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Considering Windstar


irishayes
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We are looking to do another Med cruise. We've done this itinerary on Celebrity, but for some reason the Windstar ships are calling my name this time. Sell me on what's better about Windstar vs. Larger cruise ships please.

 

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No lines, small ports, elegance without  ostentation, impeccable service, fine and innovative dining, informal without sloppiness, respectful passengers, curious passengers, The Yacht Club, Sail Away to 1492, lovely spacious rooms well designed, great water pressure, my preference the sailing ships but the motor yachts beautiful as well.  Our 26 th and 27 th reserved. We are fans if WS in case you have not guessed. Happy Sailing

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Especially in the Eastern Med, they'll go to ports the big ships can't get into.

 

No wild parties with hundreds of drunk people - well, maybe on BBQ night if you consider line dancing "wild" LOL.

The only line you'll see is when you embark if you happen to arrive at a busy time, but even so that will take no more that 20 minutes, tops, often much less.

No queuing up in groups to board - just show up, no boarding card or documentation needed, they'll check you off on their list, hand you bag tags where you write your name and cabin number, they'll take your bags from you, and you can board anytime between then and when the last arrival time is (usually an hour before embarcation.) We often drop our bags, check in and then go back on shore for the afternoon.

Long-time crew who will know you by name by day 2.

Beverages and wine list at prices that compare to a decent bar in most cities.

Nice food variety, and usually well prepared. If you don't want bland just make that clear.

Fellow travelers who are friendly, eager to meet new people and who have traveled the world.

Great lazy afternoons when everyone else is on shore just sitting on a quite deck with staff coming by once in awhile to offer you a soothing beverage.

On the sailed ships the cabins are modest but plenty of room since you really aren't in there that often. No inside cabins.

On the cruises you really do get a Jr. Suite sized cabins, and on the remodeled ships you get a choice of bed or seating by the windows. Some have french balconies.

DId I mention the wonderful staff?

You won't get much evening entertaininment, no broadway shows, no room full of people dancing.

The crowd does trend so somewhat older, but we laugh that the crowd has only gotten older since they've all been cruising Windstar for 25 years and aged along with the ship!

Very loyal customer base, you'll get bad comments since we're not shy to point things out when they go wrong.

Use a Travel Agent, it will cost no more and I'd cut off an ear before I'll call Seattle.

Did I mention the wonderful staff?

No set dinner times or tables, just show up whenever you want after they open at 7 and you'll be seated alone, with people you know from before, or with random people who want some company. We tend to "pick up" another couple at the bar to dine with. If on the first night we see a server we know from previous trips (almost always) we'll motion and say "we'd like his/her table, please) and for subsequent nights we'll be shown to it.

The ship is small enough that you may well wind up on several tours with people you recognize and make a friendship. Twice now we've wound up in the same non-Windstar post-cruise hotel with another couples just by chance and have spend 3-4 days with them after the cruise.

Did I mention the wonderful staff?

Edited by milepig
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I haven't been on a huge ship, so my reply is maybe not as useful to you. We use Windstar for itineraries that are more convenient by ship, like Islands of the West Med, Tahiti, Athens to Istanbul, and so on. We wouldn't do Barcelona to Lisbon or the French Riviera.

 

Of course there are small ports, but ports exist (like Dubrovnik) where all ships are required to use the main cruise port, which is not always convenient to town. I remember that we had a small pier in Venice, but that was some years ago. Things may have been tightened up by now in Venice. I don't have the information to promise fewer tender ports - Places like Capri and Belize City require the use of their tender boats, BTW.

 

You might want to read some random Mediterranean reviews on this website. Some posters agree that the Windstar ships are attractive, but they miss having a host of activities on board, especially a busy night life. It can be very quiet after dinner on Windstar, and I like it that way. There are fewer "restaurants" on the ship, but I'm happy with the main Amphora dining room. It is very easy to get a deuce to yourselves if that's what you want.

 

We've been on some very small group excursions, but I don't remember many being cancelled because of insufficient registrations.

 

Note that the term "near luxury" is often used on this newsboard. Setting aside the plans to renovate all the ships, some people would prefer a higher level of apparent luxury, or fewer a la carte charges. I would like fiercer air conditioning.

 

Previous replies about good staff and efforts to remember you and your preferences are correct.

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Ok, I feel like you've sold me. We are not night life people and abhor the broadway type shows. I am more interested [emoji16] the sailing ships. Do they all have pools?

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Yes for the pools but small in size because the ships are small. Everyone is different but we did Barcelona to Lisbon and loved it. Where the ship docks in Venice is convenient and a very pretty neighborhood. The sail out of Venice was so incredibly beautiful, through the Laguna, I adore Venice. We appreciate being able to eat alone, not unfriendly, simply on the shy side. The sailing is beautiful. We explore on our own most of the time because for us it is art, food and history in Europe. In the Caribbean it is vacation beaching, reading relaxing. I get the feeling you will love it. Happy Sailing.

