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Review of the Wind Surf

Windstar Cruises

Cruise Date: April 2017

Booking: Travel Agency

Embarkation: Lisbon

Destination: Iberia

Cabin number: 316

Cabin category: (optional)

Tauck Small Ship Cruising - Treasures of Spain & Portugal

written by kentennis posted on 05/05/17

Cruise review

Tauck - Small Ship Cruising

Treasures of Spain & Portugal (Eastbound - Lisbon to Barcelona)

April 19 - May 1, 2017

By Ken Montgomery- Irvine, CA

Summary - This was the initial cruise for Tauck with this itinerary and this Windstar ship. Thus, this trip was a bit of a shake down cruise, but Tauck did their usual up-scale fantastic job. The ship for the cruise portion of the trip was the Windstar Star Pride, a first class smaller cruise ship. Portugal & Spain have great ports for the cruising industry and there is a lot to see within range of their port cities. The itinerary required a moderate amount of walking and a fair amount of stair climbing and bus boardings. The weather was generally cooler and windier than normal for the area, but we didn't have much more than a few sprinkles. Early May might be warmer and more conducive to cruising.

Pre-Trip. Landed at Lisbon airport Tuesday morning around 8:00 am, breezed thru Passport Control in under 5 minutes. Tauck met us and 4 other couples at the airport and drove us to Intercontinental Hotel and the rooms were ready! I think Tauck had something to do with that, but no guarantees on the early check-in. The high season in Lisbon hadn?t quite started yet, so the hotel could get us in early. After a nap, we rode the ?Hop on- Hop off? bus for a few hours, which was a great introduction to the City. The hotel was very nice and has a great breakfast included. We even had a nice view of the City and river Tagus from our 14th floor room.

Wednesday (on our own)- Before we left home, we set up a Viator trip to Fatima and the Atlantic Coast (north). We lucked out, this was a great trip. We walked to the pick up point, the Hard Rock Cafe corner, about a 25 minute downhill walk from the hotel. Our tour was in a nice Mercedes van. There were a total of 7 passengers and a great guide, Pedro Dos Santos. He gave commentary in Spanish and English and drove professionally at the same time. We got back at 7:00pm, so we missed the cocktail party portion of the Welcome Party. The announcements were made after dinner, so we caught that. Viator booked the tour (on-line, very easy) and "Inside Lisbon Tours" operated the tours. There were about 8 tours leaving from the Hard Rock Cafe corner at 9am, so there was a lot of confused customer milling around until a driver showed up and announced the 7 or so names he or she was taking. This was a little bit of a chaotic way to start the tours, but everyone was off on their way within 10 minutes or so.

Tauck Tour

Day 1 of Tour - Wednesday evening- Intercontinental Hotel - Lisbon - Welcome Cocktail Party & Dinner 6:00 pm at Intercontinental Hotel. Nice dinner and a good way to meet fellow ?Tauckies?.

Day 2 - Thursday- Lisbon Highlights bus tour - 9:00am to 1:30 - lunch and rest of afternoon & dinner were on your own. The Tauck bus will leave you near in the City Center or take you back to the hotel. Most people left the bus in the City Center and continued on foot. Our tour guide showed us a few restaurants and then left us on our own. We walked down to the Tagus River front and found some nice restaurants with a view of the river Tagus. We then rode a few more routes on the Hop on Hop off bus. There are 3 companies doing this, and they all seam to stop at the same stops. You can buy a ticket on board with Euros. Each company has 2 or 3 routes with each route taking about 90 - 100 minutes. This is a great way to see the City. Bring your own ear phones, the ones they give you are low quality.

