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Carnival Selling WindstarFebruary 26, 2007 By: Joe Pike, Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent
Carnival Corporation late last week announced that it is selling its Windstar Cruises brand to Ambassadors International, a Seattle-based travel company that operates Majestic America Line. Windstar Cruises, which manages three sailing vessels as a subsidiary of Holland America Line, a unit of Carnival, was sold to Ambassadors for $100 million.
Carnival says it sold Windstar so that it could focus on
expanding its core growth brands and open new markets. "We made the
decision to exit from the niche cruise business some time ago and the sale of
Windstar is in line with that strategy, as is our decision to cease operation
of another nice operator, the UK's Swan Hellenic, and transfer its one ship to
the Princess Cruises brand," says Vance Gulliksen, a spokesperson for the
cruise line. "Windstar and Swan Hellenic are the only two brands for which
we do not have a growth strategy in place."
Ambassadors' President David Giersdorf says Windstar and its
three vessels—the 312-passenger Wind Surf and the 148-passenger Wind
Star and Wind Spirit—will retain the Windstar brand.
Giersdorf says the transition from
to Ambassadors would be seamless for travel agents. "As far as agents are
concerned, nothing changes, the company will operate as it has," he says.
Even so, experienced agents are expecting sales of Windstar
to be affected, as clients may not feel comfortable booking a vacation on a
cruise line that is under new management.
"There always is an impact on sales when a company gets
sold," says Mike Kempinski, vice president and owner of Northstar Cruises
cabins a year. "Windstar is a great product to offer the romantic
traveler. It was really gaining in popularity, so I'm concerned this sale might
change all that."
Giersdorf says that Windstar operations won't be changing
that much, if at all. Future renovations planned for Wind Spirit in
April and for Wind Star in November will be on a similar level to those
completed in January on the Wind Surf. "New suites were added, all
of the existing suites were completely redone," Giersdorf says.
Giersdorf was part of the team that launched the Windstar
believes gives him an understanding and appreciation of the brand and what it
represents. "I helped lay the groundwork for Windstar Cruises as a
subsidiary of HAL," Giersdorf says, who served as vice president of
Windstar from 1989 to 1991. "I came up with the tagline '180 Degrees From
Ordinary' and developed some of its most successful itineraries in
Giersdorf returned to HAL from 1999 through 2004 as
executive vice president of marketing and sales. "The Windstar division
reported to me, so I worked very closely with that team," he says.
He adds that Ambassadors, which launched a cruise division
just last year, has a great relationship with HAL and that acquisition discussions
have been ongoing for quite some time. "We've said from the beginning that
it's our objective to be a worldwide leader in small ship luxury cruise
vacations," Giersdorf says.
With the Windstar acquisition, Ambassadors now has acquired
10 ships in the last year—and there may be more on the horizon. "We're
always open to other opportunities," Giersdorf says. "Perhaps some