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We adore Windstar because of their port intensive itineraries. We love waking up in a new port every day and exploring. We enjoy meeting the locals, eating, drinking, shopping and seeing the sights.

 

The people we have met on board have become lifelong friends. The crew is outstanding and I can’t say enough wonderful things about them. It’s really true they will know your name by day two and will remember you on your next cruise. 

 

We spend all day in port and then will meet up with new friends for sailaway and cocktails. Then it’s off to the dining room where many nights we find ourselves closing it down. Then maybe one more cocktail and then it’s off to sleep to start it all over again. We love Broadway shows but will head to NYC to see them so we don’t miss those activities on board. Besides, we’ve been so busy during the day I need my beauty sleep!

 

We love the small ports (and the big ones) that Windstar cruises to. Last September we cruised for 25 glorious days aboard Wind Surf from Lisbon to Barcelona, Barcelona to Rome, and then from Rome around Sicily and back to Rome. We met amazing new friends, walked miles and miles, and had such a wonderful time. I reviewed all three cruise and you can find my reviews here on cruise critic. 

 

We have sailed the big big ships and we will never go back...why should we when we have found our home away from home?! Welcome!

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A ditto to most of what has already been said. What really keeps us returning is the welcome from the crew and the ability to be out on deck to see the beautiful water and relax without any pretentiousness. Luxury is subjective as is food. We have never been disappointed as we are not looking for a floating Ritz Carlton. As for whether or not to use a travel agent, that too is personal. Our first three Windstar cruises we did and then decided we preferred dealing directly with the Seattle office.  They have always been responsive and helpful so I have no complaints.  Excursions we do mostly on our own but have been on a few ships ones that have been extraordinary.  The Mediterranean is a great place to start and there is so much available online about the ports that you can't go wrong. Happy Sailing!

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It isn’t that the ports are small, necessarily. It’s that you don’t deal with a tsunami of 6.000 pax getting off and overwhelming the town. This is actually the reason I will never cruise via Venice ever. I’m boycotting it in terms of cruises. The ships have to purpose being there and the walls of people destroy what makes Venice  Venice at the same time they’re.  missing what is the essence of the city while running and buying fake glass that came from China. We’ve experienced it. Just walking through the city minding our own business when we’re suddenly facing a wall of ugly Americans (sorry that what they are) loudly talking about things like needing to get back to ship or they’ll miss lunch. Sad. 

 

As to the TA thing. I’ve used be same guy for over 20 years. He advises us, he twists deals out of WS and he’s gotten us out of two major events when WS went south on us, both documented in other posts here. He has a WS agent who he deals with consistently and just gets things taken care of. He’ dealing with two things for us right now. We’re both still working and don’t have time to futz around with endless travel planning trivia. I see no down side. 

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I understand the ugliness of  giant cruise ships in Venice. These people come to Venice for a day on a huge ship or they have overnighted in Mestre and they go where they are told: St.Marks, a gondola  ride and perhaps the Guggenheim or thr Academia. I agree these giant cruise ships should not be in the Laguna because they are disturbing the foundations of the buildings  and the environment. But never dismiss Venice for in my humble opinion, it is one of the greatest and most beautiful places on earth and if you have done your research it is easy to discover how incredible it is along with  the influence that it has had on civilization from the beginnings of a democratic government to the art. Venice is all about the little things as Claude Lanzman wrote it is the little things together that makes for big,  for the good and for the bad. Venice is Vivaldi, you can almost hear his music as you walk the neighborhoods, the great art is still in the churches the Bellini and the Giorgione. Giorgione died in his 30’s similar to Caravaggio  having completed few paintings that are attributed to him. In those few painting are  some of the best western art and the paintings continue to grace many of the churches where they were painted for.  They need to be discovered. Go in one as you walk along, ask who did the paintings you will be amazed. Tourists go to Burano, yes, Milepig to buy the fake glass with little knowledge that one of Bellini’s greatest painting is on the island steps away. I have  never been  on a gondola, I go every morning to the Rialto at 6 am when the Venetians  are there shouting in their dialect, have my espresso and once I saw an ad being made with ballet dancers dancing among the fish stalls, glorious. I imagine Singer Sargent, Hawthorne and Caleb  Arnold Slade  painting there. Great American artists. I imagine  them talking about painting that  undulating light, there is nothing in art like it. Torcello, the first island of Venice with the first church and the golden mosaics, no one goes there, the island of Mozzorbo with the rare grape connected to Burano by a bridge, no one goes there. I could go on. Venice takes effort and hard work but the rewards are rich. Coming out of Venice, passing the Salute, seeing the bell tower and the roof tops, crystal clear light was truly one of the great visuals of my life. Yes, take the Surf out or in simply glorious. What better ship. Remember to work at visiting Venice you will not be sorry. Happy Sailing

