Last October, when Silversea Cruises initially announced its plans to launch an expedition vessel, response from luxury-minded explorers was almost uniformly positive. The line said it had acquired the 6,072-ton World Discoverer, which previously sailed for the now-defunct Society Expeditions. The ship would undergo, we reported, "a multi-million dollar makeover before re-entering service as a luxury exploration ship in the spring of 2008."
Details have been sketchy since. Though no further official announcements were made between then and now, Silversea did give Cruise Critic some preliminary details about itineraries, and the expedition ship's presumed christening in April 2008, in December.
With that launch date rapidly approaching, we contacted a Silversea spokesman again this week in order to provide readers with an update on the ship's refurbishment status and proposed launch date. He told us, "Unfortunately, we don't have anything new in regards to our expedition ship. However, we're planning a press conference at this year's Seatrade Convention [which takes place in March in Miami] where we will be announcing itinerary and pricing information as well as complete design details."
So Silversea's leaving it all until the last minute. At least that's what we assumed ... until we learned from Cruise Critic's U.K.-based contributors that the line's executives were in London just yesterday to announce details about its proposed new expedition offspring. At this point we're not sure why the information hasn't been made available to U.S. travel agents, media and passengers. Even having heard what went down at the press event, we're still confused about a few things.
For instance: The previously announced launch date of April 2008 has been changed. It's now June 12 -- still quite soon for a ship with no name. And despite rumors running rampant about the ship's new name being Silver Dawn -- as reported on cruise-community.com, an industry news source -- there's still no confirmation from Silversea.
Oh, and you can't book a cruise on the new ship. According to the Cruise Community report, sales brochures, which travel agencies use to promote voyages to customers, are not yet published.
After being given the run-around, we're not entirely sure what's set in stone, or if the luxury line will change its mind yet again on dates and details. In a way it's too bad. There'd be much to be excited about with this new effort had Silversea been able to provide clear and consistent information.
The ship, under refurbishment at Fincantieri's Monfalcone shipyard near Trieste, will get a major overhaul, both structurally and cosmetically, and will sail to some pretty nifty destinations. Here's what else we've learned from folks on hand for last night's event -- bearing in mind, though, that any of these details could be changed again:
On the design side, the expedition ship will feature 66 oceanview suites, ranging in size from 215 to 600 square ft. Many will sport balconies. With these renovations, the ship will have the largest average size accommodations of any expedition ship.
In addition, the ship will offer wireless Internet from bow to stern, an outdoor bar and grill, and a viewing deck with telescopes. The current aft swimming pool will be replaced with two Jacuzzis. Eight Zodiac boats will be available to take guests on up-close explorations.
Inaugural itineraries include visits to the Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroes, and Jan Mayan, followed by sailings in the Arctic Circle. In the autumn, the ship will head to South America and Antarctica before repositioning for a season in French Polynesia.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
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Silversea's New Expedition Ship: Fantasy or Reality?
February 8, 2008