Having sailed on Windstar’s fleet over twenty times, I am an enthusiastic supporter, particularly of the two smaller vessels (Wind Star and Wind Spirit). Until an engine-room fire destroyed the Wind Song in December 2002, Windstar held the coveted distinction of having the highest percentage of repeat passengers on its vessels in the industry. This amazing accomplishment stems from two factors: First, Windstar offers small, technologically advanced sailing ships which carry only 147 passengers in “state of the art” luxury, comfort and world class service while also providing unparalleled access to water sports activities on its aft sports platform and sailing into smaller ports. Windstar’s Discover Scuba Diving program has probably fostered the highest number of Certified Divers in the cruising world. Secondly, Windstar has an amazing staff and crew that deliver outstanding personalized service. Over the years a special family bond has evolved between the repeating passengers and loyal crew that has earned Windstar the world-side reputation it deserves.
Unfortunately, this unprecedented record stands in jeopardy now because the two remaining smaller vessels are approximately 14 years old and are showing serious signs of age. The “aging” is manifested not just in aesthetics like outdated and worn out cabin furnishings, fitness and massage facilities, but also from more frequent and serious mechanical failures as recently demonstrated by sailings in which passengers and crew sailed for over a week in Caribbean heat without air-conditioning or with only one operational ship’s tender; then there are the usual, plumbing blockages and other problems that occur with a 14 year old vessel.
On January 17, 2003, a petition signed by over forty-eight repeater passengers was sent to Stein Kruse, S.V.P. Operations Windstar voicing these views. Collectively the petitioners account for over 148 cruises. As of 2/11/03 the petitioners are still hopeful for a positive response from Windstar.
The Windstar experience is so unique, it deserves better corporate attention now to reinvest in its future. The loyal staff and crew cannot be expected to continue to build the highest percentage of repeat passengers (or to keep the ones they developed) unless these vessels are overhauled and modernized.