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Top Headlines

Windstar Cruises to stretch and refurbish its three ships in $250 Million Star Plus initiative

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

Windstar Cruises today announced the $250 Million Star Plus Initiative, a major investment and expansion for the innovative cruise company. The multi-million dollar, multi-year undertaking will impact and enhance all aspects of the guest experience for the highly awarded small ship cruise line's three Star Class vessels.

"We are thrilled to announce the $250 Million Star Plus Initiative, a significant investment in the future of Windstar Cruises. This exciting initiative is our 180 degree from ordinary solution to add new capacity and major enhancements to the guest experience in a very time efficient manner," said Windstar President John Delaney. "The initiative not only creates beautiful new suites and public spaces, but we will also take the opportunity to re-engine the ships with a more fuel efficient and environmentally responsible propulsion system. This will be a true game changer for Windstar and our small ship cruise experience."

The initiative will expand guest accommodations on the boutique line's three all-suite vessels increasing capacity from 212 passengers to 312 guests per ship, following the lengthening. The work will be done to Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride in succession between October 2019 and November 2020, and take place at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo, Sicily, Italy. The project represents an overall capacity increase of 24% for the small ship line.

The project is expected to be partially financed through an export credit facility guaranteed by SACE, Italy's export credit agency.

Each Star Class ship will be cut to allow the installation of a new section of ship that will lengthen each vessel approximately 25.6 meters bringing the total length to just over 138 meters, still the right size to access the smaller ports and harbors that Windstar favors on the line's immersive itineraries. The project adds 50 new suites, bringing the total number of suites per ship to 156, and represents an investment of more than $267,000 per passenger berth.

"This major investment is an efficient way to build on a winning brand that shows strong momentum and growth potential. Support for this exciting new initiative demonstrates our commitment to Windstar as an important part of the Xanterra portfolio," said Andrew N. Todd, President and CEO of Xanterra Travel Collection.

Also involved in the $250 Million Star Plus Initiative is the creation of state-of-the-art public spaces including two new dining locations; new shop and retail space; a much enlarged fitness center; and a new world-class spa.

In addition to the impressive scale of work to be done, the renovation includes a comprehensive re-engine project for each ship. This complex undertaking is an uncommon occurrence in the cruise industry and involves the removal of seven current engines and installation of four new, more environmentally friendly engines that will run on cleaner fuel and reduce emissions impact to sailing regions.

"Given our expertise as a leader in major cruise ship renovations and lengthening projects, we are gratified to be chosen by Windstar to undertake this complex and extensive endeavor. We look forward to working with the Windstar team to totally transform these elegant small ships," said Giorgio Rizzo, Executive SVP, Fincantieri Services.

50 new suites, new dining venues, new spa & fitness areas take center stage

Windstar has partnered with acclaimed designer Ray Chung, Director of Design at The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry in New York, to create modern and inviting design aesthetics for the new public spaces and new suites.

Among new guest amenities and accommodations in the planning phase are:

– 50 new suites featuring new suite categories and open floor plan configurations.
– Creation of two brand new, larger Owner's Suites, that combines existing suites to create up to a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite – the first of its kind in the cruise industry.
– Two brand new dining experiences including: an intimate, alternative dining restaurant, and a casual barbecue space adjacent to the top deck Star Bar, perfect for outdoor grilling during Windstar's Signature Onboard Barbecue celebration or enjoying while spending time on deck.
– Expanded Veranda Restaurant to offer significantly more ocean-view seating and upgraded dining area.
– For existing suites, all-new bathrooms and installation of new sliding doors for the Balcony Suites.
– Larger pool and hot tub that will be reconfigured and elevated offering outstanding views, along with more and enhanced outdoor deck area for relaxing and sun-bathing.
– A completely re-imagined and enlarged spa and fitness center to invigorate active guests.
– A new elevator mid-ship, making access to all decks easy from anywhere on board.
– A comfortable, new tender loading area located mid-ship and two new 90-passenger tenders that will ferry guests to port when ships are at anchor.

In addition, ship staff and crew areas and accommodations will be expanded and upgraded. Additional crew will be hired and the increase will maintain the line's impressive 1.5:1 guest to hotel staff ratio.

As planning on the $250 Million Star Plus Initiative progresses, additional details about the extensive work to be done, new onboard experiences, and new partnerships will be revealed and highlighted in news announcements and on a dedicated microsite that will launch in 2019.

SunStone Ships inks deal for two more newbuilds

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

SunStone Ships announced the signing of an agreement to build another two Infinity-class vessels, signaling rapid adoption of the European- designed, Chinese-built concept. SunStone President and CEO, Niels-Erik Lund, commented, “Our charterers are anxious to enjoy the advantages of our cutting-edge technology, like the X- bow design, along with the significant operating efficiencies offered by the Infinity-class. So, we’re moving as quickly as possible to get them into the market.”

