For just about as long as I can remember, I have wanted to take a Windjammer cruise, which was odd because I really don’t care for cruises in general, and I’m not even a huge fan of sailing. I think the thing that I dislike about cruises – that they are on these big, impersonal boats – was what I liked about the Windjammer.
You are on smaller, more interesting boats, you get to have a more personal experience with whatever country (or countries) you are in, it just makes for more of an adventure. And now that I put it that way, I guess really can’t argue with it. So if you’re after adventure, you may want to go Windjammer. But if you’re interested in a cruise with Windjammer, you might want to stay away.
You see, it was with this in mind that my wife and I booked a (somewhat) last minute cruise in Costa Rica last year. Almost exactly a year ago, in fact.
We were pretty excited about it. We scored a decent rate for the cruise, we managed to get a good rate on airfare, and we were going to a country where we hadn’t been before. All things considered, it was looking to be a nice vacation.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite start off that way. We boarded the bus to head to the boat, and that wasn’t bad, because it was a nice touring bus, not the rickety kind you might expect in another country – the kind you see on the Discovery Channel and whatnot.
The bad news was that as we arrived to the other side of the country, we found that the staff hadn’t been paid in some time. As in months. Luckily for us, it was night and it was raining, so they let us stay. Otherwise we would have been somewhat stranded. So we all had dinner and a few drinks, and spent the night.
The next morning, we were up early – really early – and we noticed that a number of the higher-ranking (not sure if that’s the correct term, but these are the port-based people, not the ones who actually serve on the boat) were leaving.
Before they did, we talked with them and decided it would be best if we took off too. So we secured a seat in their van and went back to Alajuela, to the Trapp Family Country Inn, where we had spent our first night in Costa Rica.
They were actually a bit surprised to see us, since we were supposed to be on a cruise for a week, but they were very helpful nonetheless and helped get us situated again. Though they are just about 1km from the airport, and right in the middle of the city, they are really a nice oasis. Check them out if you’re in the area.
Ultimately we decided that rather than just staying put, we would rent a car and tour the country.
We traveled to the Arenal area, then to Monte Verde and Manuel Antonio, and eventually back to Alajuela, where we stayed at the Pura Vida Hotel, as the Trapp was booked, and we also managed to make a trip to the Plaza Ferias for a shopping trip and a wonderful dinner cooked by Chef Nhi that night.
Ultimately it was a great trip – but it was because we were flexible and that made it great, not because of Windjammer.
Both of the places we stayed in Alajuela were nice – the Trapp Country Inn had nicer facilities, while the Pura Vida Hotel had better, fresher food. The scenery of our trip was definitely amazing. While we were out, we were able to keep abreast of what was happening on board the boat.
Apparently the company kept making promises that they would be there with cash, and eventually they made it later in the week, and the few who were there had to stay on board, and would from time to time take a cab to a nearby beach. Our trip was better (no offense to them).
When we returned home, we promptly challenged the charge on our credit card, which we could do since we had only just purchased it, and had no problems whatsoever with the process – this due to the credit company, again with no help from Windjammer.
I feel really bad for people who had paid for their trip a year or more in advance, because they were stuck with it. After a while, we received vouchers in the mail for a free trip to replace the one we missed out on, as well as another one in return for the discomfort we experienced. But I think that it’s safe to say we won’t be going Windjammer anytime soon.