Number of Cruises: 5 on Windjammer
Cruise Line: Windjammer Barefoot
Ship: Amazing Grace
Sailing Date: July 30th, 2005
Itinerary: Panama to Costa Rica
This was our first cruise aboard the Amazing Grace, but our fifth Windjammer cruise (previous cruises on the Mandalay and Legacy). We specifically chose this itinerary because we wanted to take advantage of the Junior Jammers program (our son is six). We did not book our flights through Windjammer because of previous nightmarish experiences with their reservations desk. We paid for transfers in Panama and Costa Rica and these went flawlessly except for a double-billing for the service that four months and ten-ish phone calls later has yet to be reimbursed by Windjammer (more on that later).
First, the positive…the itinerary was excellent. We saw lots of remote and beautiful places in Panama and Costa Rica. The beaches were great, the rain forest was great. We took a “canopy tour” in Costa Rica and really enjoyed it. The ship is very handsome and has an interesting and illustrious history. I can’t say enough good things about the Junior Jammers program. The two women (college girls) running the program were superb. The did not plant the kids in front of a TV and play videos (except for a couple movies over the six day period), rather they took them on hikes, snorkeling, played games, did art, etc. They (the Junior Jammer chaperones) were saints and my son had the time of his life.
Secondly, the not-so-positive… this was the first cruise with a new captain (his name eludes me) and while he seemed a very competent sailor (lots of experience as a commercial fisherman), he knew little to nothing about the areas we visited during the cruise; making story-time pretty uninformative. He also seemed very uncomfortable around people, but perhaps that too was a symptom of being new on the job. The air-conditioning was broken for more than half of the cruise duration making the cabins and dining area very uncomfortable. It’s particularly difficult to sleep in a small cabin with ineffective air-conditioning. The crew seemed far less happy or content than on any of the other Windjammer cruises we’ve been on. We heard while on board the ship that one of our fellow passengers had complained about sexual harassment from a crewmember on the Legacy and gotten him fired (she apparently liked to sleep with the crew and was well known, but this time turned on her bunkmate). Perhaps her presence, and obvious flirting at the bar with stone-faced crew members, cast a negative pall on the entire crew. Regardless, they seemed dour and service was not very good. As an example, when we arrived in our cabin there were no sheets on the lower bunk and only one towel. Sheets and towels were rarely changed, usually only if we asked. The food also did not show the usual variety, snack time had the same fare every night of the cruise. That said, the food was satisfactory overall.
Our biggest complaint is with Windjammer’s consistently incompetent business office. When we were settling our bill on the ship we were charged $250 for transfers in Panama and Costa Rica that we’d already paid. I explained this to the purser and he said “no problem, just call the office when you get home and they’ll refund your money if you’ve already paid.” Well, it’s four months since our return and we’ve yet to see a refund. I called first on August 10 and spoke with Veronica who said the matter would be transferred to Louise who would call me. Naturally, she didn’t (I’ve never received a return call from Windjammer on any topic). I called again and was told to allow two weeks. Two weeks passed, then four.
I called on September 13 Paula told us to allow six weeks. Six weeks passed and I called again. Guess what? There was no record of my calling or speaking to anybody; back to square one. They would have to refer this matter to Louise, who unfortunately was out on a ship and would be gone for a month. I complained and finally got a supervisor named Manny who explained they could not refund my money until Louise returned to investigate my claim. I explained I had the invoices from the ship and from our pre-departure payments that showed we paid twice. Manny asked me to fax those to him along with an explanation of what happened (which I did on October 5). I should point out that Windjammer never asked me for any invoices or information of any kind prior to this, leading me to believe they could see in their “system” they had double charged us. He said he would try to expedite our refund, but that it could take as long as six additional weeks.
It is November 24 now, seven weeks from the date I faxed invoices to Windjammer and nearly four months since I initially contacted Windjammer with our claim. It is difficult for me to describe just how bad Windjammer’s business operations are without going apoplectic. They are always polite, but totally vacuous. Every day is a brand-new-day with no recollection of any previous business interactions. They never, and I mean NEVER return calls despite promises to do so. All I can surmise is the owner has made Windjammer into a welfare program for family members who would otherwise be unemployable and uses the business as a way of allowing them to pretend they have careers. In sharp contrast to the infuriating incompetence of Windjammer’s business operations, the ships and crew are generally delightful.
If you can just make it to she ship and home again without getting robbed or marooned by the business office you’re likely to have a great time and want to go back again. It’s a shame the captains and crew can’t mutiny and cast the Burke family and business office employees on a deserted island with nothing but their phones and terminals to sustain them. You see, this is a cruel punishment indeed, for the owners and employees would likely languish for years on the deserted island because (as they have so aptly demonstrated) they would be incapable of arranging an itinerary for their own rescue, much less payment thereafter.