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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

Windstar's Star Pride

There's an asterisk (*) beside this "new" ship because it's really an old ship being made new, which seems to be becoming a more economical way for cruise lines to expand their fleets. The Star Pride is the first of three ships from Seabourn Cruise Line that are moving to Windstar…in fact, the one is still sailing as the Seabourn Pride until April. Then it will undergo a "Windstarization" and emerge with a new name under a new flag, the third one to fly from its mast since it was, indeed, a new ship 25 years ago.

Launch date: May 5

Capacity: 212

Sister ships: None (yet…next year)

Maiden Voyage: Barcelona to Rome

Home Port: None

Ships in Windstar fleet: 4

Interesting: While it has no siblings for the time being, the Star Pride will welcome its two sister ships from Seabourn (the Legend and the Spirit) next year. All three will be all-suite ships that carry 212 passengers and together they will double the size of the Windstar fleet and raise its fleet-wide capacity to 1,230 berths. Besides accessing intimate ports — in the beginning in Europe — the Star Pride will feature more interaction with villagers, with local musicians entertaining on board and local market purchases to be served in the buffet for dinner. Each suite will have extras that include both a tub and a shower.

Norwegian Sun
7 nights
May 26, 2014
VancouverKetchikanJuneauSkagwayGlacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $75
www.ncl.com

 

Grand Prix a Windstar Winner

Last year, we wrote a blog about going on a Windstar cruise to the Grand Prix of Monaco, and what a cool experience that would be if you had even the slightest interest in Formula One cars.

We had no intention of re-visiting the subject this year.

Then a nice woman at Windstar sent us some information about this year's "cool experience." In 2012 (for the GP of May 2-13), Windstar's largest ship (they're called "yachts") — the Wind Surf — took 312 passengers on its Yachting The Riviera cruise. It started in Nice, included a weekend at the Grand Prix with preferred seating, and ended in Rome.

Fast forward a year…

For the GP of May 2014, the Wind Surf will offer the identical package…plus Windstar's newest yacht, the Star Pride, will carry another 212 passengers to the race on the Grand Prix of Monaco itinerary, one that includes all that the Wind Surf does but with grandstand seats for the weekend events, a post-race reception at the luxurious Hotel de Paris and a cruise host who is a former Formula One pit reporter (aka, he has stories to tell).

This will be Star Pride's coming-out party. The first of three vessels purchased by Windstar last year, it is due for delivery next May. No, it will be delivered next May. The other two ships, as yet unnamed, will arrive in 2015.

So having two ships and their passengers going to the next (and 72nd annual) GPOM represents a 60 per cent increase in capacity. Would you say Windstar's venture into the world of Grand Prix is successful?

Naturally, it's costly. Windstar is the industry leader in small-ship cruising and its cruises are priced accordingly. We couldn't locate prices for the Wind Surf on the website but we did find what it costs to go on the new Star Pride for the seven-day cruise from Rome (return) — $6,199. That's per-person.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with dreaming…and, even though it's 300 days before the finish line, you know that Windstar has a winner.

Norwegian Dawn
7 nights
October 25, 2013
Boston (return): King's Wharf
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

And The Ships' Names Will Be…

Windstar announced this week the name of its fourth ship, the first of three the luxury line purchased from Seabourn and scheduled to begin its new life one year from now. It currently sails as Seabourn Pride (right) and next year will become Star Pride (below).

Now this is just a wild guess…but when the Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Spirit join the Windstar fleet, in April and May of 2015, they will surely be known as the Star Legend and Star Spirit. The names will become official in the coming weeks, but the opportunity to be one of the Pride's 212 passengers comes first.

As in, two weeks from now.

Bookings start on May 14th and it's likely the "yacht's" cruises will fill up quickly. Philip Anschutz didn't quietly become one of the 50 richest men in North America by making risky moves, and the three-ship purchase from Seabourn will double the size of his Windstar fleet (When you drill down through the companies Anschutz owns, you'll find Windstar Cruises.). 

Can you say recession over?

“Star Pride and the additional two yachts will fit perfectly into Windstar’s intimate, yacht-style cruising by offering a small-ship luxury cruise with 300 passengers or less in a casually elegant style going to places bigger ships cannot go,” said Windstar's CEO, Hans Birkholz. “We are thrilled to be able to offer even more intriguing choices in Europe for the 2014 season.”

The three yachts currently sailing under Windstar's flag until next year are called Wind Star, Wind Surf and Wind Spirit. The Anschutz conglomerate purchased them for a reported $39 million at a bankruptcy sale two years ago and, since then, all three ships have been refurbished. Now they have three siblings and if anybody thought recessionary times were going to deplete the luxury cruise market, guess again.

Let's see now…is that tougher or easier than guessing the names of the new ships?


Carnival Glory
2 nights
November 1, 2013
Miami (return): Nassau
Inside:  $159
Cost per day: $79
www.carnival.com

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