Seabourn, which in recent years redefined its luxury fleet with the addition of three larger ships, has sold its three older ships to Windstar Cruises and announced it will build a fourth ship.
The sale will double the size of Windstar’s fleet, which just two years ago was purchased out of bankruptcy proceedings.
The sale, announced last week, involves three 208-passenger ships that were built between 1988 and 1990. The Seabourn Pride will be transferred to Windstar after its published schedule ends in April 2014; Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend will change hands in spring 2015.
The sale will leave Seabourn with three 450-passenger ships — Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest — that were delivered between 2009 and 2011.
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The three Odyssey-class ships “have raised the bar for ultra-luxury cruising and we intend to add a fourth ship of similar design” that would allow Seabourn to maintain most of its current guest capacity, said Richard Meadows, the line’s president. Talks with a ship builder are already under way, he said.
The acquisition of three ships is a big boost for Windstar, which was in bankruptcy in 2011 when it was purchased by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a hospitality company whose primary business is as a national parks concessions operator.
Windstar’s fleet consists of three sailing yachts, two of which can carry 148 guests and one with a capacity of 310 guests. Xanterra said buying the three motorized Seabourn ships will allow it to expand to new destinations in Asia and South America.
100 YEARS OF CRUISES
Florida’s cruise industry, with more than 8 million passengers, marks its 100th anniversary this year. On Jan. 7, 1913, the 3,786-ton Evangeline left Key West on the first cruise from Florida, according to The Cruise People, a London travel company. The ship operated eight 11-night cruises that year, calling at Panama, Jamaica and Cuba. Cruises were priced at $110 per person.
Many ships had sailed out of Florida ports before that time, but they were on point-to-point itineraries, not round trips. Henry Flagler, for one, had created the Florida East Coast Steamship Co. and by 1899 had three ships operating from Miami — the Southern Cross to Nassau, the City of Key West to Key West and the Miami to Havana. From Tampa, the Plant Line operated several ships in the late 1800s. On one of them, the Olivette, a young Winston Churchill sailed from Tampa to Havana in 1895, according to The Cruise People.
Today, of course, hundreds of cruises sail out of Florida ports. Miami, which saw about 4 million cruise passengers in 2012, and Fort Lauderdale, with about 3.6 million, are the two biggest cruise ports in the world.
European river cruises were the top 2013 international destination booked by luxury travelers in a survey of 567 Travel Leaders Group travel agents. Conducted Nov. 19-Dec. 16, 2012, the survey found that 35.9 percent of respondents named European river cruises as the top international choice, with European Mediterranean cruises second at 33.7 percent, beating out Italy, Australia and France in third, fourth and fifth places. Baltic cruises came in seventh at 8.1 percent and Panama Canal cruises 13th at 4.8 percent.
Joining a handful of oceangoing ships whose fares include alcoholic drinks and gratuities, the Scenic Cruises river cruise line has gone fully all-inclusive this year and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will go all-inclusive in 2014. Nearly all river lines today are more inclusive than most large oceangoing ships — often including wine or beer at meals and cruise excursions in their fare — but have not taken the final step of also including all alcoholic drinks and gratuities.
Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Victory has taken over the line’s four- and five-night Caribbean/Bahamas cruises out of Miami. The ship replaces the Carnival Destiny on that route. Carnival Destiny will undergo a wide-ranging $155-million renovation in Europe, the most extensive in Carnival history, emerging with a new name, Carnival Sunshine. After spending summer and early fall in Europe, Carnival Sunshine will move to New Orleans and sail to the Caribbean.
Princess Cruises has added a pair of two-night sailings from Southampton in advance of its official inaugural cruise June 16. The new 3,600-passenger vessel will be the line’s biggest and will offer innovations not found among its current fleet, among them an over-water, glass-bottomed walkway, a television studio and poolside cabanas. The ship will make Mediterranean cruises until fall, when it comes to Fort Lauderdale for a series of Eastern Caribbean cruises.
Music fans can enjoy two back-to-back music theme cruises out of Miami in October.
Lynyrd Skynyrd will headline the Simple Man Cruise on the Norwegian Pearl Oct. 20-24. The band will perform a Sail Away concert, a main theater performance and a Q&A session. Other performers and activities will be announced later. Prices start at $700; 877-379-9174, www.simplemancruise.com.
Alabama of country music fame will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a four-night Alabama & Friends Festival at Sea cruise, also on the Norwegian Pearl from Miami Oct. 24. The band will play two concerts with the full band, plus performances from each individual band member and is hosting more than a dozen other music acts on board. Prices start at $750; 877-379-9180, www.alabamafestivalatsea.com.
HERE AND THERE
Silversea Cruises is adding eight shorter cruises to its European itineraries this spring — three four-nighters, two five-night cruises, one six-night cruise and two seven-night sailings. All-inclusive fares start at $1,360. … AmaWaterways is jazzing up its spring tulip sailing with performances by internationally known jazz musicians. The 13-night Tulip & Jazz cruise sails from Amsterdam April 20. … Buddy Velastro, star of the TLC television series Cake Boss and Next Great Baker, will open a branch of his family business, Carlo’s Bake Shop, on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ new Norwegian Breakaway, which will be New York-based and themed. The shop will offer an assortment of baked goods for sale and will hold cupcake decorating classes.