We cruised on the 148-passenger Wind Star from Athens to Istanbul, Sept. 8-15, 2007. We loved every minute on this boat. The stateroom was sufficiently roomy for two and the queen bed was very comfortable. The food was great, starting with a breakfast buffet sporting a tremendous variety of hot and cold options, and continuing with a lunch buffet that was equally varied, then a late-afternoon tea/snack time and concluding with an elegant dinner service (again with several appetizer, entree and desert options). The crew couldn't have been nicer, and the captain couldn't have been funnier. (If he ever gives up the helm of the Wind Star, he can make it as a stand-up comic.)
Recommend this product?
This boat is technically a "motor-sail yacht." On our cruise, the sails were unfurled about 80 percent of the time and the engines were running 100 percent. When the sails were deployed there was often a bit of heel to the boat, so we really had the sense that we were running with the wind, but not so much heeling as to discomfort any of the passengers. We had very smooth seas during our voyage. My wife, who is prone to sea sickness, was wearing one of those behind-the-ear patches, but it actually fell off during the last "at-sea" day of the trip -- a daylong sail through the Dardanelles -- and she didn't even notice.
Our cabin was midship on the A deck, which is the place to be if you can get it, because there's much less rocking and rolling motion on that deck. It's also quieter at night, because it's higher above the water line. We ventured down below to the B deck only once, felt some butterflies in our stomachs, and got the heck out of there as fast as we could. If you're seriously interested in sailing on this boat, reserve well in advance to be assured of getting a good cabin location. We booked more than a year ahead.
With respect to booking, you can book directly with Windstar online, but you may be able to save some serious money by going to a Website called Cruisecompete.com. You fill in an online form specifying the ship and cruise you want and wait for travel agents to contact you with quotes. In the case of the Wind Star, only one agent responded, but her quote was significantly less than the price Windstar offered through its own Website. After you've sailed with Windstar once, you can take advantage of deep discounts that they offer to "alumni."
The Wind Star offers optional excursions in every port of call. Booking all of these, as we did, will add significantly to the cost of your trip. Definitely worth the money: the excursion to Delos (from the island of Mykonos) and the tour of Ephesus from Kusadasi. Worth considering is the tour of the castle of the Knights of St. John and afternoon gulet cruise at Bodrum. If you're not interested in the gulet cruise (a gulet is a traditional, Turkish teak yacht), you can easily tour the castle on your own. You can easily pass on the excursion on Santorini, which offers little more than a bus ride to the top of a windblown peak and a shopping trip to Oia, a super-picturesque tourist town (trap?) on the northwest tip of the island, and home of the blue-domed house of photographic fame. If you want to go, and it's worth the trip, hire a cab to take you there from the port of Fira instead. Ditto for Rhodes. The main attraction here is the old city of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you'll find another very large castle of the aforesaid Knights of St. John. Away from town, the big attraction for day visitors is the Greek acropolis at Lindos, which in addition to some impressive ruins, affords a panoramic view of a bay where St. Paul once landed to spread the gospel. (Paul was also at Ephesus, by the way. The guy got around.) Instead of opting for the Wind Star tour, hire a cab at the dock to take you to Lindos. If you share the cab with some fellow shipmates, it will cost less than the organized tour and you can get to Lindos before all the tour buses from the big cruise ships arrive. Once they roll in, the little town gets packed and the narrow path up to the acropolis becomes uncomfortably crowded and the wait to get in horrendously long.
UPDATE: Finally, unless you have urgent matters to attend to, don't bother with the ship's Internet service. It's very expensive. You can find affordable Internet cafes in most ports. For example, in Mykonos we happened on a little coffee/espresso shop that sported several computers and offered Internet broadband service -- free -- with a cup of coffee.
Best Suited For: Couples