Pros and Cons
As always, the ship’s staff were very friendly, and the waiters and much of the staff always remember your names. There is always at least one crew member (this trip, two) who remembers us from a previous cruise (my wearing a Windstar T-shirt doesn’t hurt).
Breakfast and lunch in the Terrace is always a nice buffet, and there are also items available from a menu if you want to order them.
The destination manager Kuba always gave a 15-minute overview of the next day’s destination before dinner began at 7:00.
The first day in Quepos we did the national park trek, and we saw both 2- and 3-toed sloths, capuchin and howler monkeys, beautiful blue morpho butterflies, and some assorted birds and lizards.
The second day in Juarez we did the dolphin watch excursion. Judging by the excitement of our guide, we had very good success. For over an hour we encountered several pods of many spotted dolphins, which from time to time were jumping out of the water.
We were invited to the captain’s table the second night for dinner. Captain Chris Dodds and Hotel Manager Henri Lemay were both very enjoyable dining companions, as were the other guests.
The next evening we did the outside dining, called Candles; it began raining just before it got underway, so the staff had to move all the tables under the roof. They had several additional choices beyond the choices in the main dining room that evening, including two kinds of fish, lamb chops, all grilled well done. Also a number of choices of side dishes were available, and three choices for dessert. The sapecial attention was nice, but I did not think the food was really anything special.
One day we swam off the back of the ship’s marina, but the current was quite strong, so most of the time we had to hold on or stay near the rope and floating pads they deployed.
We brought our snorkel masks for some minor snorkeling at Panama’s Isla Parita, but when we wanted to check out flippers from the marina at the back of the ship, twice they tried to talk us out of it. We were not expecting that we would see that much, but it would be our one snorkeling day, and we finally succeeded in checking out flippers.
The beach day on Isla Parita was fine, the small beach was very nice, and the water was nice and warm. The lunch barbecue did not have the traditional BBQ chicken and ribs, just some spicy chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers. But the jambalaya was very good. They also had salads, some side dishes, banana bread, sweet potato bread, and cookies.
So it turned out despite having low expectations, we were glad that we did the snorkel. We saw lots of small and large sergeant majors, semicircle angelfish, some schools of silver fish, a few butterfly fish, a pufferfish, a sea star, several blue-headed wrasse, some parrotfish, and a couple of queen triggerfish. We were wearing our skins for sunblock and protection and were fine, but apparently a couple of people were stung by jellyfish that we did not notice.
Windstar every afternoon puts out some light snacks and tea or coffee on the pool deck at 3:00, but they never list it in their daily program.
They had a Costa Rican naturalist on board who gave three lectures.
One day they brought on board Costa Rican musicians, and another day they invited dancers from a local school. The dancers ranged in age from 21 to 4 and were awesome, with beautiful costumes.
During our one day at sea, we competed in a trivia quiz, attended the naturalist’s lecture on Central and South American mammals, and did the galley tour.
Head chef Danilo did a great galley tour presentation. It was very impressive that most everything is made from scratch, which is why the food tastes so good. It was obvious how dedicated he is to his work.
The Miroflores Lock and Old Panama City tour was good, and we had a good guide, but we thought they could have scheduled the timing of the tour a little better. When we got there, the 4th floor viewing platform was already very crowded with other tour groups, and you couldn’t get near the rail to see very well the last of the northgoing ships going through the lock. Also, there was not enough time to watch the movie presentation. We walked right by some nice looking gift shops, and local vendors in the park, to instead stop for 15 minutes at a REALLY inferior souvenir place.
The penultimate evening of the cruise we had a great barbecue out by the pool, followed by music and dancing. All the food was terrific.
Finally, the last day of the cruise we went through the Panama Canal. There were three sets of locks, for a total of six separate times our ship was raised or lowered in a different lock. There was a guide on the ship’s PA system explaining things as we went, but outside, on deck, it was sometimes hard to hear him. It took about seven hours to make the transit through the canal to the Caribbean Sea. We spent much of the time out on deck, and it was an awesome experience. Sometimes there would be a big cargo ship near us in the other lock, and it was cool seeing these much larger vessels going up or down.
Unfortunately, the hot tub never was very hot, just lukewarm. One day they allowed couples to go to the very overwater bow of the ship to take pictures of the guests.
The last get together before the Friday dinner time he entire staff of the ship from all departments came to say goodbye, and then asked us to sing with them a goodbye song.
During dinner the dining room manager, Abdul, would go from table to table to make sure everything was all right, and the last dinner even the head chef came by. Service was sometimes a little slow, but acceptable once you knew everything was made from scratch and prepared after you ordered it. The only thing I would like to improve is adding a fish entree to the normal dining room menu.
The reception ladies and the woman at the small onboard shop were also very friendly and helpful. There was a singer and musician that played music in the evenings before and after dinner.
All in all, a nice cruise again on Windstar.