Inside Silversea’s newest expedition cruise ship for voyages to Antarctica
Cruise operator Silversea recently launched its newest ship, already touting it as the most luxurious expedition ship to hit the open seas yet. And based on the ship’s layout, the most impressive amenity is one that has become ever more valuable since the start of the pandemic: space.
The ship, which measures 164.4 meters (540 feet) long, features what Silversea says is the highest space-to-guest ratio in expedition cruising, a crew-to-guest ratio of approximately one to one, and a higher zodiac-to-guest ratio (one to 12.5).
But from a customer perspective, the abundant space is made most evident in both private and public spaces, with balconies across all suites and 300 seats available across dining venues while the ship overall will only welcome approximately 200 guests per voyage.
The third new Silversea ship named in 10 months, the Silver Endeavour is the 11th ship in the Silver-class fleet, and 64th in the global fleet, noted Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, the parent owner of three cruise brands that cover the spectrum of cruise-goers from pure vacation to ultra-luxury expedition: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises. Royal Caribbean Group also owns half of a joint venture that operates TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. In a prepared video, Liberty reflected on the Silver Endeavour’s launch as Silversea expands further into the luxury market, explaining that the ship’s design reflects a commitment to deliver a luxurious vacation for its guests but in a responsible manner.
Silversea currently occupies 21% of the luxury cruise market share, projecting that to grow to 34% by 2027. And historically, 82% of Silversea sales reflect strategic pricing, while just 18% is tactical.
“Strategic overhaul of pricing has been successful. We’re a luxury goods company, and we will never find ourselves in the position of dropping prices at the last minute,” said Silversea chief commercial officer Barbara Muckermann during a media briefing, noting “the last thing you want to do is move the conversation on pricing” as you want to conversation to focus on the experience.
The luxury experience can start right from first step as Silversea says it’s the only luxury cruise operator to offer an all-inclusive, door-to-door package, starting with a private chauffeur service to the airport, escorted all the way through until you return home. But the company is opening up to more value-conscious consumers with the addition of an all-inclusive port-to-port option, allowing customers to make their own decisions not just about airport transfers but also giving them more flexibility to book their own airfare with loyalty points or through vacation packages.
The Silver Endeavour was built to PC6 polar class specifications, which means the ship can push and comfortably sail through say, one meter of first-year ice, whereas many ships would have to turn around in those kinds of conditions. It also allows Silversea to plan different itineraries that were previously not viable.
The ship is equipped for polar exploration with the most advanced navigation technology, including a remote gimbal camera system that can capture high-quality images up to five kilometers (3.1 miles) away. The Monaco-based cruise company is partnering with Antarctic Airways, which recently just celebrated its 42nd anniversary, to fly passengers from the rendezvous point in Santiago, Chile to where the ship docks near the very southernmost point of Patagonia. Together, the companies expect to fly more than 200 flights back and forth over the course of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere.
Silversea has also made special arrangements for its charter flights with Antarctic Airways. To start, Antarctic Airways signed a contract that stipulates that Silversea is its only cruise company partner. And each charter flight tied to a Silversea itinerary will be bought out and exclusive to only passengers on Silversea ships. Additionally, while the British Aerospace (BAE) 146-200 aircraft can seat approximately 80 to 90 passengers, Silversea will ensure no one is booked in a middle seat. The reason for this is two-fold. The most obvious to customers will be that it makes the flight (nearly four hours from Santiago to Puerto Williams) more comfortable with everyone in either an aisle or window seat.
But more critically, smaller airports in Patagonia, especially at Puerto Williams, have greater payload limits on their runways. This means that the airline must strictly enforce weight limits for both passengers and their luggage. Thus, by leaving the middle seats open and reducing the number of passengers to a few more than 60 rather than 80, passengers are both more comfortable and can pack more luggage if need be, which could be considerable given how heavy and cumbersome winter clothing and gear can be.
Given the length of the midday flight, lunch is served onboard. And perhaps most uniquely, all of the food is homemade and catered by local businesses in Santiago and Punta Arenas, Chile as Conrad Combrink, senior vice president expeditions, destination, and itinerary management at Silversea, underscored it is one example of how Silversea is committed to partnering with local communities.
“The message here is we’re really looking at the journey to and from the ship,” Combrink said. “Celebrate the little steps. I know there’s a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re making so much progress on that vision of the authentic experience we want to delivery—in luxury.”
Silversea is particularly investing in the community of Puerto Williams, Chile. The town is often referred to as “El Fin del Mundo” (“The end of the world”) given its location as the southernmost town not just in South America but worldwide, making it the best port for Antarctica-bound expedition cruises.
Puerto Williams has been at the center of a geographical and philosophical search for the right departure port, according to Silversea executives. This has only been possible thanks to the support of the Chilean government and local municipalities. “There is not a better place than this to start this journey,” Muckermann said.
Earlier this month, Silversea recently announced it will sponsor a physical education program for disabled children in the remote Chilean town, which has approximately just 3,000 inhabitants, many of whom have ties to the Chilean navy or cruise industry given the region’s position near Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn). Silversea donated both mobility equipment to the primary school and four Zodiac boats to the Cedena Nautical School in Puerto Williams, a non-profit organization dedicated to training and educating children and young people in nautical sports, a first step toward learning the basic skills needed for a career in the expedition industry.
With the launch of the Silver Endeavour, Silversea now offers luxury cruises to all seven continents with itineraries across the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Galápagos, and both Polar Regions. Silversea is also working on the launch of two new ultra-luxury Nova-class ships: the Silver Nova and Silver Ray. GEM Design, the design firm behind the Silver Nova, boast that the Nova, in particular, will be one of the most environmentally friendly ships ever built when it sets sail next year as the industry’s first multi-hybrid cruise ship, and it will be the first cruise ship to use fuel cells to provide 100% of power in while in port.
Next year, the Silver Endeavour has 27 voyages planned for the 2024-2025 season, traveling to more than 125 remote destinations across not just Antarctica but also the Arctic, the British Isles, and Iceland.
“As the world faces new and ever more complicated problems, exploration has never been more vital than it is today,” said Felicity Aston, MBE, and godmother to the Silver Endeavour. A climate scientist, polar explorer, and expedition leader, Aston is the only woman in the world to have skied across Antarctica alone. “The Silver Endeavour will allow more people to become explorers and return home with that all important new perspective.”
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