Is the start-up Windsor Line going to make $600 per diems look like peanuts?

While little has been heard from the line recently, an official at Flender Werft in Lubeck, West Germany, confirmed last week that all the hull work on two 68-passenger "yacht-like" vessels has been finished and that both Windsor Line ships should be completed by next spring.

Ricardo Farias Nicolopoulos, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and reportedly the major principal of privately owned Windsor Line, said recently that Windsor fully expects to launch its first two ships "by April or May'' on Mediterranean sailings that target the "North American yuppie market."

Nicolopoulos said from Pireaus that Windsor will issue a brochure and will also open a national sales office at the Navtol Shipping Agency in New York sometime in the fall.

While Nicolopoulos had once asserted that the Windsor per diems "would probably be higher than the $650 per diems charged by the Cunard/Sea Goddess ships," the Windsor chairman said recently that per diems will cost a whopping $1,500 and that Windsor is fully booked with North American groups and charters through 1989!

Nicolopoulos refused to disclose precisely where or how Windsor had already filled all its berths through 1989 and insisted several times that the so-called young and upwardly mobile market will readily pay those per diems.

Nicolopoulos explained that Windsor will market 6- to 60-day "individual country" segments in each of five or six Mediterranean countries like Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Yugoslavia. He said that passengers will be able to book six-days in a single country such as Spain or combine longer segments in, say, Spain and France on the two vessels.

Windsor will begin to market individual bookings sometime in the fall but will only be able to sell FIT berths beginning in 1990, Nicolopoulos said, because of the heavy group and full charter bookings through next year. Nicolopoulos refused to comment on whether Windsor still plans to create a projected fleet of 10 vessels that will target households with yearly incomes of $250,000 to $500,000.

The Flender Werft official said that construction had initially begun on the two vessels about a year ago and was interrupted because Nicolopoulos had revised the design of the original 3,000-ton, 35-suite sister ships. The official explained that the revised and undisclosed cost of the two ships had naturally jumped from its original $45 million contract because more material was needed to lengthen and widen the ships.

The shipyard official merely said that Flender Werft had completed all the hull work on the two ships and that all the interior work was scheduled to be finished by outside contractors by next spring. She also said that Windsor "hadn't yet" agreed to any options beyond the two vessels under construction.