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Sail Date: August 2019
Our first Windstar cruise (my second cruise (Regent Seven Seas), my wife's first). My wife and I were traveling with six other couples to celebrate multiple 50th birthdays. We were collectively thrilled with our choice of Wind Surf. ... Read More
Our first Windstar cruise (my second cruise (Regent Seven Seas), my wife's first). My wife and I were traveling with six other couples to celebrate multiple 50th birthdays. We were collectively thrilled with our choice of Wind Surf. We had read many reviews on this forum and others and we prepared to be underwhelmed -- no chance! The Wind Surf is getting a bit long in the tooth (scheduled for a three-week dry dock in the next month) but it did not deter from our enjoyment. Food: Amazing! Having read reviews, the food gets mixed ratings. I don't get it -- we are somewhat picky and it exceeded expectations (common theme). Our only gripe is that we needed reservations in the two higher-end dinner spots and many tables were open. Great variety and top-notch quality. I had steak multiple nights and on EVERY occasion it was prepared perfectly! Service: Over-the-top! Andreas and his team were wonderful. They got to know us early in the cruise and went out of their way to make us feel like it was our private yacht. Andreas -- wow, he gave us such personal attention. We all said we will try to base our next cruise on his schedule. Cabin: Again, prepared to be under-whelmed but was pleasantly surprised. Were were forward in cabin 151. Good sized, great storage, no issues. Would we rather of had a private balcony, of course. But no worries! Entertainment: Understated but perfect! We had great evenings with the bands (some of us participated more than others (BK). The crew show was hilarious. Water platform: SO MUCH FUN!! A great touch. Size: Loved the size of the ship -- more than enough variety and the personal touches. Atmosphere: Casual but not too casual. Perfect blend. Gym: I used the gym most mornings. Great location -- all windows on the top deck. Enjoyed watching us come into port each morning. Tips: buy the laundry package -- do NOT hesitate. We also purchased the full drink and wifi package. As reported, wifi is weak but that was more than offset by the drinks! Very good scotch selection. They purchased local beers at most ports. The wine selection is just adequate. Aside from requiring dinner reservations, we LOVED IT! Highly recommended! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
We sailed for 10 days in the Greek Isles this year. This was our second time on the Wind Surf having gone 15 days from Venice to Barcelona in October 2018. With one exception the entire officer crew had changed from the previous cruise. ... Read More
We sailed for 10 days in the Greek Isles this year. This was our second time on the Wind Surf having gone 15 days from Venice to Barcelona in October 2018. With one exception the entire officer crew had changed from the previous cruise. This seems very unusual so not sure what is happening. A few of the service staff remained and remembered us. They were great. Embarkation: This was a bit chaotic in Athens Port and there were lines to register on the ship and to make dinner reservations. If you are not taking the pre/post cruise transportation through Windstar they are not able to provide any helpful information. We took the metro to the port and walked like 2 miles to get to the ship. The metro in Athens is the easiest to use of any city we have visited. They actually have humans to sell tickets and offered senior discounts without us asking. Drinks: My wife did not get the drink package while I did as part of the $89 deal that included wifi, laundry and tips. The laundry service was excellent. This year the drink package wines et al were not nearly as clear as they were last year so you are really asked to buy a drink package on faith. (Last year I simply carried the included list in my key card so there were no questions. This year there was no list) A couple of times they ran out of things in one bar and had to be asked to go to another bar to get specific things which they did reluctantly. Also not all the wines by the glass on the bar menu are included in the "Captain's Package", which is very confusing and disappointing given the high price. Restaurants: Breakfast at Veranda is good, but pretty much the same each day. Lunch at Veranda has a different cooking station set up with a special each day so that is very nice. Amphora the main dinner restaurant where you do not need reservations is noisy and rushed although the food is fine. Hint - ask for a table near the front and it is much quieter. The game on board is to try for extra reservations at Stella and Candles to avoid Amphora. One trick many people used is to hook up with a couple that already has a reservation. Stella Bistro is Stellar. The food and service are superb. Candles was also nice. On 3 nights they offered a sunset dinner on the stern, however it is only a note on the daily schedule put on your bed at dinner time the day before. We called each time for a reservation around 8:30 AM and they were always full. We were able to get in with another couple who heard our plight while we were discussing it at reception and invited us to their table. The restaurant manager reluctantly gave his approval. By the way this guy always seemed very stern but meticulous moving plates at the buffet in the Veranda restaurant if they were off by 1/8th inch. He should be assigned to walk the ship - the trash cans that were overflowing each morning and the elevator that was broken