(4:21 p.m. EDT) -- Seattle-based Ambassadors International, the parent company of Windstar Cruises, has filed for bankruptcy. The cruise line, operator of three motorized sailing vessels that combine the best of cruise with small-ship luxury, issued a release Friday afternoon that said "Ambassadors and its U.S. subsidiaries today voluntarily filed a petition for reorganization under Chapter 11."
Ambassadors, according to the release, says it's arranged to sell Windstar Cruises to a White Plains, New York-based investment firm called Whippoorwill Associates, Inc. The investment firm plans to provide $10 million in financing, which can be used to support Windstar's operations until the sale goes through in approximately 45 days (the investor has supplied funds to Windstar over the past two years).
What does this mean for passengers who are planning (or actually onboard) a Windstar cruise? There will be "no layoffs, no change in the quality of our product," Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer of Ambassadors and Windstar, told Cruise Critic this afternoon. Birkholz, who sounded quite buoyant, noted that "the reason why we chose this process [filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in anticipation of the sale to Whippoorwill] was to continue to operate as we currently do.
"From a consumer and trade partners perspective, nothing has changed. We're very focused on providing a clear brand message and that would be that Windstar provides an incredible sailing yacht experience at an affordable price. We pride ourselves on our customer service, on the outdoor yachting experience that we give, on our amenities, and on the quality of our food."
More specifically, the company's statement notes that:
It will operate all cruises as scheduled.
All fares and reservations, including ship charters, will be honored.
Existing customer programs and policies will be maintained.
Travel agents will receive commission and employees will be paid, as will Windstar vendors.
The sale of Windstar and other Ambassadors assets is of course subject to court approval. However, Whippoorwill "intends to maintain Windstar's business and operations and invest in Windstar's growth following completion of the anticipated sale."
In fact, Birkholz told us, Windstar will be releasing 2012 itineraries in the next two weeks and though he wouldn't divulge specifics, promised that the trio of ships would offer some unusual trips. "In 2012: 'Hidden Treasures of the Ionian Sea'," he said, offering just a bit of a tidbit. "Look for it."
We'll keep you posted.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief