Unique Windstar Feature: Hugging Upon Boarding

Refection after travel is a good idea.  It makes sense to compare what we were promised before travel to the reality that resolved before our eyes.  Whatever the plan was, there were probably triumphant moments along the way. I’d like to think that happens more on a cruise than other ways of seeing the world. Still, even considering all the positive experiences we have had in the past, nothing could quite prepare me for monitoring embarkation on Windstar Cruises.

The process of getting on a Windstar ship is similar to other small ship cruise lines; less formal, more personal.  Fans of small ship cruising focus on the personal aspect of…well…everything. Rightfully so, small ship cruising is more about people and less about ship attractions designed to occupy our time.  Still, as Captain Neil Broomhall welcomed passengers on to Star Legend, I watched a remarkable scene unfold before my eyes.

One by one they boarded Star Legend in Singapore, the first port on the 14-day 2018 Windstar President’s cruise. I came on the ship before the process began to watch crew do is commonly referred to as ‘tossing’ or ‘flipping’ the ship. It’s the rather substantial job of getting a boatload of passengers off the ship in the morning then bringing on a whole new batch in the afternoon.

As minutes ticked away on an embarkation clock that was scheduled to begin at 1PM, a flurry of activity onboard occurs that we don’t normally see.  What appears to be a really messy procedure on just about any cruise ship, changing all the beds, cleaning and loading supplies/fuel in order to sail again is really a precise operation.

Minutes before the doors open and the cruise line gets another chance to make a good first impression again, crew falls into place. In great big broad strokes, this happens on ‘turnaround day’ on all passenger ships.  What does not occur on all ships is the genuine reunion-style arrival of beloved guests on Windstar Cruises.  Seriously, there was hugging upon boarding for more the majority of the passengers boarding in Singapore.

To be fair, this sailing IS the annual Windstar President’s cruise.  One could make a case that this unique sailing would be appealing to loyal fans of the brand.  Loyal fans have more hugs, thus Chris saw more hugs. But that assumption would be totally wrong.  Windstar does have a lot of steadfast repeaters.  It’s one of the reasons the brand survived after multiple ownerships. Still, that’s not the news here.  Let me explain with a little story.

One of the little lessons I was taught as a boy and has served me well in my lifetime: people like to be appreciated. I’ve found this to be true in everyone from business leaders and movie stars to people who walk around picking up trash in theme parks. Perhaps it’s the small size of the Windstar ships that enable more communication among the small number of passengers onboard.  It might be that just a few onboard attractions force more conversation between passengers and crew that get to know one another easier.  We have certainly seen that on other ships sharing a similarly focused travel experience.

But this is different.

The number of hug-worthy people on this ship is impressive: more than I have ever seen anywhere else, land or sea. How impressive?  I wish I had counted from the start but my best guess is a good 100 people who walked on the ship were recognized as good friends as they boarded. Like a friend you have not seen in a while that shows up at your front door. Hugs. Even more impressive: that 100 people were about half of the 212 passengers this ship holds.

However they come, whatever it took to get them I think we could all use a few more hugs these days.  Maybe a few more warm hugs and a few less cold words.  Yes; I like that idea.

Two Particular Points Of Interest Here

Windstar Is Really OK With Passengers Liking The Crew– Not all cruise lines are. Some want us to focus on ship features and hope to have built in the physical attractions that will keep us coming back. The thought: they don’t want us aligned with people who may move to a different ship or cruise line in the future. I do understand the intent. If our pleasure is solely created by our relationship with crew, that can be problematic when the crew has moved along.  We like to see a familiar face or two.

This Is Usually Where We Hope The Story Ends- Admittedly, I try to look/live on the positive side of any situation. Especially travel situations, where decisions are made based on the second-hand information of friends, family and travel professionals.  Hugs and happy times are more often associated with the enduring effect or feel of a cruise line, however it may resolve itself.  We’ll still look back from time to time as traveling and surely reflect on the experience later.  But to get this warmth right up front?  Unusual.

This Is 180° From Ordinary

Want to get an idea of what that would be like if the world moved more into that hug-eliciting direction?  Walk about 2 degrees either side of routine (or normal, expected, usual, customary, established and conventional) to find Windstar Cruises.
Thier slogan/quest of “180° From Ordinary” has 178 other degrees to try as well. All detailed degrees have been delicious so far….which brings us to the new room service menu. That’s another topic coming up. the culinary operation is one part of a story that might be titled “How To Evolve Your Cruise Line Without Running Off Your Loyal Fans”.  Actually, let’s go with that.  Coming soon.


Also coming up as we settle into life at sea, on a day at sea:

  • Getting There: Making Your Airline As Pleasant As Your Cruise Line
  • Pre- And Post-Cruise Hotel Stays: The Value Of Using Cruise Line Suggested Properties
  • James Beard Partnership Brings Locavore Fare And I Explain What Locavore Means. For now, a definition:

A “locavore” or “localvore” (the term is a neologism) is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. One common – but not universal – definition of “local” food is food grown within 100 miles (160 km) of its point of purchase or consumption. – Wikipedia

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