05 JUL 2012: Something old. Something new. At a first glance, the gorgeous and graceful yachts appear the same, but they’ve been given the real “star treatment.” Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the new owners of Windstar Cruises, put $18 million into a refurbishment that has ensured a well deserved transformation says Dan Chappelle, Windstar’s vice president, sales, in Toronto last week for a training seminar.

Looking good

The ships were looking a little old and worn, Chappelle told us. The previous owners had not really invested in maintaining them or bringing the product up to a level where they should be.

The new owners have overseen a complete renovation on all three yachts. The staterooms, corridors and suites have all been completely refurbished. There’s new software, new mattresses, new bedding, new lighting and leather headboards.

“We have the W on our blankets - it doesn’t stand for W hotels,” joked Chappelle, adding, “but its a very similar look and feel that we have there.

“We’ve really stepped the product up both in the hardware and the soft goods. We have a new culinary programme, and have hired an executive chef who goes throughout our fleet and constantly trains the staff. Remember we have small vessels and can get more creative with the menu action – so we’ve done that.”

The restaurants are all open seating and there are no upcharges, though reservations are recommended.

The Wind Star and the Wind Spirit carry 148 passengers, Wind Surf holds 310.

Who goes there

Windstar clients, says Chappelle, noting that this is from his own onboard experience rather than demographics, are very active professionals – doctor, lawyers, business owners – in their 40s to mid-60s on an average – very involved in their businesses, still involved in the community and, for the most part, empty nesters.

“They are people who like to travel with their peer group,” he says, also pointing out that “Windstar’s staterooms are for all intents and purposes the same. There is no great difference in staterooms so people travelling together all have a similar experience.”

“There is no cruise director on board,” says Chappelle. “We let our guests create their own experiences.”

There is however, an experts programme where guest lecturers come on board at various ports and speak to subjects pertaining to the area.

This is essentially an adult experience, the exception being multi-generational families, who “are there for the family experience. They’re not expecting children’s programmes. So we do cater to that.” Says Chappelle.

“We’re more of a couples programme than anything.

“Our guests want to do something different – to go places where they haven’t been or haven’t even thought of going.” He says, and the itineraries include the Caribbean, the Greek Isles, Europe, the Mediterranean, Costa Rica and other exotic destinations. But within those areas the yachts visit smaller, unusual destinations inaccessible to the large cruise liners.

Growth and delivery

Chappelle, who has a retail travel background, was in Toronto for agent seminars in conjunction with Vanessa Lee’s Cruise Strategies. He says his role is primarily to help re-establish ties and relationships with travel agents who provide Windstar’s largest distribution system and one that is very important to the company.

The goal says Chappelle, is to grow and deliver the product and to keep Windstar Cruises top of mind for travel agents selling luxury cruises.

“It’s a really unique experience that you’re not going to find anywhere.” He says.

“When we sail out of port and the sails are up and Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise is playing over the sound system - it gives you goosebumps.”


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