About Atlantic Stars
Atlantic Stars Hotels & Cruises is a hospitality company, best known for its trendy boutique hotels and restaurants from Martha's Vineyard to Miami's South Beach. But, a nimble tall ship called Arabella put Atlantic Stars on the cruise world map, hence, the "& Cruises" portion of its name.
The privately held firm, headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island, has a 30-year track record of buying old properties (and boats) with good bones and giving them new life.
Arabella, a 160-foot sailing yacht, was a wreck when Atlantic Stars founders Don Glassie and John Taft found it languishing in a Florida boatyard in the late 1990's. Built in 1983 as Centurion for actress Kelly McGillis, the ship underwent a three-year refit. Relaunched in 2001, Arabella has won word-of-mouth acclaim from cruisers who like to sail. Since the Windjammer Barefoot line went dark in 2007, Arabella's popularity quotient has shot up even more.
Prior to relaunching Arabella for cruises in the Caribbean, New England and the Chesapeake, Glassie and Taft got their feet wet with day cruises. Their first ship, a schooner called Madeleine, launched in 1991 and was followed by Rum Runner II, a motor yacht with a checkered past.
Before boats, there were buildings. Rhode Island entrepreneur Glassie, an avid sailor who races his 1926-era schooner with longtime partner Taft, bought one of the oldest inns in Newport in 1979 with the intention of converting it into condos. When he couldn't get the zoning approvals, he decided to enter the hospitality business.
That old inn operates today as the Yankee Peddler. Other projects in Newport soon followed: the Jailhouse Inn, a restored Colonial landmark built in 1772, and Harborside Inn, overlooking the Newport Harbor. On an exploratory junket to Miami in 1986, the two partners discovered they could buy oceanfront hotels in then-rundown Miami Beach for very little money. Over time, they restored five hotels. Perhaps the most famous is the Avalon, which houses A Fish Called Avalon, the longest-established restaurant on famed Ocean Drive. (Glassie's yellow 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 convertible is generally parked outside the Avalon; the auto itself is a local landmark.) Atlantic Stars' portfolio also includes Pequot Hotel on Martha's Vineyard.
In recent years, the partners have focused their attention on projects in New York City. The 60,000-square-foot Park South Hotel and its Black Duck bistro opened in Murray Hill in 2001. Their most recent development, the STRAND Hotel in Midtown, is their most ambitious. The STRAND, with 177 guest rooms, opened in late 2009. It is the first property Glassie and Taft have built from scratch. A member of the Green Hotel Association, it has been lauded for both its eco-friendly and design innovations.
Editor's Note: Atlatnic Stars has ceased operating Arabella for the foreseeable future. There were some rumblings that a return to the Caribbean could occur in 2013, but this is simply hearsay at this time.
Arabella's onboard ambience is what her owners call "soft adventure": wind-in-your-hair sailing that is both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. It's also completely casual. Crew and passengers interact on a first-name basis, and many folks adhere to the crew's mantra: "Get some teak under your feet." Breakfast, lunch and hors d'oeuvres are included in the fare and served onboard. However, the number of included dinners varies for each trip, and because of the tight galley space, they are usually served at restaurants ashore.
Cabins are small, but each has a porthole window. The largest staterooms, at 80 square feet, house queen beds. The smallest, just 50 square feet, have double beds. In fact, the walkable floor space in the smallest cabin is three feet by two feet -- essentially the size of a large welcome mat. Notably, a few of the cabins have upper and lower berths. Despite their size, the staterooms are efficiently designed and have enough shelving, drawers and hooks to accommodate the belongings of most passengers.