for several days (yes I got stuck in it) would not be permitted on his watch. On the previous trip you were at times offered an opportunity to go with the chef to buy fresh fish and produce. This was not offered this trip and we are not sure if they got fresh things locally or not. One passenger told us that he asked the waiter if the fish was fresh and the waiter told him it was "Frozen fresh". The ship had a special dinner included in the fare at the 1000 BC Ephesus Theater in Turkey. This was the highlight of the trip. (Wow) Entertainment: We enjoyed the duo's in Compass Rose on both trips but neither of the bands in the main lounge measured up. On the first trip for example on Beatles night the band was so bad there were probably only 3 guests there. Tours: We took only one tour on this cruise since they seem way overpriced. In Kusadasi Turkey and on Patmos we simply took local taxis and paid them a very small amount to act as our tour guides. This permitted us to see what we wanted at our pace and schedule. Ports: In several ports we were the only ship there which was great. We liked Mykonos where you could lose yourself in the small streets with all the white buildings. Santorini provided a great view of the huge Caldera (Scary to think a volcano can be so big). You really need to take a bus (very easy) or taxi to the city of Oia, We also loved the ports on Crete, Syros and Patmos since they were small and uncrowded. We know it was a busy time of year, but Rhodes while worth seeing was absolutely crazy busy. Groups: This cruise had a big Purdue donor contingent. Nothing against them, but they got preferential seating at the BBQ night and tended to stay with their own so one of the fun things about a cruise of meeting other people was somewhat curtailed. Windstar Reservations: This area really needs help. We had attempted to take advantage of an offer for a cruise to Alaska that Windstar emailed to us, but the reservations department had no clue about it even after forwarding the email and numerous phone calls. On this trip the reservations people gave us conflicting answers on the need for a Visa when visiting Turkey. For example one said we needed to do a Windstar Tour in order to go ashore. Even though we requested an email to clarify none came and calling back were were told that no Visa was needed for a cruise ship visit. Accounting: Be sure to check your bills. We had to dispute a couple of erroneous drink charges on board which were corrected When we got home the total billed to our credit card was $18 more than our final bill on the ship. I'm sure many people taking a Windstar cruise would never notice this. After a couple of phone calls etc they emailed us that it was for a laundry bag they say we took. After informing them that we did not take it and could not imagine anyone doing so they credited it, but to do this without even informing us was very tacky. Overall we enjoyed the trip despite very hot weather and a few things that could be improved with the Windstar line and with Wind Surf. The server staff of mostly Indonesians is superb. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
Ok, first off this was a 10 day Greek Island cruise not an 18 day one that the default this review site shows. Our first trip to Greece. Took the Windstar transfer from the airport. Navigating the Athens airport was easy. Transfer was ... Read More
Ok, first off this was a 10 day Greek Island cruise not an 18 day one that the default this review site shows. Our first trip to Greece. Took the Windstar transfer from the airport. Navigating the Athens airport was easy. Transfer was a taxi driver with a sign. It was fine. Stayed at the Windstar hotel, the St. George. Lovely hotel. Rooms are fine. Location is great and the views from the rooftop restaurant and pool are spectacular. Took the transfer to the port. Bit of nonsense about having to have your luggage out 4 hours early. Don’t worry about that. You can bring it at the last minute. The port at Athens is a bit of a hassle. Pretty large and not well organized. Windstar did their best to get us on the ship as quickly as possible. But once on board it wasn’t very well done. Long line to register (which we had never experienced before). Then you had to stand in another line to book dinner in the specialty restaurants, another line for drink packages and yet another line to get the wifi package. Went to our room and signed up for the laundry package. We find this great value for the money. Never met our cabin steward until 2 days in which seemed a bit odd. Went to the main dining room, Amphora, the first night. Not our favorite. So we set out to try and get into Candles and Stella specialty restaurants the rest of the nights. Other than one night back at Amphora for a dinner hosted by the Destination Manager we managed to accomplish that. Candles is the outdoor eating experience and is our favorite spot. The French themed restaurant Stella is also very good with the best service on the ship. There is also a few nights where they offer a Sunset Dinner at the back of the ship. Not well advertised but you should take advantage of it. Our worst dining experience was actually the BBQ. We were really looking forward to it. A favorite night on our other cruises. The BBQ started at 7. It was overcrowded. We couldn’t get a seat outside. Had to sit in a corner of the bar eating almost off our laps. Food lines were long and frustrating. This one was a bust and a major disappointment. Our first stop was Napoli. We didn’t book a shore excursion there. Nice little town. Not crowded. Easy to manage on your own. Went back to the ship in the afternoon