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The long-rumored sale of the three original Seabourn ships to Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the parent of Windstar Cruises, is official: a classic win/win deal. The Seabourn ships — Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend — will join the Windstar fleet over the next two years; meanwhile, Seabourn plans to build a fourth Odyssey-class ship and maintain its capacity with a uniform fleet.
The acquisition will double the size of Windstar’s three-vessel sailing fleet to a total of 1,230 berths and enable the brand to operate a wider range of itineraries under the name Global Windstar, assuming a leading position in small-ship cruising (vessels that carry 300 or fewer passengers).
“Windstar Cruises has experienced four straight years of revenue growth,” said Andy Todd, CEO of Xanterra. “This expansion is the perfect way to build on the momentum following our recent fleetwide renovation, providing us with the much-needed capacity to match the accelerating demand for our intimate style of yacht cruising.’
Seabourn Pride was built in 1988, and Seabourn Spirit followed in 1989. Each ship cost $50 million. The Seabourn Legend, which entered service in 1992 as Royal Viking Queen, and was built by Kloster Cruise for $87 million, moved into the Seabourn fleet in 1996 after operating as Queen Odyssey for the Kloster-owned Royal Cruise Line in 1995.
The delivery of the 208-passenger, all-suite ships will take place over the next two years in the Mediterranean. Seabourn Pride will be the first to transfer to Windstar in April 2014. Following a Windstar-branded renovation that will give the ship a new name and new decor, the ship will begin sailing under the Windstar flag a month later, in May 2014. Bookings will open in May this year. Windstar will take possession of the Seabourn Legend in April 2015 and the Seabourn Spirit in May 2015; both are scheduled to start operating for Windstar in May 2015 following their drydocks.
The additional ships will allow Windstar to add itinerary expansion beyond the 50 countries it currently visits. Windstar CEO Hans Birkholz said the faster power yachts will enable Windstar to sail into areas, including Singapore and Thailand and into South America where the ports are farther apart and higher speed is needed. The line also will be able to make the 2014 move into Tahiti without having to give up other favorite regions.
For those who have expressed worry that the current three romantic sailing vessels will be phased out, Birkholz stated, “Windstar is proud of its heritage in sailing and will continue to offer cruises on all three sailing yachts.”
He said service would be the same on the power yachts as on the sailing yachts, along with the commitment to hidden harbors and ports inaccessible by larger vessels.
Windstar’s shoreside operations will continue to run out of the company’s Seattle headquarters. Additional details, including itineraries, onboard experiences, and renovation details will be released in the coming months.
On Seabourn’s side, the line expects that there will be no disruption to currently published schedule or changes in the service standards during the transition. ‘Our three newest vessels, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest, have raised the bar for ultra-luxury cruising and we intend to add a fourth ship of similar design,’ president Rick Meadows said. Seabourn is already in negotiation for the newbuild and expects to place the order during the current fiscal year for delivery in 2015, bringing in the newbuild in time to more or less maintain the current overall fleet capacity.