Repeat travellers are common on Seabourn expedition cruises – once you’ve experienced the difference, it’s hard to try anything else. Now the ultra-luxury cruise line is about to get even better.
According to Travel Market Report’s latest industry survey, more than 50 per cent of travel advisors believe expedition cruise sales will increase by 10-25 per cent in 2021. And this trend is expected to surge as pent-up demand turns into bookings post-pandemic.
Seabourn stands ready to safely meet that demand, in style and opulence. In the next 14 months, the luxury cruise company will add two purpose-built polar vessels to its fleet, with Seabourn Venture expected to launch in April 2022.
It’s a natural progression for Seabourn which has offered a remarkable expedition cruise program for the past eight years.
Robin West, Seabourn’s Vice President and General Manager, Expeditions, said Seabourn Venture and its yet-to-be-named sister ship is an “evolution” of the brand, four years in the making.
Under West’s guidance, Seabourn introduced a hugely successful Antarctica expedition cruise in 2013. Ventures by Seabourn was born from that triumph. The popular program of optional shore excursions (think Zodiacs, kayaking and hiking) is delivered by an expert crew who also conduct lectures at sea.
“Although we’re for the first time building two dedicated expedition ships, in terms of the overall operation, guest experience, resources, skills, experience – we have all of that,” West said.
“We’re now just going to put that on two dedicated expedition vessels.”
To bring guests closer to the action in distant destinations, Seabourn Venture will sail with a full armoury of ‘toys’.
Venture and her sister ship will carry an industry-leading 24 Zodiacs. That’s enough to accommodate all passengers at any one time. Using four cranes on the top deck, Zodiacs can be lowered at speed, enabling the team to respond quickly to a “sighting”.
But the big-ticket item for Seabourn expedition cruises is the dual six-seater U Boat Worx submarines that have the range to dive 300 metres below the surface.
A typical expedition day may include a Zodiac landing in the morning, submarine dives, kayaking, diving and snorkelling opportunities, then repositioning the ship over lunch before repeating the morning’s experiences in the afternoon.
Old meets new
“With Seabourn Venture we’re creating a new and a very different product, but by no means are we creating a new brand,” West said.
With space for 264 guests, both ships will be 170 metres long and 10 decks high. Each will have around 225 staff, including 26 expedition crew, meaning a guest-to-crew ratio of almost 1:1.
By comparison, Seabourn’s Odyssey-class ships carry around 450-passengers, and Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation slightly more than 600.
Seabourn has carried several popular features over from the ocean fleet. These include the casual dining venue, The Colonnade, the fine dining Restaurant, the Seabourn Square cafe gathering point and The Club.
“There will be a lot of familiar touchpoints, but we have created several new public spaces in line with the product,” West said.
New spaces include the Bow Lounge and Bow Sprit, the Constellation Bar, the Expedition Lounge, the Discovery Centre, dual mudrooms (aka Landing Zones), vast spaces of open deck and a lavish suite offering – the stylish apartment-style, two-level WinterGarden Suites, complete with Swarovski ATX Interior spotting scopes and expansive windows for enjoying the vistas and spotting wildlife.
Seabourn enlisted Adam Tihany to design the expedition fleet’s guest areas. The interiors feel like a ski lodge with wooden floors, heavy furniture, leather, rivets, thick carpets and throws.
“We looked at a lot of other ship interiors and they resembled a five-star hotel anywhere in the world,” West said.
“We wanted to create a feeling… that was a tribute to the early explorers.”
This article on Seabourn expedition cruises originally appeared in volume 39 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. Subscribe to the latest issue today.
Lead image: Seabourn Venture will be the smallest vessel in the cruise line’s fleet