and swam off the sports deck (you had the option to do this at 3 stops). Take advantage of this. Much better than the pool. ( Before I forget, there was a very large group onboard from Purdue University. Nice enough crowd but a group booking this large kind of pushes everyone else to the side lines as the ship tends to cater first to them. ). The next stop was Mykonos. Definite hotspot for the party crowd and quite busy. We opted for a private tour here to a farm and dinner through Get Your Guide ( you can check out our review there). Great experience away from the din of the town. Then on to Syros. Place you likely haven’t heard of. Overall we liked these unexpected, unknown stops. Where the big ships dont go are the best stops. Took a ship tour of the town and monetary which we enjoyed very much. From there to the lone stop in Turkey. We really enjoyed Turkey. Took a long tour of Ephesus and a village. Ephesus was wonderful to experience. Draw back here, and it was a theme on our ship tours, you go with a bus load. The tour is long and difficult. That is spelled out in the description. But we still ended up with a contingent of folks who couldn’t handle the terrain and the pace. It caused some tension in our group. In the future we will stay away from the ship tours and book our own where we are in smaller groups. It is law in Turkey that at the end of a tour that you have to go for a Turkish rug explanation. We did this gritting our teeth knowing we had to get through it. Big surprise. We had a great time and ended up buying two carpets! Who knew. Then to top it off, of the last night of the cruise we won another carpet drawn from everyone who had bought one. That night was a big highlight. Windstar arranged for a dinner back at the ruins of Ephesus on the Harbor road where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra walked with the backdrop of the amphitheater where Paul preached to the Ephesians. It was a spectacular night that would be near difficult to beat. It was after hours and only the people from our ship. Not something that happens often. Rhodes was next. Good stop. Then on to Crete. Great time there because we booked our own tour. Went on the Landrover off road adventure through the mountains. Picked us up at the ship and took us right back 8 hours later. Toured the highest points over goat trails and had a ball with the English expat driver nick named Gary the Goat Killer (review on Get Your Guide). Lovely lunch, including our first taste of goat. Try it. It is quite good. On to Santorini. Probably our biggest disappointment. It is so overcrowded. Other than that picture card view you know, there isn’t much there. One person in our group was the victim of a pickpocketed so if you go beware in the crowded streets. We skipped the overpriced shopping and picked a lovely restaurant in Oia overlooking the sea. Excellent meal and they werent rushing us. Last stop was in Monemvasia. Only ship in port. Did the tour of the walled city and the Olive Oil farm. That would have been a real highlight if the guide wasn’t so bad. Was looking forward to the olive oil tasting at the end but she rushed us and we didn’t get the experience we wanted. There was no reason to screw it up. Our next stop was back to the ship and we had hours before it was leaving. Then overnight and our exit in Athens. Handled fairly well but it is a bit of a circus at the port. You pretty much have to trust that in the hectic place your luggage will make it to the airport. Instructions are not real clear and you have to listen to the local tour people what to do with your luggage along the curious route to the bus. Overall we enjoyed our first taste of Greece. Windstar was pretty much as expected. We did not enjoy the experience as much on Wind Surf as we have on the smaller Wind Star but not enough to keep us away. The ship is getting an upgrade in November so lets hope it looks a bit more ship shape next time we see her. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
Windstar knows how to treat their guests. From the transfer from the aiport to the transfer to our hotel, it was smooth sailing. The cabin was what we expected for an A category. It was well laid out, upscale and very comfortable. ... Read More
Windstar knows how to treat their guests. From the transfer from the aiport to the transfer to our hotel, it was smooth sailing. The cabin was what we expected for an A category. It was well laid out, upscale and very comfortable. There was plenty of closet/storage space. The restaurant/food choices were excellent at all meals. We particularly enjoyed the varied menu each evening in the main dining room. There was never a line for anything. There was always an available cushioned lounge chair. It was the most unhurried, pampered cruising we have done. We took advantage of the $99.00 unlimited laundry (which we read about before we arrived) and were able to pack half of what we normally would have. It left plenty of room for purchases and no worries about additional baggage fees. We only took one shore excursion and the guide was of the highest quality. The ports we visited from Athens to Istanbul were outstanding. We took advantage of checking out one of the complimentary Ipods and emjoyed the musical selections on the speakers that were also provided. Although it was only available at two ports, due to port regulations, we enjoyed the availability of the water sports platform. This is a truly unique attraction for a cruise. I would highly recommend the Windsurf to couples and families with older children. I look forward to cruising with them again in the not too distant future. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
