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11 Night Caribbean Cruise from St. Maarten

11 Night Caribbean Cruise from St. Maarten

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Wind Star
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Itinerary

  • Day 1
    St. Maarten
  • Day 2
    St. Barts
  • Day 3
    Virgin Gorda
  • Day 4
    Cruising
  • Day 5
    Cruising
  • Day 6
    Bonaire
  • Day 7
    Curacao
  • Day 8
    Aruba
  • Day 9
    Cruising
  • Day 10
    Cartagena (Spain)
  • Day 11
    Cruising
  • Day 12
    Colon (Cristobal)

Wind Star

Wind Star - Windstar Cruises

Pros

Romantic four-mast sailing ship with exceptional service.

Cons

Lack of daytime activities and nighttime entertainment.

Bottom Line

Perfect for adventurous travelers and sailing enthusiasts who prefer to go off the beaten path.


Cruise Reviews

2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We were excited about this cruise, having been on a cruise on the Royal Clipper several years ago and expecting it to be a similar experience. We were disappointed that it wasn't. Prior to the cruise the admin left a lot to be ... Read More
We were excited about this cruise, having been on a cruise on the Royal Clipper several years ago and expecting it to be a similar experience. We were disappointed that it wasn't. Prior to the cruise the admin left a lot to be desired as we didn't get any final documentation until a few days before we left despite having paid in full when we booked. Although loyal Windstar cruisers on CC assured us that we didn't need any paperwork, we did actually really NEED to know which port to go to and at what time!! Fortunately this info did arrive in time and we were otherwise happy with the embarkation process which was very straightforward. Although our cabin was one of the cheapest we were pleased with it and it compared well with our cabin on Royal Clipper which WASN'T the cheapest. The shower was one of the best we've experienced on a ship! We didn't have a balcony but we were hoping for an active cruise so didn't think we'd miss it. We did! Our fellow passengers were quite a bit older than we'd expected. We are active 60+ year olds but certainly didn't feel older than the majority.....the reason for this became clear as the cruise progressed. We were expecting this to be quite an active cruise......a sailing ship with a watersports platform going into bays where larger cruise ships can't dock. This was exactly what we experienced on Royal Clipper where, if the platform couldn't be put out due to rough seas or for any other reason, the staff took all the water 'toys' onto the beach and guests were able to use them there. There were sailing dinghys, windsurfers, kayaks, snorkelling gear and even an opportunity to try water skiing. The engines were turned off at some point during every sail so we could experience the feeling of truly sailing. Unfortunately, with Windstar the sails and watersports platform are just ornamental. We didn't ever sail without engines and the watersports platform was only in use for one short afternoon. And on that occasion the activities consisted of swimming and there were a couple of kayaks available, but the ship was so far away from the shore that there was nowhere interesting to go with them. We tried one for about 10 minutes then got bored, and one other woman went in one, paddled about 10 metres and then returned!! But even the opportunity to swim would have been welcomed but this wasn't offered more than on that one occasion.. Perhaps one of the reasons for this may have been that, if too many activities were offered for free, people may not have bought the very expensive shore excursions? And the company are making a killing from these!! Virtually everyone on the ship went on one every day.....and the reports back from them generally weren't very good. Though there were occasional exceptions. The other very expensive extra being pushed by staff were the beverage packages. On arrival on the ship we were told that we only need to drink 4 drinks a day in order to make a package worth it. Not true.........in fact we would have needed to drink about 7 each! The barman tried again when we ordered our first drink. He told us we would be in profit at over 3!! And he was VERY pushy!! On the plus side, apart from that barman we found all of the rest of the staff to be excellent....extremely friendly, efficient and helpful. Another big plus was the food which I really couldn't fault. The whole dining experience was excellent. But our biggest disappointment of this cruise were the changes made to the original itinerary. As I said before, we were expecting a similar experience to the Royal Clipper and we were drawn to the itinerary which offered several islands and bays off the coast of Panama and Costa Rica. Even before the cruise started (and only 2 days after we booked!) we were sent an e-mail to say that one of the islands had been swapped for another day in Panama City. We were unimpressed as were a good number of other passengers. Many people had spent a few days there before the cruise so were really not happy to have yet another day added to the one we already had there. If they DID need to take out the original island then I think more effort could have been made to swap it for something offering an equivalent experience. To make matters worse, during the cruise the captain advised that high winds made it impossible to visit another island on our itinerary. This