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1 hour ago, Strenz said:

I understand the ugliness of  giant cruise ships in Venice. These people come to Venice for a day on a huge ship or they have overnighted in Mestre and they go where they are told: St.Marks, a gondola  ride and perhaps the Guggenheim or thr Academia. I agree these giant cruise ships should not be in the Laguna because they are disturbing the foundations of the buildings  and the environment. But never dismiss Venice for in my humble opinion, it is one of the greatest and most beautiful places on earth and if you have done your research it is easy to discover how incredible it is along with  the influence that it has had on civilization from the beginnings of a democratic government to the art. Venice is all about the little things as Claude Lanzman wrote it is the little things together that makes for big,  for the good and for the bad. Venice is Vivaldi, you can almost hear his music as you walk the neighborhoods, the great art is still in the churches the Bellini and the Giorgione. Giorgione died in his 30’s similar to Caravaggio  having completed few paintings that are attributed to him. In those few painting are  some of the best western art and the paintings continue to grace many of the churches where they were painted for.  They need to be discovered. Go in one as you walk along, ask who did the paintings you will be amazed. Tourists go to Burano, yes, Milepig to buy the fake glass with little knowledge that one of Bellini’s greatest painting is on the island steps away. I have  never been  on a gondola, I go every morning to the Rialto at 6 am when the Venetians  are there shouting in their dialect, have my espresso and once I saw an ad being made with ballet dancers dancing among the fish stalls, glorious. I imagine Singer Sargent, Hawthorne and Caleb  Arnold Slade  painting there. Great American artists. I imagine  them talking about painting that  undulating light, there is nothing in art like it. Torcello, the first island of Venice with the first church and the golden mosaics, no one goes there, the island of Mozzorbo with the rare grape connected to Burano by a bridge, no one goes there. I could go on. Venice takes effort and hard work but the rewards are rich. Coming out of Venice, passing the Salute, seeing the bell tower and the roof tops, crystal clear light was truly one of the great visuals of my life. Yes, take the Surf out or in simply glorious. What better ship. Remember to work at visiting Venice you will not be sorry. Happy Sailing

 

We’re saying the same thing. Venice is really special and isn’t for big groups. Even the view from the water doesn’t need a big ship. Hire a water taxi to the airport and you’ll have the lagoon to yourself. And the fake glass isn’t just on Burano, which, BTW is also magical. It’s everywhere. 

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I love windstar for all the reason listed above, but I have been on the boat with some passengers who are not happy. The small ship experience is not for everyone.  

 

There are not a lot of restaurant choices, the ship can move  a little bit more (not too bad), the pool is very, very small, no casino, there are not a lot of activities, the entertainment is no where close to what the big cruises put on.  Just be aware that you are giving some things up when being on a ship that has so few passengers.  Most of those things I gladly give up and do not miss them, but I have seen some first time windstar cruisers complain and be very unhappy that the things above are missing. 

 

The best analogy that I have given is that it is like comparing a bed and breakfast  to a large resort.  

 

It is worth a try.  Life is short, and variety is the spice of life.

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Irishayes,

 

Just like you, we were Celebrity cruisers (5 cruises) until 2013 when we switched to Windstar and have never regretted it (7 cruises).  Don't care for the shows at night, we like to have dinner late, usually are one of the last to leave the dining room, go up on deck have a drink, mingle with fellow travelers, sometimes if the band is good, there will be a few people dancing (we have seen this a number of times), if not we head to bed.  These are not new ships but they are well maintained so there will be a few things here and there that may not work or look bad but these are minor.  Service is great, food excellent (better than Celebrity), itineraries are usually different from competition, the water sports platform is a fun additional feature we have enjoyed when available.  Overall Windstar is above the mainstream lines but below the luxury lines (Crystal, Seabourn, Regent, Silversea).  That being said, Windstar cruises are much cheaper than any of of the luxury lines and provide, in my opinion, better value even if you add the costs of excursions, drinks, wifi (we never use, slow & expensive).  The fact also that all of the luxury lines have moved to larger ships in recent years makes Windstar that much more attractive for us as the ships remain small with no more than 310 passengers.  Give it a try, you will not regret it and won't  want to go back to a large ship after your cruise.  By then, you will have caught the Windstar bug just like all of us on this board.  Have a great cruise

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4 hours ago, msears101 said:

I love windstar for all the reason listed above, but I have been on the boat with some passengers who are not happy. The small ship experience is not for everyone.  

