Windstar ‘actively looking’ to grow fleet, reveals President

Chris Prelog says small ship operator mulling acquisition over new-build

Windstar Cruises is intent on expanding its fleet of six ships, President Chris Prelog confirmed at an event in Sydney last week, saying “we’re actively looking”. Prelog was in Australia meeting with travel partners and media following the first visit by a Windstar Cruises’ ship, Star Breeze, to local waters between November 2022 and mid-February 2023.

“We are looking at expansion all the time. We’re looking at proposals. Nothing definite as yet, but yes, Windstar will grow,” Prelog said.

The first-ever Windstar Cruises’ President to visit Australia told LATTE that Xanterra Travel Collection, the owners of the Seattle-based cruise company, favoured acquisition over newbuild, given factors such as construction timelines with most major shipyards already heavily backlogged. Prelog however wouldn’t be drawn on further details of said ‘proposals’.

Chris Prelog, President of Windstar Cruises in Sydney last week.

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Windstar Cruises’ fleet comprises three masted vessels – Wind Star, Wind Surf and Wind Spirit – and three ‘Star Class’ power yachts – Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride. The latter three vessels were bought from Seabourn in 2013, all of which in recent years were cut in half, stretched and had 50 new cabins and suites added, as well as new and larger venues under the US$250 million Star Plus initiative.

Prelog has 25 years of cruise industry experience and his visit last week was by no means his first to Australian shores. He explained to media that his first cruise industry job was in January 1997, when he stepped aboard a ship as crew in Circular Quay. He served with Seabourn for 14 years which included numerous sailings between Australia and New Zealand. In late 2016 he joined Windstar as Vice President of Fleet Operations, was promoted to COO three years later and took the Presidency in September 2020.

Prelog told LATTE the recently completed local deployment of Star Breeze wasn’t at capacity due to some challenges but he was optimistic for next summer’s season.

“We’re not quite full yet, but the trajectory is that we will be soon.”

Represented in Australia by Travel the World (TTW), Prelog says the Windstar product is “such a great fit for the Australian market. I think we offer something different with our onboard product and our people.”

In a sign of its commitment to this market, TTW has also recently appointed Rob Shaw as National Business Development Manager for Windstar. Shaw was previously with Royal Caribbean Group for 10.5 years.

Windstar Cruises' President, Chris Prelog; Vice President of Sales, Dianne Rom; and Rob Shaw, National Business Development Manager

“The Australian market is a special focus for us,” Prelog said. “We really want to zero in, together with Travel the World, who have been really focused on bringing Australian guests onboard our ships.”

Windstar experience

Prelog defines Windstar Cruises as “luxury, but we are not formal.”

Based on his vast experience in the luxury cruise sector, the Austrian native said “a lot of guests these days are really not so much interested in putting on bow ties and tuxedos and long gowns.”

They want the informality. Not having a rigid schedule, and doing what they would like to do and letting their hair down. I think that’s where Windstar really hits the spot.

He said the size of the ships – which ranges from 148 to 342 passengers – enables Windstar to access ports larger ships often sail past, alongside marquee destinations.

“Big ships have gotten bigger to the point where the ship is now the destination. You are no longer essentially going to a destination because you are sailing on the destination, and we are the opposite of that. Not that our ships aren’t a great destination but when you go to into Tahiti with the Wind Spirit and Star Breeze you see it from a very different angle,” Prelog said.

“On small ship cruising, everything is easier and simpler – easy to access in terms of destination and the onboard product.”

He used an example of a nearly 5,000-passenger ship docked the same day in Circular Quay, whereby guests were experiencing massive queues, outdoors in the elements, to embark.

Wind Spirit, the world's largest commercial sailing ship, in Tahiti


Prelog said guests love the gourmet experience aboard the Windstar fleet, including the James Beard Foundation-inspired menus, its exclusive annual James Beard Foundation departures, alongside dishes served in the Star Grill and the Cuardro 44 Spanish concept. 

Windstar Cruises’ gluten-free and about-to-be-rolled-out plant-based, no salt, fat or oil menus are also extremely popular with guests. Dishes are set to include beetroot, green apple salad; veggie enchiladas, chia seed truffles and chilled green pea soup.

“I know there is huge demand for it,” Prelog said of the plant-based menu, which will debut in April. “There is so much interest in the US. One agent has bookings going through the roof!”

Prelog offered a first-look at some of the upcoming plant-based menu items that will be offered fleet-wide with Windstar Cruises, effective April 2023.

