Silversea celebrated 10 years in the expedition cruise business yesterday, toasting the milestone with trade and media partners at Sydney’s Bennelong restaurant at the Opera House.
The expedition cruise line, which was majority acquired by Royal Caribbean in June, currently has four vessels in its fleet – the Silver Explorer, Silver Cloud, Silver Galapagos and the Silver Discoverer, which cruise waters all over the globe.
Guests were given an update by Conrad Combrink, Silversea’s senior vice president, strategic development expeditions and experiences, pictured below with Silversea’s director of marketing, Asia Pacific, Leanne Fonagy.
Combrink told the audience that expedition cruising has come a long way in a short time. “A decade ago when we began, expedition ships weren’t economical to build, but that has changed. Most people believed we [Silversea] wouldn’t last a year, let alone a decade.”
“And certainly nobody believed that a luxury cruise could be an expedition cruise. But we have always said that there’s no reason why an expedition cruise cannot be luxurious.
Combrink was excited by the growth in expedition cruise, but added a note of caution. “Globally there are 28 expedition vessels on order in the sector, but we genuinely believe growth needs to be sustainable.
“This is why we’ve pioneered the Silversea Expediton Training Academy, and it’s something we’re very passionate about.
“In recent months we’ve selected eight candidates from thousands of applicants. The selected few will undergo six months training before joining a vessel, but even then, they won’t start work. Next they undertake a three month mentorship program, where they are paired with an experienced onboard staff member. This is to ensure the high Silversea standards are passed on to all new staff.
Combrink also launched a passionate defence of the expedition cruise sector in the wake of negative press that followed the killing of a polar bear by a German operator.
“In all the years I’ve been involved in the sector, this is the first polar bear to have been killed by a guard on an expedition vessel. It is an absolute tragedy, but I can say, hand on heart, the the operators of cruises in the Svalbard region go to great lengths to ensure the animals are not disrupted.”
Silversea are breaking new ground in terms of navigation and polar bear observation through the use of drones, operated by experts on its vessels, Combrink added.