Windstar Cruises fleet
Review of Windstar Cruises
One of the industry's top-luxury ship travel brands, Windstar Cruises (windstarcruises.com) is a passenger shipping company operating a fleet of smaller-sized vessels (sailing ships and superyachts). The largest yachts have max passenger capacity 310 (per vessel). The company offers exotic itineraries visiting 330+ destinations worldwide, including in the Caribbean, Central America, Asia, South Pacific (Australia New Zealand), Europe (Mediterranean, Baltic). The company is currently run by Andrew Todd (Xanterra Travel Collection's and Windstar's CEO).
In May 2014, Windstar added to its fleet of sailing yachts the superyacht Star Pride, which was followed by the sisterships Star Breeze and Star Legend (May 2015). The additional capacity resulted in new itineraries (including cruises through Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Iceland) and allowed Windstar to sail in Tahiti year-round. In 2014, Conde Nast awarded the brand "World's Best Small-Ship Cruise Line" (Readers Choice Awards).
The cruise line brand was established by Karl Gosta Andren in 1984 and initially named "Windstar Sail Cruises". Its first boat (Wind Star) was launched in 1986, followed by Wind Song (1987, sunk in 2003) and Wind Spirit (1988). Two additional sail ships were ordered from "Ateliers et Chantiers du Havre" (shipyard in Le havre France, 1905-1999) - Wind Saga and Wind Surf. The newbuilds were planned to be 5-masted (computer-controlled) schooners, twice bigger (by passenger capacity) and 1/3 longer (660 ft - compared to the older 440-ft fleetmates). The company's current President is Christopher Prelog (succeeding John Delaney), while Windstar Cruises and Xanterra Parks and Resorts' current CEO is Andrew Todd.
In 1987, HAL-Holland America Line purchased 50% of Windstar Sail Cruises, and in 1988 - the rest of the company. In 1989, HAL became a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation. The shipbuilding option for Wind Saga and Wind Surf was passed up. The French Government assisted in building these vessels for Club Med. They were launched as "Club Med I" and "Club Med II". Carnival Corp (via HAL) retained rights of the first refusal for purchase. In 1998, Windstar acquired only Club Med 1 (renamed to Wind Surf). Club Med 2 was purchased by the private French company Club Med SA (subsidiary of Fosun International Ltd / 1992-founded, Shanghai-headquartered Chinese investment company).
In March 2007, Windstar was sold to Ambassadors International for USD 100 million. On April 1, 2011, Ambassadors filed for bankruptcy. Windstar was planned to be sold to Whippoorwill Associates Inc (White Plains NY). However, through a 2-day bid in Bankruptcy court in Delaware, the company was acquired by Anschutz Corporation for USD 39 million. Currently, Windstar Cruises is a subsidiary of Xanterra Parks and Resorts (USA's largest national and state park concession management company).
On February 19, 2013, was announced that Windstar had completed the purchase of Seabourn's 3 mega-yachts (Star Breeze, Star Pride, Star Legend). Star Pride entered service on May 5, 2014, with inaugural voyage Barcelona to Rome. Windstar increased its fleet in May 2015 (from 4 to 6 yachts) with Star Legend and Star Breeze. Both yachts underwent 3-week USD 17 million drydock refurbs in Genoa Italy, before the christening ceremony in May. The 212-passenger Legend and Breeze received complete upgrades of all cabins, dining venues, public areas.
For 2018-Q1, the company reported 40% on bookings, with wave pricing up 30% (over 2017). In 2018 were introduced nearly 150 new cruise ports, as well as new itineraries and destinations. Most boats started to offer more overnight stays, which drove bookings from repeat customers. Tours and shipboard enrichment programs for the new regions, as well as onboard dining (local cuisine), were enhanced. 2018's B2B bookings (on back-to-back cruises) featured a new 14-day dining menu - fully integrated the "James Beard Foundation" signature menu items.
In July 2018, Windstar announced its partnership with Luggage Forward (USA-based luggage shipping company). The new service allows passengers to ship their luggage doorstep-to-stateroom (and back home again), thus truly traveling light. Luggage Forward provides premier door-to-door shipping services to 200 countries worldwide (including over 150 cruise ports). The company's own team of customs specialists handles the country-specific paperwork to ensure on-time deliveries. Travelers can track the shipment in real-time. Luggage Forward service can be booked online or via phone. Rates are fixed, without additional charges or fees applied. Luggage's arrival on time and safety is guaranteed. Luggage Forward offers money-back plus USD 500 on-time guarantee.
