A new cruise line planning to launch a fleet of sailing vessels is establishing headquarters in Miami. Star Clippers Limited has ordered two 180-passenger, 350-foot, sailing vessels to be built at a cost of $25 million each at a Belgian yard. The first ship is scheduled for delivery in late 1990 and is expected to enter year-round Caribbean service sailing seven-day cruises from St. Maarten or St. Thomas by February of 1991.

The second ship is expected to operate in the Caribbean in the winter seasons and in the Mediterranean during the summers.

The company, which is owned by Belgian-based Mikael Krafft, who is Swedish, is being organized in the United States by William Chambers, Director of Marketing, who was formerly with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

Chambers said that he expected the new cruise line to be officially launched by the end of September at which time it should have an executive staff in place as well as offices.

Between Windstar and Windjammer

Chambers told CIN that the new line will position its product between Windstar Sail Cruises and Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Chambers said that extensive research had uncovered weaknesses which prevented Windstar and Windjammer from being as successful as they could have been. "We intend to preserve the onboard spirit and atmosphere of a sailing ship," he added.

Chambers said that per diems would average $250 per person, that there would be five cabin categories and three-season pricing.

Chambers described the new ships as having beautiful classic lines. "The naval architect extrapolated what the next generation sailing ships would have looked like after their development was halted by the steam engine," he said, adding that the vessels would be four-masted with square rigging in the foremast and capable of sailing at 17 knots. In contrast to the Windstar vessels and the new Club Med I, the Clipper Star ships will have manned sails.

The new ships will otherwise be modern and the 90 staterooms and public rooms will be fully air­-conditioned. The dining room will be large enough to accommodate all passengers at one seating.

Chambers noted, however, that he does not plan to offer five-star dining, but will instead feature California-style cuisine, emphasizing fresh ingredients such as fruits and seafood from the sailing region.

Gaming equipment would be integrated in one of the public lounges, according to Chambers, who also explained that a full casino would not fit that well with the product.

Chambers also said that "water sports would be a main activity, much more so than shopping."

Zero Base

"We are fortunate to do zero-based cruise line development," Chambers said. "We can start from the very beginning to create a purposeful company structure that serves our need."

Chambers said he would focus his marketing program on telemarketing and direct mail instead of employing the traditional sales force. "Sales reps are either bothering agents or wasting their time," Chambers noted.

Chambers added that the company's objective is to stay small and specialized and retain a strong appeal within a certain market segment.