Windstar Cruises president John Delaney came to the Seattle-based line in July after five-and-a-half years across town as the senior vice president of global marketing and sales at Seabourn. He knows the three luxury ships Windstar acquired from Seabourn in 2014 and 2015 and is getting familiar with the line's signature sailing vessels. He spoke with senior editor Tom Stieghorst about the course he wants to set at Windstar.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you have?
A: People really, truly don't know [the brand], that's just been so apparent to me in the months I've been in the job. And that's for many reasons. Windstar has had a little bit of a troubled past. It was sold by Holland America Line, then [had] a couple of different owners and [went] into bankruptcy. Folks know that we're still here, that we're part of a bigger entity. They know that we have some Seabourn ships, but they don't really understand the brand.
Q: What are you doing to change that?
A: We have just signed on with a new advertising agency. I really needed somebody who could tell the story better, the Windstar story. It's Black Tomato Agency. There will be a series of new brand advertisements telling the story of the two different styles of cruising. Also, I am personally going to go out on the road with Steve Simao, our vice president of sales, and we are going to host travel agent groups in key markets around the country to tell the story one-on-one.
Q: What else is new?
A: Seaware, our new reservations system is in. It's the same one Norwegian, Disney and Ama[Waterways] use. Finally, Windstar will be able to take online reservations from travel agents so they will no longer have to call every time they want to make a booking or touch a booking. We're finally going to have great online functionality. We're really excited. It's something we've badly needed.
Q: Does Windstar find itself caught in between the hard expedition small ships like Lindblad and the more luxury expedition lines like Ponant? Is that a market problem?
A: Actually, I see it as an education and awareness problem, because the fact is we are a far better product in terms of true luxury than a Ponant. We really are. And there are ways we can deliver the destinations from more of a soft adventure aspect without trying to be expedition. We are not an expedition line, nor are we going to be.
Q: Where would you like to put marketing dollars?
A: We really need to invest in great video content -- and we're going to find a way to do this -- because we're really not telling the story the way it needs to be told. And video is so powerful and you can relate so much. The ceremony, for example, that we do when we sail out of port on one of the windships with this incredible music as we slowly build up speed and the sails come up, I mean it's emotional. Everybody's up on deck. And I'd love to be able to capture some of those moments, because they will tell the story. They will help travel agents get people to understand about what's so unique and 180 degrees from ordinary about Windstar.
Q: Have you made any significant new hires since you've started?
A: Stay tuned. We've actually made a very important hire; we are just not in a position to discuss it yet. It's a big deal. It is going to rattle the industry.