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 known as, are contemporary from a $250 million renovation challenge that bodily expanded the scale of the ship, added extra cabins and created new superstar chef specialty eating places.
Windstar’s mum or dad firm, Xanterra, is well-known for working lots 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, concerning the three-ship enlargement challenge, what it’s wish to sail once more after almost a 12 months’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 all the things 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 manner, 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 mean 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 alter their guidelines, vaccination necessities and testing protocols week by week. Our largest ship can carry 342 passengers, however in the mean time, we’re working at lowered capability to observe social distancing pointers. As extra individuals around the globe are vaccinated, we imagine reserving a cruise will turn out to be a lot simpler. Demand, particularly for 2022, is phenomenal.
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 embrace fixed cleansing of high-touch surfaces, electrostatic spraying of passenger baggage and changing buffets to staff-served stations.
The crew undergoes weekly testing, they usually 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 ingesting. These are all according to the rules of lots of the ports of name we go to, however these insurance policies are reviewed commonly. Whereas it isn’t 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 lots of the identical protocols, for now, at sea, and our open-air decks are the proper place to chill out 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 bear this transformation, which concerned slicing the ship in half whereas in dry dock. We then inserted a pre-made part within the middle 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 middle, rest pool and redecorated interiors. For the corporate, this represents an almost 27% improve in capability for our three “Star Plus-category” ships.
Generally known as the Star Plus initiative, our ships didn’t simply sit idle. We took the day without work from crusing to put money into 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 identical funding was made for crew cabins, as properly. There are new TV techniques, art work in hallways, utterly reworked loos with double vanities, new furnishings and décor, and even 4 new (extra eco-friendly) engines.
What’s your favourite half concerning 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 value of the cruise, and we needed our visitors 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 all the things 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 reveals in three totally different nations, and our visitors merely love the tasty menu he curated for our three Star Plus ships. We observe all of his pointers usually starting the method for among the slow-cooked meats the evening earlier than.
Each superstar cooks got here on board the ship to coach the employees on methods to put together and current all of the menu objects. Windstar has a partnership with the James Beard Basis, which incorporates internet hosting a number of crusing itineraries based mostly on food-themed itineraries.
What are among the Windstar signature facilities?
We now have a seashore barbecue on each crusing, which is extraordinarily fashionable. All of our ships function underneath an open-deck coverage that means that visitors can watch the crew in motion and ask questions. Included in all sailings are non-alcoholic drinks, complimentary 24-hour room service and using non-motorized watersport tools that visitors can use from a platform behind the yacht.
Sail away is a dramatic expertise that features taking part in a newly created theatrical tune recorded by the Seattle Symphony because the ship leaves every port.
Our sailings goal prospects which might be in search of customizable, high-end experiences that enable native immersion and onboard leisure. Lots of them are additionally frequent river cruisers and recognize the flexibility to go to smaller ports with late evening or in a single day stays that give them time to discover a vacation spot. We welcome households with kids over the age of eight, however we often are inclined to see them solely in the course of the summer time 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 12 months. We’re seeing lots of pent-up demand, particularly amongst “new to the model” visitors. Coming in 2022 is one other first for Windstar once we ship a yacht to Australia and New Zealand. Since these ships can have new engines, they can sail sooner. They’ll go to each marquis, fashionable ports in addition to smaller locations that enormous ships should not capable of go to.
Photograph courtesy: Windstar Cruises