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Windstar Cruises launches multi-million dollar fleet refurbishment plan

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

Windstar Cruises, which operates a fleet of three luxury sailing yachts that explore hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations, is launching a multi-million dollar fleet refurbishment plan to be completed in multiple phases beginning this fall.

Total investment for the refurbishment is $18 million and it is one of several major projects within Windstar’s “Full Sail Ahead” strategic initiative encompassing refurbishment, branding, technology investments and product upgrades over the next 18 months. 

“This is a significant investment in our luxurious sailing yachts and will enable us to provide an unparalleled guest experience,” said Hans Birkholz, President and CEO of Windstar Cruises. “Our new owners, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, are committed to Windstar’s growth for the long term. Previously, there have been enhancements and refurbishment projects throughout the years to keep our yachts beautiful; however this is the most extensive fleet-wide refurbishment project in Windstar’s history.”

Work begins this November on the first phase of Wind Surf’s refurbishment, emerging December 10, 2011, for the start of the Caribbean season, with renovated and luxurious staterooms, suites, bridge suites, corridors, and a ‘timber boardwalk’ throughout the main deck in keeping with her elegant yacht style. The second phase of Wind Surf’s refurbishment will take place in the fall of 2012 and focuses on the yacht’s public spaces including the Lounge, The Restaurant, Degrees, Veranda, Compass Rose, WindSpa, Yacht Club and Pool Bar.

Wind Star and Wind Spirit will undergo complete refurbishments of staterooms, owner’s suite, and corridors along with public spaces including The Restaurant, Veranda, Lounge, WindSpa, Library, Reception, and Pool Bar following their respective Costa Rica and Caribbean seasons. After the completion of work, both yachts begin their Mediterranean seasons with Wind Spirit starting April 15, 2012, and Wind Star beginning April 29, 2012.

The vision for the refurbishment is classic, stylish yacht luxury that dramatizes Windstar’s brand position of a “boutique yacht vacation” that is “180 Degrees from Ordinary.” The yachts will receive new furniture, upholstery, art, lighting, wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, window treatments, and floor coverings. New furnishings will complete the look in keeping with the chic, private yacht scheme. The design palette combines sand and marine colors contrasting elegantly with the warmth of wood finishes, elevating the look and feel to ultimate luxury at sea.

Windstar’s chosen design and build partner for the project is U.K. based Trimline Interiors incorporating MCVITTY Interior Consultants. Trimline is a refurbishment company well known to the industry specializing in cruise ship and superyacht “turn-key” interiors and has completed projects all over the world for many leading luxury cruise lines and yacht owners. Established in 1965, Trimline has its own in-house services including joinery, soft furnishings, upholstery, decoration and all types of flooring.

Alan McVitty, lead designer and director of MCVITTY Interior Consultants, has a career that spans 24 years in the interiors sector. McVitty’s areas of expertise include both leisure and residential assignments along with projects for luxury cruise lines and private yachts. 

“Our focus was to provide Windstar with something completely different from what currently exists in the luxury cruise market,” said McVitty. “Every corner of our design was carefully confectioned with details and solutions to make guests find themselves not on another commercial cruise but experience a stylish, floating boutique yacht created with a vision to offer a uniquely different, cruise experience.” 

Staterooms and Suites:

Staterooms on all three yachts will be transformed with new leather headboards, stately arm chairs, linen wall coverings, new lighting features, elegant window coverings, plush wool carpeting, art work, stylish bed cushions, and luxurious bed throws. Suites will additionally be outfitted with new furniture that is easily convertible to lounging, dining, or accommodating a third occupant.

Wind Surf Public Spaces:

The Restaurant will be completed with a new seating layout, all new soft goods, and state-of-the art wine display and storage. Degrees Restaurant will be transformed into a Mediterranean bistro, anchored by a central wine bar for counter dining as well as an inviting area to relax before and after dinner. Wine tastings and cooking demonstrations will also be conducted here. The Compass Rose will be reconfigured to open up expansively to the adjoining outdoor deck, and its interior completely renovated to reflect the sophisticated elegance of a private club.

The Veranda’s outdoor seating will be significantly expanded, creating an ideal mid-ship area for enjoying breakfast and lunch alfresco. The interior will include a new buffet, new lighting, and epicurean style display counters. In the Lounge, wall-to-wall carpeting will be replaced with hard flooring accented with inset rugs, a contemporary mix of furniture, lighter color palette and improved sound insulation around the casino.

Corridors will be completely renovated from floor to ceiling with all new wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, lighting and art work. The Pool Bar will sport new awnings for additional shade, new deck furniture, and improved outdoor dining layout for Candles Grill.

Wind Spirit and Wind Star Public Spaces:

The Restaurant will receive a complete makeover to create the excitement and drama of an exclusive destination restaurant with luxurious neutral tones and curved design elements.

The Veranda will be renewed with new lighting, fresh “market-style” buffet arrangements and reconfigured indoor/outdoor seating.

