Aurora Expeditions will introduce a second X-Bow vessel to its fleet in 2021/22, as the company responds to a near sell-out for the inaugural season of its new asset, Greg Moritmer.
Aurora Expeditions GM, Robert Halfpenny, this week restated that the 160-passenger expedition ship is ahead of schedule for its debut towards the end of 2019, which will launch with a season in Antarctica.
“Business has been fairly phenomenal,” Halfpenny said, with the figures to support the comment.
In 2018, and fuelled by the pending delivery of the Greg Mortimer this year, Aurora’s overall business tripled in volume. The company’s 2019/20 Antarctica season is 95% sold out; only the first two sailings later this year have cabins still to be filled. That’s a consequence of cruisers hesitating to commit, believing there could be delays with the new build’s delivery date.
Halfpenny, however, is extremely confident the ship will be delivered on time, with its construction in China now centred around the “decorations”, that is, the internal fit-out.
Recently, Aurora Expeditions confirmed the company’s co-founder and the ship’s namesake, Greg Mortimer, would be joining the maiden voyage, a move Halfpenny expects will see business “pick up” for the first and second sailing.
He said Aurora’s 2020 Arctic season was already 65% sold and that the 2020/21 season has been selling fast since going to market a few weeks ago. That figure was actually around 85% before two additional sailings were recently introduced, increasing opportunities for further sales.
The 25-year-old Australian polar cruise operator last year ramped up its global operation, opening offices in North America and London to tap into a greater international audience. Currently, 70% of Aurora Expeditions’ guests are Australian, with the balance made up of Americans, Brits and Europeans. The company also recently expanded its sales and marketing team, which included the appointment of a Head of Marketing, Victoria Primrose, to lead Aurora’s marketing strategy going forward.
Halfpenny pinpointed the formula for Aurora Expeditions’ success as the destinations visited and the pace at which it operates, particularly in Antarctica. “We go slow and we get out,” he said. Itineraries in the Arctics don’t have specific locations where the ship must be at a given time, enabling Aurora Expeditions the flexibility to move with the wildlife and the weather conditions.
The purpose-built Greg Mortimer will carry all the classifications of a 1A icebreaker, and will have an average of 120 passengers.
“Only 100 people can go onto land at any one time in Antarctica, so the other 20 guests can take shore excursions, so we will be able to deliver on those treasured moments with wildlife. Our activities are a core ingredient to our success in our ‘secret sauce’,” Halfpenny said. “We have everything from diving, polar camping, trekking, kayaking, snorkelling, skiing in the early season departures and snowshoeing now. So we have a lot of activities that people can take up.”
With Aurora Expeditions’ sales so strong, Halfpenny was also able to confirm another X-Bow ship was already under development and will enter service in season 2021/22.
“It’s been a really good start [for Greg Mortimer] and the owners have the reassurance to commit to a second ship,” he said. The yet-to-be-named sister-ship of Greg Mortimer will more or less be a replica of the first vessel.
Greg Mortimer‘s maiden voyage is set to depart Ushuaia on 31 October 2019.
Lead image: Aurora Expeditions’ Martha Behan, Consumer Marketing Executive; Victoria Primrose; Global Director of Marketing; Robert Halfpenny, Managing Director; with Co-Founders, Margaret and Greg Mortimer.