Small ship operator Windstar Cruises is set to make a big splash in the UK market, with – for the first time – prices in pounds sterling and lots of activity planned for agents in the next few months. It can’t come soon enough for Anna Perrott, appointed Business Development Manager in March 2020, just one a week before lockdown. We asked her to fill us in.
For those who don’t know Windstar, can you sum up the product?
Our ships take fewer than 340 passengers, leaving the crowds behind and visiting smaller destinations. Whether it is on a tall ship (with sails) or one of our yachts, we offer relaxed attentive service, incredible food with ingredients sourced from the local area and complimentary water sports on our onboard marina.
Tell us about the tall ships
There are three ships with sails in the fleet, ranging from 148 to 342 passengers. Our tall ships feature wide open teak decks, which is quite unusual for small ships, and perfect for those wanting a sailing experience. Wind Spirit was specifically built for year-round Tahiti sailings. Wind Surf has seven sails, making it the world’s largest sailing ship. Wind Star carries just 148 passengers and travels between the Mediterranean and Costa Rica seasonally.
Tell us about the yachts
Our three identical yachts have just undergone a $250 million renovation. We’ve cut them in half and inserted an 84-foot block, giving more space on board. Each suite has brand-new bathrooms, two new speciality restaurants, new spa and new pool.
What sort of person would sail on a Windstar ship?
Windstar is perfect for those really wanting to explore a destination and get away from the crowds. We love to immerse our clients into the smaller ports of call with our specialised, up-close-and-personal shore excursions. Active adults will love the complimentary water sports. Foodies are in their element, as we source local ingredients, cooked by highly trained chefs.
Is there anyone the product wouldn’t suit?
It definitely wouldn’t suit those that are looking for big shows of an evening, larger crowds and kids’ clubs.
What are the advantages of being on a small ship?
It really does feel like you are sailing on your own private yacht. Clients feel like they are part of the Windstar family. We can give attentive service without being stuffy – luxury as you like it.
Give us some examples of what life is like on board
It’s really informal. Our open bridge policy means guests can speak to the captain at any time. It has been known for one of our captains to bring his guitar down to the dining area and sing the guests a song. Nothing is too much hassle for our crew. If we don’t have a specific item on board, someone will whizz off in a zodiac to get it. We invite guest speakers to talk about the area’s geography or wildlife. Passengers can learn to water ski or paddle board with our fully qualified staff, or simply chill out on the water trampoline with a cocktail.
How are you going to help agents to sell Windstar?
I will be doing a UK tour in June/July, so it’d be great to meet people in person. For the first time, we have a UK call centre so there will be someone at the end of the phone to help book step by step. We have a fantastic training program on OTT, with the chance of winning a prize.
We would love to get as many agents on our ships as we can, so we are looking to do ship visits later in the year as we have one of yachts sailing from London round Britain. We’ll also be running competitions for fam trip places.
Will you be selling via tour operators?
Yes. Tour operators will be a real key to our development in the UK, giving agents the opportunity to package itineraries with great air and land options. We are working with JTA, Exsus, Travelpack, ITC and Carrier.
Any selling tips?
Smaller ship cruising: After the year we have had we know clients will be wanting more space onboard.
Bucket-list itineraries from Costa Rica to Tahiti: Even for those that have never cruised before, this is a unique way of seeing the destination.
Switch Sell: Windstar is a great alternative for those wanting luxury but nothing stuffy. We generally fit the bill for most clients who have been with other luxury lines. Our repeat passenger ratio is over 75%, so, once you get them on board, they’re likely to come back.