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CruiseOrLand

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  1. As it happens, on our day in Bora Bora with WIndstar, everyone else (well, it seemed like it) booked "Shark's Breakfast". As a result, we were the ONLY couple on the (locally run) snorkel trip. It was the best snorkeling we've ever had, and the guide carried our surf shoes for the point where he told us (!) to get out and walk on the reef (!) we were next to right then. He also coaxed out a moray eel for us. Anyway, he was a superb guide (if a bit fast-paced swimming for anyone less capable than I am, which is not a great swimmer. My wife swims very well.) I regret very much that I did not put any money in my bathing suit pocket with which to tip him. There is no question that he deserved/earned a tip. I still think of it with a touch of shame. (Although I don't like the idea of adversely affecting local culture, I think it is naive to believe that primarily American cruise-ship passengers will surprise, startle, or shame locals anywhere by tipping them. I believe they expect to be tipped.) OTOH, we tipped a local guide in Panama as he dropped us off from the bus, but it turned out that he should have gotten off the bus and delivered us all the way to the tenders, which were at a different place than they delivered us to. (I think Windstar was forced to use local tenders there. Not positive.) It was a huge mess in the marina (army crew cleaning up a fish kill), and he did not earn the tip because of that fiasco. We got back aboard within one hour of weighing anchor. BTW, most currency, especially Americanski, is waterproof.
  2. It may not be possible to tell the difference in a text-exchange that is "without affect." But there is a difference between making an observation and being a bully. I personally have tried to adopt public advice like listening more and talking less at cocktail parties. Since the persons were not identified, I think my statement could be regarded as a generalized warning about one possible outcome of putting yourself in the Maitre d's hands.
  3. I know you meant to ask a more general question about food itself, but I want to note that Windstar dinner is bit later and slower than we would like to have. The meal choices are sometimes a bit bland or pedestrian, but the ingredients and preparation are always restaurant-quality. Sometimes we speed up the meal by declining appetizers or dessert, which is a healthy choice for us anyway. I don't have the background to know if this is the case all over cruising (10 Windstar trips), but some dining guests on Windstar always demand a private deuce (which is always possible and permitted.) Some groups of two or three couples always sit together. We usually offer to share a table when we check in with the Maitre d'. But we have been disappointed, often, to be seated repeatedly with the SAME [dull] couple, or to be put at a table of six or more, which is much less of our socialization objective-and adds a minimum of 45 minutes to the meal. I suppose we should demand to be put at a 4-top if we share!
  4. This is an elderly message thread. But it was 2005 when we had #325 on Windsurf. No noise problems. We normally avoid potential problems like you describe in the naval architecture. Of course the extra space is wonderful, but it's a little off-putting to have two identical rooms put together, rather than a purpose-built "suite." Sort of a bowling-alley feel. In that sense, it was a slight letdown. For example, having two identical bathrooms (as far apart as possible in a giant room .... ) is convenient but not the normal definition of "luxury." I don't mean to sound unpleasantly negative, it's just that it's an unsusual product that needs a detailed description. We chose the ship for its itinerary (Mayan Riviera), and that did not disappoint. I want to add that, while Windstar now has lots of 300+ passenger ships, in 2005 it was unusual, and I did feel that the crowd was less outgoing and more insular than the 140+- sailing ships.
  5. I agree with the sentiments of the OP. But I would add that the individualistic, libertarian "12 passengers still on the island" deserve a bit of the blame. They are no doubt very proud of their "independent" tour plans, and will brag about them here or at cocktail parties. But they failed to report to the tender station when they had a duty to be there. It's not "all about you". It's about the behavior of responsible adults. Yes, I'm saying they had a responsibility to leave their land activities early enough to allow for missed busses or unavailable taxis.
