How does Seabourn Expedition vary from Ocean?

LATTE digs deep with VP Global Sales, Steve Smotrys

Seabourn Venture

The fleet of luxury cruise line Seabourn will soon swell to seven, with a second purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Pursuit, now on track to enter service two months earlier than scheduled. But aside from the obvious differences in ship design and ‘toys’ onboard, how does the experience vary for guests between Seabourn’s traditional Ocean fleet and its new ultra-luxury Expedition vessels?

Steve Smotrys, Seabourn’s Vice President of Global Sales, says the new Polar Class ships provide strong continuity with the existing and much-loved Ocean ships.

Seabourn’s Ocean fleet comprises five ships – the 229-suite Odyssey Class (460-passenger) Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest and the slightly larger Encore Class 300-suite (600-passenger) Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation. While Seabourn’s Expeditions ships, Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit, accommodate a more modest 264 passengers.

Seabourn Odyssey is the oldest ship in the fleet, launched in 2009, but according to Smotrys still feels “fresh and modern”.

Steve Smotrys, SVP Global Sales, Seabourn

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“When a guest walks around any of the Odyssey and Encore Class ships there is so much continuity. You know the flow, you know how things are laid out. The extra deck on the Encore Class provides more suites, increasing capacity and enabling a couple of venues – like The Grill by Thomas Keller – a little larger.”

“The continuity across the fleet is something that I think is an advantage for us.”

So, how does a Seabourn cruise and expedition vary from other luxury cruise brands? Smotrys explains:

“Our expeditions ships are still quintessentially Seabourn and that’s where we are so different in this luxury, small-ship space – that we are much more relaxed.

The Grill by Thomas Keller - Seabourn Ocean fleet

“It’s elegant but never feels stuffy. It’s very relaxed. It’s about the energy of the crew and a culture that has developed – how they connect with the guests in a really powerful way. The service level and the way they connect with guests – it feels very personal and authentic,” he says.

“A Seabourn cruise is so different from a regular cruise. I always think of it more like a private resort experience: all-inclusive, luxury, intimate.”

“But then expedition is so different than that. It’s free-flowing, it’s truly exploring where you are going as the itinerary may change from day to day.

“We may be planning to see these things tomorrow and then in the middle of the night, there may be, for example, a polar bear that presents and incredible opportunity, so by the next morning we’ve changed course and strayed from our original plan. Or the weather, it can be unpredictable so the captain may have to plot a different route.

“For travel advisors, it’s really creating that expectation in guests’ mind that it is free-flowing and you have to be flexible. If you want a set itinerary then Expedition probably isn’t an experience for you,” Smotrys explained.

The 264-guest Seabourn Venture

The cruise executive, who incidentally is currently aboard Seabourn Venture in Antarctica, says the 26-person expedition team onboard every adventure sailing is what really brings the expedition experience “to life”.

“Not only are they driving the Zodiacs and putting it all together behind the scenes, but they are scientists and academics who are so enthralling and want to share their vast knowledge with guests.”

During daylight hours guests could be off the ship on a Zodiac or kayak exploring mother nature, and in the evening they assemble in the Discovery Centre to hear from the expedition team about the day’s sightings and discuss what to expect for the next day.

On Seabourn Venture and Pursuit, after dinner, there might be a show or some light entertainment, such as an acoustic guitar, and there’s a piano bar in the Constellation Lounge. Onboard there are three restaurants to dine at, with room service as another option for those who want a lazy night in solitude.

Smotrys says that days of back-to-back-to-back expedition experiences actually have guests looking forward to sea days when they can relax.

“It’s not because they’re tired. They just want to take it in and process it all.”

And while Seabourn’s Ocean offering is “probably the most relaxed” among its competitors in the luxury space – where there may be just the one ‘formal night’ – on Seabourn Venture and Pursuit there’s no need to dress up at all, Smotrys tells LATTE.

Colonnade, Seabourn Venture

“We started the Expedition experience by offering formal evenings but then the feedback from guests was for this kind of experience, it doesn’t make sense, so we took it out.”

“If you go into the main formal restaurant, guests may still wear a dress shirt, maybe throw on a sports coat, but you can even wear nice jeans and a polo and you’re still fine.”

“Even though we’re pretty relaxed in general, we’ve brought it down a notch for Expedition.”

And while other luxury cruise lines provide Butler service, Seabourn has taken the conscious decision not to use that label.

“We think the word ‘butler’ feels too, for lack of a better word, pretentious, for Seabourn. It doesn’t fit our ethos as to what Seabourn is.

“Instead we’ve got a team of two – a Suite Host and a Suite Attendant – who work together as a team and they are empowered to do everything a butler would do. A butler would pack and unpack a guests bags, and if you asked the Host or Attendant, they would do that for you too.

“Really everybody on all of our ships is empowered to give you whatever you need.”

On the sales front for Seabourn’s Expedition product, Smotrys said the vessels are very much selling from the top down, with the double-storey Winter Garden suite proving a massive winner for the brand.

“The premium suites do sell the best. They have the strongest demand,” he confirmed.

“The Winter Garden demand…. that category has proven to be the most popular. Penthouses with their separated living and bedroom spaces are also really popular.”

The Panorama Suite (of which there are four) aboard Seabourn's Expedition ships have been a hit.

“Our new Panorama Suites, located forward-mid ship and which distinctively protrude out from the vessel, have also been a hit. They are a grade below the Penthouse and I’ve heard some guests who have been offered upgrades from the Panorama have insisted to sticking with the lower-graded option because of the spacious floorplan.”

To view a number of the public spaces aboard Seabourn Venture, see Smotrys’ public profile on Facebook, where he walked viewers through the restaurants and lounges last September.

This week, Seabourn confirmed Seabourn Pursuit will now offer a pre-inaugural series of seven sailings in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, along with a transatlantic departure. While not Expedition voyages, these cruises – which are now open for sale – will provide past passengers and new guests with a taste of how the hardware of the Expedition fleet varies from that of the Ocean ships.

Seabourn Pursuit will also offer a wider collection of ‘warm water’ sailings compared to that of sister ship Seabourn Venture. Read more about the diversity of Seabourn’s Expedition cruises here in LATTE’s previous feature with Smotrys.

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