By Fran Golden
A Day in the Life of John Delaney, President of Windstar Cruises.
You can always count on John Delaney, president of Windstar Cruises, to know what’s going on in the world. He’s an unabashed news junkie. “I have every news app there is on my phone and iPad,” he says. “I have worldwide news and I even have Associated Press news alerts.”
In fact, the first thing he does in the morning on a typical workday is check his email and turn on CNN. He ends his day the same way. And while he admits to being “a horrible workaholic,” he says there’s also a practical reason for his habit.
“We’re a 24-7 international operation,” he says. “Our six ships are deployed all over the world, and I love to stay plugged in.”
WELCOME TO WINDSTAR
A well-known and well-respected industry veteran, Delaney was named president of Windstar in July 2016. Raised in Southern California, he’s worked for Walt Disney Company, Seattle-based Holland America Line, and most recently as senior vice president in charge of global marketing, revenue management, and itinerary planning for Seattle-based luxury line Seabourn.
At Windstar, he heads this upscale boutique cruise line with three small sailing ships and three all-suite motor yachts (formally of the Seabourn fleet). It’s a company that’s very much in a reinventing mindset.
“What Windstar has given me is the opportunity to take all I’ve learned in various aspects of my career and channel them into creating something really wonderful,” Delaney says. “I truly love this business, what we do, and what we offer to guests.”
A bonus of the new job is that Windstar’s office is only a 10-minute walk from his condo at Pike Place. “I literally live at the market,” Delaney says. “I love downtown Seattle. I fell in love with the city when I first came here 13 years ago, and every time I walk out my front door I still feel like a tourist discovering new things. It’s a great feeling.”
IN A DAY’S WORK
Usually up around 5 a.m., Delaney is often on the phone with Windstar’s international operations before he even leaves for the office. Every Tuesday, for instance, he talks to a captain from one of the ships to see what’s on his or her mind. By 8 a.m., he’s at his desk where he might have a conference call with the line’s hotel managers.
“We walk through what’s going on and any challenges they may be having and what we can do here in Seattle to support them,” Delaney explains. He also has one-on-ones with managers and hosts “coffee chats,” which are open to everyone in the company.
“I’m a very collaborative, open, let’s share information, let’s get everybody on the same page type of a person,” he says. Coffee from Seattle based Starbucks is served at these sessions, which tend to attract 15 to 20 employees.
Delaney quickly gained the reputation for being both unflappable and solution oriented.
He’s particularly passionate about itinerary planning, and while he has a computer and monitor in his office, he also keeps a globe and uses it to plot out routes.
“Sometimes nothing works better than a true, old-fashioned globe,” he says. “I will just sit with the itinerary planning team and get the globe out and just start looking at it and say, ‘Well, we know we want to go from here to here. What are the three different ways we can do it?’
Delaney takes credit for coining the phrase “destination authenticity” while at Seabourn, and that’s what he’s planning to deliver at Windstar as well.
“We’re looking for unique itineraries and shore excursions that no one else is offering,” he says. In fact, under his leadership, the line has announced a return to Asia by way of Arabia in late 2017 and a return to Alaska with in depth, soft adventure itineraries in 2018. His workday also involves checking every sailing to see how it’s selling, something he admits he does at least three times a day.
“A lot of my job is email and communicating with the fleet, our travel agent partners around the world, and key business partners,” he says. But he’s also on the road a lot, whether a one-day trip to meet with a charter client in Chicago, to London or Australia to meet with new business partners, or visiting the fleet. By October, he had logged 75 flights in 2016.
Back home, Delaney is on the run most of the day. Nourishment is often takeout, with breakfast and lunch at his desk. For dinner, he tends to go for seafood because, he says, Seattle is one of the best seafood cities in the world.
In his free time he likes walking his favorite loop along the waterfront, and he’s also involved in several civic organizations. He served as vice chair of the Seattle Symphony for five years and currently serves on the Pike Place Market Foundation board. Being part of the community is important, he says.
“What Windstar has given me is the opportunity to take all I’ve learned in various aspects of my career and channel them into creating something really wonderful.”
“I’m passionate about giving back to the city and helping out, and that’s something I spend a lot of my free time working on,” he says.
Travel is another passion. Single and free to go, he’s been known to jump on a plane to meet up with friends in places such as Paris, London, and Rome. Many of those friends he’s met through the industry.
“Travel is in my blood,” he says. “You’d think when I get some time off I’d want to stay at home, but quite the opposite.”
Anyone who has seen Delaney knows he’s also a clotheshorse with impeccable taste.
“I hate shopping, I like clothes,” he says. A favorite is Italian brand Canali, though he also supplements his wardrobe with unique items purchased in his travels. “I try to build in an hour or two when I am traveling to stop in and see what’s new,” he says.
His future plans for Windstar involve a new ship, though not yet. First, his plans may involve construction for his own life.
“I need a bigger closet,” he laughs.