Windstar Cruises is one of my favorite cruise lines, offering what I call "casual luxury" on small ships, even intimate ones, and with two different and unique types of "yachts": motor and sail.
wind ster,in fact, it has almost always been 'other'. The motto is "180 degrees from ordinaryBut it's more than that. Windstar has been reborn a few times already and the brand's current iteration is definitely more of a transformation to"ThateraViejoesReally new and getting better!”
Most people don't really know much about Windstar, let alone its interesting "180 degrees of ordinary" history. So let's take a step back. Trust me: you will really appreciate the "New" after you understand the history of Windstar. To me, it appeals to the underdog or the ugly duckling who ultimately not only succeeds, but impresses.
In the early 1980s, Windstar emerged as a unique single-ship motorsailer cruise line, with the first four-master, 148-passenger ship, not so ironically named Wind Star, finally launched in 1986. Her sister ship, Wind Song, followed in 1987. ; later renamed Windgeest. During this period, Windstar had already begun plans to build the 342-passenger sailing yacht Wind Surf and a sister ship, Wind Saga.
For reasons I (and many others) have never understood, Holland America bought 50% of Windstar in 1987 and eventually the remaining interest. However, the agreement with Holland America ended plans for the 342 twin host ships. And to further complicate the Windstar story...which isn't really complicated yet, Carnival Corp bought Holland America in 1989.
But the plans for the ships, with the help of the French government, did not stop. Ultimately, these two 342 guest sailing ships were built for Club Med Cruises and were named Club Med I and Club Med II. They were known as the largest passenger sailing ships. In the end, Holland America wanted to buy these two boats, but only had enough money for them: Club Med I...which was renamed as originally intended: Wind Surf.
The operational and marketing conflict between Holland America's classic fleet and Windstar's wayward and considerably smaller sailing fleet really made Windstar an ugly stepchild; I really didn't fit in and didn't get the care and attention I deserved.
As a result, Holland America sold Windstar to Ambassador International in 2007 while purchasing other cruise assets. Let's just say Ambassador's plans didn't work out and he ran into serious financial trouble almost immediately. Ultimately, Ambassador filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
In 2011, the Anschutz Corporation purchased Windstar Cruises at auction for $39,000,000 and eventually transferred Windstar Cruises to its impressiveXanterra Travel Collection. Xanterra owns and operates most of the US National Park hotels, the luxurious Broadmoor Hotel, some tour operators and more.This is when Windstar Cruises finally found a stable home and owners committed to it as a cruise line and had the knowledge and experience in the travel industry to make Windstar successful.
Xanterra understood the economics of operating a small cruise line with two 148-passenger sailboats and one 342-passenger sailboat with modest prices, limited mobility and therefore limited itineraries. That's why Xanterra realized that expansion was necessary.
So, in 2013, as Seabourn was executing on its plans to upgrade its fleet with the 450-guest Seabourn Odyssey and her sister ships Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest underway, and with the potential for two larger 600-guest ships, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, Windstar was able to purchase the beloved Seabourn Triplets: the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend of 212 guest suites.
Ah, but what are you going to do with it now? You see, Seabourn struggled to update and transform these aging vessels from around 1988-1990 and Windstar's management was in a similar situation at the time.But now Windstar had two very different products… and that created some additional challenges.
During the period that Seabourn was still operating the triplets, but after the deal was closed,Windstar invited me aboard the Wind Surf to see what the Windstar product was like and what they felt should be modified for the more upscale/upscale guests in the triplets after they were purchased.Windstar's Wind Surf - Caribe - Enero 2014
Over the years, I had the opportunity to be part of the "Seabourn family" when it was just a small cruise line in Miami...before ironically merging with Holland America shortly after HAL landed. One of the many things I learned is that the Triplets are unique and intimate vessels designed for an international multi-port luxury experience... one thing Windstar's shorter warm-weather sailboats weren't.
After some fumbling, Windstar installed new management and hired a new president:John Delaney, former senior vice president at Seabourn. John had been fully involved in such contemplative discussions during his tenure at Seabourn, so he was a perfect fit. That, along with a host of other former Seabourn executives ranging from hotels to maritime operations coming over from Seabourn (including now Windstar Chairman Chris Prelog), there were some interesting plans unfolding.
Go big or go home
After initially modest attempts to get the ships operational with a few adjustments, it became clear that so many systems on the ships were in disrepair and needed to be replaced.So it was with a deep sigh that Philip Anschutz made the decision to actually convert the ships instead of just refurbishing them.
The extensive "state of the art" refit of Star Power yachts
It was decided that if the triplets were to not only attract luxury customers, but also have a long economic viable life, drastic measures had to be taken: the ships would be split into two parts, with a center section added to provide the necessary space. to include additional berths (two additional restaurants, an expanded spa and a larger gym, as well as additional suites (so that the economics of operating the ships are more favourable).