  6. I urge you to log-in to your (forget the exact name) Confirmed Passengers page on the Windstar website to get a firmer announcement of the exact embarkation pier. You just can't take that for granted based on past cruises. If it is unclear to you, call the 800 number. I would never get value from the All-In package, but I do think that the highest prices wine by the bottle or glass (they'll save used bottles for you) are not included in the base alcohol package. The laundry feature is just great, and simple to use. Windstar is so small you will have a personal relationship with your cabin steward. You will not have trouble getting a drink when you want one. You will learn when the live music hours are at the Star Bar. You may wish to note the cigar hours there, if you care about that. There is sometimes complimentary house wine for all at key Lounge events, with a few hot hors d'oeuvres. Personally, I think you will get better service (say, for the Port Talk in the Lounge) if you bring your drink down from a few minutes in the Star Bar. (But I have a vague idea they are not permitted to give you two drinks at the same time, even for cash!) I don't mean to sound negative, and I really like Windstar: But Candles is just not special enough to do more than once. On cold or windy nights, it can be kept "indoors". Some travelers have been disappointed at the number of times the sports platform was open. (Tour traffic and water conditions affect use, among other things.)
  7. Thank you for quite an interesting report. As I noted in my review a year ago, one of our (smaller ship) Star Breeze mule-engines broke down during one lock transit. Our captain refused to wait for a replacement or repair, saying in effect, "Thanks, I can keep off the walls myself."
  8. All the more reason to have travel insurance. Even though I've had a flu shot every year for 40 years, it's not 100% protection. And you could easily argue that this "opressive" rule is for the protection of the paying customers. How would you like to be on that quarantined cruise ship, confined to your cabin, and maybe not even getting all your meals? I presume there is a psychological burden of EITHER not knowing how many people are getting sick around you, or knowing from your internet or TV viewing. I believe that I had to sign a health statement before my last (pre Coronavirus) Winstar boarding. But people (like those who come in to your office sniffling and coughing ... ) are notoriously poor about making decisions that go beyond their personal needs and interests. 2008 news item: " The makers of Airborne have agreed to refund money to consumers as part of a $23.3 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit for false advertising. It does not admit wrongdoing or illegal conduct. "
  9. Certainly, many posters here would always choose a private excursion if they can, perhaps for small-group size, cost, or good reviews. We personally tend to go with Windstar, because it's easier, and there is no worry about being back on time. Picking Panama Canal as an example, I didn't find the time waiting for a turn at the spotting-scope to be wasted time. There was plenty to look around and see. We have even chosen some fantastically expensive Windstar excursions, like Tikal from Belize City, which includes two plane flights. It was worth the money! In a city like Shanghai, we toured the city on our own, without any guide. Certainly, a lot of ports are inconveniently far from city centers, and even transportation. I'll add that the written descriptions of WIndstar outings tend to be extremely accurate. You should read the description of a tour that interests you repeatedly, to make sure you catch all the nuances. Most (of the few) complaints I heard aboard could have been avoided by closer reading of the descriptions. You should also go to the Port Talk (no, it's not just first-time-losers who go to the port talk - and sometimes there are passed hors d'oeuvres) to get updates and conversational addenda to the upcoming excursions. Just as an example, even if the tour is marked "Low Exertion", you might learn that you'll be boarding a Zodiac from a pitching metal dock, while wearing a life vest, which you hadn't considered! (Not a problem for me personally.) One thing you learn about at the port talk is whether there are Windstar, or Port-Authority shuttle busses, their departure times, and whether they promise to add a bus if one fills up. In my experience, they don't delete booked-up excursions from listings. In fact, we have gotten onto excursions from the on-ship Waiting List, as well as having been disappointed to not get on. Given that the company operates with a la carte excursion fees, I don't find their pricing unreasonable. Some airport transfers seem overpriced, however. The question may be, can I get anyone else with the right to come to the side of the ship, in that port?
