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Windstar: Best Small Line…Big Growth

When you increase something, anything, by 50 per cent it’s a big deal. For Windstar Cruises, the month that starts tomorrow is a big deal.

Next Friday, Windstar officially adds a ship to its fleet of four when the Star Breeze is christened in Nice, France. This will come two days after Windstar takes possession of its sixth ship, the Star Legend, and its official addition to the fleet will come May 25 in Rome.

What today is a four-ship fleet will become a six-ship fleet. Hence, 50 per cent.

Windstar’s an interesting cruise line. It has been around, in one form or another, for 30 years. It has been bought by Holland America, Carnival Corporation, Ambassadors International and — most recently — by Xanterra, a subsidiary of the powerful Anschutz Corporation.

None of its ships carries more than 300 or so passengers. In the eyes of Conde Nast Traveler readers, this is the “World’s Best Small Ship Cruise Line” and, clearly, it is growing. The last three ships were purchased from another luxury line after they sailed as Bar DaySeabourn’s Pride, Legend and Spirit. The Star Pride arrived a year ago and the two making their Windstar debuts this month have undergone $8.5 million in upgrades.

Each.

Based on feedback from Star Pride passengers over the last year, Windstar doubled its investment in refurbishing the Pride’s two sisters.

The Breeze also underwent a name change. It was the Spirit at Seabourn, but there’s already a Wind Spirit in this fleet.

Six ships is a 100 per cent expansion in the last year. With the ability to accommodate 636 more passengers on the three ship additions (212 each), the overall capacity grows dramatically, to 1,242. Windstar can now take twice as many people on exotic, small-port excursions on ships that are in reality known as yachts.

The demand must be there, and this oft-orphaned cruise line is doing its best to meet it.

Today at portsandbows.com: Scenic Jasper on the Danube

Norwegian Sun
4 nights
September 28, 2015
Vancouver, Victoria, San Diego
Inside: $219
Cost per day: $54
www.ncl.com

More ships, voyages for Windstar

Windstar, the yacht-style cruise line that has grown from bankruptcy four years ago to a fleet of six ships by summer, has unveiled its collection of voyages for 2016…There are 11 new ones and 30 new ports that Windstar ships will visit, all of it made possible by the addition of the Star Breeze and Star Legend this spring, following appropriate Star Priderefurbishment…Until they go into drydock, the ships will continue sailing as the Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend…Then they’ll join another former Seabourn ship, now Windstar’s Star Pride (above), which has been flying under the new cruise flag for almost a year…The most intriguing of the new itineraries is a circumnavigation of Iceland on the Star Legend, from Reykjavik to Reykjavik in seven days at the beginning of July (least amount of ice?)…The fare is currently listed at $3,399 per person.

Richard BransonWhen our colleague Phil Reimer was writing about Richard Branson and his Virgin Cruises of the future last week, another layer of the story was unfolding…Colin Veitch, the former Norwegian executive whom Branson recruited to be a founding partner, is suing the magnetic entrepreneur because he claims he could’ve made $315 million before Branson dumped him…The suit is based on Veitch’s contention that it was his financing plan Branson used to start the new venture, which will apparently start with a pair of 4,200-passenger ships designed to attract young travelers…The question about the concept is this: Are there enough “young travelers” with enough vacation time to keep two big ships full year-round.

The folks who live and work around the cruise ship terminal in Fort Lauderdale have been used to seeing the twin towers of cruising, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, coming and going on alternating weeks…Oasis is moving to Port Canaveral next year, following the cruise line’s investment in a new terminal that opened in December…It will be replaced in Fort Lauderdale by Harmony of the Seas, the third Oasis - LabadeeOasis Class ship that will arrive next fall, so maybe the people who live and work around the Port Everglades terminal won’t even notice that Oasis is gone — unless they read the bold type on the side of the ship.

On the theory that there’s strength in numbers, seven Indian Ocean islands are sending representatives to wherever cruise executives gather to generate business for their ports…The seven include the Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Maldives and three most of us have never heard of, let alone visited…This month, they were at a tourism trade fair in Germany and managed to convince Costa Cruises to consider having more of a presence in the islands, which its ships visit, and to give residents a chance to board ships for round-the-islands cruises…The islanders are offering pre- and post-cruise shore excursions that include an African safari…Geography is perhaps the biggest problem — the islands are in the same hemisphere as Somalia…Can you say “pirates?”

Today at portsandbows.com: Royal Caribbean's next biggest ship coming

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
4 nights
August 24, 2015
Miami (return): Nassau, Coco Cay, Key West
Inside: $219
Cost per day: $54
www.royalcaribbean.com

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