In early-February 2019, the company announced "Club 180" program designed to reward top-performing travel agencies. The amenities that they can offer to potential customers include free Wi-Fi, laundry, OBC, priority services, benefits for travel agents, plus Windstar's support on marketing-sales. The 3-level "Club 180" program was initially based on sales results in 2018, with membership renewed annually (adding new members in December).
As of 2020, Windstar cruise itineraries include 330 ports/islands globally, of which 50 were newly added for season 2020-2021. Among the most popular destinations are Australia New Zealand (and South Pacific Islands), Alaska, Western Caribbean, Europe.
In mid-November 2021 was announced that Windstar starts listing all-inclusive prices for the voyages of the 2020-2021 reconstructed Star Plus-Class ships. The new pricing (on the company's website and in all sales materials) is in USD (per person with double occupancy) and inclusive of the base cruise fare, unlimited beverages (wine by the glass, beers, cocktails, brand coffee/teas), Wi-Fi, crew gratuities.
(NEW) All-Inclusive Beverage Package
In May 2019, Windstar Cruises introduced the "All-In Package" - the company's first all-inclusive package that includes unlimited Wi-Fi and laundry service, hotel and drinks gratuities, plus the "Captain's Exclusive Beverage Package" (premium wines by the glass, beers, mini-bar beverages, cocktails). All-In Package's cost is USD 89 per person, per day. The all-inclusive package can be purchased online (pre-cruise) or on the ship (up through day 2 of the voyage).
"Captain's Exclusive Beverage Package" includes all beers (domestic and imported), wines/sparkling wines by the glass (33 selections), liqueurs, cordials, aperitifs, cocktails, all cabin mini-bar items. For the cocktails, passengers may choose from 40+ liquor brands (daily rotating, subject to availability).
WINDSTAR's Star Ships refurbishments 2020 drydock reconstructions
On November 15, 2018, Windstar Cruises announced the company's "Star Plus Initiative" - drydock refit and refurbishment program budgeted USD 250 million. The project was partially financed through Export Credit facility guaranteed by SACE Italy (financial and insurance products and services). The "Star Plus" drydocking project includes enlarging (stretching) and engine upgrades for the fleet's three Star-Class boats (in brackets - completion dates) - Star Breeze (February 20, 2020), Star Legend (July 2, 2020) and Star Pride (November 20, 2020).
Windstar's "Star Plus" project increased the fleet's capacity by 24%. Following its completion in 2021, the project resulted in bigger capacity (254 to 320 passengers, 140 to 190 crew), increased GT tonnage/volume (9975 to 12995 tons), increased length (134 to 159 m), more staterooms (106 to 156), adding new venues and public spaces, machinery upgrades (new Wartsila marine diesel engines). The project was scheduled for the period October 2019 through November 2020, at Fincantieri's shipyards in Palermo (Sicily Island, Italy) and Trieste (Italy).
The ships' drydock lengthening included cutting each vessel in two and installing a new (prefabricated) midship section with length 25 m (83 ft). The vessel's LOA length increased from 134 m (439 ft) to 159 m (522). The midship section also has an additional elevator. These sections were built (pre-fabricated and assembled) in Trieste, then barged to Palermo to be inserted into the vessels.
Following the drydocks, each yacht now has 2 new dining venues (Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso, Star Grill by Steven Raichlen), new / expanded retail shopping space (Signature Shop), enlarged Gym (Fitness Center with Motion Studio for classes), expanded wellness complex (WindSpa by Steiner), new bar lounge (deck 5), larger sundeck and swimming pool (deck 7), new tender loading area (deck 3 midship), two new tender boats (90-seat each), new whirlpool and enlarged swimming pool (on deck 8), expanded and upgraded staff-crew areas and crew cabins. The two new dining venues are a specialty restaurant (Cuadro 44, aft-portside on deck 6, the former Casino area) and a casual outdoor BBQ restaurant (Star Grill, adjacent to Star Bar on deck 8).
The ship's powerplant was upgraded from the original 4x Bergen diesel engines (model B33:45, combined power output 7,3 MW) to the new 4x Wartsila engines (model Wartsila 46F, combined output 5 MW) running on the cleaner ULSD (ultra-low sulfur diesel) fuel.
Each liner received 50 new cabins (to a total of 156), which (based on the total investment) resulted in shipbuilding cost per berth USD 267,000. Among the new cabins are two Midship Owner Suites and two enlarged Forward Grand Owner Suites - all located on Deck 6. All existing staterooms were completely refurbished, including bathrooms, balconies, sliding doors, furniture, equipment. The new public spaces and staterooms were designed by the NYC-based "The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry".