Day 3 - Friday - Lisbon - Bags out at 6:45m, bus tour to Sintra and other stops west of Lisbon. We got back to Lisbon to board the Windstar Star Pride around 2:30pm. There were 40 Tauck passengers on the 212 passenger boat. On this cruise there were a total of 170 passengers. The check in process was quick and efficient. They kept the restaurant open until 4:00 so the 40 Tauck passengers could eat a late lunch. The bags were in the room when we arrived unless your bag had a bottle in it as shown in an X-Ray. We had a bottle of wine in one of our bags and we received a call to come down to security, they wanted us to open that bag. You can bring 2 bottles of wine with you, but no bottles of liquor. If your bottle turned out to be liquor, they kept the bottle and promised to return it at the end of the cruise.

The mandatory safety drill was at 4:15. The Tauck passengers then had their nightly cocktail hour at 6:00 pm in the Compass Rose (deck 6) where you could get free wine or cocktails & peanuts. This was a very nice nightly private party. Announcements were made during the party about the next day's activities. You also received a copy of the Tauck itinerary in your room. You also received the Windstar daily itinerary. Reception distributed a small English language world news summary.

Dinner was at 7:00 pm nightly in the main dining room. Windstar has open seating and one upgraded restaurant where the menu is a little nicer. Tauck customers received free house wine at dinner. The wine was excellent.

Friday night had rough seas, hard to sleep. Due to the rough seas, we arrived in the next port 2.5 hours late.

Day 4 - Saturday: Portimao, Portugal- the Tauck bus tour left the ship at 11:30. We returned to boat for lunch and then boarded the bus again for an afternoon wine tasting trip. Back to boat at 5:20, the boat sailed at 6:00 pm. My wife & I had dinner in the special restaurant, and the food was a notch above the main dining room. Had a table outside in the setting sun, and it was not windy.

Saturday night was smooth, no big seas, good sleeping.

Day 5 - Sunday - Seville, Spain - we boarded buses in Cadiz and drove to Seville. Due to weather and sea state caused delays, we didn't have time to take the ship up the river up to Seville, which would have been nice, beats a long bus ride. Spent a full day seeing Seville, then back to the Ship by 6:30. The Tauck cocktail hour lasted till 7:30 and then onto dinner. The bus rides were about 2 hours each way including a restroom stop at the halfway point. Weather was cool in the morning and low 80s in the afternoon. Seville is a great City for tourists and the Tauck guides got us to the front of the line - always.

Day 6 - Monday -Gibraltar- we docked at noon. We did a 2 hour tour, then back to the boat at 4 pm, or you could stay in the town and walk back. Boat departed at 10 pm. Weather was in the mid 60's. No Cathedrals today! The "Rock Apes", (monkeys) were very cute and photogenic. Windy day!

Day 7 - Tuesday - Malaga, Spain. 9:00 am depart for Andalusian Manor Hacienda La Esperanza. Our group of 40 was treated to a private visit, horse show and tapas tasting, back to ship by 1 pm. At 2:30 pm we left on a Malaga sightseeing tour and a walking tour thru the Old Town where you could visit the Picasso art gallery. Temps in the 70's, not much walking.

Day 8 - Wednesday. - Almeria, Spain. - Departed at 8:00am for 2.5 hour bus ride, including a bathroom stop, to Granada. We had a tour of the amazing Alhambra Palace and lunch at the Alhambra Palace Hotel. Back by 5:30pm. The Windstar ship crew put on their big BBQ that night on deck 7 despite the wind, with dancing on deck afterwards. Temps in the mid 60's. there were a fair amount of walking and stairs in this visit.

Day 9 - Thursday - at sea- cold, windy, rocky, not a lot to do. We were glad we brought some ?Great Courses? DVD's with us. Our Tauck tour director gave us a lecture on the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which was very interesting. There is a lot less to do on days at sea on a small cruise ship compared to large cruise ships. Windstar should work on this. Give us a few lectures or even video presentations about upcoming ports. It was too cold to sit outside for long. If the weather was warm, I?m sure everyone would have been on deck getting sun.

Day 10 - Friday - Palma de Majorca - a beautiful city, we had a tour of the city in the morning, lunch on the ship, or stay in the city, then a visit to a private palace with a folk dancing performance with wine & cheese in the afternoon. Great weather, high 60's and sunny.

