Add Seabourn to the list of cruise lines getting into expedition-style cruising.
The Seattle-based luxury cruise operator on Monday signed a letter of intent with a shipyard in Italy for the construction of its first two expedition vessels.
Scheduled to debut in June 2021 and May 2022, respectively, the as-yet-unnamed ships will offer all-suite luxury accommodations and carry their own submarines as well as kayaks and motorized Zodiac boats for exploring. Measuring 23,000 gross tons, they'll hold up to 264 passengers a piece.
“This is a groundbreaking moment for Seabourn and for luxury travelers, who will now find a new standard of authentic yet luxurious expedition adventures in new and amazing destinations few people will ever see,” Seabourn president Richard Meadows said in a statement.
Seabourn is joining an increasingly crowded field of upscale cruise companies that offer expedition-style cruising — a type of cruising that involves small, often rugged ships with landing craft that can be used to visit remote and hard-to-access places such as Antarctica.
Luxury line Silversea, one of Seabourn's key competitors, already is a major player in expedition cruising with four expedition ships, as is upscale, France-based line Ponant. Ponant already operates five expedition vessels and has six more on order.
Luxury line Crystal Cruises also is getting into the expedition cruising space with a vessel on order for delivery in 2020, and Australia-based luxury purveyor Scenic Cruises is adding its first expedition ship later this year.
Expedition cruise pioneer Lindblad Expeditions also is expanding in the space as is longtime expedition cruise seller Hurtigruten, a Norway-based company.
A boom in bookings for expedition cruises increasingly is catching the attention of the world's biggest cruise companies. Seabourn's announcement comes just days after the parent company of cruise giant Royal Caribbean revealed plans to buy a controlling stake in Silversea. The move was seen, in part, as a way for the company to gain a quick entree into the expedition cruise business.
Seabourn's move, in turn, can be seen as a way for Seabourn's parent company, cruise giant Carnival Corp., to get into expedition cruising.
Like many of the ships on order by its competitors, Seabourn's new expedition vessels will be built with strengthened hulls and other features that allow them to operate in the icy waters of Antarctica and the Arctic. Seabourn said they would meet PC6 Polar Class standards.
Seabourn said it would announce more design and service details for the new ships beginning later this year. Details about itineraries and booking availability will be released in early 2019.
Seabourn said the first of the two ships will sail in the Arctic in late summer 2021, with a full winter season in Antarctica to follow.
By Gene Sloan, USA Today
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