Australia’s Northwest coastline is destined to be a region explored by Seabourn’s new ultra-luxury expedition ships. The Kimberley is a natural fit for Seabourn’s all-veranda suite vessels, with capacity limited to a relatively low 264 passengers, and equipped with an industry-leading number of Zodiacs for explorations.
No official Kimberley program or dates have been released for Seabourn Venture (or her sister-ship) as yet, but Robin West, Vice President and General Manager, says the cruise line is seriously mulling the region for the future with a deployment likely to operate seasonally between May and August.
West is well versed on the Kimberley. He previously spent three years in the region with Australia’s own Orion Expedition Cruises before it was acquired by Lindblad Expeditions in 2013.
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“The Kimberly is definitely on the horizon,” West revealed to LATTE. “It’s an incredible place. A lot of people describe it as Antarctica, without the ice.
“The harshness of the landscape, the waterfalls, King George River, the gorge. It’s a special place. There’s things that happen there that don’t happen anywhere else in the world, like the changing of the tide with Montgomery Reef coming out of the water and the Horizontal Waterfalls.
“Every day is so different, whether you’re hiking at Raft Point to go see the Wandjina Art, or taking the Zodiacs on the Hunter River up into the mangroves, or to King George Falls in the gorge.”
“When I worked there with Orion it was fascinating to see how many Australians who came up there to join us, didn’t even know what they had in their own backyard,” he said.
West suggested the Kimberley region would come online when Seabourn takes possession of a second purpose-built expedition vessel in mid-2022. The first ship, Seabourn Venture, will enter service this December. The name of the second vessel is still yet to be officially named.
Other new destinations beyond the Kimberley
Beyond the Kimberley, Seabourn is also eyeing expeditions to Papua New Guinea and Raja Ampat in West Papua, and Pacific voyages, potentially as far afield as French Polynesia.
“Our second [expedition] vessel provides us with more freedom to do this.
“In the future we will look at operating Northwest Passages and Northeast Passages that puts the ships on opposite sides of the world. That then allows us to look at options like doing a Northeast Passage, [then] coming down towards Japan, looking at a World War II cruise of Japan following the invasion south of the Pacific Islands, bringing the ship down eventually into Antarctica and into the Pacific.
“An Antarctica deployment from New Zealand into the Ross Sea and Commonwealth Bay in December and January, and maybe one or two months in the South Pacific.
“All of those areas with this vessel are definitely a possibility and will be given a lot of thought when we look to build itineraries. And when we have both vessels, no ship’s itinerary will be designed independently. They will actually be designed together, to facilitate the best possible experience and diversity of itineraries globally.”
Highlight Destinations for 2022/23
Seabourn Venture already has a full expedition program for 2023: exploring Antarctica, the Arctic, the Caribbean, the Amazon and Central and South America.
Quizzed as to which destination he is most passionate about there was little hesitation in West’s response – Scoresby Sund off East Greenland.
“It’s the only other place in the world that blew me away like Antarctica did the first time. I’m really excited about Scoresby Sund. I’ve done two trips there myself and it’s pretty spectacular.
“It’s the world’s largest fjord system. It dwarfs anything in Chile, or in the Norwegian Fjords. The Greenland ice cap pours into Scoresby Sund through endless glaciers. It has the most incredibly dramatic scenery. You’re going through fjords that are 1,500 meters high, sheer rock, and you can bring the ship alongside. It’s just choked with glacial ice, but then you’ve also got these beautiful open fields, and places like Røde Ø – a beautiful red island where you do the Zodiac cruise. Guests go ashore looking for Musk ox or guided hikes. It’s just an overload for the senses, like Antarctica is for gorgeous dramatic fjord, ice, glacial, wildlife scenery.
“You don’t see that in too many other parts of the world. That’s really something quite special,” he said.
After an extensive series of Arctic explorations of Iceland and Greenland, Seabourn Venture will cross the Davis Strait to the Canadian Arctic then cruise south to the Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Central and South America, visiting remote islands off Peru and Chile.
Seabourn’s core Antarctica program will be a 10-day expedition round trip from Ushuaia, operating between late November 2022 and early March 2023, supplemented with a few 12-day departures for guests who wish to go further south of the Antarctic Circle.
Itineraries to the Falkland Islands will explore destinations such as Saunders, Carcass, New Ireland, West Point and Steeple Jason on the Northwestern section, where guests will go ashore and view four or five penguin species and rookeries of nesting black-browed Albatross.
Another destination that excites West is the Amazon, with two 10-day one-way voyages between Manaus and Iquitos.
These voyages will be wholly focused on the Amazon experience, observing the flooding from the wet season. With the flexibility of no fixed itinerary, the captain and expedition leaders will explore tributaries by Zodiac and kayak in the early morning, or late afternoon, to maximise wildlife viewing opportunities and to avoid the heat of midday. Guests will enjoy the middle of the day aboard their luxury ship lapping up the luxury dining and relaxation options aboard.
Seabourn Venture godmother?
West also revealed to LATTE that a godmother has been chosen for Seabourn Venture, with an announcement to make it official expected in the near future.
“The person is very, very much in line with the product,” he noted.
“She’s an explorer. She’s climbed all the peaks around the world and she’s tracked across Antarctica. She’ll be a fantastic fit,” West added.
Seabourn Venture’s maiden expedition is currently scheduled for 11 December 2021 – a 12-day Northern Lights & Northern Cape itinerary from London to Tromsø.
Find out more about Seabourn’s expedition product at seabournexpeditions.com/
Lead image: King George Falls, the Kimberley | Credit: Tourism Western Australia