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“Windstar is expanding the ship and expanding our opportunities,” said Van Anderson, co-founder of Avoya Travel, at the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Italy, as he watched the dramatic process of stretching Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze. “I think it’s a great story to help sell more product, because they’re not just making it longer; they’re making it better.”
I have visited four different shipyards to view new cruise ships in various stages of construction, but I find nothing quite as spectacular as seeing an existing vessel cut in two to receive a new midsection. I particularly enjoyed sailing in Alaska on Windstar’s Star Legend, a sistership to Breeze; it gave me the chance to fully compare the non-stretched Legend to the expanded Breeze.
In fact, while I was onboard Legend, Windstar president John Delaney gave an extensive explanation of the minutiae of the line’s Star Plus Initiative.
While at the Palermo shipyard, he told me that the company began talking about the project at the 2017 Seatrade conference.
“Being here today with Breeze in dry dock — just about ready to finish the cut and with the new block done — it’s just an unbelievable time,” Delaney said. “When a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, they call it a metamorphosis. This is definitely going to be a metamorphosis.”
The overall investment to lengthen Windstar’s three motor yachts — Breeze, Legend and Star Pride — comes in at $250 million and highlights many significant changes. However, the ships will remain relatively small, carrying just 312 guests each, with a passenger-to-crew ratio of 1.5 to 1.
But, there will be much more for them to enjoy.
Significant improvements include the addition of two new dining venues and the enlargement of the Veranda buffet restaurant; an enlarged pool deck with a new infinity edge-style pool and hot tub; an expanded WindSpa and enhanced fitness center, which will feature a motion studio; an extra midship elevator; a pair of new 90-passenger tenders; and a fresh boarding area.
What’s more, Breeze and its sisterships will each receive 50 new suites encompassing added categories, as well as a 1,374-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom Grand Owner’s Suite. Additionally, every existing suite will be improved with a fully remodeled bathroom, and sliding patio doors will be replaced in all balcony suites.
“I think Virtuoso advisors have always loved Windstar, and this just puts it in a new class,” said Wendy Wienner Romanow, director of cruise sales for Virtuoso, who also attended the shipyard lengthening. “Having the additional restaurants and suites to sell is just a wonderful opportunity, especially because the promise still remains of a nice, small, intimate ship. It can still get into fabulous ports — ones that others can’t — and offers the intimacy onboard that so many of our luxury guests like.”
Clients will have the option to choose between having a bed or sofa closest to the window or balcony, or the reverse, based on personal preference. Plus, those with limited mobility will appreciate that the new elevator will be ADA-compliant, as will several modified accessible suites and ramps, according to Christopher Prelog, vice president of fleet operations for Windstar.
On the technical side, a massive effort is underway to replace the onboard engines with environmentally-friendly alternatives, as well as with SCR (selective catalytic reduction) systems. On-site in Palermo, I noticed that large holes were already cut in the side of the ship to facilitate the ambitious modification.
Foodies will be pleased with Veranda’s growth; the venue will enclose a previously outdoor patio space and expand seaview seating on the sides of the vessel (by consolidating four smaller lifeboats into two larger tenders). The added space will also make room for the new Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso Spanish tapas venue.
Cuadro 44 will fill the new volume one deck below the Veranda buffet, as well as the previous Signature Shop. The enlarged store will relocate to the opposite side to displace the library, while the Lounge will gain more space from the removal of the casino. In the future, books will be available in the unchanged Yacht Club Cafe observation lounge, and movies will be conveniently available on-demand in suites.
Another new culinary option will include Star Grill by Steven Raichlen, where guests can enjoy elevated barbecue offerings and a larger terrace deck behind Star Bar and overlooking the pool.
Due to the placement of the added 84-foot-long section offsetting AmphorA away from the galley, the existing restaurant will be occupied by new Star Porthole Suites, while the main dining room will be completely re-created in the new midship block closest to the kitchen.
Other small but important details include updated public restrooms, as well as an entire sandblasting and repainting of the ship exterior. Prior to that, if there is any imperfect puckered steel, it will be cut out and replaced. To make sure everything on the ship looks nothing short of brand-new when completed, Delaney even pointed out to me how some bent louvered vent steel on Legend’s bow had already been perfectly straightened.
It all goes to show the vast efforts being made to ensure an outstanding finished product.
Note: Each ship is on schedule to return to service in 2020, starting with Breeze in February, followed by Legend in July and Pride in November.
The DetailsWindstar Cruiseswww.windstarcruises.com