Everything you need to know about Windstar Cruises’ new loyalty program
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It’s a new dawn for the Windstar Cruises loyalty program, the Yacht Club.
After years of offering just a handful of perks to repeat cruisers, the small-ship cruise specialist on Monday announced a complete overhaul of the program with a new, multi-tier format and lots of new perks.
At its top tier, the program now brings Windstar regulars everything from a $100-per-person onboard credit for every sailing, free laundry service and Wi-Fi, to significant discounts on cruises, beverage packages, shore excursions and more.
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The upgraded program comes as the six-ship line is expanding its capacity with a massive makeover and enlargement of three of its vessels. The $250 million Star Plus Initiative, as it’s being called, is bringing new suites, restaurants, pool decks and more to the line’s three yacht-like motor vessels — Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride.
All three of the vessels are being lengthened by around 20%. Work was just completed on the first of the vessels, Star Breeze.
Ways to earn points
The Yacht Club point-earning system is relatively straightforward. In most cases, members earn 1 point for every day they sail on a Windstar vessel. The only exception is for passengers staying in top suites. Customers staying in Wind Class suites or Deluxe suites on Star Plus Class ships will get 1.5 points for every day they sail. Those staying in Owner’s suites and
Classic suites on Star Plus Class vessels will get 2 points for every day they sail, as will passengers staying in the Bridge Suite on the Wind Surf.
Program tiers and benefits
There are four tiers to the Yacht Club program:
- One Star (1 to 19 points)
- Two Star (16 to 39 points)
- Three Star (40 to 89 points)
- Four Star (90 or more points)
Even at the lowest One Star level, the perks are fairly robust — at least as compared to loyalty programs of many of Windstar’s small-ship cruise line competitors.
Yacht Club members at all four tiers get a 5% discount on fares when booking a cruise. That’s a great perk, as it amounts to real money in your pocket. But it gets even better if you book a cruise while onboard a Windstar ship or within 60 days of departing one. In such cases, Yacht Club members will get an additional 5% discount on fares — bringing the total savings to 10%.
In select cases, Yacht Club members will be rewarded for their loyalty with even bigger discounts. As part of the program, members can snag an even heftier 20% discount on select Yacht Club member sailings. One caveat: The 20% discount won’t be combinable with other offers.
In addition, all Yacht Club members get:
- Advanced notification of new deployments
- Advanced notification of sales events
- Members-only private sales
- A $100 shipboard credit when referring a new customer to Windstar. The customer also will receive a $100 onboard credit
- Exclusive members-only cocktail party with ship officers
- Exclusive onboard tote
- Additional discounts at sister Xanterra Travel Collection brands (more on that below).
Plus, starting at the One Star level, customers get a 5% discount on laundry service, Wi-Fi and Windstar merchandise whenever they sail with the line.
At the Two Star level, customers get the above plus a 5% discount on shore excursions and beverage packages. They also get a $50 per person onboard credit for every cruise they take.
The elite level that makes a difference
We should say that we’re impressed with all four levels of the Windstar program. Even at the lowest tier, it brings real savings for loyal passengers. And the shore excursion and beverage package discounts that come with the Two Star level are enticing in our eyes.
That said, we start to get really excited about the Three Star tier. It bumps the discounts for laundry service, Wi-Fi, shore excursions and Windstar merchandise to 10%. If you’re the kind of cruiser who does a shore excursion in every port and regularly uses onboard services, such as laundry and Wi-Fi, this could save you $100 or more on a typical seven-night cruise.
The Three Star tier also comes with an onboard credit of $75 per person for every cruise you take. That’s more real money in your pocket.
Best elite perk
It’s a tough call on the best elite perk of the Yacht Club program. Unlike some frequent cruiser programs, there isn’t one clear standout perk such as the free cruise that Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society members get after reaching the top Pinnacle Club level.
At the top Four Star tier level, passengers get free laundry service and free Wi-Fi on every sailing, which are both valuable perks. But the most generous perk may be the 15% discount on shore excursions that comes with Four Star status. That is, assuming you are the type of cruiser who signs up for a lot of cruise line-organized shore excursions. If you spend $1,000 a week on excursions, that perk alone is worth $150 per seven-night cruise.
At the Four Star level, members also get a 15% credit on Windstar merchandise and a 10% discount on beverage packages. The onboard credit increases to $100 per person for every cruise you take.
One thing we like about the Yacht Club program is that it doesn’t take all that many cruises to reach the top Four Star level. For someone staying in a standard cabin, it would require the completion of 13 seven-night cruises. That’s not all that hard to do in just four or five years, assuming you cruise two or three times a year. But, if you stay in suites, you could hit Four Star level far more quickly. It would take just seven seven-night cruises.
You can hit the top Four Star level even more quickly if you sign up for Windstar’s longer “Star Collector” voyages of 14 to 60 days. With the right mix of such sailings, you could reach Four Star status in just two or three sailings.
Indeed, someone staying in a top suite on one of the longer Star Collector sailings, in theory, could hit the Four Star level after just a single cruise.
Note that, as is often the case with cruise line loyalty programs, Windstar customers do not have to requalify for status each year. Yacht Club members keep their points at the end of each year and continue to accrue points indefinitely. That means that someone who hits Four Star status will remain at that top tier level forever (or until Windstar makes a change to the program).
Such “forever status” is one of the great allures of cruise line frequent cruiser programs. Most airline frequent flyer programs, by contrast, require loyalty members to requalify for status each year.
Benefits at Xanterra Travel Collection brands
In addition to discounts and other perks at Windstar, Yacht Club members are entitled to special perks at hotels, lodges and other travel vendors owned by its parent company, The Anschutz Corporation.
Based in Denver, The Anschutz Corporation owns such iconic hotels as The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Sea Island Resort just off the Georgia coast. It also owns two hotel properties near national parks (The Grand Hotel near the Grand Canyon and Cedar Creek Lodge near Glacier National Park) and is the largest national and state park concessioner in the United States. Among the national parks where it is the concessionaire are Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and Glacier National Park.
Other Anschutz travel holdings include the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, and tour companies VBT Bicycling Vacations, Country Walkers and Holiday Vacations.
Together, all of the hotels, lodges and travel companies are known as the Xanterra Travel Collection. The perks available to Yacht Club members at Xanterra Travel Collection entities vary but often take the form of a credit. At the Sea Island Resort, for instance, members are entitled to a $200 resort credit.
It’s unusual for a cruise line as small as Windstar to have such a great loyalty program. Revamped in October 2020, the line’s four-tier Yacht Club program brings a lot of great perks even at the lowest One Star tier level, including across-the-board discounts on cruise fares. At the highest Four Star level, it brings a significant amount of value.
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Featured image of courtesy of Windstar Cruises
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