Windstar Cruises has three European shipyards on a short-list to carry out what is believed to be an estimated $8 million to $10 million conversion of the 386-passenger Club Med 1 to the 312-passenger Wind Surf.
The shipyard candidates are said to be in Italy, France and Germany, and a decision is forthcoming over the next two weeks.
The lead architect for the project is F.C.J. Dingemans of VFD Interiors in Holland.
The addition of the 1990-built Wind Surf - which was bought for $45 million in April - to the line's current three-shlp fleet will boost Windstar's bed capacity from 444 to 756, or by almost 75 percent, at a per-berth cost of $176,282 (including refit costs).
Still, it is the most cost-effective way to expand the small-ship company, according to Windstar's vice president of sales and marketing Richard Meadows.
"Realistically, the days are past (for Windstar) to consider building new tonnage - this is the best opportunity to grow the brand," Meadows noted.
Windstar would also like to buy the Club Med 2 once it is available, said Meadows.
The acquisition also allows the Carnival Corporation an opportunity to dominate yet another market, albeit a relatively small one, in which travelers are offered upscale cruises on informal, sail assisted vessels.
Meadows noted that the Wind Surf will be marketed no differently from the line's other three 148-passenger sail vessels. However, the Wind Surf will feature some distinct shipboard features which are absent from the other vessels.
Some of the differences: the Wind Surf will have 31 newly added 376-square-foot suites (which are bigger than the one 222-square-foot Owner's Suite on the other vessels); she will boast a 6,000-square-foot amenity spa, which is not on the other ships; and she will have two restaurants, as opposed to one dining area on the other shlps.
Finally, the Wind Surf has a space ratio of 47, compared to 36 for the other ships.
To fill the additional berths, Meadows said he hopes to increase the line's international passenger sourcing - primarily from the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain - which currently stands at about 10 percent of overall sales.
With the addition of the Wind Surf, Windstar will position all four vessels in the Mediterranean next summer. Windstar also intends to announce new destinations and itineraries over the course of the next two months.