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Sue Evans

Age: 55

Occupation:N/A

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Windjammer Barefoot

Ship: Amazing Grace

Sailing Date: January 28, 2005

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

Several passengers aboard this Amazing Grace cruise wrote letters of complaint to Windjammer in mid-February 2005. As of April 8, 2005, we have received NO RESPONSE, speaking volumes about Windjammer. Here is the letter we submitted both via email and in writing to two difference addresses. We tried to go overboard in being objective with both positive and negative observations. Most other letters were far more bitter with tales of leaking and noisy cabins, horrible illness with no aid from the ship, unsanitary conditions, and being appalled at the trash thrown overboard on the beautiful Caribbean waters.

Dear Sirs:

We were aboard your cruise on The Amazing Grace departing Northbound from Port of Spain on January 28, 2005. We were in Cabin 8 and part of a group of approximately forty people from the Pacific Northwest, many of whom, including us, are long-time boaters and used to the challenges of the sea and boats. We know the rules, dangers and joys of the sea. As Windjammer prides itself on word-of-mouth advertising, we are writing to synopsize our experience aboard The Amazing Grace.

The Good things:
The basic cruise concept, the design of the ship, and the destinations between Trinidad and the British Virgin Islands were wonderful. It was a delight to meet up with and supply your tall ships. The ports of call in the Southern portion of the cruise were well-chosen and gave a good sampling of the Caribbean.

The food was better than we expected, and we were constantly remarking on its quality given the galley constraints. The first couple of days, dinners were extremely slow and food ran out quickly at lunch and during snacks and swizzles, but the hardworking galley crew adjusted to the now much larger passenger load.

Sandra, the activities director, excelled, especially when conditions forced her to change plans. She really worked at offering varied and fun activities in sometimes difficult conditions.
The stewards, with the exception of Linda, were all great and hardworking.

We admired the First Mate who seemed to be everywhere running the ship and seeing that things got done.

The Problem beyond Windjammer’s control:
The weather was unusually windy and from the NW posing difficulties beyond most Caribbean cruises.

The Problem partially beyond Windjammer’s control:
Illness. At one time or another, it seemed that more than half of the passengers and the crew were sick with a respiratory illness. While we do not blame Windjammer for the contagious germs, we do blame Windjammer for not having or being able to dispense some basic medications designed to treat the symptoms, if not the cause. If for no other reason than the ship’s apparent lack of basic medical services by a qualified practitioner of some sort, we would not recommend this cruise to anyone. A cleaning crew with a good and constant disinfection system on hand rails, etc. might have helped keep germs at bay, but it did not exist. There was no attempt whatsoever to sanitize the glasses in the bar. The bar is designed with three sinks to wash, sanitize, rinse, but the middle sanitization sink was never used.

The many Problems within Windjammer’s control:
Constant mechanical failures.
No hot water for several days while many people were ill and craving a hot shower. Captain Jorge at first justified no hot water because the engine wasn’t running enough (which we knew was not the case) but later admitted a problem had been fixed when hot water returned.

Repeated generator failures causing all sorts of problems:
Sporadic air conditioning
Dramatically reduced “speed made good” due to the shutting down of the main engines while switching generators (or who knows what else) and running at a low rpm. We ended up missing the re-supply port of Puerto Plata (from that point on we ate limited canned rather than fresh fruit) and spending three full days at sea rather than the one sea day advertised in The Amazing Grace brochure. Times at both beach stops in the Bahamas were shortened. Passengers who brought portable GPS’s aboard reported speeds of 8-9 knots (when engines were supposedly working well) as opposed to the 14 knots touted in The Amazing Grace brochure. At the end of the cruise Jorge acknowledged a speed for the cruise of 8.4 +/- kts. Water maker problems resulting in pleas from the Captain to restrict water usage and the cabin stewards not supplying clean towels, etc.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing was that the generator repairs took several attempts to accomplish requiring a shutdown of the main engines on several occasions and multiple days.

Two shutdowns of the entire sanitation system, one for several hours, causing all sorts of unpleasantness and dismayed passengers. The sewage repair required two attempts to get the welding right and stem the flow.

Failure of the ice-making machine with no back-up. We had no ice for the last several days. Some bagged ice was purchased at Great Inagua but not enough to last beyond one evening.

Because of the windy conditions and the ship being set up to load the launches only from the port side, we were constantly loading and unloading the tenders in rough seas on the windward side of the ship. It was treacherous business. This was compounded when the handhold in the tender came loose on Day Three and was not repaired. At least one passenger took a terrible fall. The boarding ladder progressively fell apart with no attempt to put it back together. We breathed a huge sigh of relief the last time we boarded the ship at Conception Island.

The Amazing Grace is a classic and well-built ship but needs to be in good mechanical order, especially when the safety and very lives of so many people are at stake. It was our understanding at the end of our cruise that she would travel to West Palm to load cargo and immediately return to load passengers in Freeport for the trip Southbound. According to crew members this is not atypical. It is unconscionable for Windjammer to start another cruise and risk their passengers’ comfort and safety knowing all the problems without doing extensive repairs.

Other health and safety issues:
The initial “muster station” life jacket drill was a disorganized joke. Everyone was milling about and many could not hear a thing.

Despite the rough weather and the tenders always being heavily loaded, we were never offered life jackets while in them. Once it was so rough that Sue on her own opened the middle seat and retrieved two for her friend and her to wear but the crew did not offer them to anyone else.

The crew was seen throwing food and full PLASTIC TRASH BAGS off the boat. Some of our fellow passengers were extremely appalled by this and complained to Captain Jorge. We are certain you will hear more on this issue from others.

Our cabin steward was Linda. She never cleaned our cabin in the two weeks we were on board (beyond the making of beds and emptying of trash). Our carpet was filthy. We finally started cleaning the sink ourselves with hand soap and our washcloths. We had towels freshened only once, and then Dave had to track down another steward to get clean ones. This evidently was not true in many of the cabins, especially those who had the male stewards. Towels in their cabins were freshened often. Reports were that Mark would “scrub with a toothbrush.” The Chief Steward should make routine inspections for quality control.

And finally, the Captain:
Why did Windjammer hire such a blatantly anti-American captain for a cruise ship routinely filled with American passengers? That’s rather like biting the hand that feeds you. We spoke with a fellow passenger who heard Captain Jorge tell a group of Australian passengers that “99point9% of Americans are stupid.” Her report rang true because he would use the phrase “99point9%” (of whatever) on occasion. Many of his “story time” jokes were anti-American. One joke’s punch line was that the U. S. President was a combination “cowboy hat and horse’s ass.” One lunch he was at our table and complained to us personally of the arrogance of U. S. officials, especially at West Palm Beach. At an earlier dinner he complained to us of historically bad and inconsistent U. S. foreign policy. Captain Jorge certainly is free to have whatever opinions of the United States or Americans he wants but he should keep it to himself around Americans when those same “stupid Americans” are putting food on his table.

At first Captain Jorge’s showmanship at “story time” was entertaining, but in the final week during all the mechanical problems and missed or shortened ports of call, we yearned for a captain who would run the ship and just shoot straight with us and not gloss over the problems by blaming everything on the age of the ship.

We frequented the bar, and we were uneasy when Captain Jorge and/or his crew sat there drinking before facing a night at sea.

Are we glad we took the cruise? Now that we are safely home, we can look back on it as quite an adventure. Would we go again? No. Would we recommend to others? Absolutely not unless there is confirmation of substantial repairs and refitting AND proof of the availability of basic medical services.

Sue & David Evans

 

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