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John Delaney, the new president of Windstar Cruises, says his No. 1 priority is getting to know his team and setting off on the road to talk and listen to agents.
“This is absolutely the type of product that is sold by agents and it always will be,” he said. “But there’s a real need to tell the story of Windstar as it is now.”
Delaney has had a lot of experience analyzing and conveying the essence of a brand. He most recently served as senior vice president of global marketing and sales for Seabourn Cruise Line, and he has also served as vice president of revenue marketing for Holland America Line and as manager of financial planning and analysis at The Walt Disney Company.
He stresses the transformation that has come from the thought and investment of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Windstar’s owners since 2011.
“They are fantastic owners,” he said. “They are committed, and they do all the right things. A lot of agents don’t realize what Xanterra brought to the fleet.”
What they brought includes a $40-million-plus investment, significant upgrades to the public areas and accommodations of existing ships and a partnership with James Beard Foundation chefs. Most notably, the company purchased Seabourn’s three small luxury vessels that Delaney credits with the launch of luxury cruising, doubling the number of Windstar’s fleet, which is now evenly divided between luxury ships and its iconic sailing vessels.
He characterizes the sailing ships as more “soft adventure” and the all-suite power ships as more luxurious, but maintains that both sides of Windstar can appeal to the same travelers.
“The ships are all iconic,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of sailing ships; they’re an amazing way to see the world, and they can deliver the destination in a very authentic manner. There’s nothing better in places like the Mexican Riviera and the Caribbean than sailing among the tropical islands and ports.”
The common ground between the wind and power sides of Windstar is the small-ship experience.
“In an era where ships are getting bigger and bigger, these are all true small ships,” Delaney said.
The casual luxury of the whole fleet is suited to authentic experiences in small ports, and he sees opportunities to build on that. With his experience doing itinerary planning for Seabourn, Delaney says he looks forward to working with Windstar’s offerings.
“We could do incredibly in Asia,” he said. “And Andrew N. Todd [president and CEO of Xanterra] is on record as wanting to expand the brand. We can own the small-ship sector. But we have to be sure every new feature is known and understood by agents.”