In this review I will provide: • My impressions of Wind Surf and the onboard experience • A few thoughts / tips regarding beaches at the ports of call • Pros and Cons of Wind Surf versus a 5 star big ship • Top ... Read More
In this review I will provide: • My impressions of Wind Surf and the onboard experience • A few thoughts / tips regarding beaches at the ports of call • Pros and Cons of Wind Surf versus a 5 star big ship • Top experiences aboard Wind Surf • How Wind Surf can go from "good to great" Overall We had a great vacation, and enjoyed the special experiences that are unique to Wind Surf and hard to replicate on a big ship. We spent a major percentage of our "onboard time" outside on the deck, and we were amazed by the feeling of being closer to the ocean. That said, Wind Surf definitely needs refurbishment and the ship's outdated and tired interiors detracted from our overall experience. We chose this cruise because we wanted to have a low key, outdoor-oriented, yet deluxe, vacation...and we have wanted to try the Wind Surf. We also expected that the dining on Wind Surf was high quality and conducive to healthy choices thus we could stay in shape. Also, we have been to most of these ports before, so we weren't looking for in-depth tours...just a relaxing trip with more exposure to sea and sun. These expectations were met. The Wind Surf , with five masts and white sails, looks great from a distance. However, the interior is VERY tired and undistinguished. Wind Surf is definitely in need of refurbishment to bring it anywhere close to 5 star cruise ship standards, in terms of interior design and amenities. The food, however, is generally very good, and in the main restaurant it is excellent. The crew is quite friendly and wants to get to know you. On this ship, there is a sense of going on an adventure (as opposed to a party) and being close to the ocean...much more so than on the large cruise ships we have been on. It is a unique experience, and definitely different from a big ship. There are both pros and cons. We will definitely do more big-ship cruises, but would also look forward to another Wind Surf voyage if the rumored refurbishment actually occurs. (We've heard that a major refurb is in the works for Wind Surf, now that Philip Anschutz has purchased the line, but we don't know the details.) The Ship - Interior We were, to be very honest, shocked when we came aboard. I was expecting a 5 star ship. But the colors, textures, materials, lighting and layout are nowhere near five star, modern standards. We are perhaps spoiled by Celebrity's Solstice-class ships, which are spectacular, modern and elegant. In addition, other luxury new-builds like Oceania Marina and Seaborne's Odyssey-class are magnificent and will compete with Wind Star for high-end cruisers. Important interior spaces, such as the lounges, restaurants, inner hallways and cabins, are decidedly 3 star. The undecorated areas (outer hallways, stair wells, decks) are highly functional with an unadorned, nautical feel. For example, the interior stair towers are very spartan. If you have ever been on a big ship and peeked into the "Crew Only" stairways and hallways, you will have the basic sense of how Wind Surf looks. Being outside on the deck of Wind Surf is great. Inside is not too special. There are no balconied cabins - only cabins with port holes. With so much deck space, it's easy to get outside and you don't feel too hemmed in. Still, there is no substitute for a balcony. We had a Category A cabin located mid-ship, starboard side, directly opposite a stair tower. It has a standard layout, similar to the majority of cabins on the ship. Category A cabins are on Deck 2, while Category B cabins are on Deck 1. We paid about a 15% premium for Category A, which was worth it to me because we were closer to the main deck (4) and close, but not too close, to the main gangway in the aft section of Deck 2. The cabin is very well laid out and feels spacious for 188 sq ft. The fit and finish is dated and tired. I thought there was far too much use of formica- clad cabinetry (as opposed to wood) with a utilitarian look. But the room is highly functional. The bathroom is spacious and nice, with teak floors and granite counters. The shower is circular, with a shower curtain, good quality fixtures, and nice water pressure. It was a perfectly comfortable shower, even for me at 6'4". We eventually got used to the shabby chic dEcor, largely because the cruise itinerary, food, service and the outdoor experiences were so good. By why should we have to make that trade-off? A ship of this class should have beautiful interiors, and this is not currently the case. The Ship - Exterior The ship looks great from afar. It is always the most unique ship in the harbor, and it is surprisingly large. At 14,745 tonnes and 312 passengers, Wind Surf is referred to as a "small ship" but it did not feel small. It's over 600' long with a 63' beam, so there is plenty of ship there. However, when Mariner of the Seas pulled up next to us (at 138,000 tonnes and 3,100 passengers) the size difference was obvious. But for day-to-day life aboard, I felt that it was more than large enough, but not so big that it is hard to get around. I really liked the size of this ship. I like the mega-ships, too. Each has it's own benefits. Besides the sails, a major difference between Wind Surf and other ships is the large amount of outdoor space and the emphasis towards being outside on deck. There is plenty of deck space and a lot of well-spaced chairs and loungers. I read that there are 22,000 square feet of deck