There are also wine partnerships, culinary experts, sommeliers and winemakers who are welcomed aboard Windstar’s ships to talk about food and wine and showcase their products. There is also no surcharge on speciality dining with Windstar Cruises, Prelog noted.


The average age of a Windstar Cruises guest falls between 55-65. They tend to fall into one of three different categories: the Active Explorer who loves to get immersed in the culture and destination; the Sophisticated Traveller who enjoys private touring and exclusive access, and; Cruising Parents, who are not necessarily travelling with kids, but want a break and to pamper themselves.

New to brand / booking window

Prelog reported that Windstar has witnessed an increase in new-to-brand guests, along with guests downsizing from large ships to experience the small ship difference, “but not so much new to cruise” business.

We are seeing a new booking behaviour which we thought was interesting. Either guests book very far in advance – we recently had a record booking week for sailings in 2025 – or very close in. Some people are booking for next Saturday. We are seeing heavy volumes close in and heavy volumes far out.

“It’s not the typical traditional booking behaviour you’d see pre-COVID,” he told media.

Pricing structure

In late 2021, Windstar introduced all-inclusive pricing, which is available alongside its a la carte offering. Prelog said the split of what guests favour is “right down the middle” – 49% favour all-inclusive, while 51% a la carte.

Dianna Rom, Vice President of Sales added that Windstar Cruises is the only cruise brand that enables guests in the same accommodation to have differing packages. (ie. one guest could be all-inclusive, the other guest in the same stateroom or suite could be a la carte).

Prelog, Rom and Shaw wound out their week with the Sydney BridgeClimb experience over the harbour.

Itineraries and destinations

French Polynesia is Windstar Cruises’ most popular destination for Australian travellers – the small ship line’s number one international source market. Last October, Windstar marked its 35th anniversary of operating in Tahiti. In 2024, the company will reposition Wind Spirit out of Tahiti, replacing the yacht with the larger capacity Star Breeze, which unlike Spirit, features balconies – a huge plus for guests, Prelog says.

Wind Spirit will transition to Greece and the Caribbean, regions where the sailing ships are a hit with guests, along with Panama Canal.

Other destinations that Windstar operate include Northern Europe, Iceland, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The latter destination Prelog suggests is yet to be fully tapped by small ship operators, with only Ponant sharing a similar low-berth capacity compared to other ocean liners of several thousand guests.

“We are the only luxury small ship cruise line from the US hitting the Middle East which makes us very unique. There are others from Europe. I think it’s such an amazing upcoming destination,” he said.

Alaska concern

Prelog says the introduction of the Middle East in 2024 comes at the cost of deployment in Alaska, a destination he suggests is already on the cusp of being overcrowded.

“Alaska is growing tremendously. It’s growing so fast that I’m concerned. Where are all these ships going to go and how will the destination accommodate all the services they will need?” he pondered.

Prelog told LATTE he was concerned about the sheer volume of ships and their capacity that has been committed to Alaska for future seasons, saying they will place a burden on Alaska’s small port communities such as Ketchikan and Juneau.

Usually, there are 2,000-3,000 guest ships in there and it’s getting busy. Now there are 5,000-6,000 passenger ships and you put a few of those in, and I’m thinking how is this little town going to cope with that amount of people? I don’t know how that’s going to go.

“And when I look at the Middle East from a small ship operator’s perspective, we could be the only ones there. There are a lot of small ship operators in Alaska too, from expedition class to soft expedition, luxury – everyone is there.

“I’m always looking for new things, innovation and providing something different and that’s why we made that choice,” Prelog explained.

Other points of difference

Prelog said a major point of difference for Windstar was the sail away experience for guests aboard the masted ships. He said the unfurling of the sails in an “emotional soundtrack” as guests take photos of the sails and absorb the ship experience, “as opposed to the rest of the industry when the sail away is focused on taking pictures of the port you’re departing.”

Windstar also has an Open Bridge, whereby guests are able to access the ‘cockpit’ of the ships. And each of the six ships has a watersports platform, offering guests an array of toys and floating mats to experience at the ship’s stern.

By mid-2023, Windstar Cruises will also roll out Starlink Maritime high-speed internet across its fleet, with Star Pride the first fleet mate now equipped with the technology. The internet solution will be included as part of Windstar’s all-inclusive fare offering.

Star Breeze, the ship that was in Australian waters earlier this month, is now in drydock in Singapore. She will reposition to Alaska for the upcoming summer season there before returning down under in November 2023.

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