From the Bridge: Windstar Cruises on the Rise

February 28, 2017
Star Pride

Since John Delaney joined Windstar Cruises as its President seven months ago, you might be hard pressed to recognize the six-ship line.

Delaney, participating in his first President's Cruise aboard Star Pride this week along the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica, showcased his new executive team onboard yesterday -- and talked about plans for the future.

Delaney has recruited numerous executives from high-profile positions, both onboard and at headquarters, from Seabourn (where he mostly recently served as senior vice president of sales and marketing), P&0 and Princess Cruises, in particular. Brand knowledge runs deep with this crew: every one of them, 100 percent, all have either worked for Windstar before on the "wind" ships or worked for Seabourn on the trio of vessels that Windstar acquired.

"We're a group of friends and colleagues coming back home to ships we love to create magic," Delaney said.

Windstar's three yacht vessels and trio of sailing ships, are already lovely, he said, but he's looking to upgrade experiences, options and authenticity in travel across the fleet.

For longtime Windstar loyalists, this means some long-awaited improvements. The company will invest $20 million, Delaney told us, into a significant upgrade in below-deck systems and infrastructure, including building a network into the ship that will enhance the existing balky Wi-Fi and other technologies.

Exterior shot of Wind Spirit in the South Pacific

Itinerary design will get a fresh new approach, said Chris Prelog, the company's new vice president of fleet operations (who, incidentally, started as a dining steward on the ship that is now Star Legend 19 years ago). That means more time in port, more authentic shore excursions, and a bigger menu of adventurous options.

Look for a solid upgrade in dining aboard Windstar, said Peter Tobler, who just came aboard as hotel operations director. Big priorities include adapting menus to reflect local cuisines and ingredients, offering more variety, such as the addition of a food truck concept on deck eight, above the café, and alleviating over-crowded venues during crunch times. Ambience will be a re-do in both restaurants and bar venues, and fresh takes on enrichment and entertainment are high on the priority list.

The most important detail -- at least according to many of passengers, along with travel agents and media who are onboard for the reveal -- has to do with expansion of the Windstar fleet. Even as the line is still absorbing the three former Seabourn vessels over the past few years that more than doubled capacity, Delaney's been window-shopping. He reiterated his desire for Club Med's Club Med 2, a sister ship to Windstar's popular Wind Surf : "I'd love to have that ship."

And yet, despite all the change and growth to a small ship cruising that's already plenty special, Delaney is resolute in noting that Windstar ships will stay small in size, even as they become big in aspiration.

"I love small ships," he said, referring to the 200-passenger Star Pride. "This is the sweet spot."

No dates were provided for roll-outs of the new initiatives, but Cruise Critic  - of course! - will keep you posted.

From the Bridge is a recurring column on hot cruising topics by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic's Editor in Chief. Reach her at editor@cruisecritic.com.

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