Three Windstar ships are being taken out of service for a major $250 million refit.

The small ship line will take take half of its fleet – Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride – and renovate each ship in succession.

Work on the former Seabourn ships begins in October and runs until November 2020.

Capacity on each vessel will be raised to carry 312 passengers with 50 new suites.

New engines are to be installed to exceed new global International Maritime Organisation limits – one of the requirements being the engines produce no more than 0.5% sulphur content.

The new propulsion systems are designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, supporting the company’s goals of traveling with a “softer environmental footprint”.

New sections will be introduced to each ship as part of the project being undertaken by Fincantieri shipyards in Trieste and Palermo in Italy.

Speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami, Windstar president John Delaney said: “This is the biggest investment and expansion in Windstar Cruises’ history.

“The investment of a quarter of a billion dollars ensures to our loyal and future guests, and industry partners, that these ships will continue to sail for generations and deliver on their promise of visiting the smaller ports and waters of the world that our brand is known for.

“We are all proud to be part of this historic event in the small ship cruise industry.”

Giorgio Rizzo, executive vice president of Fincantieri Services, added: “Ship conversions are much more than simple upgrades, they’re about enhancing the main technical and commercial qualities of the ship, while enriching the brand attributes that have earned Windstar the reputation of being an innovative leader in small ship cruising.

“In the last few years, our company has made a long-term strategic choice to specialise in these kinds of operations, particularly in the cruise segment, which has allowed us to quickly gain an acknowledged leadership position in this sector.”