyside to a private resort to board the boat. Angel Reef is very shallow, but I felt we moved too fast to be able to see what was passing below us. The snorkel was across the bay and was excellent.
Saline Bay, Mayreau (anchored) - Island Event. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, we explored the hillside town of 300 and snorkeled at the end of the beach later. There were two optional tours, one with three snorkeling stops.
Kralendijk, Bonaire (docked) - Our intention of snorkeling here (as it is ranked in the top ten of the Caribbean for diving and snorkeling) meant that we did two excursions, one private and one through the ship). We booked a morning, private tour online through Blue Bay Sailing. The owners are a couple transplanted from the Netherlands and they have a beautiful sailing boat with a lovely platform at aft to facilitate snorkeling. We sailed across the bay to "Little" Klein Bonaire - well-known in those parts for excellent snorkeling and diving. I then did a little shopping in town after lunch and we then took the mid-afternoon ship excursion Samur Sail, Beach, & Snorkel on a Siamese Sailing Junk. It also went to a different location around Klein Bonaire, where after anchoring, all guests transferred to a zodiac (which took two trips) to the beach. Then snorkelers walked the beach to Ebo's Reef, where we drifted with the current back to the zodiac at the beach. The scenery was quite different from the morning's snorkel but could see the wall for diving.
Willemsted, Curacao (docked in the industrial port area) - I took a UNESCO World City Heritage Walk as in the previous visits, I hadn't had the opportunity, conducted by a transplanted Dutch lady from the Netherlands -- included was walking across the Queen Emma pontoon bridge, the governmental buildings area, Punda, the Maritime Museum, and the floating market where Venezuelans sell their fruits and vegetables and fishermen sell today's catch. As noted above, we were treated to a most lovely holiday lights display as we sailed for Aruba. Later, I finally had the opportunity to visit the gymnasium as it is opened 24 hours.
Disembarkation - Quick and easy - We had completed customs forms several days prior which enabled Windstar to complete customs for all guests, so we merely retrieved our luggage and went on our way. Many passengers had made arrangements to spend at least one night in Oranjestad, so there was a line of taxis available to transport everyone to their location. We stayed one night at the Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort, but also visited the Renaissance Resort's private Renaissance Island which has flamingos, iguanas and other wildlife at several different beaches, and snorkeling which I enjoyed. In the evening, I walked to the Divi beach to watch Star Pride sail on her next cruise, the same as ours in reverse.
We wanted a small ship that could get us to ports where the large ships couldn't go and Windstar delivered on that. We also wanted an upscale experience with a focus on the ports and not on shipboard activities that we wouldn't be using. Again, Windstar delivered. We found the Windstar cruise to be just what we were looking for and were very satisfied.
The cruise was absolutely wonderful the ports were beautiful. The ship was small enough to make it easy to get around and get on and off with no problem. The room and bathroom were nice size and clean. The staff was very friendly and food excellent. The only thing was hit tub was not hot and pool cold. Had a awesome time!
We really enjoyed the cruise as the food was great , the room was spacious the crew was great and the port were fun to visit. Would highly recommend both a trip to Iceland and travel on a Windstar Cruise. We have cruised with Cunard, Princess, Holland America. Royal Caribbean and Ama-Waterways and plan to cruise with Windstar again.
This was the worst cruise experience ever. My husband and I will never take a Windstar cruise again. We love cruises because of the great food, the onboard experiences and the scenic locations we travel to. We expect an occasional excursion to be cancelled, an occasional meal not the be to our liking, etc. We even expect the occasional rude ship employee. But for bad food or no food, rudeness, and cancelled activities to be the norm on the ship? This is just not acceptable. We took this cruise because we wanted to cruise around Iceland and this was the only ship we found doing this itinerary. Big mistake. In the future we will stick to the larger dependable cruise lines.
The size of the ship is nice as you have no long lines and the service was wonderful. Food was well prepared and presented. Balconies to the rooms were very disappointing but the cabin size was good. Activities were poor and excursions excessively expensive but the ports of call were just fabulous.
Many nice ports of call from Costa Rica to Colon Panama. My favorite part was the actual transit through the Panama Canal. It is simply amazing to watch large ships rise or descend through the locks. The only hiccup was a 9 hour flight delay into Costa Rica from Houston, TX due to volcanic activity in Costa Rica which shut down the airport temporarily.
The best part of this cruise was the transit through the Canal, it truly is an engineering marvel and I am so glad to have experienced it. The small ship is nice but beyond that I was disappointed with Windstar. The staff is very friendly but they are all very young and lack training regarding how to deliver good service. Dining on a cruise is usually special but their menus were limited and very ordinary, a big disappointment. Being only offered a deck BBQ on cheap plastic chairs is not what I expected, I am not a fan of buffet lines. This is really an itinerary of nature ports with opportunity for only the scheduled tours as options for daily activities, little if anything to do in port otherwise, beach visits only. It may be good to know prior to arrival. All of this contributed to my disappointment as I was left to more free time than I had expected. The star of this trip is the Canal transit and that was something I will always remember as spectacular!
What a wonderful cruise. This is my 1st time on Windstar, and it's won't be my last. Everything was wonderful....and I MEAN EVERYTHING.I think the best part was that the ship is small, and so easy to get around, no long walks along endless hallways, you could get from any part of the ship or yacht as it is called to your suite in less the 5 minutes. The suites are well appointed, bathroom huge with 2 sinks & a full tub. Food wise was also A+, with the only exception of a pasta dish I had at lunch.The cookout on the top deck 1 night was not to believed....amazing....the staff is very friendly, always with a smile & a hello. I can't wait to sail on Windstar again.