space for the 312 passengers. You will, of course, spend at-sea days outside, but you can also have the majority of your meals outside, too. We had all of our breakfasts and lunches at outdoor tables, and 3 of our 7 dinners. Since the ship is smaller, you are much closer to the water, which also enhances the outdoor experience. Being on the deck of the ship is fantastic, but as with the interiors, it is not as aesthetically pleasing as it should be because: • The decking seems worn out • The sight lines are sometimes marred by random wires and cables that are not professionally tacked down • The life boats look 40 years old • Some equipment that is in plain view, like folding ramps and gangways, appear old and worn • There is too much rust and decay in view • The outdoor venues, like Veranda and Compass Rose, are tired and visually unexciting We would love to see an upgrade to the exterior aesthetics to truly highlight the ship's unique qualities. But overall, we tremendously enjoyed the decks, the outdoor dining venues, and the feeling of being outside all the time. Motion The motion of this ship is more evident than on a big ship...perhaps 30% more. That said, the ship's motion would not deter me from sailing Wind Surf again, and I would say I have average, or slightly more-than-average, susceptibility to motion sickness. We had relatively calm seas throughout the trip, so I don't know how the ship handles rougher seas. When the ship was moving at cruising speed, it was quite stable. At very low speeds, and going in and out of port, the rolling was more pronounced. My wife and I each had one day of low-to-moderate motion sickness, which in my case was cured by a Bonine. Tendering We tendered at 3 of our ports of call: Mykonos, Santorini and Bodrum. Despite advertising that the small size of the ship allows Wind Surf to go where others cannot, we still docked where the big ships docked, and tendered at the same ports where the big ships tendered. I didn't see any difference at all, at least not on this itinerary. However, the tendering process is MUCH easier on Wind Surf. There was rarely a line waiting for the tender to show up (20 people max.) There are no "tender numbers" or waiting in a staging area, or any of the other hassles that tendering from a large ship entails. One annoyance was that when we arrived in certain ports, such as Santorini, we would "drift" rather than anchor. Apparently, Wind Surf's anchor chain is not long enough to set anchor in deep harbors. Thus the ship slowly drifted in a circle, which made us queasy! Entertainment The entertainment is sometimes pretty good, especially the house band in the lounge and the duet that sings at Compass Rose, and sometimes not up to par. We can certainly live without the Broadway shows and Las Vegas revues of the big ships, but we would still like to see an upgrade in the entertainment quality. The "comedian / magician" is campy and silly, which is fun for about 15 minutes, but then it wears thin. He should be a warm-up act, rather than the main event. The musical revue put on by the crew was also fun, but would be more appropriate at Karaoke night. BTW, the crew put together a terrific slide show, which gave insights to their daily efforts to keep us spoiled passengers happy! I really enjoyed it, and it was a testament to dedicated teamwork and comradery at sea. The sail away music, as I mentioned, is very well done and in keeping with the nature of the itinerary. Food and Drink Overall, we thought the food on board was excellent, and we enjoyed dining al fresco as often as possible. The main restaurant, cleverly named The Restaurant, offered truly excellent food each time we dined there. There is a new menu every night, and the cuisine is creative, delicious and tastefully presented. We live in New York city, and this is as good as many of the restaurants here. Our friends from London said the same thing...that The Restaurant could hold its own versus fine London restaurants. As with the rest of the ship, the dEcor is nothing to write home about, but the food and service are excellent. By the way, we had one evening when we did not think the service was up to standards, and we said so. The hotel manager was very responsive, and sent us a nice letter and a bottle of wine as a gesture of good will. This was greatly appreciated. All of our subsequent experiences were faultless. The alternative dining venues are all offered at no additional charge...a very nice touch. Candles, which is Wind Surf's outdoor steakhouse, was wonderful. The food is very good and the experience of dining on deck, amid the surf and the stars was magical. Have I ever had a better steak? Sure, but that isn't the point! You are only allowed to book Candles once on the trip...and I can see why it is in high demand. It's a great experience that sets Wind Surf apart. Note that dinner is served from 7:30 - 9:30. We always take second seating on cruises, as we like to dine later. But if you come in towards the end of the window (say 9:15, as we did on one evening) you will feel rushed. Degrees is another alternative fine dining restaurant which is a little more intimate and offers a different theme each night. There's a nice mural paining on the wall, too. Our night was Mediterranean-inspired. It was delicious, and a nice change of pace. Veranda is the main restaurant for breakfast and lunch. It is indoor / outdoor, so you have your choice. We always preferred outdoor seating, but many people took advantage of the air conditioned tables inside. The buffet is, of course, much smaller than on the big ships, and far more civilized. There are no lines, and they