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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

High-end Cruising, High-end Success

When the principal shareholder has a reported net worth of $6 billion, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise when one of his offspring — like Windstar Cruises — shows an anticipated increase in sales of 60 per cent increase during the first year of his ownership.

In such frugal economic times, somebody's doing something right and Philip Anschutz, arguably the world's least-known billionaire, has such a history.

Last week, this three-ship high-end ($$$$) cruise line reported sales for 2013 are 60 per cent ahead of 2012. This comes just before completion of the company's $18 million renovation of its ships. If Windstar was in need an upgrade, that wasn't lost on the passengers who are filling the small ships at a time when the cruise industry shows signs of struggling.

This is a cruise line that's 28 years old. As recently as two years ago, it was owned by a company in bankruptcy, that after Windstar was sold by Carnival four years earlier for an estimated $100 million. Xanterra Parks and Resorts (Philip Anschutz) picked it up for as a relative bargain: $39 million.

The message in all of this is: If you're interested in sailing on one of these large "yachts" that make their way into small ports, don't wait for a deal.

Now that they're looking much better, the Wind Star, Wind Surf and Wind Spirit are hot.

Holland America Volendam
14 nights
January 7, 2013
Singapore, Ko Samui, Bangkok, Sihanoukville, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hanoi, Hong Kong
Inside: $870
Cost per day: $62

Cruise Lines to Mirror Airlines?

Some call it a creative way to improve revenue for cruise lines. Some call it bean counters at work. Some call it a sign of the times.

It's the dreaded extra charge.

The question now is this: Do cruise lines use airlines as the model?

Anybody remember flying when you could check pretty much all the luggage you had to take on a flight, at no extra charge…when you ate full-course meals, at no extra charge (Is this revenge for complaining about "airline food" the way we complain about "hospital food"?)…when drinks of all kinds were available, at no extra charge…and when the price of your airline ticket was all-inclusive with minimum or no tax?

Airlines now charge for all that, and more. Are cruise lines moving in the same direction?

Today we pay for checked luggage on most flights on most airlines. There are no charges for taking luggage on cruise ships…is that coming?

Today airlines charge for food. Is the parallel that cruise lines charge for "specialty" restaurants, in increasing numbers, and on occasion for room service?

There are no drinks of any kind on some airlines without paying. While cruise lines got the jump on that one with booze and soda, will bottled water, juice and coffee be next?

Airlines charge more if you want priority seating. Cruise lines are starting to charge for priority boarding.

Do you want that bulkhead seat on the plane, or the more spacious emergency exit aisle? Ante up. Will cruise lines structure the price of staterooms according to location, if they don't already?

Many airlines charge extra for headphones to enable you to be entertained by the in-house TVs. Is it thinkable that cruise lines would levy a cover charge for on-board shows?

It is wrong, by the way, to call anything on either vessel "free" because you've already paid for being on the plane or ship. It is right to say that the corporate giants are looking for additional revenue to keep shareholders happy, and you can be sure it caught the attention of the cruise industry when airlines revealed the enormous profits that come from extra charges just for luggage.

So far, in cruising the extra charges are for non-essentials. Nobody has to go to the specialty restaurant, or drink wine or soda pop, or get on the ship quickly. So far, cruises are still close to being all-inclusive.

If that changes, it may lead to another question…something about killing the golden goose.

Windstar's Wind Star
7 nights
December 8, 2012
Colon, San Blas Islands, Panama Canal, Coiba Island, Golfito, Drake Bay, Puerto Caldera
Inside: $1,999
Cost per day: $285

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