  10. Note that electric outlets are likely to change when the ships are stretched. All old data are obsolete at that point. Pre-stretch on the motor yachts, the ONLY 120-volt outlet (a single, with a spring-loaded cover) was under the waist-high mirror opposite the foot of the bed, about 3'-4' away from your toes. An extension cord there would trip one of the two sleepers when they get up in the night. The outlets closest to the heads of the beds are 240 volt. There are plenty of 240 Volt outlets, but you might have to unplug a lamp to get a free one where you want it. Windstar and the stewards are very amiable, but I'm dubious about V8 and Dr. Pepper. In fairness to you, you did not present them as Financial Services Professional demands, but rather as hopes. But I had this looming memory of a guest at a tiny and luxurious Caribbean Resort refusing to eat the oatmeal because it was not "steel-cut." (Smiley)
  11. Perhaps Windstar is not comparable with a River Cruise, but our Viking River ship had to suddenly move piers during the White Nights Festival opera we had the cruise director book privately for us. So we were glad the cabdriver assigned knew how to find out where the ship was. I consider one year’s pier location to be an unreliable predictor of a future pier. There’s a reason cruise companies are so closed-mouth about precise pier assignments. Yes it is annoying. I am pretty sure that we once came back from a Windstar official excursion (not in Russia) and the ship had moved.
  12. It is not possible to book at the last minute, but if price is not the focus, consider The Boat Company for Southeast Alaska. It’s a magical experience, with 10 cabins and 20 people. They are a conservation charity.
  13. Kate, I use travel agents less than I used to, but it seems unreasonable to expect Windstar (or any provider ... ) to allow you to use an intermediary when you want one, and work direct when it suits you! The airlines certainly don't allow that. I also question the definition of "Luxury" TA if they have no one to cover them when they are out of the office. (Indeed, one reason I stopped using the big local company I had was the discovery that my agent was not an employee, and did not have a dedicated desk in the office suite.) I apologize if this seems to be a personal critique, but the general issues your booking raised seem worth considering. I certainly agree that many travel customers, today (and not just you), expect to have ad hoc flexibility, at the touch of their cellphone!
  14. Adding to my previous post, because of other comments made: It sounds less responsive to your OP, but I want to mention that a huge number of people on our Windstar Tahiti cruise had off-ship plans, most often for a world-class (?) dinner ashore. Now, once it's dark, you're not missing anything by having a dinner you could never have anywhere else! My observation was about daytime activities. I think we didn't consider dinner ashore because it would have made a longer day than we wanted. (I don't recall a special ship meal on our Bora Bora night, over ten years ago.)
  15. The snorkeling was so astonishing on Bora Bora (with the Windstar excursion, at that) that I think focusing on a "land" (if overwater) fat-cat luxury experience is a poor use of time. I am making the assumption that walk-in snorkeling by the resort you select would be (as it has been everywhere I've snorkeled) is mediocre compared with boat-journey snorkeling. It might help if you reflected on the two most "luxurious" hotel rooms you've ever had, and think about whether you got something lasting from the experience.
  16. In general, I don't approve of tipping in US dollars. But in the Caribbean, this is not as hard on the recipient as it would be in Europe. They'll lose a lot of your dollars in getting them exchanged. There are several islands (and even countries) where USD are the main tourism currency. I personally don't refer to the cost of the excursion that much. I think about the "experience" I just had, and the quality of the guide, and whether the bus driver did things that deserve a separate, smaller tip for him. Sometimes I don't tip at all, which I can see during the exit from the bus is the practice of a lot of the visitors. In general, I always tip. Sad to say, I once tipped only to find out that the Windstar tour had dropped us off at the wrong entrance to the marina with the tenders. (Parts had been closed for a fish-kill cleanup.) We had to blunder around and walk a distance. So I made sure to tell the Excursion Manager about the poor service.
