Premium small-ship cruise line Windstar has announced it’s trio of powered cruise ships that it purchased from Seabourn will undergo a major US $250-million refurbishment called the Star Plus initiative.
Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride will all be cut in half and have a 25.6-metre new section inserted, containing 50 new staterooms and new public spaces. The ships will also be re-engined to be more environmentally friendly, while all common areas and cabins will be revamped or redesigned.
The projects will be carried out between October 2019 and November 2020 at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo, Italy, with Star Breeze scheduled to undergo the transformation first.
The refurbishment will increase the passenger capacity of each ship from 212 to 312, but Windstar has indicated it will be hiring additional crew to keep the crew to passenger ratio at 2:3. The stretching of each ship will also keep them small enough to access the out-of-the-way and smaller ports Windstar frequents.
According to John Delaney, President of Windstar, the project is intended to extend the lifespan of the ships in the modern cruise industry, at a fraction of the cost of building a new vessel.
“They don’t build ships like this anymore,” he told Cruise Critic. “These ships were so well built. The steel on these ships is almost perfect, like new. What this lets us do is add capacity in a very efficient manner [compared to the length of time needed to build new ships]. We can add 24 percent capacity to the fleet in a 12-month window.”
“The new suites will have a different look and feel to the existing suites, and we want them to,” he added. “We want to give guests a different choice.”
The new suites will borrow an idea from river cruises, positioning the bed by the window and the living area closer to the door (a flip from the current suite configuration on most cruise ships).
In another change, the new balcony suites will have French balconies (rather than full balconies) like the existing suites, providing guests with more space within the cabin itself.
“The suites will feel more open and have a more modern design. It will feel like a Windstar ship but different,” explains Delaney.
Existing suites will receive brand-new bathrooms and sliding doors for the verandas. In addition, two new, larger Owner’s Suites will be created from existing cabins; these will be three-bedroom, two-balcony suites.
In addition to the 50 new staterooms, two new dining venues will also be added – an intimate 42-seat specialty restaurant on the side of the ship with ocean views, and a casual barbecue on the top deck, offering lunch and dinner.
The Veranda Restaurant will also be expanded and upgraded with a circular buffet and more seating.
The spa will be enlarged and redesigned, and the pool deck will be upgraded with a larger pool and hot tub and more deck area dedicated to sunbathing.
The onboard retail spaces, the tender-loading areas and crew accommodations will also be upgraded.
According to Delaney, these changes, particularly the spa and fitness centre expansion, are being done at the request of passengers who have sailed aboard the three ships. The refurbishment will bring the older ships more in line with the needs of modern cruisers.
The refurbishment will also include a major refit, with new engines to be installed. The shipyard will remove the ships’ current engines and replace them with four new environmentally friendly engines on each ship.
Currently, each ship has seven smaller and less efficient engines. The new ones will use cleaner fuel, reduce emissions and provide greater fuel efficiency. They’ll also make the ship’s faster, enabling Windstar to cruise further afield, to destinations in New Zealand and the South Pacific.