With so much invested in the basic hardware - that is the ships themselves - it is unsurprising that companies regularly decide to invest millions in a refresh and update, either to transform their fleet, or simply to update older vessels to match the innovations of the new ones. A prime example has been the launch of Celebrity Edge last month, alongside the announcement of the 'Celebrity Revolution', a plan to update ten existing ships.
The announcement in November that Windstar is to totally reinvent its three all-suite yachts known as the Star Class vessels (formerly the little Seabourn ships) is something of a game changer, expanding the fleet capacity by 23% and effectively dragging these pretty but elderly vessels into the 21st century, and transforming the small ship cruise line.
It is a much speedier and less costly solution than building new ships, and allows the company to consolidate whilst planning for the future. Although the focus may be on the new suites and enhanced décor, key to the plans is 'the opportunity to re-engine the ships with four new engines creating a more fuel efficient and environmentally responsible propulsion system' - absolutely essential for a cruise line looking to the future.
The stretch will increase capacity from 212 guests to 312 guests per ship, with the work taking place at Fincantieri Shipyard in Palermo between October 2019 and November 2020. Even after the lengthening, Windstar will be able to boast its leadership in the small ship market, and retain its focus on port-intensive, off-the-beaten-track itineraries.
On board we can expect fifty new suites, including a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite - the first of its kind in the cruise industry - along with new dining options, an enlarged fitness centre and spa, and a spruced up marina area to make the watersports options even more special. Meanwhile in the existing suites, regulars will be delighted to hear news of all-new bathrooms. A much needed larger pool will be key to the enhanced outdoor deck area.
Meanwhile at Saga, with their current build programme to create two boutique style super cool ships operating from the UK, the challenge is to re-invent the brand itself, moving away from the 'that's just for old people' image to a refined and luxurious product, exclusively for over 50s, on board the small intimate ships, Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure.
We think these two ships will be sufficiently special to break down the strong aversion some have to taking a Saga cruise, and create an aspirational feel. With many luxury touches such as inclusive pricing, limited guest numbers (under 1,000), lots of contemporary dining options, spacious balcony cabins and cutting edge design, we really should expect the unexpected when the first of these vessels launches in July of this year.