Windstar Cruises, a small-ship line with ambitions to grow, has hired a new president.

John Delaney, the former senior vice president of global marketing and sales at Seabourn Cruise Line, starts his new job July 18. He replaces former president Hans Birkholz, who resigned in April.

Delaney spent nearly 13 years at cruise giant Carnival Corp., either at the parent company or brands including Seabourn and Holland America Line. Delaney also worked for The Walt Disney Company for six years in finance roles.

Andrew Todd, CEO of Windstar parent company Xanterra Parks & Resorts, said in an interview that Delaney’s background in sales, marketing, and finance as well as his relationship with the travel agent community made him an ideal candidate.

“Our plans are to continue to grow the brand and add ships to the fleet and I just think he’s a breath of fresh air for the company to take us to new levels,” Todd said. “I’m excited that we found someone with his level of experience.”

Delaney also has plenty of experience with the Windstar ships. Three years ago, Windstar doubled its fleet by buying three 212-passenger vessels from Seabourn. The other three, described as “sailing cruise ships” with four or five masts, were part of Holland America when it owned Windstar. They hold between 148 and 310 passengers.

“The biggest advantage is understanding small-ship cruising and the uniqueness of that, the appeal of that, and how to tell that story and bring it to market,” Delaney said.

He called Windstar, which focuses on casual elegance and intimate, yacht-like experiences, a line with “enormous potential that is a little misunderstood in the market right now.”

“Folks don’t really understand how relevant the brand is,” Delaney said.

As travelers clamor for richer experiences in destinations, Delaney said small ships are better-suited to deliver that because they have the flexibility to go places that larger ships can’t reach.

“The reality is that ships are getting bigger and bigger and yet Windstar has this unique fleet of iconic small ships,” he said. “Truly if you look at the six ships in the current fleet, they are some of the most iconic, wonderful little ships that there are.”

Photo Credit: Windstar Cruises' 310-guest flagship, Wind Surf. Windstar Cruises