have a nice selection of very fresh fruits, salads and the usual breakfast and lunch choices. The wait staff will gladly handle a la carte orders from the menu, or customize something just for you. We greatly enjoyed having all of our breakfasts and lunches served to us at an outdoor table. A big plus versus the larger ships. One quibble about the wine temperature. On several occasions, I ordered red wine by-the-glass and it was far too warm...sometimes bordering on hot. This happened at multiple venues on-board, and needs to be corrected. Wine is not cheap on Wind Surf. A glass of Frog's Leap cabernet is $15.50. For that price, it needs to be served at the proper temperature. The outdoor bars did a nice business during the early evenings. It is a pleasure to have a drink on deck with the wind in your hair, and catch up with friends re the days events. For pre-dinner cocktails, we always stopped at The Lounge and chatted with Mikee the bar tender. Great guy. Note that there is seldom a crowd in the Lounge bar, unless there was a show...then it's quite busy. Excursion Desk / Beaches A major disappointment. Either no advice or bad advice. We are independent travelers...you know, the type that would buy a cruise billed as "180 degrees from ordinary" if you get my meaning! But the excursion desk is worse than ordinary. If you weren't buying a tour, they had very little time for you, and not much information to offer. When on Rhodes, we asked about a nice beach. The "local expert" who was brought on board to answer such questions, sent us to Faliraki beach and advised us to take the bus. Faliraki is a dirty, over-crowded beach next to an awful, low-end, "tacky tourist" town. And the bus was jammed like a Tokyo subway. Gee, thanks. In Kusadasi, we asked the excursion desk agent (the full time staffer) about nearby beaches. We got nothing but attitude and little advice. Clearly, he wanted to sell the tour to Ephesus. But we have already been there, so we just wanted to hang out on the beach. Thus, he would barely speak to us, and when he did he was quite sarcastic and dismissive. Unacceptable, and not a wise approach for a cruise line climbing out of bankruptcy. Weather Perfect. Not so much as a cloud for the entire cruise. Ports of Call The ports on this itinerary are amazing, especially if you are into history, as I am. This is a nice combination of fun-in-the-sun (e.g., Mykonos, Bodrum) and historical touring. I'm not going to say too much about the ports in this review (other than to comment on where to find nice beaches) because I am focusing on the ship and the experience, and you can get more professional reviews of the ports elsewhere. Itinerary: Athens (embark) Mykonos Santorini Rhodes Bodrum Kusadasi At sea Istanbul (disembark) More Thoughts on the Ports and Beaches on this Itinerary Mykonos Our favorite spot is Psarou beach. It is small, but with great sand, and a great outdoor restaurant...Nammos. It is quite a scene. There are 200 foot mega yachts in the cove, legions of "beautiful people" and possibly a celeb or two all trying to get a choice lounge chair or hang out at the right table in the restaurant. We spent several hours at Nammos with new friends and eating great food. The Dom P was flowing freely, and it was a whale of a time...well worth the huge tab and the headache the next day! But be forewarned...Nammos is not the "stroll in and sit down" place catering to tourists, unless you come really early. At peak times, they control it like a New York City nightclub, where the beautiful / rich / famous / connected people get highly preferential treatment, and the regular people fight for the leftovers! Even their website brags about their snobby exclusivity...which is pretty obnoxious...but we choose to overlook these issues. The other beaches in Mykonos are Paradise and Super Paradise. They have big reputations as party beaches. We have heard that P and SP are very crowded, loud and crazy, so we haven't been...we would rather stay at Psarou, which is a more civilized kind of crazy. Getting a taxi in Mykonos is quite a feat. It took us 45 minutes, but persistence paid off. The best place is near the bus station, which is the transportation hub. It's utter chaos, with hundreds of tourists queued up for buses, renting scooters or trying to find taxis. But that is what it takes to get transportation in Mykonos. Watch out for the college girls driving their rental scooters! Many people take the bus to the beaches, especially P and SP, but no bus goes directly to Psarou (you supposedly can take the bus to Platys Gialos and walk to back Psarou. We chose to fight for a cab) Santorini We wanted to see the beaches in Santorini, since we have toured the town on prior trips. We rented a car from Hertz in downtown Fira, the main town. It turned out to be a good choice for us. We got a very nice Fiat for 60 Euros / day, including tax and insurance. We drove to Oia (pronounced ee-ah), did a brief walk through that picturesque town, then headed for the beach. We ended up at Kamari beach, which is about 15 minutes outside of Fira. Very quaint and quiet village. Black pebble beach. Water shoes or Tevas required. We had lunch at King's Cafe, which I would recommend, in a thatch-covered, well-furnished gazebo along the beachfront. The beach is pretty to look at, but really uncomfortable...too rocky / pebbly for my tastes, though I am glad we went. Supposedly the better, more sandy, beach is Perissa beach, but we did not have time to get to that one. Maybe next year. Last point about Santorini...unless you have some romantic / masochistic desire to ride hot, sweaty donkeys, just take the cable