With many small destinations protesting against over-tourism, here’s no better time than now for a small-ship cruise, says the team at Windstar Cruises. With just 350 guests, their “nimble and unobtrusive” ships “leave a softer footprint on the beaches, national parks, and streets of these fabled destinations.”
That’s especially important in seven ports: Dubrovnik, Venice, Bar Harbor, Key West, French Polynesia, Santorini and Juneau.
Windstar sails to all seven of those ports, though they are not its top destinations, Windstar VP of Sales Dianna Rom told TRO in an exclusive interview. Tahiti, where they sail year-round, is “a constant for us from year to year and a top selling destination.” For 2023, the company will double its capacity there by switching out the 148-guest Wind Spirit for the 312-guest Star Breeze. Wind Spirit then will join Wind Star in the Greek Isles, another top destination.
Windstar’s newest destination is the Middle East, where the all-suite, 312-guest Star Legend will sail beginning November 2023. “We are excited to introduce our guests to the region with new itineraries in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, Rom said.
There’s also been a big increase in interest in Iceland, where a new three-night Cruise Tour was added in 2022. In 2024, Windstar will increase capacity there to 3,432 guests over the season, on a ship carrying 312 guests—up 305% from its first Iceland itineraries in 2016.
And in keeping with the trend toward all-inclusive rates, Windstar recently added an option to prebook an all-inclusive package that includes wifi, alcohol, and crew gratuities.
On the drawing board are ideas to tap into the trend toward longer vacations; “we’ll continue to look for opportunities for guests to book longer cruises with us, such as our 13+day Collector voyages and our 85-day Grand European Bucket List voyage,” Rom said. And with guests looking for healthier options, look for healthier menus and more options for vegans and vegetarians, coming later this year.
Overall, she said, “luxury small ship cruising is surging in popularity, with many travelers “opting for trips to under-the-radar destinations and ports that are less well known but scenic and easy to explore from a small ship. Sales for“2023 are going to be stellar,” from both past guests and new-to-Windstar customers, with many booking higher-end suites than ever before. “My advice for travelers is to book early to make sure you have a suite booked during the time/destination you want.”
Never tried them? Windstar hosts focused travel advisor familiarization trips throughout the year, and low-cost rates on many sailings, available on the Windstar Travel Advisor Hub.