As travelers become more discerning amid eager competition for their business, travel providers are increasingly selling experiences instead of simple transportation or accommodation. Travel brands competing to become true experience platforms is such a marked trend, in fact, that Skift identified it as one of 2018’s megatrends.

In the cruising world, this development looks like innovation in onboard amenities, comfort, and personalization, not to mention a growing focus on efficiency and environmental friendliness of the ships themselves. Cruise companies are working to deploy new technology and upgrade dining, wellness, recreation, and shopping facilities to create more meaningful and enjoyable onboard experiences for their travelers.

Windstar Cruises’ recent announcement that it is overhauling three of its ships in 2019 and 2020 offers a vivid example of the types of customer-focused innovation that positions companies well to thrive in today’s — and tomorrow’s — dynamic travel industry landscape.

The $250 Million Star Plus Initiative will add a new section to each of the three Star-Class vessels — the Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride — lengthening each by 25.6 meters to a total length of just over 159 meters. This length will allow the ships to continue to access the smaller ports and harbors that Windstar favors while enabling increased capacity from 212 passengers to 312 guests per ship. Each ship will house 50 new suites, bringing the total suites per vessel to 156. The project will increase Windstar’s overall capacity by 24 percent.

For passengers, however, the most attention-grabbing difference will be new, start-of-the-art public spaces, dining and relaxation experiences, and beautiful design.

Each ship will have two new dining options: an intimate, alternative restaurant and a casual barbecue joint next to the Star Bar on the top deck. The addition of the barbecue option, in particular, illustrates how new amenities can enhance the customer experience –– outdoor grilling with an amazing sea view isn’t just any old dining experience, especially during special events like Windstar’s Signature Onboard Barbecue celebration. In addition to the new restaurants, each ship’s existing Veranda restaurant will be expanded to include much more ocean-view seating and upgraded dining areas.

Reconfiguration of the pool and hot tub area will elevate both for better views, enlarge the pool to accommodate more swimmers, and enhance the deck area to facilitate more relaxing and sunbathing. Each ship’s spa and fitness center will be entirely reimagined and enlarged, while new retail space will provide better shopping experiences.

The new public spaces and suites will be designed by Ray Chung, design director of The Johnson Studio at New York’s Cooper Carry. Windstar realizes that beautiful design is as important to the overall experience on a ship as a bigger pool or a nicer spa. Attractive and welcoming spaces, from the lounge area, to the berths and the bathrooms, facilitate passengers’ sense of full-surround onboard enjoyment.

While enhancing onboard amenities and updating design is a common method of injecting excitement into the cruising experience, Windstar is using this renovation opportunity to do something more ambitious and unusual as well — a comprehensive overhaul of each ship’s engines to reduce environmental impacts. The project will include the removal of each vessel’s seven current engines and the installation of four new “greener” engines that run on cleaner fuel to reduce emissions.

Improving the ships’ environmental profile is another way that Windstar’s ambitious Star Plus Initiative is innovating with a focus on customer experience and an eye toward the future. Passengers can enjoy the onboard enhancements as well as the satisfaction of being part of a newly earth-friendly cruising experience.

This content was created collaboratively by Windstar and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.