  17. I enjoyed that blog post, but if you take the ship’s excursion, MAP is likely to be mostly boardwalks. The guide’s spotting scope or personal binoculars were essential for most wildlife sightings. Because of monkeys, you can’t bring much food in your pack to MAP. Sealed snack bars in pouches were allowed. The ship excursion was willing to drop you at the downtown corniche on the way back to the ship. The ship developed an annoying roll at anchor in the afternoon, which the captain said was common there. Moving the anchor doesn’t help.
  18. Denali is a long trip because it is remote. It is a treasured National Park because it is remote! Since I haven't been there myself, it would be helpful to have the word "bus" clarified. From people I know who have been there, I would believe that if you take any bus, including WIndstar's (as opposed to, say, a train) to Denali, you have to get off your big bus and get onto a Parks Service yellow school bus (?) for INSIDE the park. Is that CORRECT? Thank you.
  19. Then let’s think of 90 days as Windstar’s “exchange period.” Most retail stores (a rough business these days) don’t allow price reduction capture for 90 days anyway. The OP’s dissatisfaction is not appropriate. The rules were fully disclosed. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
  20. I can add that at the Beach Barbecue in Costa Rica, I think they had a two-step unit in the water to assist those with the most difficulty in getting off. In general, the wet landings are at beaches that don't have a scary slope to them, so the water isn't that deep. In the case of the Puerto Jimenez / Orchid Garden excursion, it turns out that the zodiac ride is a plus for the dolphin sightings and other marine life opportunities you may have on the way to the shore. This was more water-activity than we were promised on the excursion, so it was a pleasant surprise. I felt that the wet landings were well-disclosed in advance and not unreasonable for a small-ship cruise line-the product we desired. I don't even like walking on the wet part of a beach when I'm ashore, but my excursion was not spoiled by the wet landings. We carry microfiber tiny towels to dry our feet, which clip to the outside of our daybags.
  21. Misty, is that pre or post-renovation? I don’t keep track of the dates for a ship I’m not about to book.
  22. The old setup was three prong, but only a single one. I brought a cube tap. Any renovation work would certainly be three-prong. I also used the Shuco (Euro ...) outlets for my Apple products, with plug-adaptors, but at 220 volts.
  23. At least Windstar ships don't carry a vast number of passengers. You will need to get to the lounge for transport early (not just half-an-hour before) for each of your private tours. It is true that the first Zodiacs tend to be for passengers on the very early tour departures. You can easily coordinate with the tour director aboard, and find out what special conditions apply (there will often be special conditions, like a change of mooring, an immigration delay, high swells, or something, at any given port. That's cruising!) I strongly recommend that you bring your cocktail (or order one there ... ) to the Lounge for every day's Port Talk. Sure, there are boring aspects, but it is ESSENTIAL to learn everything there is to know about Windstar's particular plans in a port where you want to get off quickly. If you stay on deck to enjoy chatting with your new friends, you will be in the dark when you go to breakfast the next day. You may not even know if they extended the breakfast hours for some reason. I encourage you to read the most recent Panama Canal reviews on the review section of this website.
  24. Our Windstar motor yacht shared the 1000' old locks with a similar sized National Geographic ship behind us, and a float of three 37' (?) sailboats tied aside each other, in front of us. Interestingly, one of the electric locomotives assigned to tow us through one of the locks broke down, and we were told later that our captain told the lock management, in effect, "Hell no, we're not waiting for a substitute engine. I can keep this ship from touching the locks without it." And we proceeded. I think it was the winch part of the tug-engine that broke down, because an immobile tug would have blocked the operating tugs on the the same, single, set of rails that they run on.
  25. It's already the case that (to judge from this newsboard alone, but I mean from the mailings and emails that I get) that a huge number of cabins go for 1/2 or less of the original retail price. We have to see how discounting shakes out. I don't see 7,999 LIST price for 10 days and multiple Asian and African countries to be vastly out of line with past list prices a year out. To paraphrase a no-longer respected film director and comedian, "Why did God create [old-line Protestant ethnic slur]?". Answer:"Somebody has to pay retail!"
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