The Star Plus initiative for Windstar cruises


In 2017 Gelen Marine was appointed as technical advisor to Windstar Cruises as they began investigating the feasibility of lengthening and re-engining their three motor ships, Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride.  The three ships were aging, having been built in the late 1980´s and with the international regulations tightening year on year they were quickly becoming obsolete.  This combined with a surge in the cruise industry requiring more berth capacity, pointed towards two options, new building replacement tonnage or converting the existing ships.  Given the surge in the cruise industry at that time, availability of new build slots was at a premium and for the three ships required was nigh on impossible.  The decision was therefore made to progress with the lengthening and the Star Plus Initiative was born.

The initiative involved the addition of a 25.6m lengthening section providing new cabins and a new main restaurant, equating to a 20% increase in length and a 50% increase in berth capacity.  In addition, it involved the parallel projects to completely re-engine the ship and renew the engine room, plus provide a new BBQ restaurant area on the upper deck, a new specialty restaurant, a new shop, a new modern wellness centre and expand the existing Veranda restaurant to provide higher capacity.  On top of all this, an extensive refurbishment was carried out of the old ship sections involving rebuild of the crew mess and bar areas, refurb of old cabins and toilets, refurb of all public toilets, upgrade of many old systems including the HVAC and completely blasting and repainting all external areas.

A lengthening of such magnitude had never been attempted before in the cruise industry and especially on such aged ships and this combined with the additional parallel projects of re-engining and refurbishment contributed to make this the most technically complex lengthening project ever attempted.

Gelen Marine was asked to provide its experience and knowledge, as their managing director Dr Paul Read was amongst only a handful of people who had lengthened a ship of this age before and understood the potential problems that this entailed, having been involved previously in the lengthening of the RRS Discovery in the early 1990s, which at that time was 40 years old.

Gelen Marine embedded itself in the Windstar Cruises project team and initially provided technical advice and support in developing the design and specification for the project with the Windstar Cruises project manager.  The team went on to be involved in negotiations with the potential shipyards on all technical matters and helped in the selection of the shipyard chosen, Fincantieri.

From here, the Gelen Marine team provided full plan approval services of all aspects of the detailed design utilising a specialised team of engineers to review and comment on all calculations, designs and drawings for the project.  As the project developed and construction began for the lengthening section and the new parts of the ship, Gelen Marine placed in the shipyard a team of shipbuilding and ship repair engineers to carry out designated owner’s inspections in the shipyard covering steel work, outfitting, painting, piping, systems, electrical cabling, machinery, HVAC and hotel.

The teams also attended harbour acceptance trials and commissioning of all ship machinery, equipment and systems and liaised with the classification society surveyors on a daily basis and the flag state and coast guard surveyors at the time of their attendance.  In addition, the team liaised with the on-site Windstar Cruises team who were overseeing the refurbishment of the old sections of the ship and assisted that team in their inspections and advised on solutions to the problems encountered.

The three ships were lengthened and rebuilt over a period of two years from 2019 through to 2021, during which time the world experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, adding a further dimension of complexity to the work needing to be undertaken.  Due to this some delay was experienced in the project, but each ship was eventually delivered to a standard considered as new and within budget.