The Lounge will be contemporized with new furniture, soft goods, seating arrangements, window treatments and AV system, creating an ideal, welcoming space for evening entertainment.

The Pool Bar will be redesigned to offer a more engaging and upscale social experience and to create additional alfresco seating for sunset dining at Candles Grill.

The renovations to the Library space will create an intimate, luxurious cocoon for more contemplative pursuits.

WindSpa will also receive an interior soft goods update, to reflect the sophistication and elegance of relaxing with spa treatments at sea.

“The refurbishment will give Windstar clients a truly stunning and unique experience to explore destinations in perfect splendor, ultra luxury and comfort,” said McVitty.

Refurbishment updates and behind-the-scenes coverage will be provided throughout the duration of the project on Windstar’s blog: HYPERLINK ""

TUI Cruises close to make a newbuilding order?

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

German TUI Cruises is negotiating with STX Europe to order a new cruise ship, according to various industry sources. Both STX Turku shipyard and St. Nazaire are rumoured to be in a shortlist. Currently, Hapag-Lloyd is building Europa 2 in the French shipyard.

TUI Cruises is a joint venture of TUI and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is a subsidiary of TUI.

Updated: Two crew members die on Hurtigruten's Nordlys fire

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines
Two crew members are dead and a total of sixteen passengers and crew members injured after a fire broke out in the engine room of Hurtgruten's Nordlys out of Aalesund today. All 207 passengers of the 1994-built Nordlys have been evacuated and transferred to the local hotels.

Nordlys sails 11-night roundtrip between Bergen and Kirkenes. The ship operates under Norwegian flag with Norwegian crew.

David Giersdorf's Global Voyages Group announces initial client portfolio

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

David A. Giersdorf has announced the initial client portfolio for Global Voyages Group (GVG), a company providing a comprehensive, cost-effective and performance improving solution for cruise companies, tour operators and other travel suppliers that seek improved performance in the all-important North America market. The GVG solution is built on a foundation of deep expertise, integrated marketing technology, sales and distribution expansion and reservations services. GVG was founded in 2010 and has been working to expand business in North America for clients Hurtigruten, Scenic Cruises, Scenic Tours, Compagnie du Ponant and Sea Voyager Expeditions.

"Global Voyages Group provides cruise companies, tour operators and other travel suppliers with expanded access to the lucrative and growing North America market in an efficient and effective way by leveraging technology and experience like never before," said David A. Giersdorf, president and CEO, Global Voyages Group. "And travel agents who are knowledgeable and focused on this category will have greater access and support in selling these very attractive experiences." The company’s mission is to provide a game-changing approach designed to meet the needs of GVG’s client companies in accessing the North America market more effectively and efficiently than is possible on a single company, stand-alone basis. The size and complexity of the North America Travel Agent distribution system, combined with the cost of reaching and engaging with qualified consumers, and the lack of benefits of scale, places many fine companies at extreme disadvantage when pursing cost-effective revenue growth and financial performance improvement in the world’s most promising leisure travel market. Each Global Voyages Group client receives a customized solution; creating a partnership that is strategic, flexible and integrated.

"GVG can provide clients with complete turnkey access to North America," said Giersdorf. "And, we can customize our services to optimize or extend the presence and activities that companies may already have in place." Initial clients include Hurtigruten, Scenic Tours, Scenic Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant and Sea Voyager Expeditions. Hurtigruten, a world leader in expedition cruising with a fleet of 12 ships, operates daily along Norway's west coast with visits to 36 ports, as well taking guests to the remote destinations of Antarctica, Greenland and the Arctic's Spitsbergen. Spring sailings take in many of Europe's top ports. GVG is responsible for implementing Hurtigruten's North American marketing and communications plan, and administering sales development programs in the western United States and Canada.

"Global Voyages Group provides Hurtigruten with the efficiency and effectiveness necessary to support our focus on expanding reach and penetration in the North America market and continuing to strengthen our commitment to supporting Travel Agent partners," said Hurtigruten’s Rolf Logan, Sales Director Americas.

Scenic Cruises operates the newest and most luxurious fleet of river cruise ships in Europe. Its five 'Space-Ships' sail river voyages throughout Europe ranging from seven to 21 nights and each ship offers more than 80 percent private full sized balconies. A new 'Space-Ship', Scenic Crystal, joins the fleet in 2012 with innovative, industry leading 'Sun Lounges,' a feature that converts each Private Outdoor Balcony into a fully protected sun lounge at the touch of a button. In addition, Scenic Cruises offers cruising in Russia and Egypt. Scenic Tours offers award-winning all-inclusive escorted tours in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and throughout the world. For Scenic Cruises and Scenic Tours, GVG is responsible for all U.S. marketing, sales and reservations.

"We see great promise for Scenic Cruises and Scenic Tours in the United States market and based upon very positive results these past few years we are substantially increasing our focus and commitment to developing the opportunity," said Glen Moroney, Founder and Managing Director. "GVG's expertise and experience enables us to accelerate the marketing and distribution of our products and provide in-market support to Travel Agents through training and sales tools, cooperative marketing and U.S. based reservations services."

