Windstar Cruises last week launched the 212-passenger Star Pride, the first of three all-suite power yachts acquired from Seabourn.
Faster and without the tall masts of Windstar’s three sailing yachts, the power yachts allow Windstar to cruise to additional destinations around the world, including Arabia and the Black Sea.
With larger cabins they also command a premium price. Fares for the ships are already running 12% higher than the sailing yachts, said Windstar CEO Hans Birkholz.
After a quick retrofit, Pride is showing off a refreshed, nautical look – with standout features including a contemporary Yacht Club observation lounge with coffee bar. More updates will come in a future dry dock, officials said. Sister ships Star Legend and Star Breeze join the Windstar fleet next year.
Windstar found a clever way around one issue: how to continue the raising-of-the-sails embarkation ceremony that has been a passenger favorite on its sailing vessels. On the Pride's inaugural, uniformed crew members dramatically raised a flag emblazed with the line's new "W" logo.
Travel Market Report talked with top travel sellers who were aboard the Pride's inaugural cruise from Barcelona to Rome.
How does the Star Pride fits into the Windstar fleet?
“The first impression when we heard Windstar is going to be purchasing these new power yachts was how are they going to recreate the sailing experience, and I think we had a misnomer as far as what Windstar's true essence was. It's not the sailing experience but the yachting experience. I think they’ve been able to capture that with this size of ship.” – Ryan Hansen, vice president & COO, Bon Voyage Travel, Tucson, a Signature agency
“I think it's a good fit for Windstar. It's the right size ship for them. It kind of bridges the gap between their very smaller yachts and the larger Wind Surf.” – Susan Gannon, senior director, marketing and development, Ensemble Travel Group
“I am very impressed. I think they've done a great job of getting that consistency between the sailing vessels and the suite vessels. Quite honestly, that's one of the things we were anxious to see – how the ship makes that transition.” – Bill Smith, vice president of cruise and specialty products, Virtuoso
What impresses you most about Windstar’s updates to Star Pride?
“What was a classic ship remains classic. It remains all of what it was and more; the size of the yacht, the ambience. I am myself a more casual and informal person, so for me it's a great fit. – Van Anderson, co-president, Avoya Travel
“As a sailor myself I like the nautical feel, the colors, the flow, the look of the ship. It's very comfortable. It isn't overdone. It's very much the tradition and style they were looking to achieve.” – Bill Smith
What message will you take away about how to sell the power yachts?
“You can definitely sell it to your Windstar clientele. I think you can easily cross-sell with the sailing ships. You are really selling the feel of the style of cruising. It's that intimate, yacht-like experience with very personalized service.” – Susan Gannon
Is there anything about Star Pride that made you say ‘wow’?
“The sail-away from Barcelona. With the flag raising they were really able to capture that essence of floating off into the distance versus, 'Power it up, let's go, pull that lawn mower cord.'” – Ryan Hansen
What’s the demographic for the Windstar motor yachts?
“Someone who likes a yacht-like ambience. They are going to enjoy it even if it doesn't have the sails. This style also lends itself to people who may otherwise do touring, first-time cruisers. You are getting into some really interesting ports and staying late at night. They have broadened the audience for sure.” – Susan Gannon
“I think they'll retain what they have with guests who enjoy the open bridge, deck shoes and shorts and polo shirts, but even more. I think some who may have avoided the sailing ship will now take a look at what Windstar has.” – Van Anderson
“Age-wise, I think it's a 50-and-up crowd. It's definitely not your river cruise that's going to skew a lot higher than that. It's a really active crowd.” – Ryan Hansen
The Pride had a loyal following under Seabourn. Will you target those passengers?
“You don't want them coming onboard and expecting what they got on Seabourn. It’s a different experience.” – Chris Lackstrom, director, supplier and market development, Ensemble Travel Group Canada
What areas do you feel still need work?
“The [large] size of the staterooms is a nice amenity to have obviously. But the public spaces seem like they may be a little too expansive. I don't know if they are getting the full use of the space. I think they are going to learn a lot through the first sailings before they bring on the Breeze and Legend next year.” – Ryan Hansen
“This is the first of three ships, I think they will find ways to enhance and improve. I see nothing I'd change right off the bat. The Yacht Club is a home run.” – Van Anderson