Disappointed with cruise

My partner and I took a one-week cruise from Panama City to Los Sueños, Costa Rica, on Windjammer Barefoot Cruises’ Amazing Grace, July 30-Aug. 6, ’05. The price was $982 per person, double occupancy.

Since my partner and I have traveled previously on Windjammer cruises and had a delightful time, we recommended the company to my sister and her husband and planned a vacation together. Unfortunately, we had a horrible experience this time.

The crew was grumpy and constantly complaining about their pay, working conditions, long hours, etc.

Our view at the beach barbecue.

Even worse was the food. On the second noninhabited island we visited (I believe we were still in Panama — I never got a response to an e-mail I sent requesting the name the island, which wasn’t named on our itinerary), at our “beach BBQ” we were served hamburgers with raw meat. The mayonnaise was left out in the hot sun with no ice for over an hour before the burgers were “ready.” Several of us threw away our meals.

At that same beach party, the food tables, along with a garbage sack and waste bin, were set up up right in front of where ship passengers had placed their blankets and towels (see photo). Crew members also hung a boom box over our heads and cranked it up until distortion.

I felt only two meals were worth eating, and here I’d raved to my family about how wonderful the meals on our earlier cruise had been. When dinner is called at 7 p.m. and the food doesn’t arrive until 8:30, that’s a problem.

The water in the ship’s dining room was supposed to be filtered for drinking. In my opinion, it was anything but drinkable. The crew was getting bottled water, but we received no offer except to purchase bottled water. At each stop, we purchased water and brought it back to the ship for about a third of what Windjammer was charging.

The ship’s generator made so much noise, both my partner and I wore our ANR headsets (bought for noise aboard airplanes) at night to sleep. There was no air-conditioning, and after several days of requesting a repair we finally got some 82-degree air.

Other passengers below the dining room had water leaking in their cabin. For three days they had wet floors. Finally they were moved.

The shared bathrooms were a mess; cleaning was never done during our week’s cruise. The toilet was shifted and loose and always had saltwater on it. There was never any soap in the hanging dispensers. It was mentioned to staff several times that the handle was broken in the shower before it finally was fixed.

Activities were lacking. After dinner, there was not much to do. A movie in the TV room was standard at 9 p.m. and we tried several times to attend, but the room was filled to capacity, most likely due to the number of children (free with adults) on this cruise.

The tour itinerary, as described in Windjammer’s materials, didn’t reveal that, though we boarded the ship on Saturday, we would remain in port until Sunday evening. The entire day was wasted, in our opinion, as we had arrived several days early to tour Panama City in advance of our departure. This was not explained by Windjammer, and it was not how they had run earlier cruises in other locations.

Likewise, Windjammer had advertised a port, Sueños/Playa Herradura, Costa Rica, at the end of the journey. The literature described the location with, “Until recently this gem was unknown to almost all but a few hikers and nature lovers. Now it is home to one of Costa Rica’s largest and most luxurious resorts. You’ll fall in love with the black sand beaches, swaying palms and turquoise waters.”

That would indicate that we got to visit the beaches, palms, etc., but that was not the case unless we signed up for one of a couple of “excursions.” These additional day tours didn’t finish until afternoon, so those participants would be taking later buses. We had paid Windjammer up front for transportation from Sueños/Playa Herradura to San José (a several-hour bus ride), but when we asked if we couldn’t tour the area without taking an excursion and then board those same later buses, we were told that that was not an option. All the rest of us had to be off the ship by 8 a.m. only to board a bus back to San José.

My partner and I wrote to Windjammer, who did contact my partner at his address (in a different state) with a 50% discount for one ticket with numerous restrictions and conditions. I have never been contacted by Windjammer.


Coeur d’Alene, ID

    ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Windjammer Barefoot Cruises and received the following reply, dated Jan. 3, 2006.

Firstly, I want to thank you for the opportunity to respond to Ms. Nikiforuk’s complaint letter.

While we consider M/V Amazing Grace a classic vessel, we realize that we need to make changes to bring her up to par with the rest of the fleet. We acknowledge that there have been inadequacies in the standard of service offered aboard our M/V Amazing Grace and have already offered Ms. Nikiforuk and her traveling companion a 50% discount off of a future cruise. We made this offer October 11th.

M/V Amazing Grace has been removed from service and is presently moored at our shipyard in Trinidad. She will rejoin the fleet later this year after a complete refitting of both her mechanical and passenger facilities.

ROY P. BOWER, Advertising Manager, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, Box 190120, Miami Beach, FL 33119