The entire cruise was wonderful after we checked in on board. Our cabin was large and spotless, the cabin steward, Vina, was excellent. The entire experience on and off the ship was top notch and we highly recommend Windstar for anyone looking for a small ship experience.
Some years back, my wife and I went on a Mexican cruise with one of the "big" cruise lines. Although we saw some nice things, my overall perception was, cruising is not for me. The ship was too crowded, noisy, and there seemed to be lines for everything. When Denise suggested this WindStar cruise, to tell you the truth, I was not all that excited.
Well, upon boarding the Star Pride in Rome my perceptions started to change! This was not a ship with thousands of passengers. It was a luxury yacht with only about 170 of us on board. From moment one, we were treated as real guests, not just ticket holders. This staff cannot be complimented enough on how they treated us. The ship was absolutely beautiful. Our cabin was to die for. The food and service at mealtime was top notch. Allen, the restaurant manager was the greatest and paid special attention to each guest to make sure we received nothing but the best of food and service.
Our ports of call were well thought out and there were lots of choices for tours or if you wished to explore on your own, nightly presentations were made to point out the history and points of interest in each port.
To sum it all up, there is nothing negative I cay say about WindStar, the Star Pride, the accommodations, or staff. You all have changed this old mans mind about cruising! Id go again in a second. But only with WindStar!
The staff on the ship were great, they absolutely make you feel valued and welcome as well as giving great customer service.This was ship wide, not just the few staff that are a assigned to your suite. The food was excellent as well.
The only sad part for us was because of the ports and schedule, we did not get to use the water sports platform at all.
best part was food and service; although uneven, it was apparent the crew's job was to be pleasing. Special kudos to Chef Darrin who made every encounter special (demonstration, market tour) and created a lovely presentation for our table when we asked for a special appetizer. With one exception (we were yelled at by a waiter because 'we took too long' - he said 'I have other tables!' - we noticed he had one other table), the crew in most cases makes an effort to please. Having said that, poached eggs should not come out under cooked and then over cooked, the bathtub should not be blocked, sinks should not be leaking and air conditioning and Jacuzzi tubs should be in working order. We advised staff but the Jacuzzi was never fixed. The cruise ports were not exceptional; some of the ports consisted of a small town (all stores were closed but they were ordinary shops, what might be found in any lower middle class area for local shopping), this might have been the Montenegro and Corfu stops. In other words, you would never hop into a car and decide to visit these places. Windstar boasts that its small ships enable visits to interesting ports that larger ships cannot dock at but that SHOULD NOT MEAN NO OTHER SHIP WOULD WANT TO DOCK AT THE SELECTED PORTS BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO SIGNIFICANCE! We did the HIGHLIGHTS OF MONTENEGRO; a complete waste of time, we were driven around for hours, there were two 5-minute stops off the side of the road (!) for the view, then a stop at a restaurant (located next to an abandoned building) where plates with a few pieces ham had already been laid out on table (who know how long?). I can guarantee that no one asked for seconds! The only part interesting was the short walk to old town at end, where the tour guide spoke a few minutes. The rest of the commentary by this guide, OMG terrible, uninteresting, repetitive, no interest/ability to connect with tour passengers. We along with a few other participants made Windstar staff (Richard) aware - don't you think Windstar should have reimbursed us for this (we spent $200) disastrous waste of time? We decided not to take any other excursions based on this awful experience! I know Windstar takes an interest in improving its service, please feel free to contact for additional details.
We started our adventure to run all over the world on a Windstar cruise through the Caribbean. One year later and we closed out the year once again with Windstar with a 7 day cruise thru the Panama Canal. The crew, as always, made us feel like family and we totally enjoyed the cruise. We had such a great time that we booked our fourth cruise with Windstar as soon as we got off the ship.
The weather was predicted to be rainy for the entire duration of the cruise (online weather forecasts before the cruise), but the rain never came! Beautiful weather for the most part with a few overcast days.
The staff were extremely accommodating and helpful, the cabin stewards were lovely and did amazing towel creations of animals and sealife left as surprises nightly on the foot of the bed, fresh fruit trays were presented daily, lovely turn-down service was provided, cozy bathrobes and slippers were left for your use, the ports were fun and interesting, our fellow travelers were friendly and fascinating, the suites were spacious (except for the ill-placed chair in front of the desk that blocked the path to the couch and chairs), and the public spaces were charming.
However, Windstar bought three Seabourn ships and did a quick decor update of the Star Pride, the Star Breeze, and the Star Legend. The systems on our ship, the Star Pride could use extensive updating. We were told that in March that the Star Pride was due for renovations. Unfortunately the passengers were subjected to some issues until then. The AC was limping along in many rooms, there was water leakage into some cabins from the internal water system, the paint was peeling on the exterior of the ship, rust was present on the upper exposed decks, and one of the the zodiacs was out of commission. Through it all, the crew handled all concerns gracefully, professionally, and graciously even though the vessel was not up to normal Windstar standards (which they secretly acknowledged!).
As a former Windstar cruiser I do however miss the ambiance of the sailing ships. The Star Pride's cabins are truly magnificent, however the common areas need to be changed to give them a feeling of openness.
I would rather have a smaller cabin on the sailing ships.
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