With more than 25 years of work in the luxury and travel segments under her belt, Mary Beth Wressell is bringing her experience and expertise to her new role as Windstar Cruises’ v.p. of marketing and public relations.
Prior to joining the small ship cruising company, Wressell held several marketing roles at Virtuoso before moving on to work with Holland America Line for 13 years including her most recent role as v.p. of marketing communications for the cruise line. According to Wressell, these experiences prepared her to take on the v.p. of marketing and public relations role with Windstar.
“I feel really fortunate to have had exposure with both companies and being able to refine what I saw and learned with Virtuoso and apply it to the particular audience of Holland America Line and now taking it to one next chapter and refining it with what we think would work best with Windstar,” Wressell says also noting the growing momentum the cruise line is already experiencing.
Although Wressell was only 10 days into her tenure when she spoke with Recommend, the cruise line’s strengths were already apparent to her, most notably Windstar’s ability she says, to visit “those great little ports, those hidden gems that you can’t see any other way.” As a small ship cruise line, Windstar calls on over 300 ports, many of which cannot be accessed by larger vessels. According to Wressell, this fact in combination with Windstar’s penchant for spending prolonged periods of time in these ports allows guests to “have a deeper view into the destination and the culture and the people. I think that’s pretty darn cool,” she adds. “That’s a goose bump moment for me.”
The Signature Expeditions Program
Wressell also points to Windstar’s Signature Expeditions program as a major strength for the cruise line. The Signature Expeditions, which launched on May 18, 2018 with sailings, plus cruise/land tours in Alaska, take guests on zodiac and kayaking adventures along Alaska’s rugged coast, as well as on scenic hikes. Accompanied by geologists, biologist, glaciologists, and many other “ists,” as Wressell refers to them, guests can learn from experts in an up close, hands-on way. The learning can continue on board as well with the experts often spending their free time interacting with curious guests. “It’s learning in a super fascinating way. It doesn’t sound like an onboard lecture. It brings a whole new definition to that,” said Wressell who is also eager to experience a Signature Expedition herself. “I truly love [Alaska], but to see it this way would be a dream,” she adds.
Strengths As Differentiators
When asked what factors differentiate Windstar from other small ship cruise lines, Wressell’s responses echoed much of what she described as the cruise line’s strengths. In her eyes, Windstar’s growth in Signature Expeditions, as well as its commitment to constantly creating new itineraries and searching for unique ports to visit is especially impressive. “I think it’s incredible that a brand this size is making that dedication and investment into really listening to what the guests want and fulfilling that,” she says. And while curating immersive and exclusive off ship experiences is of the utmost importance to Windstar, Wressell also notes that the onboard experience is just as exceptional and is definitely a differentiating factor for the cruise line. “They let the destination take center stage, but the onboard time is comfortable and relaxing. Your needs are met, and the culinary experience is exceptional,” she explains.
What Wressell sees as Windstar’s top differentiators are also reflected as top priorities in Windstar’s plans for growth. Wressell comes to Windstar at a time when the cruise line is undergoing changes to expand its offerings. For example, this year the cruise line nearly doubled its number of small-group excursions as part of the Concierge Collection and renewed its exclusive partnership with the James Beard Foundation to not only bring gourmet food on board, but to also host six annual culinary and wine-themed sailings now through early 2021. Windstar also launched land tours in Alaska and Asia this year with plans to debut land tours in Europe next year. In addition, the Windstar portfolio currently includes over 400 itineraries, but new tours set to sail next year in Tahiti, the Caribbean, and Asia will bring that number to over 500.
The Travel Advisors’ Role
With such a robust offering of itineraries and experiences, Wressell says travel advisors are crucial to Windstar’s success. “With a brand like this that has a complex offering and has itineraries that are going to places that possibly, and hopefully, many have not heard of, the travel agent’s role is amplified,” she says. With this in mind, Windstar’s overarching travel advisor initiative, Star Promise, provides tools to support them, including webinars from the sales team and a video series showcasing life on board, along with interviews from the crew, which will launch soon.
“It’s not a product that’s just grab off the shelf and go, there needs to be some matchmaking there,” Wressell explains. “I think the more that agents are aware of these offerings, the better.”
For more information, visit windstarcruises.com. Windstar Cruises is also offering a new luggage-forwarding service to bring your client’s suitcases straight from their homes to the their staterooms; get the details here.