Xanterra Parks' Andrew Todd

By Tom Stieghorst
Andrew ToddA certified public accountant by background, Andrew Todd has been president of Xanterra Parks & Resorts since 1994. In addition to being the country's largest park concession manager, Xanterra owns Windstar Cruises. The cruise line recently bought three ships from Seabourn Cruises, which will double its fleet by 2015. Todd talked with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst about the acquisition.

Q: Why are you moving away from the identity as a line with sailing vessels?

A:
I'm not so sure we're moving away from it. We're just trying to diversify our ships a little bit. You look at the Windstar ships now as sailing yachts. These new boats are 208 passengers, so they're still a size you could refer to them as power yachts. They're still going to be able to go to many of the same ports we do. We still think the sails are a big part of our business. Some of these Seabourn boats might be a little faster than what we have and do a bit different schedule and travel to different ports.

Q: What did you pay for the ships? How extensively will they be refurbished?

A:
On the price, we've never revealed our economics. We've done our inspections in conjunction with buying the ships. Generally we see that they're in good condition, and of course Seabourn is a top-notch operator that has maintained the ships very well. I don't think we know exactly yet what we're going to do in terms of renovation, but we'll be very involved in all the drydock work. We know we are going to do some work. We don't know the extent of it quite yet.

Q: Where will the ships sail?

A:
I think we're certainly planning on putting one in South America and one in Asia. And also we've talked about possibly moving one of our cruising ships to Tahiti and replacing it with one of the Seabourn ships in the Caribbean or Mediterranean.

Q: The Seabourn ships for the most part don't have full balconies. Is that a drawback?

A:
That's fairly similar to the ships we currently have. We have ... French balconies, and we do have some [deeper] balconies on Wind Surf. One of the nice things about being on a small ship is access to the decks and being outside is very much part of the experience.

Q: How big are Windstar's current ships? Do you plan to dispose of any of them?

A:
In terms of capacity, Wind Surf is the largest. It's 312 passengers. And the Star and the Spirit are both 148. Xanterra bought Windstar out of bankruptcy a couple of years ago. Since that time, we've totally renovated all three of the ships. We're in it for the long term, and we have no plans to dispose of anything.

Q: How will Windstar's operation of these ships be different from Seabourn's?

A:
We currently employ a lot of Indonesians and Filipinos on our Windstar ships, and we're planning a similar mix of employees on our Seabourn ships. Seabourn is a great outfit and provides great service. We're probably going to be sticking with what we call casual elegance, where its going to be still more informal, no ties, no gowns, in dining generally for Windstar, so the service and amenities you see on Windstar now, you're going to see that on the new Seabourn boats.

Some people are loyal to the brand. Some people are loyal to the boat. Currently the Windstar customer satisfaction scores we get from our guests are tremendous. We're hoping for more of the same in different destinations. Our niche has always been the intimate-style yachting experience with a smaller group. That's what many of our guests crave, so I think we'll be able to give them more of the same in additional destinations.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 
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