After traveling many times on board of big vessels, we decided to try a small cruise line last June. We went to Croatia with Katarina Line and were delighted with the experience. You can read my post “Ten Reasons why you should cruise Croatia but not on a big ship”.
Regarding cruises, we already had made up our mind that “small means better”. So, let’s try it again, I asked my surprised husband last September. How about going to Bora Bora, Moorea, Papeete on board of Wind Spirit? Carrying one hundred guests it would not be as “intimate” as our Croatian cruise, where we were only 30 guests, but it could be away better than the +3000 guests on board of the large vessels.
As both trips occurred this year (2015), I decided to create a comparative chart, in order to help me decide on future trips:
During our one way cruise with Katarina Line we started in Split visiting Bol, Hvar, Vis, Korcula, Mljet, Slano and ended in Dubrovnik one week later.
Cruising with Windstar we started in Papeete and visited Moorea, Bora Bora, Taha, Raiatea, Huahine before returning to Pappete.
Itinerary Comparison: Both itineraries are superb but I vote for Croatia. Why Croatia? Because every day we were in a different town with it’s own history, architecture, atmosphere, local culinary etc.
French Polynesia is gorgeous but the islands and motus look all the same. Despite the over-the-water bungalows (that also look all the same), there are few differences between the islands. The pictures, although gorgeous, have always the same “subject”: shades of blue waters, coconuts, fishes, coral reefs and mountains covered by tropical forests.
As for Croatia… wow… I have been in the Diocletian Palace in Split, I have been to the Fortress in Korcula, I went to towns that look like if I was transported to the past (like well preserved Hvar). Last but not least, I walked on the walls of Dubrovnik, one of the prettiest towns in the world!
- The ship:
None of them is a “ship”. Both are yachts but “ship” is the name often used when we think about traveling on water…
Both are comfortable, both have a zodiac boat carrying guests to nearby beaches, both have comfortable lounge chaises where we could lay down and sunbath.
Windstar has a pool and a hot tub. In fact, before traveling I thought I would use them more than I did. I only got there twice. Most of the days we were away visiting the islands and at night we didn’t feel compelled to go to the pool after dinner.
Windstar also has a Casino on board, and this didn’t make difference for us, as we don’t gamble. They also have a (very expensive) shop on board.
- Embark / Disembark:
Embark and disembark was perfect in both companies. Katarina and Windstar have a perfect way to carry the embarkation and disembarkation process. Traveling in a small cruise line is “another world” regarding comfort, especially when I remember the nightmare of embarking /disembarking on a +3000 passengers cruise ship.
* On the big vessels, passengers’ belongings must go through x-ray. That’s how I had my camera broken by Celebrity Cruise Line when a crewmember let it drop to the floor from the x-ray belt. At that time (2014), they assured me on board that I would be reimbursed. The money never came. You may want to read about my experience here.
- The cabin:
Our cabin on Fantazija (Katarina Lines) was wonderful. Brand new, plasma TV, air conditioner, safe box and plenty of space to our clothes and suitcases. The mattress was very comfortable. The bathroom was enormous and very comfortable as well. The great deal is that we could leave our cabin door opened and could hang our wet swimming suits outside.
Our cabin on Wind Spirit (Windstar) was excellent and the bathroom was also excellent. There is a small fridge, plasma TV, complimentary chocolates and two hatches where we could see outside.
Comparison: Although the cabin on Wind Spirit is fancier, with Egyptian linens and L’occtitane toiletries, I prefer the cabin on Fantazija (Katarina Lines) as I could be outside by just opening the cabin door. It’s different to watch the sea from a hatch than from being “really” outside.
- The crew:
We couldn’t be happier than we are. Both companies have the best crew ever. Everyone was working with pleasure, everyone was friendly and polite. Both companies are superb regarding on board service.
Katarina carried a crew of eight for 38 guests.
Wind Spirit carries 100 crew members to serve 120 guests. It’s almost a “one to one” service and I must say we were totally spoiled by this great cruise line.
- The Food:
Both companies offer excellent meals on board. On this item our vote goes to Wind Spirit as the food is really exceptional and it will make any gourmet guest more than happy. I think it is impossible to have better “on board food” than we had with Wind Spirit.
Another great point for Wind Star is that they offer copious breakfast, lunch and dinner with juices. Katarina Line offers breakfast plus one meal, that can be lunch or dinner depending on what is scheduled for the day.
Drinks on board of both companies are paid as extra and both companies offer very honest prices for cocktails. Wind Star selection of drinks and wines is amazing!
We had a lot of fun with both companies. Windstar goes beyond the top with private parties only for their guests on private motu (very tiny island) where we were welcomed by crew members with delicious food, live shows, water sports (all free) and more and more and more.
On Katarina Line we had a funny party with recorded music with guests creating a huge “people’s train” dancing from one yacht to the next. It was very funny to meet a bunch of different people who were traveling on other yachts.
Both companies offer a Captain’s Dinner Party and both were excellent! Informal dress code for guests, with the classic Captain’s jokes and copious dinner after the speeches.
- Value of the Money:
Everything in French Polynesia is expensive (taxi, excursions, food, drinks) and everything in Croatia is very affordable. As an example, a delightful lunch in a Croatian restaurant, with delicious local wine cost less than USD 150. We spent three times more to have a similar meal in Papeete, and that is not the most expensive island. Do your math….
- Cruise Prices:
For one week cruising from Split to Dubrovnik, the brochure price for Katarina Line Luxury Yacht is € 2500.00 for two passengers. This is approximately USD 2650.00. It offers breakfast and one daily meal.
For one week cruising French Polynesia, the brochure price for Wind Spirit is USD 13 798 for two passengers but they usually offer promotions / discounts and it is possible to spend something around USD 5600.00 for two passengers. It offers breakfast, lunch, juices, afternoon appetizers by the pool, delicious dinner (no jeans or shorts allowed), free use of water sports equipment, two private parties on private islands with live music and show.
- Conclusion: Next travel?
That’s a tough decision to make…