This cruise line is cutting ships in half and putting them back together — here’s why
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The much-beloved Windstar Cruises ship Star Breeze is back and, as promised, bigger than before.
Seattle-based Windstar on Wednesday welcomed the 31-year-old vessel back into its fleet after a massive, 13-month-long makeover that included the addition of an entirely new segment to its middle — something that only happens rarely in the cruise world.
The addition, which made the ship about 20% longer, brought the ship 50 new suites and new restaurants, pool decks, retail spaces and an expansive spa and fitness area.
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In addition, as part of the project, many of the existing areas of the ship were gutted down to the studs and rebuilt, resulting in a vessel that, in many respects, is almost new.
Indeed, in a virtual tour of the changes for cruise writers on Wednesday, Windstar president Chris Prelog made that point by starting with a picture of the tip of the vessel’s bow.
“I wanted to start with a picture of (this) section of the ship … because I think it’s the only section of the ship that we haven’t worked on,” Prelog said. “Everything else on the ship is completely transformed.”
Prelog talked about things big and small that had changed on the ship, from the complete overhaul of every bathroom on the vessel to the installation of new owner’s suites that are bigger than anything the ship ever has seen.
“That suite has grown substantially in size,” he said, noting that adjoining suites can be tied into owner’s suites to create massive, three-bedroom complexes.
The addition to Star Breeze was accomplished by cutting the vessel in half at a shipyard in Italy and spreading the two halves apart before sliding in a new, pre-built section.
While it wasn’t the first time a cruise ship had been lengthened using such a process, it was billed as the most complex cruise ship lengthening ever.
In part, that’s because the ship received new engines as part of the lengthening — a significant undertaking. The new engines will allow the ship to travel faster than it did before, opening up new itineraries to the line.
Indeed, recent sea trials for the revamped vessel showed that it can go even faster than the line anticipated, Prelog said. The lengthening of the ship also has made it operate more smoothly in the water, he said.
“The ship is faster and more quiet and (has) less vibration than anticipated,” Prelog said. “We are very, very pleased with the outcome of that.”
One of the big changes for Star Breeze was the addition of a true pool and expanded sunning areas. The vessel previously only had a relatively small sun deck with just a hot tub and a tiny counter-current pool.
The new eateries include an outdoor barbecue venue called Star Grill created by barbecue icon Steven Raichlen, and a Spanish restaurant called Cuadro 44 created by Michelin-starred chef Anthony Sasso.
Speaking during Wednesday’s virtual tour, which was held by Zoom, Raichlen called his new barbecue eatery on Star Breeze a “dream come true.” It’ll serve everything from Kansas City-style ribs to Thai chicken satay with peanut sauce, he said.
Sasso, who also was at Wednesday’s virtual tour, said his eatery would offer small plates with such menu items as mussels seasoned with scallion ash, and churros dusted with hibiscus.
In the wake of the overhaul, Star Breeze is 525 feet long — 85 feet longer than before. It now can hold 312 passengers, up from 212 previously.
Two more Windstar ships that are similar to Star Breeze — Star Legend and Star Pride — are undergoing similar transformations. Prelog on Wednesday said Star Legend already had been cut in half and received its new midsection. Finishing work on the vessel remains.
Star Pride is scheduled to enter a dry dock for its transformation in January, Prelog said.
The three vessels undergoing transformations are much-loved by small-ship fans because of their intimacy and ability to dock in small ports that bigger ships can’t access. They originally sailed for luxury line Seabourn, where they also had a large following.
Star Breeze currently is scheduled to resume service on 27 March. It had been scheduled to restart cruising sooner but early sailings were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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Featured image courtesy of Windstar Cruises
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