Photos/Video by Gerry Barker
By Gerry Barker
DORAL_When Windstar Cruises, who operate a fleet of small, luxury cruise ships, decided to move their company headquarters from Seattle to Florida, they took great pains to find the perfect location.
"We looked at 30 different properties," said Windstar President Christopher Prelog, "but from the first moment I walked through the doors and looked at the space -- yes, that's it." Prelog was referring to their new headquarters here on the fifth floor of Doral Concourse, where Windstar hosted a grand opening on Wednesday, June 29.
Why the move from Seattle? "Miami is the true center of the cruise universe," Prelog told attendees, and to borrow from the company motto, "180 degrees from ordinary. So it made sense to move us 3,297 miles." He also pointed out the abundance of light and openness reflects what they do on their ships, where there's frequent interaction between guests and crew. Windstar employs close to 150 people in total, with 50 stationed here.
A key element that was showcased at the grand opening is the partnership between Windstar and Fountainhead, a Miami-based program founded in 2008 to spotlight and promote local art and artists. Working with Fountainhead, the work of local artists will be featured both in their headquarters and onboard their Star-class ships.
Kathryn Mikesell, co-founder and executive director of Fountainhead, joined Prelog to introduce the artists and their work. "It is such an honor to work with the Windstar team," said Ms. Mikesell. "We felt like we were all part of a family."
"I'm very proud to have Kathryn and Fountainhead supporting young artists and giving them a stage," said Prelog. "It's a perfect fit for Windstar."
Later, Prelog told me art is an important part of the Windstar commitment to build local ties, similar to how their ships interact with locations around the world through culinary and tour experiences. He also said since the three Star-class ships have the space, they'll be refreshing the art on them every two years.
One of the works in the office that occupies a whole wall is "Die Form," a permanent installation by TYPOE, a Miami-based, mixed media artist. Prelog said they wanted something that would invite conversation, and not just hang another TV.
Later this year, Prelog said Windstar will celebrate another milestone event in October -- 35 years of cruising to Tahiti. "That's something very, very special," he said, adding, "Tahiti is a core product fo us." Although he can't export its unparalleled beauty, we did get a taste of it as a trio of Tahitian dancers entertained at the opening.
Looking ahead, Prelog said Windstar will be going to Australia and New Zealand for the first time later this year, and next year, will add sailings to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.
In the meantime, Prelog said they'll continue to make their new office reflect life on the ships as much as possible, such as importing the same coffee served to their guests. Just one more reason for workers to be happy about the 3,000-plus mile relocation.
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