SILVERSEA welcomed yesterday its first year-round ship based in Asia-Pacific, the 120-pax expedition-focused Silver Discoverer, which offers 10- to 18-day voyages to remote destinations stretching from the Russian Far East to New Zealand.
The once Clipper Odyssey was bought over by the luxury cruise line last year and officially joined the seven-strong fleet after emerging from a major refurbishment in Singapore. Silversea’s two other expedition ships, the Explorer and Galapagos, sail in other parts of the world.
Unlike Silversea’s classic ships, the smaller and more casual-style expedition vessels are catered to the adventurous traveller. Besides snorkelling and diving equipment on board, experts with backgrounds ranging from marine biology to anthropology give destination lectures and lead guests on all-inclusive shore excursions in Zodiacs and a glass-bottom boat.
Silver Discoverer is “not a conventional ship that will be in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai every week”, Silversea president – Europe, Africa, Middle East & Asia-Pacific, Steve Odell, told TTG Asia e-Daily. Instead, it turns around at ports such as Broome (Australia), Bali (Indonesia), Otaru (Japan) and Nome (Alaska).
Explaining the concept, Silversea director – expedition planning and strategic development, Conrad Combrink, said: “Silversea Expeditions is not a cruise company. We’re an expedition operator offering a luxury experience onboard. That’s a big difference…Cruise companies don’t necessarily understand expeditions.”
Beginning with a voyage to Australia’s Kimberley region in April, Silver Discoverer will later take travellers to the rainforests of Borneo and villages of Sulawesi. From South-east Asia, it will sail to Kamchatka Peninsula in search of brown bears and geysers, and move down to Micronesia for beaches and tribal cultures. The ship rounds off the year in the Sub-Antarctic islands, home to several species of albatrosses and penguins.
Odell said the Kimberley season has sold out, with customers mainly coming from Australia. However, there is still “work to be done” for Russia and the Far East bookings, he revealed.
Most of the demand is coming from Europe, North America and Australia, as the inhibiting factor in Asia is the length of cruise, explained Odell, adding that shorter itineraries would be introduced in the next season.
Royal Cruise Express Taiwan general manager, David Lynn, added that other concerns were limited flight access to these exotic destinations and a lack of awareness of what they have to offer.
In contrast, Silversea’s Antarctica cruises are very popular with Asian customers, Odell observed, with the market contributing about 20 per cent of passengers on such itineraries. In terms of overall business on all cruises, Asia’s share is still only five per cent.