Silversea to deploy Silver Cloud to the Kimberley

Soon to be released: 66-day Grand Expedition from Africa to Australia

Silversea Cruises will deploy its hybrid expedition ship Silver Cloud to Western Australia’s Kimberley in 2024, offering increased capacity for the ultra-luxury cruise operator in the destination.

Silver Cloud accommodates 254 guests and will replace the 144-passenger Silver Explorer in the region. While Cloud has the capacity to carry 100 more guests than Explorer, its expedition voyages along the rugged Australian coastline between Darwin and Broome will be capped at no more than 200 passengers.

Silversea has sold Silver Explorer to French start-up company Exploris, which will take ownership of the vessel in November after her swansong season in the Kimberley and then across the South Pacific this season that concludes with a 23-day expedition from Papeete to Valparaiso, Chile on 27 October. The ship will then be rebadged as Exploris One.

Speaking to travel advisors in Sydney this week, Conrad Combrink, Senior Vice President of Expeditions for Silversea Cruises acknowledged that more operators are entering the Kimberley, and encouraged travel professionals to weigh up the options carefully for their clients.

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“It’s a part of the world that we absolutely love exploring,” Combrink said of the Kimberley.

For the 2023 season, Silversea has increased the number of Zodiacs onboard Silver Explorer and at the same time raised its number of expedition staff.

“It’s really important for us to have enough Zodiacs and enough expedition staff to get everybody off the ship at the same time while exploring this incredibly beautiful coast,” he said.

The Miami-based expedition cruise guru used the phenomenon of the changing of the tide from high to low at Montgomery Reef, only accessible by Zodiacs, to flag with advisors the predicament that arises for competitors without enough runabouts.

“What happens if you don’t have enough Zodiacs aboard your ship to get everybody off at once? How do you make the decision who is going to be there to experience that?” he cautioned.

“So I am not saying that some of our competitors don’t have enough Zodiacs or don’t have enough expedition staff,” Combrink quipped. “What I am saying is that for us, we’ve made the decision that we cannot go to the Kimberley if we don’t have enough Zodiacs and enough expedition staff to do this, because ultimately if we don’t have the equipment we can’t deliver the experience.”

Montgomery Reef, Kimberley | Credit: Lauren Bath/Tourism WA

Combrink also noted that following last year’s incident with the Horizontal Falls tourist boat operator, that now due to limited capacity for the experience, the activity will no longer be complimentary to passengers, but instead be a first-in, first-served paid optional activity. Silversea will only have a limited number of seats for the excursion, of between 20-35 per expedition.

For the 2024 Kimberley season, and beyond, Silver Cloud will not carry more than 200 guests.

“That enables us to have more than enough Zodiacs for everybody. The ship has a fleet of 26 Zodiacs and 28 expedition staff which makes a big difference,” Combrink added.

Silver Cloud, rooftop Zodiacs

First-ever true expedition sailings of South Africa

In the lead-up to its first Kimberley deployment next year, Silver Cloud will offer the first-ever expedition sailings of South Africa next autumn. The two sailings include a 12-day itinerary from Walvis Bay in Namibia to Port Elizabeth, South Africa followed immediately by another 12-day sailing onto Maputo, Mozambique.

Combrink told travel advisors that in the past, the South African government has restricted the use of Zodiacs and kayaks by expedition operators in small boat harbours, limiting access to the ports of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Richards Bay, Durban and, occasionally, Mossel Bay.

Mossel Bay, South Africa | Source: Silversea Luxury Cruises

However, during the pandemic, Silversea was able to negotiate with local authorities permission to operate the “first-ever proper expedition cruise” along the South African coast. Silversea will take guests into small fishing communities that have never encountered cruise tourism before. Destinations will include Richtersveld (where guests can sleep the night in a bush camp in a tent), Namaqua National Park, Paternoster (where Silver Cloud will arrive just as local fishermen are returning with the ‘catch of the day’ and which Silversea has already negotiated to buy) and Cape Condimine where guests will be served “the best oysters in the world” at sunset and participate in a community fish barbeque on the beach.

“We’re the only company right now that does that. I guarantee, two years from now, we will not be the only ones doing it,” Combrink told travel advisors. “It’s super exciting for us.”

The itinerary will also include two days in Cape Town where Silver Cloud will dock at the historic waterfront precinct – “something that has not happened in 15 years,” Combrink said. In Cape Town, guests will have seven shore excursions to choose from, including hiking up Table Mountain, or going beyond the summit on a hike to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with a botanist.

Langebaan, South Africa | Credit: Silversea Luxury Cruises

The 12-day itinerary begins with a charter flight from Cape Town to Walvis Bay on 23 March 2024 and is priced from $14,200 per person twin share (door-to-door).

The following 12-day itinerary unlocks more of Port Elizabeth and explores Bird Island, Cape Town, Langebaan, Hermanus, East London, Durban and Richards Bay, before concluding in Maputo, Mozambique. The expedition will offer activities like cage diving with sharks and immersion in Zulu culture. It departs on 4 April 2024 and is priced from $14,200 per person twin share (door-to-door).

Combrink, who presented to consumers and trade partners at events this week in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, also offered a sneak preview of a yet-to-be-formally-released ‘Grand Expedition’ that will link South Africa and Australia.

Exclusive: Silversea’s first Grand Expedition

A first for Silversea, the 66-day grand voyage across the Indian Ocean aboard Silver Cloud will encompass Madagascar, Zanzibar, Seychelles, Maldives, Southern India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Indonesia, before concluding with a week-long Kimberley coastline cruise, ending in Darwin on 9 June 2024.

Morondava, Madagascar | Source: Silversea Luxury Cruises

Additionally, the itinerary includes two nights pre-cruise at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve outside Port Elizabeth, along with various grand voyage exclusive elements such as an afternoon on the St. Lucia Wetlands from Richards Bay and a private visit to Chumbe Island Marine Park in Zanzibar.

“Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen, you have the clients for this,” Combrink said. “I announced this on Monday in Brisbane and by that afternoon we had two people book. I did another event the next day and by the following day we had another four people commit to booking as soon as it’s bookable.”

“You have the clients to book this. It is an incredible opportunity to travel 66 days from South Africa, including Business Class airfare to and from the ship.”

For more details on the new grand expedition, travel advisors should register guests’ via their local BDM.

Pictured in Sydney at Wednesday night’s presentation from left are Silversea’s Christine Gardner, BDM NSW; Conrad Combrink and Adam Radwanski, Managing Director – Asia Pacific.

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