Eying French Polynesia? This cruise line has tripled the variety of accessible cabins

Visits to French Polynesia have at all times been area of interest — aspirations for vacationers on the lookout for an idyllic seaside getaway or honeymooners who wish to kick off their marriages on the best foot. However demand has grown a lot just lately that one cruise line has added a ship that triples its capability within the area.

As certainly one of many indicators that the vacation spot is flourishing, small-ship specialist Windstar Cruises has stationed its newly refurbished Star Breeze in French Polynesia. The ship was stretched in 2020, in the course of the pandemic shutdown; that enlargement added 50 cabins and elevated the vessel’s capability from 212 to 312 passengers.

Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze anchored subsequent to Wind Spirit. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Star Breeze entered the market year-round on Oct. 9 with a crusing across the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea and Taha’a, marking the thirty fifth anniversary of Windstar’s dedication to the area.

The ship joins Wind Spirit, one of many line’s masted crusing ships, in providing year-round sailings across the French Polynesian islands. Wind Spirit has a capability of 148 passengers; the addition of Star Breeze successfully will increase the variety of passengers Windstar can deliver to the area by greater than 200%.

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Considerate enlargement

A dock in Raiatea, French Polynesia. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

“For us, [expanding capacity] made sense as a result of we’re year-round in French Polynesia already,” mentioned Christopher Prelog, Windstar Cruises’ president, in an interview with The Factors Man. “With the airlift will increase we’re seeing … there’s simply an elevated curiosity in French Polynesia. That is our residence turf. That is the right place to develop. This can be a nice vacation spot for us to develop a bigger footprint.”

Though the French Polynesian authorities welcomes development, that does not imply cruising will develop in a means that can create overtourism within the area. Actually, some islands within the space are limiting ship sizes, and though there are some dock enhancements deliberate within the ports that at present have docks, there aren’t any plans to construct new ones to accommodate bigger vessels. As an alternative, ships anchor and tender passengers ashore in most ports.

“Tourism is our first trade,” mentioned French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch throughout an interview onboard Star Breeze, noting that, in 2019, French Polynesia noticed about 260,000 guests who stayed at the very least one night time — a quantity much like the vacation spot’s inhabitants of 281,000. “I am saying ‘first trade’ as a result of nearly half of all working individuals on this nation work for that trade. Tourism represents round 10% or 11% of our [gross domestic product].”

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“Our technique is one vacationer per capita,” Fritch mentioned. “We do not wish to be a vacation spot like Hawaii or Fiji, the place tourism has taken over the inhabitants. We’re satisfied that our ancestors left us with a lovely legacy, so we’ve got to take pleasure in it and develop it however not destroy it. And, as you all know, the primary destructor of this legacy is human. We should be cautious … desirous about what we’ll depart to our kids.”

Growth past cruise

A view from the again of an open-air automobile on a shore tour in French Polynesia. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Along with Windstar, two different cruise traces — Paul Gauguin and Aranui — routinely sail year-round voyages in French Polynesia. Greek line Selection Cruises just lately introduced it, too, will start cruising there all yr, starting in January 2023.

However cruising is not the one sector that is rising on this completely attractive vacation spot.

Inside the previous few years, airways have begun providing further routes, together with United’s nonstop San Francisco-to-Papeete route, which kicked off in 2017, and Air Tahiti Nui’s new nonstop route between Seattle and Papeete, which simply began service this month.

Moreover, native infrastructure, together with all the pieces from transportation to Wi-Fi and cell service entry, has enormously improved, and the French Polynesian authorities is funding a venture to assemble visitor homes for vacationers who want to stick with Polynesian households whereas they’re on the town for a extra immersive take a look at the native tradition.

“We like to position the Tahitian, the Polynesian, on the heart of [our tourism ambitions], Fritch mentioned. “That is why, in our technique for the subsequent 5 years, we’re speaking about tourism for the Polynesians and by the Polynesians…. It begins with visitor homes — dwelling with the inhabitants, the Polynesians…. We now have determined for French Polynesia to develop high quality tourism. That does not essentially imply it is high-end tourism…. Luxurious will not be for us. High quality is for us.”

The world can also be residence to one of many world’s largest marine sanctuaries, which just lately shared plans for a significant enlargement that may develop the sanctuary to 350,000 sq. miles by 2030.

What’s subsequent for Windstar

Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze at anchor in Moorea, French Polynesia. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Dovetailing with Star Breeze’s inaugural French Polynesia voyage is the formation of a brand new three-year partnership between the road and Coral Gardeners, a Moorea-based group that protects and rebuilds native coral reefs.

“This new partnership is an excellent means for us to have a good time Tahiti throughout our thirty fifth anniversary season, however extra importantly to make a optimistic influence for the way forward for these unimaginable islands,” Prelog, the Windstar president, mentioned in an announcement. “We have been targeted on decreasing our carbon footprint through updating our fleet’s engines and operations, and this subsequent step in local weather motion at sea is to companion with Coral Gardeners.”

As for its {hardware}, Windstar just lately completed stretching two different Star Plus-class ships — Star Legend and Star Satisfaction — along with Star Breeze, to the tune of $250 million. It’s also refurbishing its Wind-class crusing vessels, together with Wind Surf, which acquired a totally new spa and lounge, and Wind Spirit and Wind Star, which have new Yacht Membership cafes.

As for whether or not the road will look to accumulate further vessels or, maybe, construct new ones, Prelog mentioned Windstar is at all times looking out for alternatives.

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