was then replaced by another port which again didn't offer anything like the experience (the Beach BBQ) we were expecting. It was a small port with virtually nothing to do unless you went on an excursion and with nowhere to swim. And to make matters worse the expected high winds did not materialise!! Windstar has a lot of repeat guests and loyal customers but I'm afraid we won't be joining them. We were expecting more of a small ship expedition experience but what Windstar seems to offer is a more traditional cruise ship experience (with expensive excursions, drinks packages etc) on a smaller scale so without some of the amenities you would expect on a larger ship (no balcony cabins, no swimming pool, no casino and only very limited entertainment consisting of one pianist and a not very good vocalist) This isn't what we want though it certainly seems to keep quite a few people happy so I accept that it's 'horses for courses.' Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2019
My husband and I are in our 60s and have traveled around the world creating our own itineraries and arranging our own transportation. We never thought cruising was for us but in the last few years we have sampled several medium to large ... Read More
My husband and I are in our 60s and have traveled around the world creating our own itineraries and arranging our own transportation. We never thought cruising was for us but in the last few years we have sampled several medium to large ships with friends (Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival). The Panama Canal transit with WindStar seemed a pleasant way to experience a small ship environment. Pre-cruise and embarking/disembarking was painless. We arrived at 2 AM a day early in Panama City from Fort Lauderdale. We stayed at a hotel near the airport because of the time and found it easy and inexpensive ($25-$30) to Uber into Panama City to do a little sightseeing. Panama is the only country in Latin America where Uber is legal and it is ubiquitous. Transportation from Panama City directly to the cruise port in Colon was by pre-arranged driver (Amber Moon Panama-$90 cash on arrival). Colon is sketchy. Our driver was a local and he said he does not walk around parts of Colon, even in the daytime. The cruise terminal in Colon is very small. There is a tiny shop with a small selection of wines if you want to buy a bottle to take on board. Notably missing at embarkation was the assault to start buying extras from the cruise line. We were handed a lovely cold cocktail or glass of champagne, were greeted warmly, and got our room key within minutes. No one asked us to take a picture, spend money in the spa, book an excursion, register for an art auction, schedule a special dinner, or tried to sell us jewelry. We left the cruise at Puerto Caldera by pre-paid driver. The trip to the airport in San Jose was $130 by credit card - Transportation in Costa Rica. Windstar is a beautiful lady aging gracefully. We didn't see a tear, a stain, or a break in any of the furnishings. If you like warm wood panelling, shiny brass fixtures, and comfortable seating this is the ship for you. Everything is understated luxury. Think Hyannis Port rather than Vegas. The atmosphere is egalitarian and there are no special perks for big spenders. Passengers are well-traveled and tend to be 40+ and active. The dress code is dressy/casual. All the cabins, except one, are identical. There are no balconies. Plenty of storage room. Comfortable beds. A small table with built-in seating. Plush towels, good sheets, robes, slippers, great toiletries. The shower is the biggest we've had on a ship. On the negative side - Windstar makes it very clear in their literature that there is no elevator on this ship. There are several decks. Cabins are on deck 1, the lower deck, or deck 2, one floor up and one set of stairs below the lobby. If you have ANY mobility issues involving stairs you should book on deck 2. Not only are there a few less steps but while docking and during the transit through the locks a watertight bulkhead closes off access from part of deck 1 to the regular stairs. Passengers are then required to walk a circuitous path up, down, and around to get to and from their cabins on deck 1. Air conditioning in the cabins is inconsistent. At sea the room temperature was fine but anchored or at dock the rooms heated very quickly. We closed our curtains during daylight and we packed a small battery operated fan anticipating the hot, humid climate. The two strategies worked well in making our room comfortable all day. The food was FABULOUS! Dining service was impeccable. By the second day our waiter Alun knew that my husband always orders extra maple syrup for his waffles and pancakes and it would appear magically on the table. We were saddened to discover that Windstar has eliminated the casino from this ship. It has been replaced by a coffee bar that provides a civilized afternoon tea after 3 PM with scones fresh from the oven and clotted cream. The barista Gede soon learned that I like a touch of strawberry jam on those decadent scones and he made sure there was a little chilled jam jar on my plate every day. Michael and Kevin smoothly handled bar service in the lounge each evening and the pool bar is open during the day. We enjoy our evening cocktails, wine, and an occasional beer but did not think the drinks package was good value. There is a happy hour (literally one hour) each night with a limited selection of $5.50 pours and a specialty cocktail for around $9.00 every day. You can take one bottle of wine aboard for each passenger. An important consideration in selecting this Windstar cruise is entertainment and activity. Local groups performed on two afternoons. Windstar partners with the small school in Playa Jimenez and contributes to their education fund in exchange for an excellent show by the kids, several with special needs. The staff performed at the at-sea dinner on deck and during a great talent show. There was a pianist and vocalist in the evenings (Ben and Jacqui) who also coordinated all the audio-visual equipment and DJ'd briefings and events. A professional-quality yoga class was offered each morning by the Spa Director Sue who also led line dance classes two afternoons. The gym was small, poorly ventilated and offered more form than function. There is no easy or safe way to jog around the deck. There were two hosted trivia games. On the one at-sea day the staff put some boxed games out on tables in the lounge. There was a large jigsaw puzzle in the lobby that passengers added pieces to occasionally. Basically, entertainment is low-key and you are on your own for on-board activities. As previously stated, definitely NOT Vegas! If you are not content with peace and quiet and can't entertain yourself you will not appreciate Windstar's offerings. Service was unbelievable. Cabins were cleaned by elves (Anang). Eerily, staff and crew were cheerful around the clock. All of our questions and requests were responded to rapidly. There was no waiting or lines for anything, ever. Excursions: The day on the beach in Isla Parida was fabulous. Warm water, great lunch, fun water toys. We took snorkeling equipment from the boat but didn't use it because visibility was poor. Playa Jimenez - We went to the Blue Osa Yoga Retreat. One of us had a fabulous yoga hour, the other swam in the beautiful pool, strolled the resort, and walked the sandy beach. The lunch was gourmet quality and locally sourced. Lots of flowers and plants. Quepos - Mangrove tour. Slow relaxing boat ride through mangroves. Lots of birds. Nice discussion of area history enroute. No mammals sighted. Finally, the whole point of this cruise is the Panama Canal and the natural beauty of the area. The itinerary and vessel are designed to bring passengers as close to natural habitats as possible. There are no travel guides or taxis descending on the ship when it docks. It doesn't dock! Wet landings are wet. Getting on and off the ship requires dexterity. The ports are teeny tiny. It is hot and humid and buggy. It is mostly rainforest. There is no guarantee you will see any or all of the animals/plants you imagine. It is not a zoo and if anyone can summon or predict animal sightings in the wild they are either planted or illegally lured. Alternatives to excursions arranged by Windstar are limited. The Shore Director Mariana and Naturalist Diego were a perfect team. Mariana handled all the logistics of getting on/off the ship, scheduling excursions, coordinating the movement of passengers and staff while Diego, the ship's Naturalist and resident Latin American, made sure we understood the culture and surroundings. They were efficient and informative. Unlike any other cruise staff we've encountered they not only explained in their briefings what to expect on the purchased excursions but how to experience each port WITHOUT the excursions! Astounding! They both demonstrated tremendous patience under pressure from passengers who were either unwilling or unable to educate themselves about the ports and excursions. Wet landings means YOU WILL GET WET! No matter how many times Mariana said to wear/bring beach shoes and shorts people still showed up in socks and loafers and long pants. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations ... Read More
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations are a wonderful experience. The Panama Canal, Panama City and Costa Rica in January are absolutely must-do experiences. The destinations are 5+. Windstar (really Xanterra, the same folks who service many of the U.S National Parks), on the other hand, was disappointingly lacking in some ways that compromised an otherwise fabulous cruising experience. The ship Wind Star (the initial ship in their fleet) was commissioned in 1987 and is showing a lot of age. I find most complainers to be boorish, and, all-in-all I want to like Wind Star for the many positives they bring to a cruise; however, it seemed like this particular ship brought with it a number of issues due to age and lack of attention at the management level. Throughout much of the cruise, the deck spa was broken and leaky, requiring days of repair work. It appeared to be working toward the end, but it continued to make a loud ghastly belching noise every minute or so. The cabins are small and manageable, but even the premium cabins have only two dirty portholes for an outside view. Each cabin has its own thermostat, but they don’t work. Our first night on board, our cabin (221) was very stuffy. We prefer about 20 Celsius, but when I adjusted the thermostat there was no response, just the same weak movement of slightly cool air through an overhead vent. I then moved the thermostat down as far as it would go and no response. I reported the problem to the onboard reception desk where I was promised that someone would come by and check out the problem. No one ever arrived. Finally, once the ship began to move, the