Polar expeditions have historically gotten a bad rap. Think sub-zero temperatures, dangerous icebergs and disorienting blizzards. But these days, sea voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic Circles come with complimentary drinks, flat-screen TV's, and full-service spas. At least they will when Silversea's expedition ship launches in June.
Silversea will start selling cruises on its recently acquired expedition ship (formerly the World Discoverer II) on Friday, February 29. The HSH Prince Albert II (it won't be called the Silver Dawn, the first name announced for the vessel) was named for Monaco's leader who has visited the North Pole and is passionate about protecting the Earth's poles from global warming. Fittingly, the ship will spend its inaugural season cruising the northernmost and southernmost waters of the planet. If you're wondering why Monaco, well, that's where Silversea's global headquarters is based.
The inaugural season of the Prince Albert II begins on June 12 with an 18-night voyage to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, lying north of the Arctic Circle. The ship will spend time in Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland through mid-August when it will cross the Panama Canal and head down the west coasts of Central and South America. From mid-November 2008 through February 2009, the expedition ship will visit Antarctica, South Georgia Island, and the Falklands.
So far, however, this is all the detail that's offered and without specifics it's hard to know whether these itineraries will feature new ports or will follow in the footsteps of established polar expedition lines such as Hurtigruten and Quark Expeditions. We're also not sure whether repositioning cruises through the Panama Canal and along the Sea of Cortez, also listed as options on Silversea's Web site, will be more like leisure cruises than hard-core expeditions.
Silversea's goal is to offer a more luxurious base for explorations than its competitors. The Prince Albert II will have all the comforts of a very nice home. Its 66 refurbished oceanview cabins will all offer flat-screen TV's and many will have private balconies. Also onboard will be a full-service spa, a fitness center, a beauty salon, Jacuzzi pools, a boutique, a library and an Internet center. State-of-the-art satellite communications systems will provide Wi-Fi and cell phone service throughout the ship.
The Prince Albert II will also carry a fleet of eight latest-model Zodiac boats will. The ship is itself an A1A ice-rated vessel.
Prices for the 10- to 21-night voyages begin at $3,867 per person based on double occupancy, and include shore excursions and Silversea's all-inclusive amenities.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
News Analysis: Silversea's New Expedition Ship: Fantasy or Reality?
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Silversea's Expedition Ship Goes on Sale This Week
February 26, 2008