Established in 1988 by Jean Emmanuel Sauvée and Philippe Videau, Compagnie du Ponant's fleet of five luxurious yachts range in size from 32 to 132 staterooms and sail many of the world's most sought after itineraries, offering more than 450 destinations in 81 countries. A division of CMA CGM, the world's third largest container shipping group, Compagnie du Ponant is a member of both La Charte Bleue d'Armateurs de France and IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) and design their cruise itineraries in a manner that protects marine wildlife, coastal environments and local flora and fauna. GVG is responsible for expanding Compagnie du Ponant's US and Canada marketing & sales presence and providing call center support "GVG's state-of-the-art technology, databases and e-marketing savvy allows us to expand and amplify our presence in North America," said Terri Haas, Compagnie du Ponant Chief Commercial Officer. "GVG really understands the North America market and brings us unparalleled insights and capabilities."

Sea Voyager Expeditions operates the well-known 60-guest expedition cruise vessel, Sea Voyager. The company features unmatched expedition and discovery experiences in Central and South America, one of the great remote eco-travel frontiers on earth. Sea Voyager Expeditions destinations include Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia, featuring pristine national parks, tropical rainforest, diverse marine life and authentic indigenous cultural experiences. GVG provides North America marketing, sales and reservations services for Sea Voyager Expeditions.

"As we are developing the exceptional 2012-2013 expedition cruise programs of Sea Voyager Expeditions, GVG's advisory services provide us with a depth of industry and market knowledge that would be impossible to replicate," said Denise Landau, CEO, Sea Voyager Expeditions. "Their ability to provide instant benefits of scale and excellence in marketing, sales and reservations services is invaluable to a specialty cruise operator like ourselves focused on developing the North America consumer and Travel Agent market for our unique offerings."

With significant experience at the most senior levels, Global Voyage Group’s executives include David Giersdorf, president & CEO with more than 30 years cruise and travel industry experience, managing partner Tom Russell with more than 25 years cruise industry experience and managing partner Gary Blake, a marketing expert with more than 25 years experience in advertising, consumer behavior and customer relationship management. In addition, GVG employs 15 full-time employees in its Bellevue headquarters, plus dedicated sales personnel in key markets.

The GVG team is committed to increasing North America revenues, expanding distribution, reducing marketing costs and improving financial performance for cruise and tour operators. Its services include sales and channel management, integrated marketing solutions, call center, reservations and business processing. In addition GVG provides advisory services on product development, pricing, revenue management and more.

Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway selected as names for Norwegian's new ships

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

Norwegian Cruise Line has selected the winning names for its two new Freestyle Cruising ships: Norwegian Breakaway, launching in April 2013, and Norwegian Getaway, launching in April 2014. The names were selected as the culmination of its "Norwegian's Cruising for Names" contest held in conjunction with national newspaper USA Today.

Norwegian felt these names best reflected the innovation of the brand along with the freedom and flexibility of the line's signature Freestyle Cruising and invoked the feeling that these ships will provide a "break" at sea from the stress of everyday life. Breakaway is defined as "a departure or break from routine or tradition" and Getaway is defined as "a place where one escapes for relaxation, vacation, etc."

"We felt Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway epitomized both our Freestyle Cruising philosophy and our belief that these ships will offer a true respite, whisking our guests away from their everyday routines and delivering the ultimate cruise vacation," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian's chief executive officer.

The contest winners are Kimberly Powell of Lafayette, Louisiana, who first submitted Norwegian Breakaway, and Dennis Hultman of Vienna, Virginia, who first submitted Norwegian Getaway. Powell took her first cruise in August on Norwegian Spirit and loved the experience. She is a self-proclaimed "news junkie" and thought it would be fun to enter the contest when she saw it on USA Today's site. Hultman is an avid cruiser and also reads USA Today daily. 

Both Powell and Hultman will receive a trip for two to Norwegian Breakaway's inaugural festivities, including the Christening Ceremony (date/location yet to be determined). The trip includes round-trip coach airfare for two, ground transportation, balcony stateroom accommodations (double occupancy), on-board meals, as well as government taxes and fees.

The contest entry period ran from July 18 to August 14, 2011, during which 230,000 entries were received.

The Breakaway class ships will each be 144,017 gross tons and will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths. These ships represent an opportunity for the Norwegian guest to "break away" from the routine of work, school, and daily stress, and find a true respite at sea. These new ships will take the best of the best from all of Norwegian's existing ships drawing on the line's experience of having launched 10 ships in the past 10 years - starting with Norwegian Star and Sun in 2001 and culminating with the launch of Norwegian Epic in 2010. To date, the company has revealed all of the ships' staterooms, which include the innovative Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers, along with The Haven by Norwegian, comprised of 42 suites at the top of the ship.

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