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Eying French Polynesia? This cruise line has tripled the variety of obtainable cabins

Visits to French Polynesia have at all times been area of interest — aspirations for vacationers searching for an idyllic seashore getaway or honeymooners who wish to kick off their marriages on the fitting foot. However demand has grown a lot not too long ago that one cruise line has added a ship that triples its capability within the area.

As one in every of many indicators that the vacation spot is flourishing, small-ship specialist Windstar Cruises has stationed its newly refurbished Star Breeze in French Polynesia. The ship was stretched in 2020, through the pandemic shutdown; that growth added 50 cabins and elevated the vessel’s capability from 212 to 312 passengers.

Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze anchored subsequent to Wind Spirit. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Star Breeze entered the market year-round on Oct. 9 with a crusing across the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea and Taha’a, marking the thirty fifth anniversary of Windstar’s dedication to the area.

The ship joins Wind Spirit, one of many line’s masted crusing ships, in providing year-round sailings across the French Polynesian islands. Wind Spirit has a capability of 148 passengers; the addition of Star Breeze successfully will increase the variety of Windstar passengers can deliver to the area by greater than 200%.

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Considerate growth

A dock in Raiatea, French Polynesia. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

“For us, [expanding capacity] made sense as a result of we’re year-round in French Polynesia already,” mentioned Christopher Prelog, Windstar Cruises’ president, in an interview with The Factors Man. “With the airlift will increase we’re seeing … there’s simply an elevated curiosity in French Polynesia. That is our residence turf. That is the right place to develop. This can be a nice vacation spot for us to develop a bigger footprint.”

Though the French Polynesian authorities welcomes development, that does not imply cruising will increase in a method that can create overtourism within the area. In actual fact, some islands within the space are limiting ship sizes, and though there are some dock enhancements deliberate within the ports that at the moment have docks, there aren’t any plans to construct new ones to accommodate bigger vessels. As a substitute, ships anchor and tender passengers ashore in most ports.

“Tourism is our first business,” mentioned French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch throughout an interview onboard Star Breeze, noting that, in 2019, French Polynesia noticed about 260,000 guests who stayed no less than one night time — a quantity much like the vacation spot’s inhabitants of 281,000. “I am saying ‘first business’ as a result of virtually half of all working folks on this nation work for that business. Tourism represents round 10% or 11% of our [gross domestic product].”

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“Our technique is one vacationer per capita,” Fritch mentioned. “We do not wish to be a vacation spot like Hawaii or Fiji, the place tourism has taken over the inhabitants. We’re satisfied that our ancestors left us with a fantastic legacy, so now we have to get pleasure from it and develop it however not destroy it . And, as you all know, the principle destructor of this legacy is human. We must be cautious … interested by what we’ll go away to our kids.”

Enlargement past cruise

A view from the again of an open-air car on a shore tour in French Polynesia. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Along with Windstar, two different cruise strains — Paul Gauguin and Aranui — routinely sail year-round voyages in French Polynesia. Greek line Selection Cruises not too long ago introduced it, too, will start cruising there all yr, starting in January 2023.

However cruising is not the one sector that is rising on this completely beautiful vacation spot.

Inside the previous few years, airways have begun providing extra routes, together with United’s nonstop San Francisco-to-Papeete route, which kicked off in 2017, and Air Tahiti Nui’s new nonstop route between Seattle and Papeete, which simply began service this month.

Moreover, native infrastructure, together with the whole lot from transportation to Wi-Fi and cell service entry, has drastically improved, and the French Polynesian authorities is funding a undertaking to assemble visitor homes for vacationers who want to stick with Polynesian households whereas they’re on the town for a extra immersive have a look at the native tradition.

“We like to position the Tahitian, the Polynesian, on the middle of [our tourism ambitions], Fritch mentioned. “That is why, in our technique for the subsequent 5 years, we’re speaking about tourism for the Polynesians and by the Polynesians…. It begins with visitor homes — dwelling with the inhabitants, the Polynesians…. We have now determined for French Polynesia to develop high quality tourism. That does not essentially imply it is high-end tourism…. Luxurious isn’t for us. High quality is for us.”

The realm can be residence to one of many world’s largest marine sanctuaries, which not too long ago shared plans for a serious growth that might develop the sanctuary to 350,000 sq. miles by 2030.

What’s subsequent for Windstar

Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze at anchor in Moorea, French Polynesia. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Dovetailing with Star Breeze’s inaugural French Polynesia voyage is the formation of a brand new three-year partnership between the road and Coral Gardeners, a Moorea-based group that protects and rebuilds native coral reefs.

“This new partnership is an excellent method for us to rejoice Tahiti throughout our thirty fifth anniversary season, however extra importantly to make a constructive affect for the way forward for these unbelievable islands,” Prelog, the Windstar president, mentioned in a press release. “We have been targeted on decreasing our carbon footprint through updating our fleet’s engines and operations, and this subsequent step in local weather motion at sea is to companion with Coral Gardeners.”

As for its {hardware}, Windstar not too long ago completed stretching two different Star Plus-class ships — Star Legend and Star Delight — along with Star Breeze, to the tune of $250 million. It is usually refurbishing its Wind-class crusing vessels, together with Wind Surf, which bought a very new spa and lounge, and Wind Spirit and Wind Star, which have new Yacht Membership cafes.

As for whether or not the road will look to amass extra vessels or, maybe, construct new ones, Prelog mentioned Windstar is at all times looking out for alternatives.

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