In 2016, Windstar Cruises scheduled Star Pride yacht's drydock refurbishment at the cost of USD 4,5 million. In the period 2014-2016, the company invested over USD 21,5 million in drydock refits and refurbishments of the newest yachts Pride, Breeze, and Legend.
All Windstar ships serve itineraries that mix exotic and marquee ports, top-notch cuisine and a variety of dining venues, superb service, and intimate small ship cruising. All ships of the line feature the luxury-minded 1.5-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio. Windstar cabins include flatscreen televisions, Bose SoundDock, L'Occitane amenities, fresh fruit, flowers, and indulgent bedding.
Each of the ships has a sports marina. In sports in which Windstar vessels are anchored, travelers can engage in water sports like swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, wind sailing, water skiing, and paddle-boating.
One of the greatest changes for Windstar Cruises, across its fleet, is the dining upgrade. Cuisine highlights the local fare of regions visited, including the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Tahiti, Asia, and the Mediterranean. The food is always the highest quality, with extra attention paid to passengers with special dietary needs. Ships' main restaurant, open-seating AmphorA, serves Continental-focused cuisine. Candles Grill provides a steakhouse-style menu. Stella Bistro, which is available only onboard Wind Surf, is a French-inspired, reservation-only venue. For breakfast and lunch, the intimate Veranda buffet restaurant combines food stations with made-to-order grilled items. It features both indoor and outdoor seating.
The most significant difference between Windstar's trio of sailing ships and the series of yachts is their stateroom size. On Windstar's Wind Spirit, Wind Surf and Wind Star, standard cabins measure just 188 sq.feet and have no verandas. Views are provided from porthole-style windows. Wind Surf offers 360-sq. foot suites which essentially are two standard cabins put together.
Star Pride and her siblings feature more spacious cabins, each measuring 277 sq.feet, with nice marble bathrooms including bathtubs. 36 of the staterooms have French balconies (large picture windows that open).
Windstar's "small ship" vacations create an intimate cruising experience, but the company's a la carte pricing strategy (unlike most luxury cruise lines) means passengers have to pay extra for airfare, shore excursions, beverages, fitness classes. The designated dress code is "Casual elegance", and that idea overtakes the onboard vibe. Cruisers leave formalwear at home in favor of day and night country club casual sportswear. Few are the organized activities and none of the typical Vegas-style revues.
Windstar passengers tend to be well-educated, well-traveled and active adults of all ages, mainly from UK, USA Canada, Australia New Zealand. They enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of a smaller cruise ship, the unique itineraries provided by Windstar, and the chance to travel under sail.
For season 2018, James Beard Foundation (NYC-based US national non-profit culinary arts organization) launched "Culinary Collection" series on all eight Windstar cruise itineraries. Fleetwide, Windstar launched the James Beard culinary program with exclusive recipes and menus created by guest chefs (including Hugh Acheson, Renee Erickson, Andy Ricker, Mario Pagan, Keith Rhodes). As special guests, they were booked on 2018 themed voyages, also presenting (on a rotating basis) their original food recipes on the ships' menus throughout 2018. Along with guest chefs, Windstar's 2018 line-up also featured renowned sommeliers and mixologists on board.
- The first "James Beard cruise" was themed "Icons of Southeast Asia" (January 20, 2018/14-day Hong Kong to Bangkok on Star Legend). Chef Andy Ricker presented Thai cuisine specialties. Each night, he served a signature dish in the ship's AmphorA dining room restaurant. He also hosted a private cooking demonstration.
- The James Beard cruise ship menus are ticket price inclusive (at no additional charge). Each dinner menu onboard has signature recipes and beverages (including starter, entree, dessert) prepared by James Beard Foundation-recognized ship chef.
- James Beard Chef dishes are notated on the menu and are free of charge (no additional fee is charged for their ordering).
On February 21, 2018, was officially announced that Windstar's exclusive partnership with James Beard Foundation expands through 2021.
Shipboard cruise booking
In 2018, Windstar Cruises upgraded the company's shipboard cruise booking program. The new program now provides assistance with a dedicated Onboard Cruise Consultant. It was designed to help cruise passengers planning their future cruises on Windstar ships.
The program was inaugurated onboard Star Legend during the 14-day repositioning cruise from Laem Chabang (Thailand) to Hong Kong (China). In 2018, Onboard Cruise Consultants also received the fleet-mates Star Breeze, Star Pride, and Wind Surf.
Onboard booking gives Windstar passengers various discounts, extra value and bonus perks, including reduced deposits, savings, Yacht Club Membership (loyalty program) benefits, special offers, and promotions.
When the initial booking is made by a travel agent, he/she remains "Agent of Record" for the new onboard booking, which means the agent receives full credit (full commission) for the onboard booking. Windstar then emails to the travel agency to confirm the booking with the invoice and itinerary information.
