A personal account of three unique theme cruises.
People with particular passions like to share their interests with other like-minded folks. Hence, the theme cruise business has grown to hundreds of sailings a year. Options run the gamut from the sublime to the, well, kind of bizarre. Some of the most popular theme cruises are full-ship charters that afford the opportunity for fans to mingle with music, sports, or movie stars. But there are also smaller, subtler themed group gatherings (quilting circle at sea, anyone?). In the past several months I sampled not one, but three special cruises to compare some of the approaches.
Experiencing your ship lifted and lowered through the locks of the engineering wonder that is the Panama Canal was one highlight of a sailing aboard Windstar Cruises’ 212- passenger, all- suite Star Pride. Another was quality time with John Delaney, president of the cruise line.
The one- week bucket list cruise was filled mostly with guests who shared status as members of the Windstar Yacht Club loyalty program. Some had cruised hundreds of days with the cruise line. The commonality was they love Windstar — from its low- key atmosphere to other small ship virtues.
For those who like to be in the know, the advantages of doing a President’s Cruise include extra pampering at cocktail parties and other special events as well as the opportunity to be the first to hear about the line’s new plans.
During a Q& A session on Star Pride, for example, there were oohs and ahhs from the crowd as Delaney detailed new itineraries, talked plans for more overnights in port, discussed the line’s new partnership with the James Beard Foundation, and even teased about shore excursion concepts that were in the works — such as a helicopter tour in Italy combining ancient Pompeii with a visit to a lemon farm and limoncello producers.
Delaney himself, on his first- ever President’s Cruise, was also on a mission. A nice byproduct of these cruises is that executives not only get to hear passenger and crewmember likes and dislikes, but they also get to test new ideas.
“I want to hear what your wish list is,” Delaney told the guests aboard Star Pride. “This is your cruise line and we really mean that. You are the lens through which we work.”
Delaney asked the crowd how important free Internet might be as a Yacht Club benefit. Nearly everyone raised his or her hands. Free laundry? Fewer hands. A 15 percent discount on shore excursions such as the helicopter tour? One fellow guest shouted “Yes!” to which Delaney had a quick comeback: “When you see the price you’ll be grateful for the 15 percent off.”
Other cruise lines that also host President’s Cruises include Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Crystal Cruises. Windstar Cruises’ 2018 President’s Cruise is a 14- day Asia sailing on Star Legend from Singapore to Hong Kong, embarking on January 6, 2018.
The advantages of doing a President’s Cruise include extra pampering as well as the opportunity to be the first to hear about the line’s new plans.