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.
Absolute midship port side. Crew area door nearby but very quiet. Some engine noise/lights due to pilots and customs officials boarding at Panama Canal and entering Costa Rica
Excellent swimming and water toys. Visibility poor for snorkeling.
Beautiful marina. Wish we had more time.