It was also time to say goodbye to the old and environmentally unfriendly engines that were also slow and limited the routes Windstar could offer its new luxury and travel-conscious guests.As it was for old, patched plumbing (always a problem when it comes to Seabourn boats) and outdated and inefficient electrical systems.
With the new systems came all new bathrooms, better lighting and much more.You can read all the improvements here:Windstar Stellar Breeze: major expansions and mods in the works!
Significant improvements to Windstar service, culinary and wine experiences
But as always, it's not just about the hardware, it's about the software (people and services). Windstar has always been known for its friendship, personal,employBut now it was time to raise the level of service and the staff were not only ready, they were excited about it.
The totalityculinary the operation was recreated not only because the two new restaurants (Box 44 and Star Grill) departed significantly from "cruise cuisine", but both Amphora (the main restaurant) and Veranda (Candles Steakhouse at night) had an upgrade in their culinary offer needed. experience to fill these new places.
In fact, Windstar has built an important and forward-looking relationship with theJames Beard Foundation; it now regularly hosts James Beard Foundation cruises and guest chefs.
Most recently, with the addition of another former Seabourn chef, Windstar has decided to continually update not only its classic offerings, but also introduce a true vegan menu, more local cuisines, shore excursions and Shopping with the Chef (complete with a special menu). dinner focused on the purchases of the day). This has taken the Windstar dining experience to the true level of luxury. (The way I explain it is, "Some lines offer a 12-item board to impress. Windstar will probably provide a 5-item board, but they're all exceptionally well done.")
But what's a great kitchen without onewines? Windstar now has what I consider to be one of the best and most diverse international wine lists at sea. As with their ships, it's not the largest, most expensive, or focused on different vintages, but it's impressive and pairs well with the International, Steakhouse, Spanish, BBQ/Smokehouse, Vegetarian and Vegan cuisines always available on this luxury yachts. .
New and longer routes
Now that Star Pride, Star Legend and Star Breeze are equipped with new engines that can move the ships faster and more efficiently, Windstar has taken a closer look at their routes. With the advantage of being really small ships (big yachts, if you will), Windstar targeted not only some small ports, but also longer distances between ports. This opened up some really exotic locations and ports and called them in less time than the previous version of these ships could offer.
Windstar is "proud" (sorry, had to) of its robust international routes. I have traveled with Windstar from Hong Kong to Beijing, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, French Polynesia and more. In addition, Windstar offers high-quality land extensions before and after the cruise.
Pretty impressive for a small cruise line with small ships!
from the internet
One of the biggest problems for those on longer cruises (and those who are active on social media) is reliable internet access. The triplets were known to have terrible internet. But not anymore:star link it is installed on all Windstar ships except those in French Polynesia (as Starlink is not yet available).
While Starlink isn't available everywhere at the time of writing, especially in the most remote and exotic locations, the weather is a major improvement for Windstar.
With the major changes at Windstar, but also with extremely loyal guests who are used to the "old" Windstar, especially on their sailing yachts, Windstar had a problem:How do you offer an inclusive product for the most luxurious customer and at the same time have an à la carte product that many of your guests prefer?
The answer is that Windstar offers something unique:price on two levels. Only Cruise and "All Inclusive". All inclusive rates include an extensive list of premium spirits, wines and beers, unlimited Wi-Fi and gratuities. (There's also an unlimited laundry add-on at a modest price, something that's automatically included on subsequent trips.)
Windstar's sailing yachts remain a unique opportunity to relax, set sail and enjoy a casual experience, but now with a higher level of service, galley etc. which are quite consistent with all three motor yachts.
The flagship, Wind Surf, underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2019, adding 16 staterooms and suites with new neutral décor, adding a state-of-the-art wellness center and renovating all public areas.
It also offers Amphora, Veranda, Candles and Stella Bistro (with French-influenced cuisine) as dining options. Together with the Yacht Club and Compass Rose lounges, Wind Surf fits in well with triplets.
Windstar's two smaller sailing yachts, Wind Star and Wind Spirit, are even more casual with similar but limited amenities, and have also recently undergone extensive renovations.
The Wind Spirit is stationed in Tahiti all year round, but in February 2024 the Star Breeze will replace it.
The three sailboats, designed for sailing/cruising in warm climates, will continue to call at the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Central America.
Windstar's transformation from an unwanted ugly duckling to a world-class financially stable luxury cruise line offering what I call "casual luxury" is remarkable. Heit has gone from being a cruise line I would never have considered for my luxury clients to one of my favorites...and theirs too!
now that is“180 degrees of ordinary!”