Infinity-class Vessels are 104 meters long, and 18 meters wide, having a draft of 5.1 meters. They feature a passenger capacity between 130-200 and a crew capacity between 85 and 115.

The Vessels are Ice Class 1A, Polar Code 6 and are being built with Safe Return to Port, Dynamic Positioning and Zero Speed Stabilizers. Current Infinity-class newbuilds under way include the Greg Mortimer, scheduled to deliver August, 2019, the Ocean Victory in September 2020, the Ocean Explorer in March 2021, and the Ocean Odyssey in May 2022. The Ocean Explorer and Ocean Odyssey both already have long-term charter agreements.

This contract is part of the ten-vessel Framework Agreement with China Merchants Heavy Industries. “We are very pleased with the development and the speed with which we are signing these new-build contracts,” stated Lund, “in addition to the five vessels already ordered, SunStone is in negotiations for additional vessels and it is expected that the remaining five options will be signed within 2019, so that ten Infinity-class vessels will be built at CMHI, China.

American Queen Steamboat Company to acquire Victory I/II vessels and Victory Cruise Lines

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä
  • Category: Top Headlines

Today, American Queen Steamboat Company announced a definitive agreement to acquire the Victory I and sister ship Victory II from Sunstone Ships, Inc., as well as the Victory brand. These vessels are currently being marketed by Victory Cruise Lines as overnight cruise ships. Terms of the transaction are not being disclosed and expected to close in early January 2019.

“We are pleased to purchase the Victory I and Victory II which will fuel the continued success and growth of American Queen Steamboat Company,” said American Queen Steamboat Company Chairman and CEO John Waggoner. “We look forward to working closely with Victory Cruise Lines' new and existing travel partners. These vessels enable us to provide guests with more diverse cruising options particularly in the Great Lakes, a region that our customers have been requesting for years.”

The 5,000-ton, 300-foot-long, 202-passenger Victory I and Victory II are both identical and details of upcoming operations on both of vessels will be announced in the coming months.

The Victory I and Victory II will join the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet under the Victory Cruise name, alongside the flagship American Queen and 166-guest boutique paddlewheeler American Duchess sailing the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and American Empress in the Pacific Northwest. The new American Countess, currently under construction in Louisiana, will debut in 2020.

“Victory Cruise Lines has established itself as the leading cruise line on the Great Lakes, and our bookings for 2019 are already 35% ahead of our actuals of 2018. AQSC’s established and strong product and brand is well-suited to take the Victory vessels and Victory Cruise Lines brand forward creating one of the largest North American Great Lakes and U.S. River cruising companies in the country,” said Victory Cruise Lines President and CEO Hans Lagerweij.

NCLH raises full year 2018 EPS guidance to $4.85

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen
  • Category: Top Headlines

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH), the world third largest cruise shipping group, has raised its 2018 full year earnings per share (EPS) forecast to $4.85 from an earlier forecast of $4.70 to $4.80.

“The Company expects to generate record earnings in full year 2018 and has increased its outlook above the high-end of its previous guidance range.  Adjusted EPS is now expected to be approximately $4.85, which is inclusive of the previously announced impact from itinerary optimisation initiatives which will benefit future periods,” the company said in a statement. 

“The robust booking environment for cruise vacations is alive and well as evidenced by our stellar booked position for 2019, which continues to exceed this year’s record levels, with booking momentum accelerating for sailings throughout 2019 and extending into 2020,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“We are well-positioned to achieve the three-year double-digit Adjusted EPS CAGR (compound annual growth rate), net leverage and Adjusted ROIC (return on invested capital) targets provided at our 2018 Investor Day, while at the same time returning meaningful capital to shareholders, despite rising fuel prices and fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.”

NCLH reports strong third quarter, nine month figures

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen
  • Category: Top Headlines

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH), the world third largest cruise shipping group, has reported strong figures for both the third quarter and the first nine months of the year on strong demand.

Net profit rose to $470.4 million in the third quarter from $400.7 million year on as EBIT increased to $550 .3 million from $476.3 million. Revenues rose to $1.86 billion from $1.65 billion.

In the January-September period, the net profit of the company reached $800.2 million compared to $661.0 million year on, while EBIT reached $1.00 billion from $871.6 million and revenues climbed to $4.67 billion from $4.15 billion.

“Our three brands fully benefited from strong demand for peak summer season sailings, with particular strength in premium-priced itineraries in Alaska and Europe, resulting in the highest quarterly revenue and earnings in our history,” said Mark A. Kempa, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

In the third quarter, total cruise operating expense increased 10.8% compared to 2017 primarily due to an increase in capacity days.  Gross cruise costs per capacity day increased 4.0% due to higher marketing, general and administrative expenses. Adjusted net cruise cost excluding Fuel per capacity day increased 2.0% on a constant currency basis and 2.1% on an as reported basis.