car up to the top. The line can be long (we waited about 20 minutes this year; 40 minutes last year) but it is safer, much more civilized, and the views are great. Give yourself plenty of time to wait in line for the return trip, and consider the departure timing of the megaships. Rhodes We wanted to spend time on a beach in Rhodes. As discussed above, the WS excursion agent sent us to Faliraki via the crowded bus. Granted, there was a taxi strike on this particular day, so crowding was to be expected. But when we finally got to Faliraki (after passing several magnificent resort hotels in Kallithea along the way) were we shocked! Faliraki makes Daytona Beach and Panama City look like the Riviera. Faliraki village was full of tattoo parlors, sex shops, and tacky T-shirt stands ...and the beach was jam packed. What in the world compelled our excursion guide to suggest this place? We just started walking in the general direction of the nice hotels (1-2 miles north) until we got away from the sleaze. En route to Faliraki, we had passed Kallithea and several 5 star resorts. It looked really nice, so you may want to try it. Also, some of the beaches are serviced by water shuttles...which are far more pleasant than the crowed bus. We used Faliraki Sea Lines as our rescue boat out of Faliraki! They are based in Mandraki Harbor, in the Rhodes port, and there are other similar services there, too. Granted, the bus is 3 Euros and the water shuttle is 6, but the difference is more than worth it. Kusadasi We ended up at Ladies Beach, which is a short taxi ride from the pier. It is very nice, but quite crowded. There were lots of locals, who were super friendly, and the water is crystal clear. But be advised (if you've been to other European beaches you know this) every square foot of beach is occupied by beach chairs and umbrellas, all in nice rows. And the sand is coarser and pebblier than American beaches. I enjoyed it...my wife did not. The shops and cafes are somewhere between commercial and quaint (much nicer than Faliraki!) I can recommend Ladies Beach, if you want a short beach break with the friendly locals, but don't expect Kapalua! Bodrum All the in-town beaches in Bodrum were crowded, rocky and not too appealing. I am told there are better beaches outside of town, but we did not go. We went back to the ship and spent the day on Wind Surf's marina deck jumping in and out of the Aegean. It is a terrific feature...maybe the highlight of the trip... and is possibly worth the price of the cruise by itself! Istanbul Istanbul is one of the most spectacular cities you will ever see. It is in the same class as New York, Venice, San Francisco and Hong Kong in terms of gorgeous waterways framing a fascinating skyline. The history and monuments are second to none. So you should stay and play, if possible. The ship sailed into Istanbul at 6am. We have been before, so we know it's worth getting up early to see. We told all our friends to drag themselves on deck at 6, and you won't be disappointed! We glided by the famous landmarks...Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque...and saw the sun rise on the Bosphorus. It was almost like going back in time. We stayed two nights at the SwissHotel Bosphorus, which is in the New District, between Taksim Square and the Bosphorus. Our room (1BR suite) in the new Suite Tower had just been renovated in over-the-top, ultra-modern style. It was absolutely spectacular. The owners must have found the best designers in town and said, "create the most incredible modern apartment in Europe"...and they did. There is even a rooftop infinity pool with wonderful views. I am not sure whether the main towers (East and West) have yet been renovated, so be sure to check. But we would highly endorse this hotel. One last tip...try a Bosphorus river cruise. We really enjoyed it. There are short cruises (90 minutes) and long cruises (5-6 hours.) We took the long cruise, which travels the full length of the Bosphorus (about 16 miles), makes several stops, then drops you off in a fishing village / tourist trap called Anadolu Kavagi for a 2.5 hour lunch break. The cruise also provides a nice look at the Black Sea, which I definitely wanted to see. Overall, we would say that the benefits of the long cruise are that you see the Black Sea, you can hike up to the old castle ruins outside Anadolu Kavagi, and you sail the entire Bosphorus. The downside is that the trip is VERY long. I definitely had to cash in some brownie points with my wife after that...she was a trooper, taking the longer cruise and making the long, hot climb to the castle (300 meter altitude gain) so I could see the Black Sea. Thanks Honey! You can get 80% of the experience on the short cruise (since most of the important sites are below the FSM Bridge) but if you have to see it all, take the long cruise. Pros and Cons, versus a 5 star "big ship" You may like Wind Surf if you ... • Want a more adventurous experience, with a "going to sea" feeling • Would like to spend a lot of time outside, feeling the breeze and seeing the water • Would enjoy direct access to the ocean from the ship's marina deck (the highlight of the trip, for us!) • Prefer an uncrowded ship • Prefer a smaller ship where it's easy to get around (for example, we never used the elevator) • Prefer a relaxed yet elegant feel, where the upscale and well-travelled passengers dress "country club casual" • Like a younger crowd than some other cruise lines (there's no one in a motorized chair trying to cut you off at the buffet line!) • Don't want to fight for lounge chairs on deck • Prefer (or don't mind) a relatively quiet ship, that can