By lengthening its ships, Windstar will add 150 suites that will go for an average $450 to $550 per person per night. With those 300 additional passengers, the six-ship line, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz’ Anschutz Corp., could add more than $49.2 million in annual revenue.

There are also benefits downstream. While the guts of the ships are open, Windstar is replacing seven outdated engines with four new Wartsila engines that will meet the International Maritime Organization’s tougher emissions standards.

“Not only do we get to leverage the fuel against more people, we’re putting in much more fuel-efficient, energy saving, state-of-the-art engine technology,” Delaney says. “We get the benefit of that and reduced repairs and maintenance with the new engines.”

Fixed costs don’t change much when a ship is stretched. Build a new one, and you have to fully staff it; expand an old one, and it’s a matter of a few extra hires to maintain the same crew-to-guest ratio. (That, and a slightly longer shopping list to stock the kitchens.)

“The flow through on the extra hundred guests, that revenue, almost 90% goes to the bottom line,” Delaney says. “It’s significant. The return on the investment was much, much higher on the stretch.”

The Cutting Edge
The entire stretching process happens on a dry dock where workers have access to all sides of a ship—including the bottom—and can manually torch through structural walls with ease. There’s no room for error when your 13,000-ton yacht needs to (literally) stay afloat.

Six such stretchings, including those by Windstar, Silversea, and MSC Cruises, plus another two for ferries, have taken place over the last five years at the Palermo yard of Italian master shipbuilder Fincantieri SpA.

Once all the guts of a ship are removed, including pipes and cabling, engineers pull the front half of the ship forward on giant blocks, then use self-propelled platforms on wheels to maneuver a prefabricated middle section into place before welding it all back together. Unlike Frankenstein, Star Breeze will bear no visible scars when it leaves the shipyard early next year.

As with Silversea’s expansion of the Silver Spirit, which added, among other things, a seafood and steak restaurant, pizza parlor, outdoor aerobics studio, and additional sunny places for lounging, Star Breeze will also get upgrades along the way.

“When those ships were built [in the 1980s], things like a big pool, a really nice spa, a great gym weren’t as important,” Delaney says. Today, he notes, they’re expected. Star Breeze’s new pool is five times larger, and the fitness center now has a yoga studio. Other upgrades include a 1,374-square-foot, three-bedroom Grand Owner’s Suite and a handful of restaurants.