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Star Pride

by Monte Goldstein

Our trip started with independent flights from JFk-Istanbul via Rome on Alitalia. Unfortunately, our flight from JFK was late and we were going to miss our connection. Alitalia placed us on a Turkish Air non-stop to Istanbul but it left 8 hours after our originally scheduled departure. The flight was pleasant enough in Business class.

We spent one night at the Inter-Continental which was quite nice with a view of the Bosphorus. Access to the tram and metro were excellent and the surrounding streets offered adequate restaurants and shops. Breakfast at the inter-Continental was a lavish affair offering cooked to order eggs and omelets as well as other standard items.

We took a taxi to the pier at 2PM. There was some confusion as it seems the usual pier used for check-in was under renovation. There was a Windstar employee waiting there, however, who directed our cab driver to the proper location just a few minutes away. It would have been nice if we had received notification beforehand; however, it really had no bearing on our embarkation. The luggage drop off was a bit confusing. After a security check-point, we brought our luggage to a building about 75 yards from the ship and then walked back to a second pier opposite the ship. There doesn’t seem to have been a reason for us to travel from one building to the next and then return. After the usual security check point, we embarked the Star Pride and were directed to check in one deck above, in the lounge.

Check in took just minutes and afterwards, Larry, the Verandah/Candles Maître D' was stationed at a table taking reservations for the cruise as well as placing people on a wait list for additional seatings. Apparently, we were entitled to at least one Candles seating during the cruise. Larry, however, made it clear, that it was worth getting on the waiting list for other nights. He was not wrong. On our 9 night cruise, we ended up eating there 3 times and were never disappointed. We found the meals equal, if not superior, to most US steakhouses, and the service, as in other areas of the ship, was excellent. Larry learned our names by the first day and always ensured we were always tended to every time we ate at the Verandah. One afternoon, we arrived from Santorini after closing time but he kept the restaurant open until we leisurely completed our lunch. A much appreciated touch.

After checking in, we made our way to suite 207, located on deck #5. The numbering system is curious since it doesn’t correspond to deck number but on this yacht, it really doesn’t matter. It certainly does not take long to learn your way around. Our suite was a “balcony suite.” It was extremely spacious and well laid out and despite what some previous reviews have indicated, looked entirely fresh. The wood built-ins, which have not been replaced, did appear to be freshly sanded and cleaned. Perhaps the only area of the suite which looked tired was the tub/shower. The marble in many areas was stained and old looking. This never, however, impacted out trip in any way. The suite contained an LCD TV which played various satellite new channels and some In-house TV stations. Certainly the ship could benefit from more channels. It would have been nice to have ESPN. We did borrow nightly from the extensive DVD library.

A word about the “balcony”: It was certainly nice to be able to open the “door” and check the weather in the morning. I would say that at the premium Windstar charges, it is probably not worth it for most.

Where the Star Pride excelled was in overall service by the wonderful crew, and the quality of the food. We were fortunate to have a wonderful cabin steward named Wayan. He quickly learned our routines and always had out suite ready for us. In addition, he tended to our daily laundry. For one price, the ship performed unlimited laundry/suite. This allows traveling very light and after the first day, laundry given to Wayan by 9AM was back in time for dinner: Truly worth the price.

Although all seating was “open,” all dining stewards quickly learned our names and routines and as a veteran of over 50 cruises, I cannot recall having service of a higher caliber than on the Star Pride. Even the beverage stewards were always producing our Diet Cokes, before we even asked for them. Breakfast in AmphoreA or the Verandah was buffet style with egg stations always available. Lunch in the Verandah was never crowded, despite it being too cold most afternoons to be seated outside. As previously stated, we ate dinner in Candles three times with our beef fillet being cooked to perfection. Out dinners in AmphoreA were also excellent, with great service despite having different dining stewards each time.

This was a port intensive itinerary. Due to rough seas, one port was substituted after a schedule change. This was handled well with new excursions being made available. Considering the situation, I believe the result was as good as possible. We did tender in two ports. This was performed efficiently and we never waited more than a few minutes for a tender.

Disembarkation in Athens was as easy as could be expected for a ship of this size. Basically, we left after breakfast, grabbed a taxi, and went to the airport.

In conclusion, I would not hesitate to cruise on this ship again. I agree with many that the pool area needs work. As the weather on our trip was colder than hoped, we never did get the opportunity to even try to use it. It was constantly being painted and in fact, did not look inviting. We did, however, use the hot tubs without difficulty. The remainder of the Star Pride experience, from food /hotel services, to shore excursions was deluxe all the way. We truly felt we were on a yacht which was clearly the effect Windstar was looking to provide. Those looking for entertainment, however, would be best served on a larger ship.

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