(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, Windstar canceled all cruises with pre-scheduled departures between March 14, 2020, through June 2021.
Operations resumed in 2021 on June 19 (Wind Star/Mediterranean-Greek Islands), July 10 (Star Breeze/Caribbean), July 15 (Wind Spirit/Tahiti), August 8 (Wind Surf/Mediterranean-Adriatic), September 4 (Star Legend/UK-British Isles). Star Pride ship restarts in 2022 (on April 1/Mediterranean from Lisbon). Star Pride's Caribbean 2021 program (roundtrips from Puerto Rico) was canceled.
All affected bookings received 125% refunds in FCC (future cruise credit) with rebooking or cash refund (100%) without rebooking. The FCC was transferred to a new booking of any Windstar itinerary departing through December 31, 2021. Rebookings must be made up to 15 days prior departure.
Windstar also changed its cancellation policy (Travel Assurance Booking Policy) to allow cancellations up to 15 days prior departure and receive a full refund (100%) in FCC. The FCC can be used on all itineraries through December 31, 2021. The company's travel agent commission policy (Star Promise) was expanded to pay commissions on all FCCs. For travel agencies (Travel Advisors), on May 18th is reintroduced Windstar's popular travel agent promotion "Sell 3, Sail Free". If the agent sells 3 staterooms (fully deposited), the agent (or a customer) sails for free on a Windstar cruise departing by April 30, 2021, paying only taxes, fees, port charges and gratuities.
Itinerary of Windstar Cruises
Windstar's "Scenic Alaska" program features coastal cruising along Inside Passage, Misty Fjords (Alaska) and Tracy Arm or Endicott Arm fjords, port calls in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway (the maiden port for Windstar). The company also offers coastal journeys with land tours to Fairbanks and Denali NP.
Windstar’s 11-day (and longer) Alaskan itineraries allow in-depth exploration and scenic cruising. The new 7-day voyage is due to customer demand for shorter voyages without sea days. The 2021's "Signature Expeditions" program features Zodiac boat tours and haymaking in Icy Bay (fjord close to Prince William Sound). In Barry Arm, 3 glaciers flow from the Chugach Mountains into the fjord.
Windstar’s 2021 Alaskan shore excursions include the White Pass and Yukon narrow-gauge train - out of Skagway AK through mountains, waterfalls, historic sites, glaciers, or a Glacier Point wilderness safari with hiking through dense rainforest, paddling a canoe on a mountain lake or catamaran cruising along fjords.
All Windstar Alaska 2021 cruises are part of the schedule of the drydock reconstructed/stretched and completely refurbished 312-passenger Star Breeze. Prices for 2021 Alaskan voyages and cruisetours start at USD 3000 per person.
In late-May 2020, Windstar announced a new 2021 schedule for its 6 motorized sailing yachts, including the 3x "Star Class" vessels (passenger capacity 312 each) which in 2020-2021 emerge from major drydock refits/stretchings in Italy.
Star Breeze starts cruises on October 27, 2020. Its new schedule includes 4 trips in the Mediterranean before heading to the Caribbean to sail among the islands from late December through March 2021. Weeklong voyages on 2 itineraries sail roundtrip from San Juan Puerto Rico for convenient USA flight arrangements. In late-April 2021, Star Breeze sails a couple of new Central American voyages departing from Miami Florida (a first for the cruise company) before beginning to make her way north along the coast sailing new itineraries in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama, and along the West Coast to Vancouver BC Canada where she begins a summer of cruising in Southeast Alaska. In September 2021, Star Breeze sails for Asia and on to her first season in Australia & New Zealand in December.
Star Legend emerges from drydock in March 2021 and cruises in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Central America. Star Pride is planned to leave the shipyard in June 2021 and commence cruises in July. Itineraries are in Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Canada. On October 23, 2021, Star Pride departs NYC New York for San Juan-homeported Caribbean itineraries.
Wind Spirit (Windstar's first "post-Coronavirus" yacht) is planned to resume operations on September 3, 2020. Wind Spirit sails 7-10-11-day voyages in Tahiti year-round, with convenient 8-hour non-stop flights from Los Angeles CA. Windstar offers an all-inclusive "flight+cruise+hotel" package with its French Polynesia itineraries.
Wind Surf resumes Caribbean cruises on November 29, 2020, where is deployed through April 2021, then is planned a Transatlantic repositioning crossing to Europe (Mediterranean deployment). Wind Star starts on January 23, 2021, in Panama and Costa Rica, then relocates to Europe for Greek Islands and Mediterranean voyages.
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