Seabourn Expedition fleet to offer increased diversity

LATTE chats with Steve Smotrys, VP Global Sales

Seabourn has only scratched the surface of what can potentially be unlocked through luxury expedition cruising, says Steve Smotrys, Vice President of Global Sales for the ultra-luxury cruise line. In Australia this week to meet his local team face-to-face, as well as top-selling travel partners in Sydney and Melbourne, Smotrys believes Seabourn has the opportunity to build the luxury expedition segment out far further.

Seabourn began the operation of the first of two polar-class, purpose-built expedition ships – Seabourn Venture – in July last year, fitted with dual submarines, a fleet of Zodiacs and sea kayaks. The 264-passenger Seabourn Venture is a vessel Smotrys said was “the most anticipated expedition ship coming into market” due to its very different design.

Seabourn Venture | Credit: Seabourn/Facebook

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But Seabourn Venture‘s arrival certainly wasn’t the starting point of expedition cruising for the brand. It’s been offering expedition programs, led by a team of experts, in select parts of the world for more than a decade aboard its ocean fleet, in destinations such as Alaska.

When Venture‘s sister ship, Seabourn Pursuit, arrives in October 2023, Seabourn will be able to diversify its offering beyond the polar regions and into warm waters. ‘Diversity’ is a keyword Smotrys refers to several times during LATTE‘s exclusive interview when discussing the expedition fleet.

“[Pursuit] will also do some Antarctica expeditions too, but she’ll probably spend a lot of the year doing more warm weather destinations,” Smotrys explains – more on that shortly.

The LA-based Carnival Corporation cruise veteran of 20-odd years, who previously worked with Princess Cruises and Cunard before joining Seabourn in 2020, believes the expedition market is still waiting to be tapped. Education and storytelling will form the backbone of increasing awareness of how expedition differs from ocean cruising.

“That may simply be around storytelling. A lot of advisors I talk to are asking what a typical day looks like

Steve Smotrys, VP Global Sales, Seabourn

on an expedition ship? If I go to Greenland, what am I going to see there?”

“When you say expedition, people generally think of two things. They think of polar regions – maybe someone will think of the Galapagos, or a region like that – and then wildlife, which absolutely, those are right in the centre, but there’s also so much cultural immersion that happens.”

“Somewhere like the Solomon Islands, you’re going to places like New Guinea, and that becomes a bit more cultural immersion. And while you may take the submarines in Antarctica and go looking for sea life, in the warm waters of PNG you’ll maybe going looking for World War II wreckages, so it becomes a whole different story in destinations like that.”

Australia’s rugged Kimberley coastline has also been on the radar for Seabourn’s expedition fleet for several years, and last year it was confirmed Seabourn Pursuit would ply those water too from 2024.

King George Falls | Credit: Tourism Western Australia

“Obviously, the Kimberley, we’re excited when we get to go there and everything that region of Australia has to offer.”

Smotrys told LATTE the focus on warm water sailing, with an ice-strengthened hulled ship, isn’t a reaction to softness in the market for polar products, and had always been the intention for Seabourn’s expedition fleet.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what expedition is and can be. We want the ships to be versatile.”

Smotrys said the team are still ironing out the details of the Kimberley program, but it’s likely both the 2024 and 2025 seasons will be released by mid-February 2023.

“Initially, we’re really going to be depending on the Australian market. They know what the Kimberley is, whereas in North America they’re still trying to understand what it is.

“We’re very internationally sourced, so it’s educating our other markets as well – the UK and the EU, I think we’ll lean in on Australia for the first year to two and hopefully we’ll start getting more and more of that storytelling out there, that really tells what the Kimberley is all about.”

Other warm water destinations Seabourn is eyeing for its expedition-specific ships include Asia (Southeast Asia and up into Japan), the South Pacific and the British Isles.

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