 

There are not a lot of restaurant choices, the ship can move  a little bit more (not too bad), the pool is very, very small, no casino, there are not a lot of activities, the entertainment is no where close to what the big cruises put on.  Just be aware that you are giving some things up when being on a ship that has so few passengers.  Most of those things I gladly give up and do not miss them, but I have seen some first time windstar cruisers complain and be very unhappy that the things above are missing. 

 

The best analogy that I have given is that it is like comparing a bed and breakfast  to a large resort.  

 

It is worth a try.  Life is short, and variety is the spice of life.

 

We’ve also experienced some who weren’t having a good time. We’d talked to the couple a bit and on maybe day 3 or 4 they sat behind us within talking distance on Veranda. I just asked how things were and they said they “hated it”. I think bad match. At the moment they were upset that they had to wait for their breakfast table. I looked around and almost all the tables had two people at them and I know many would have shared. Oh well. 

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27 minutes ago, milepig said:

 

We’ve also experienced some who weren’t having a good time. We’d talked to the couple a bit and on maybe day 3 or 4 they sat behind us within talking distance on Veranda. I just asked how things were and they said they “hated it”. I think bad match. At the moment they were upset that they had to wait for their breakfast table. I looked around and almost all the tables had two people at them and I know many would have shared. Oh well. 

 

That is a good point about sharing tables.  I find that the other guests are one of the assets on the cruises.  By the first evening, I know a dozen or so couples, and I am not afraid to ask to share the table with them.  Most people in general are friendly and willing to share if it is busy, but even more so (typically) with Windstar guests.

 

The boats are very small, after 7 or more days you will know or recognize MOST people on the ship, err I mean yacht.  It is a good idea to be friendly, cordial, and polite - you will see everyone again ( and again). 

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Even on the large cruise ships, we opt to sit with different people each night at dinner. We love meeting new people and feel it is the best part of cruising.

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Our experience has been that we never had to wait for a table at any meal.  We do typically prefer eating alone at breakfast because I can be a little too "chatty" for most people in the morning and don't want to subject them to it LOL!   Of course we will eat with others if it means a wait for a table otherwise.

 

We had a few people on our cruise that weren't happy--one couple weren't going to be happy unless they had been on a private yacht with an entire staff at their beck and call.  They were just really challenging people to be around--for other guests and definitely the crew.  Overall people were happy and social, and we made a few friends who will be friends for life who we have--or have plans to--cruise with again.

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1 hour ago, ducklite said:

Our experience has been that we never had to wait for a table at any meal.  We do typically prefer eating alone at breakfast because I can be a little too "chatty" for most people in the morning and don't want to subject them to it LOL!   Of course we will eat with others if it means a wait for a table otherwise.

 

We had a few people on our cruise that weren't happy--one couple weren't going to be happy unless they had been on a private yacht with an entire staff at their beck and call.  They were just really challenging people to be around--for other guests and definitely the crew.  Overall people were happy and social, and we made a few friends who will be friends for life who we have--or have plans to--cruise with again.

 

most of our waits have been at lunch when multiple tours return at about the same time. 

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7 minutes ago, milepig said:

 

most of our waits have been at lunch when multiple tours return at about the same time. 


That makes sense.  We've only had lunch on board on sea days for the most part.  We typically have lunch at a local restaurant after our tour returns.  We've had a few excursions that included lunch--usually at wineries.

On our next Windstar cruise we're not taking any ship tours and will only be on board for lunch on the two sea days!

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The only time I've had issues with waiting for tables on Windstar was the first Alaska cruise - it was May, coldish and often drizzling so everyone wanted to be inside on the Veranda & there aren't that many inside tables. They had Amphora open as an alternative for breakfast & lunch due to the weather, but people often preferred to be on Veranda with a view of the scenery.

I'm hoping that they will address the issue in the stretch of the triplets.

 

I've not seen a wait for tables on warm weather cruises.

 

Often, I just want a light lunch on board if I don't eat ashore. One or two of the little sandwiches in Yacht Club fill the bill.

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Our experience has been that we never had to wait for a table at any meal.  We do typically prefer eating alone at breakfast because I can be a little too "chatty" for most people in the morning and don't want to subject them to it LOL!   Of course we will eat with others if it means a wait for a table otherwise.
 
We had a few people on our cruise that weren't happy--one couple weren't going to be happy unless they had been on a private yacht with an entire staff at their beck and call.  They were just really challenging people to be around--for other guests and definitely the crew.  Overall people were happy and social, and we made a few friends who will be friends for life who we have--or have plans to--cruise with again.
There are people like this on EVERY cruise line, unfortunately.

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