room cooled slowly to a reasonably tolerable temperature, but, the thermostat was never inspect and we had no in-room temperature control for the entire cruise. We witnessed at least three water leakages within the first week of our voyage, one of which flooded a cabin and out into the hall. Another occurred in our own cabin (221). The toilet wouldn’t stop running at 11:00 p.m. and began flooding the bathroom. No one answered when we tried to phone for help, so, my wife kept flushing the stool while I went out and found help. Once found, both crew members were very attentive and repaired the problem via a hallway access panel, allowing us to go back to bed and sleep. Finally, Cabin 221 is midship upper deck and I selected it months in advance. It is directly beneath the entrance to the main dining room, which was no problem except one night at 10:00 p.m. when the management directed staff to strip the wooden floor of the dining room entrance and wax it. I was in bed trying to sleep, and I assumed the movement of furniture and associated noises directly overhead were temporary and would subside, but after an hour, I decided to go upstairs to investigate and found out what was going on. I apologized, I knew the workers had a job to do but I told them that the noise from their work was keeping us awake. They apologized and said they would tell their boss. Apparently, they did, and the noise stopped, only to wake me up when it restarted at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Most disappointing was the fact that the original itinerary called for a day of snorkeling on an island just off the Panama coast. This was cancelled a couple of months before our sailing date. When I phoned about this, I was assured that Windstar would find a suitable and equal substitute. However, the day that we boarded, we were told the alternate landing site had not worked out, and we would be staying in the Panama City port of Balboa a second day. Just about every passenger had arrived in Panama City for the trip and many had already seen Panama City prior to the cruise, so adding a second cruise day in Panama City WITHOUT any excursion was a true breach of contract on behalf of Windstar. The weather was beautiful and the sailing conditions excellent, but Windstar had not done its due diligence over the months prior, leaving their guests to fend for themselves during Day 2 in Panama City. What was the compensation offered by Windstar? An open bar one evening. My wife and I don’t drink. Thanks very much. To further compound Windstar’s negligence, they offered no suggestions of how their passengers might spend the extra day, despite the fact that a wonderful Smithsonian wildlife refuge and a fantastic Frank Gehry-designed Bio Museum were both within walking distance of the port. We did both and ended up having a day well-spent, but no thanks to Windstar! Some excursion descriptions appeared to be intentionally misleading. For example, the descriptions for both Corcovado and Carara National Parks led guests to anticipate hikes through trails plentiful with some of the most diverse fauna (birds, mammal, reptiles, etc.) in the world, when, in fact, Windstar personnel know full well that the chances of such sightings are very low. I understand the disclaimers not guaranteeing sightings, but the descriptions are written to infer that no sightings are the exception, not the rule. The diverse wildlife does exist within these two parks, but primarily in the interior, not as commonly along the perimeter trails that are open to the public, and certainly not at mid-day! Prime time for wildlife sightings in these parks is within 1-2 hours of sunrise or sunset (5:45 am. and 5:10 pm. in January. When were we present in the park? 9:45 am – noon. The absolute worst times to see wildlife, and we indeed SAW NOTHING except for a couple of lizards at Carara. We did see a Macaw at both Corcovado and Carara, and in both cases the bird was too far away to see well even with a sighting scope. During the dry season, the hours of operation for Costa Rican national parks are 7 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., so, even though these hours prevent Windstar from having guests at the parks during prime sighting times, to fulfill the expectations Windstar creates with its customers, their excursions should be at the parks at 7:00 a.m. ready to go. Windstar’s current approach is intentionally deceptive and misleading and certainly not worthy of a company that wants to be regarded as a step above their competition. Old ship needing work, a last-minute downgrade to the itinerary and a failure to provide useful information to their customers are all marks of a cruise company with some serious management flaws. On the good side: Windstar offers small boat sailing catered to older customers. Their waitstaff and room attendants are first class. Of course, staff members are standard cruise personnel comprised of young people from economically-deprived countries who are worked to the bone, but they each work as hard as they can to provide the highest quality personalized service possible. I have now sailed Windstar twice. Will I cruise with them again? Quite possible, but I would not want to return the ship Wind Star, and, if I return, it will be with a jaundiced eye and less loyalty than I felt when we agreed to cruise the second time following a very pleasant initial cruise in the Caribbean. Read Less
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