Day 11 - Saturday- Barcelona - disembarkation- bags out before 5 am, which means the night before. We left the ship at 8:45 am and then toured the major sights of Barcelona, an amazing city. I love how Tauck gets the group to the front of the line, we never waited in line. We checked into the El Palace Hotel around 4pm, very nice hotel. Most people walked the Las Ramblas and found a place for dinner. There were lots of choices. Weather was cool and windy.

Day 12 - Sunday - Barcelona - met the bus at 8:15 for another day touring Barcelona. We had a private organ recital in the "Music Palace" (Palau de la Musica), another Barcelona architectural masterpiece. We had a walking tour of the old city, then lunch on our own, then bused back to the hotel.

Tauck had the farewell cocktail party and dinner at the "Silk Palace", leaving the hotel at 6 pm, back around 9:15.

Day 13 - Monday - Barcelona - going home - we had a 10:50am flight to Newark, so Tauck arranged the airport transfer at 7:15 am. The United check-in counters didn't open until after we were standing the airport looking for the United check-in counters. Around 8:00 am, 5 United check-in counters opened. Checking in was easy. A security officer did a short interview with each passenger before they proceeded to check-in. They wanted to know where you had been, so it helps to rattle off a few of your ports and Cities visited.

Several passengers stayed a few extra days in Barcelona and Tauck took care of their transfers on their day of departure.

Comments on the Windstar Star Pride

Beautiful ship, smooth sailing and docking.

No tendering on this cruise, the ship tied up at the dock at all the ports on this cruise

Security getting back on the ship varied from port to port, some places had airport style inspection, other places a quick visual inspection.

Efficient, responsive & friendly crew

Some cabins experienced plugged toilets which were repaired by crew

Food is very good

Entertainment is limited to piano bar type entertainers

Each cabin has a DVD player

Ship has a library of books and DVD's for lending

Ship has a small pool and 2 jacuzzis

Wifi is spotty and slow, but you will get your emails and some websites, but don't try to download a Netflix movie or even a U-tube clip

Cabin 316 was spacious with a walk in closet, lots of drawers, a safe and small balcony

Cabins have one - 110 volt and one - 220 volt outlet.

Ships store has a good selection of Windstar logo clothes. They also have sundries at reasonable prices. The store is only open when the ship is moving. Reception also sells toiletries.

There is a small casino with 1 poker table and 1 blackjack table and some machines.

Gymnasium - outstanding - 5 treadmills, 3 stationary bikes, 1 rowing machine, 1 arm cycling machine, many single purpose weight stack machines, free weights, bar bells, yoga mats. There was also a Personal Trainer available.

Spa - full service

Comments on Tauck

Bus tours were very comfortable, great buses and informative commentary by our guides. Rest stops every 60 to 90 minutes. They have a rotating seat assignment system, which works great. Everyone gets to sit in front once during the trip. Seat assignments are posted outside the bus, so you know where to sit. Water is always provided.

The tour directors are amazing people, they handle all the issues and unplanned challenges on the fly without a problem. Thank god for cell phones and the Tauck support staff back at headquarters to help with challenges.

Tauck provided unique touring experiences and set up private entertainment performances. There was a private wine tasting & wine education in Portugal, a couple of dance performances, and an organ concert, just for our group.

Tauck seems to be sensitive about not taking their guests to too many cathedrals, as many companies seem to do. There was usually free time for people to visit more cathedrals if they wanted to.

Wifi was free but slow on the ship. The wifi was good in the hotels. The hotels did not have DVD players.

Dress code - about half the men wore sport coats for the welcome & farewell dinners, although this is not required. Most of the time, the dress code on the ship is "Resort Casual? (pants with a colored shirt)

We have heard that the Tauck ?Treasures of Spain & Portugal? Cruise has been booked up for many months out and I can see why.

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