at times feel empty • Enjoy the serenity of no frequent announcements and no steel drum music • Don't mind that the interiors are sub-par (to put it kindly) • Don't mind a little more motion when sailing • Can do without a crowded lido deck buffet experience (on Wind Surf, you can serve yourself at a genteel, uncrowded buffet, or be served by the wait staff) • Would enjoy fine dining on the deck at sunset! You may prefer the big ship if you... • Have to have a balcony • Really enjoy all the activities and entertainment options such as bingo, rock climbing, kids club, Broadway show, onboard shopping mall, etc. • Prefer a lot of vibrant night life onboard • Enjoy a major pool scene • Look forward to dressing up for formal night in a spectacularly grand dining room • Have mobility issues (Wind Surf has lots of stairs, hatches and high thresholds to step over) • Have lots of kids and need the kid's program • Want to load up on food at a huge buffet • For whatever reason, actually want to attend an art sales pitch at sea • Enjoy the incredible design, dEcor and artwork found in today's brand-new ships • Like the stability that a 100,000 tonne vessel provides • Prefer a state-of-the-art cabin with elegant dEcor and the latest electronics • Like a palatial feel, rather than a yacht-like feel Top Experiences on board Wind Surf • The Sail-aways, with the sails unfurled and the soundtrack from "1492 - Conquest of Paradise" playing as our theme song. Awesome! (I'm listening to it on my iTunes as I write this!) • Dining on deck, starting at sunset and moving on to starlight. It's unlike any dining experiences on our 12 previous cruises. • Spending hours in the Aegean sea off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey, utilizing the ship's marina deck, which provides direct access to the "wine dark sea." • Sailing through history in the Dardenelles. The Captain did a beautiful job of narrating our passage through these historic straits, describing the many important events that occurred here, from the Trojan War to the battle of Gallipoli. • Spending countless hours on deck. We seemed to spend our whole vacation out of doors...which was wonderful. • Choosing the next book from their well-stocked library. The ship has a surprisingly strong collection of travel and historically-themed books. Going to Bodrum? There are several books about Herodotus, one of Bodrum's native sons. Touring Athens or sailing past Troy today? Flip through the Iliad or one of the many books on Greek history. • Being pampered by the crew, who have a unique personality (Special kudos to Daddy and Mikee) From Good to Great If Mr. Anschutz happens to read this (I heard he was on board for at least one evening during this sailing) here is my advice for attracting customers like us...forty-something, upscale, frequent cruisers who are quite interested in Wind Star's essential value proposition of a beyond-the-ordinary, high-end cruise. • Offer a sophisticated, yet relaxing and authentic, at-sea experience targeted towards a well-travelled, upscale clientele who have a sense of adventure. See my list of top experiences (above) and take them to the next level • Transform the interior spaces from 3 star to 6 star. I would envision that boarding Wind Surf should be like stepping onto a billionaire's yacht. The feeling should be "Wow, I can't believe we get to do this!" instead of "Oh my, perhaps we made a mistake!" There are so many new-builds on the market which have spectacular interiors...and balconies...that Wind Star must keep up. Given all the special attributes of this ship, can you imagine how amazing it would be if the interiors were also best-in-class? • Ensure that the entertainment is more sophisticated. The lounge needs a Diva. Perhaps a Celine Dion, Sarah Brightman or Cher sound-alike. • Upgrade the exteriors to maximize the unique attributes of the ship. More teak, more varnish, more brass! Clean and paint everything! • Re-furbish the cabins. Get rid of the formica-clad cabinetry. Upgrade the electronics and TV content. • Take better advantage of the Marina deck. This is an amazing feature that few other ships have...a real point of differentiation! Is Wind Surf our next cruise? Maybe. We are huge fans of Celebrity's Solstice-class product, and will surely do that again. However, we are also starting to look at more deluxe, small ship alternatives such as Oceania and Seaborn...and we are quite interested in their new builds. We are trying to avoid anything that is "tired" and needing a major refurb, while trying to hide it with pillow menus, fancy toiletries and other band-aids. This is where Wind Surf is today. But it seems to me that Wind Surf, if significantly refurbished and upgraded, could find it's own niche in that 5-6 star class of offerings. Overall, we had a great time and we're looking forward to another voyage on an enhanced Wind Surf! Past Cruises: Wind Surf 2011 Eastern Med; Athens - Istanbul Eclipse 2011 Western Caribbean Equinox 2010 Eastern Med; Rome to Rome Constellation 2010 Baltic; Amsterdam to Amsterdam Solstice 2010 Caribbean Century 2009/2010 Caribbean Solstice 2009 Caribbean Majesty OTS 2009 Caribbean Navigator OTS 2008 Caribbean Constellation 2007 Caribbean Serenade OTS 2006 Caribbean Adventure OTS 2005 Caribbean Brittanis Caribbean Stella Maris Eastern Med Read Less
Wind Surf Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.4
Entertainment 3.5 3.6
Public Rooms 4.5 4.4
Fitness Recreation 3.5 4.1
Family N/A 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment N/A 3.6
Service 3.5 4.7
Value For Money 4.0 4.2
Rates 4.0 4.1

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