Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Windstar's CEO, Hans Berkholz, Sets the Course for Its New "Power Yachts" (The Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend)

This afternoon I received a telephone call from Hans Birkholz, the CEO of Windstar Cruises to discuss its acquisition of the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend. It was a great, and very informative, conversation.



Here are some details that I am sure you are dying to know, but didn't know were to find the answer.  (Of course, Goldring Travel is the place!)
  • The triplets have been purchased by Windstar, but are being leased back to Seabourn through 2014 (Seabourn Pride) and 2015 (Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend).  Because of this arrangement any question of the ships being properly maintained should be answered.  There is no way that Seabourn is going to put out an inferior product or Windstar is going to not put the money into its ships so they can deliver their decidedly different product (see below).

  • The ships' itineraries will, in large part, be consistent with Windstar's favoring seven day cruises, but will extend a good number of the power yachts' sailing to 10-11 days. There will also be back-to-back opportunities.  Hans gave me the sense is that there will be more seven day cruises in, for example, the Greek Isles and longer cruises in Northern Europe and South America.

  • The ships will be remained, but what those names are (or may be) aren't being released just yet.

  • The ships will not be kept as true luxury ships, but will be operated in the Windstar's "casually elegant" manner, so you can leave your tie...no less your tuxedo (or gowns/cocktail dresses)...at home.  Put another way, as I said in my first article, expect consistency of product among all of the Windstar ships.

  • Windstar's product is not defined as "luxury-inclusive", though you can "lux-up" your cruise to some degree.  It offers the following

    • All meals in all venues
    • All non-alcoholic beverages
    • Welcome Cocktail at reception
    • Fresh fruit and flowers in stateroom
    • All onboard entertainment
    • Use of fitness facility
    • Use of watersports equipment
    • Port lectures and briefings
    • Transportation to most shore excursions 
    • You may purchase an optional "Luxury as You Like It" beverage package for $98 per day if you would like that in-suite bar stocked and an open bar policy.
    • Gratuities are charged to your shipboard account at $12 per person per day.
    • All purchased beverages and wine have a 15% gratuity added to the price.

  • The staff will, as with the present Windstar sailing yachts, be Filipino and Indonesian, which is another change both culturally and stylistically.
In summary, Hans speaks of Windstar in terms of "sailing yachts" and "power yachts" providing an elegantly casual experience that is, in my opinion, a premium product.  Windstar has no desire to be another Seabourn and is not going to be marketing its "power yachts" as a product similar to Seabourn's.  It is, of course, Windstar...and Windstar is very proud of its product and its loyal guests!

So what does this mean to you, the cruising public?  It means that if you love the idea of a casual cruise on a small ship that used to be a bit above your budget in a year or two you will be able to enjoy an intimate cruise in a lovely suite. 

What I don't know is pricing.  It could be that by offering some great itineraries Windstar will be able to fill its power yachts with guests that might have otherwise opted for a suite on Princess or Royal Caribbean or upper category staterooms on Oceania or Celebrity.

Yes, I know, there are more questions unanswered.  But isn't this fun?  Doesn't it make you want to get on a cruise right now? 

If you have any questions or want to book your Seabourn or Windstar cruise, drop me an email at eric@goldringtravel.com or call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or UK: 020 8133 3450 AUS: (07) 3102 4685 International: +1 732 578 8585