Star Clippers has started construction on a fourth tall ship, similar to Royal Clipper, which launched in 2000. // © 2015 Star Clippers
Feature image (above): Windstar Cruises’ christening ceremony of the 212-passenger Star Legend // © 2015 Windstar Cruises
Star Clippers and Windstar Cruises — the industry’s dominant sailing cruise lines — are introducing new tonnage soon. Star Clippers’ Swedish owner and president, Mikael Krafft, is focused on bringing back the legendary tall ships of Europe. At the same time, Windstar Cruises is shifting gears, by adding three new power yachts to its fleet.
In 2000, Krafft of Star Clippers launched Royal Clipper, a modern version of the five-masted Preussen of 1902 (the largest, fastest sailing ship the world had seen). Krafft revealed that his line has started construction on a fourth tall ship. The unnamed ship will resurrect the France II, which was commissioned in 1911 as the largest square rigger built. The France II measured 8,770 tons, with more than 6,350 square meters of sails.
“This time, we intend to build a ship inspired by France II, an ambition I have had for a long time,” Krafft said. “The ship’s rig will be identical to France II, and dimensions will be very similar, although we have added various features that will make this the most magnificent passenger sailing ship afloat.”
Krafft’s biggest and most ambitious project yet will carry 300 passengers and 140 crew members. It will have three pools — one with a transparent floor that sends sunlight through the ship’s atrium into the dining room. There will be a watersports platform in the stern for use when the ship is at anchor. As for accommodations, it will offer 34 suites with balconies and four luxury owner’s suites.
The restaurant, located in the natural light-filled atrium, will accommodate all passengers for open-seating dining. Signature Star Clippers features are planned, including a cozy library, the bowsprit net and the Tropical Bar, where evening entertainment takes place. While the ship will have ecologically sound, high-tech engines, it will use its sails wherever possible. Scheduled for delivery during the second half of 2017, the newbuild will initially sail in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Sales will open in 2016.
Meanwhile, Windstar Cruises has balanced its three-vessel sailing fleet with three new power yachts. The 212-passenger Star Legend — named by Gloria Bohan, president and CEO of Omega World Travel and Cruise.com — joins sisterships Star Breeze (2015) and Star Pride (2014). The company has now gone from three to six intimate vessels, with capacity up to 1,242 berths.
With the added capacity, Windstar can offer cruises in Tahiti year-round and has added sailings in Iceland and Northern Europe. The line has introduced eight new itineraries in the Caribbean and additional cruises in Panama and Costa Rica.
Star Legend received an $8.5 million upgrade for its staterooms, suites and its public rooms, and its accommodations are more spacious than those in the sailing fleet. Standard staterooms offer 277 square feet of space, including marble bathrooms with tubs. Thirty-six cabins offer French balconies.
A watersports platform allows the company to offer guests complimentary kayaking, waterskiing and windsurfing. Other amenities include a casino with slot machines and tables, a very pleasing spa and an assortment of dining options. The signature AmphorA restaurant draws raves for its seafood dishes, and Candles Grill (the evening incarnation of the Veranda restaurant) offers a feast of seafood and vegetable skewers as well as a variety of steaks.
Since its acquisition by Denver-based Xanterra Parks & Resorts in 2011, Windstar has been on a roll, not only in terms of capacity growth, but by pumping millions of dollars into refurbishing its sailing ships, upgrading cuisine and partnering with Saveur magazine to offer guests culinary recommendations in Windstar’s ports. Cruise-tours, including a four-day Myanmar experience, have also been added, along with complimentary private events.