We are fairly new to ocean cruising. We have been on several river cruises in Burma, Vietnam, Assam and India. Our only 'big ship' experiences have been with Princess Cruises out of Sydney. Both of these ships were much larger, with a passenger complement of up to 3000 people. Although we liked the two big ship cruises, we found the endless entertainment schedule a bit tiresome as we are not interested in cabaret shows, magic shows, retail events (disguised as jewellery 'presentations), Keno, BIngo and the seemingly endless rotation of activities designed for people who can't amuse themselves.
And so we decided to go to the other end of the spectrum, to a motor yacht than can carry up to 148 passengers (but which took only 133 on our cruise).
Not surprisingly it was an altogether different experience and one we much enjoyed. The downside, of course, is the lack of activities and entertainment. There was one duo who sang out on deck in the evenings. We enjoyed what they offered and appreciated the fact that the volume was subtle, allowing us to talk and think while they entertained us. The upsides were many: we got to know almost all the crew, we also met many of our fellow passengers and - on a small ship like this with a fairly 'active' itinerary - we also encountered people for whom cruising is not just a food-and-drink-fest. One of the things that amazed us about Princess Cruises was the number of people who seem to spend their entire day gravitating from breakfast to the bar to lunch to the bar and then to dinner (and the bar!). Surely there's more to life than this? Windstar's clientele seems a little more discerning, interesting and active, and although there was an element of the 'all you can eat and drink' type on board, there were also lots of others for whom the booze and food was secondary.
The Indonesian restaurant staff and Filipino catering staff were great and we had a lot of laughs with them. And our cabin crew were also friendly, polite, helpful and efficient.
The cabin exceeded our expectations although we met a couple of serial 'Wind-cruisers' who said they thought the cabins were small. We thought our cabin (BX) was more then sufficient for our needs with an amazing amount of storage. Even if my wife had bought 20 pairs of shoes there would have been enough room to stow them!
A note on cabins. It seems that BX and AX are both pretty much the same, except AX is one deck above BX. Given that all cabins have portholes I'm not sure why you would pay extra to be 2 metres higher?
We didn't bother with the shore excursions as none of them were of interest to us and in any case there are several local tour operators with whom you can book the same stuff at a much lower price. Instead we hired a car a few times, and a scooter, and drove around the various islands we stopped at. Huahine was the out and out favourite, a totally laid-back, low key South Seas destination that was infinitely more pleasurable than either Bora Bora or Moorea.
The food was pretty good. I would rate the Wind Spirit as a 4-star experience and the food was certainly to a four-star standard. In fact it was far far better than the 5-star Sofitel on Moorea, where we spent three nights after the cruise had finished.
The only downside was the fact you can't open the portholes to let in some fresh air. On our deck you probably would have got wet if you tried this, so I understand the reasons why. But to sleep under airconditioning is not good, and we both ended up with chest infections as a result. I would definitely travel with Windstar again, but would hope the bigger ships have windows that open!
Very reasonable size, especially with the table/chair set up that allows you to eat in if you really feel the need to (we didn't). Loads of storage space. Ample room under the bed to store suitcases. Plenty of hanging space in wardrobe for his and her clothing. Enough space in the fridge to store two bottles of our own wine. Perfectly adequate bathroom, again cleverly designed so there was a lot of shelving space for all (her) toiletries. Great water pressure in shower. No musty smell like Princess Cruises.
Our absolutely favourite place. Wonderful laid-back port that could have featured in a Somerset Maugham story. We hired a scooter and went rode down to Avea Bay, where we found a small restaurant called Chez Tara. We had a great lunch and afternoon lazing on the tiny beach and it was definitely a highlight of our trip.
Bora Bora is overdone and overblown. We did our own shore excursion with Moana Tours, which was interesting. It was a 'land & sea' combo comprising a snorkelling trip in the morning and a 4WD trip in the afternoon. It was a good day out and we're glad we spent the day hare. Moana Tours were excellent.
Hire a car or a scooter and drive around the island. It's a great place to explore. You can drive half the island before lunch, return to the boat for lunch and then drive the other half in the afternoon.
Cooks Bay is pretty and a good place to go for a walk.
Tahiti is the least interesting island in the archipelago.