People Making Waves spotlights Steven Kona Simao, CTC, Vice President of Sales, Windstar Cruises
What’s new at Windstar?
Our biggest news is our $250 Million Star Plus Initiative. https://www.windstarcruises.com/starplus/
We will be lengthening our Star Class ships adding 50 new suites and new restaurants plus refreshing the spa and fitness centres, and using greener more efficient engines to really enhance the onboard guest experience. We are no longer just a sailing ship company. We now consider ourselves the leader in TRUE small ship cruising. In the last couple of years we have greatly expanded our cruise regions.
Let’s look at new builds or itineraries.
About four years ago, Windstar Cruises added three all-suite 212 guest ships which has essentially doubled our capacity. We very quickly went from a cruise line mainly known for Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Mediterranean itineraries to one that covers the globe. We now offer year-round cruises to Tahiti and sail summers in Alaska and winters in Asia. We have greatly expanded our Northern Europe and the Mediterranean offerings. Last year we introduced Canada/New England itineraries for the first time in our history. Next year we will see the Wind Spirit sail across the South Pacific with sailings that touch Australia.
What is unique about the brand?
Everything! Seriously, it’s in our tagline – 180 Degrees from Ordinary. We like to do things the way other cruise lines don’t. We are nimble, quick, and can be much more personal for our guests as well as our travel advisor partners.
Why your ships and not other brands?
It’s all in the onboard ambiance. The elegantly casual experience created by the small ship size – the lack of stuffiness and formality, and travelling with like-minded guests. The other point that we often times don’t highlight enough is our staff. Our crew really go out of their way to give our cruise guests personalized service and when you combine that with our small ship size, it creates magic.
Any agent incentives?
I think that the best incentive we have for advisors is our FAM rates which are quite attractive. I also encourage travel advisors to complete our Star Specialist academy. It has a $100 bonus commission for graduates.
Any selling tips?
Think beyond your typical cruise client. We like to joke that we’re the cruise line for people who aren’t particularly into cruising. It really means that we attract world travellers, people knowledgeable about destinations and who seek unique local experiences. In the cruising world, I would say our experience is similar to river cruising so guests who have enjoyed a river cruise would enjoy us.
What’s been your favourite cruise destination?
My favourite place to visit in the world is Japan. I’ve been there 41 times believe it or not and I am always looking forward to my next visit. There is something special about the mix of history, technology, friendly people, and wonderful sites that appeals to me. It’s a country that has such a strong culture I really feel like I’ve travelled someplace different from home when I visit. I was really excited when Windstar Cruises introduced our cruises there.
What’s been an embarrassing trip?
I got very seasick on my very first cruise! Literally in 1983 sailing back to New York City from Bermuda I was invited on an Engine Room tour on the last day at sea and lost my breakfast in front of the engines! Despite this, I vowed then that I would make the cruise industry my career. I was 14 years old.
What is one quirk travel agents don’t know about you?
I’m addicted to lip balm and put it on constantly? Oh wait, maybe they don’t know that. Perhaps it might be that I actually still get quite nervous just before I do a big presentation. In fact, I think it’s that anxiety that helps make me a better presenter. Because honestly, once I get on stage, I really enjoy it!
What would you like to see happen within the cruise industry?
I think to some extent the ships themselves have been lost as the cruise industry has grown and expanded. What I mean by this is to me, one of my most enjoyable moments used to be sitting on the promenade deck in a wooden deck chair reading a book while listening to the sound of the ocean.
Today, cruise ships are so inwardly focused and have become floating resorts at sea. So I would like to see a bit of a return to those nostalgic days. In fact, it’s one reason why I really enjoy Windstar’s small ships because we do have so much outer deck space and the ships still feel like ships.
Describe your role.
I have the privilege in leading a group of 14 people in the sales organization of Windstar Cruises – the world’s best small ship cruise line. I manage both global sales as well as charter and incentive sales.
Together, our group, called The Explorers ensures that our travel sales partners are successful at selling our brand.