Shining a highlight on the leaders within the luxurious journey business, Pursuitist presents an unique interview with Chris Prelog, Windstar Cruises President, dropped at you by Ramsey Qubein.
Small-ship cruising has by no means been hotter as vacationers search for experiences that give them the liberty to discover new locations by ship, however with fewer passengers. Three of Windstar Cruises’ yachts, as they’re referred to as, are contemporary from a $250 million renovation challenge that bodily expanded the scale of the ship, added extra cabins and created new movie star chef specialty eating places.
Windstar’s dad or mum firm, Xanterra, is well-known for working most of the high lodges inside the U.S. nationwide park system. This high-end, small-ship cruise model is one other feather in Xanterra’s cap and is poised for progress as pent-up journey demand lastly takes to the seas.
We spoke with Chris Prelog, president of Windstar Cruises, in regards to the three-ship enlargement challenge, what it’s wish to sail once more after practically a yr’s hiatus and what’s in retailer for its six-strong fleet of luxurious yachts and sailboats.
You bought your begin engaged on a ship. What did you do?
I labored aboard the Seabourn Legend as a server. On a small ship, employees tackle many roles so I did the whole lot from polish silverware to ship meals. Apparently, the Seabourn Legend is now a part of the Windstar fleet because the Star Legend so, in a method, I’ve come full circle.
What’s it wish to re-launch operations throughout a pandemic?
We’re so excited to be again at sea. We now have the Wind Star crusing the Greek islands in the intervening time in addition to Star Breeze within the Caribbean.
We’re navigating rules that change in a short time. Issues are going to stay in flux for awhile as governments modify their guidelines, vaccination necessities and testing protocols week by week. Our largest ship can carry 342 passengers, however in the intervening time, we’re working at diminished capability to observe social distancing pointers. As extra individuals world wide are vaccinated, we consider reserving a cruise will turn out to be a lot simpler. Demand, particularly for 2022, is outstanding.
On board our six ships, in depth sanitation and cleansing protocols make it extraordinarily protected. All of our crew have been vaccinated, and our passengers should obtain a unfavourable Covid-19 take a look at on the pier earlier than boarding in addition to present their vaccination playing cards. Different protocols embody fixed cleansing of high-touch surfaces, electrostatic spraying of passenger baggage and changing buffets to staff-served stations.
The crew undergoes weekly testing, and so they stay on the ship that means they aren’t uncovered to anybody that has not been vaccinated and examined. Passengers and crew should put on masks in public areas aside from when consuming and consuming. These are all in step with the rules of most of the ports of name we go to, however these insurance policies are reviewed commonly. Whereas it’s not the identical as earlier than the pandemic, our passengers are excited to be again to cruising and are used to those necessities from house. They don’t appear to thoughts following most of the similar protocols, for now, at sea, and our open-air decks are the right place to loosen up and really feel protected.
Star Breeze is contemporary from main renovations that expanded the ship. Inform us about that.
Star Breeze is one in all three yachts to endure this transformation, which concerned chopping the ship in half whereas in dry dock. We then inserted a pre-made part within the heart with 50 lovely suites earlier than sealing the hull once more. It’s an engineering marvel, and the yacht is superbly remodeled with new eating places, a bigger spa and health heart, rest pool and redecorated interiors. For the corporate, this represents an almost 27% improve in capability for our three “Star Plus-category” ships.
Often known as the Star Plus initiative, our ships didn’t simply sit idle. We took the time without work from crusing to spend money on the interiors and upkeep of the fleet, each the Star Plus and Wind Class classes. All the cabins sport new high-quality bedding and mattresses; this similar funding was made for crew cabins, as nicely. There are new TV methods, paintings in hallways, utterly reworked bogs with double vanities, new furnishings and décor, and even 4 new (extra eco-friendly) engines.
What’s your favourite half in regards to the newly designed ships?
I actually like the way in which the spa has been redesigned in addition to the pool deck, which sports activities new teak wooden and handrails plus a plunge pool with glass wall and waterfall characteristic. There are two whirlpools together with one on the pool deck and one other on the very entrance of the ship.
The Star Breeze has two new specialty eating places. Is there an upcharge to dine there?
Our specialty eating places are included within the worth of the cruise, and we wished our friends to have extra choices of when and the place to dine. Cuadro 44, a Spanish tapas restaurant underneath Michelin-starred chef and James Beard Basis member Anthony Sasso serves the whole lot from “jamon iberico” sliced contemporary to genuine Galician octopus. There are a number of vegetarian specialties, too.
Star Grill is one other new open-air grill restaurant. We do all of our personal smoked meats and put together them on a rotisserie utilizing recipes and bespoke spice rubs from Steven Raichlen. He hosts three totally different cooking exhibits in three totally different nations, and our friends merely love the tasty menu he curated for our three Star Plus ships. We observe all of his pointers typically starting the method for a number of the slow-cooked meats the night time earlier than.
Each movie star cooks got here on board the ship to coach the employees on easy methods to put together and current all of the menu gadgets. Windstar has a partnership with the James Beard Basis, which incorporates internet hosting a number of crusing itineraries primarily based on food-themed itineraries.
What are a number of the Windstar signature facilities?
We now have a seaside barbecue on each crusing, which is extraordinarily well-liked. All of our ships function underneath an open-deck coverage that means that friends can watch the crew in motion and ask questions. Included in all sailings are non-alcoholic drinks, complimentary 24-hour room service and the usage of non-motorized watersport gear that friends can use from a platform in the back of the yacht.
Sail away is a dramatic expertise that features taking part in a newly created theatrical track recorded by the Seattle Symphony because the ship leaves every port.
Our sailings goal prospects which can be searching for customizable, high-end experiences that enable native immersion and onboard leisure. A lot of them are additionally frequent river cruisers and recognize the power to go to smaller ports with late night time or in a single day stays that give them time to discover a vacation spot. We welcome households with youngsters over the age of eight, however we often are inclined to see them solely throughout the summer season months.
What’s sooner or later for Windstar?
We’re taking our yachts again to Alaska, and for the primary time ever, we can have two vessels in Tahiti this yr. We’re seeing plenty of pent-up demand, particularly amongst “new to the model” friends. Coming in 2022 is one other first for Windstar after we ship a yacht to Australia and New Zealand. Since these ships can have new engines, they can sail quicker. They are going to go to each marquis, well-liked ports in addition to smaller locations that giant ships should not in a position to go to.
Picture courtesy: Windstar Cruises