Here's a dandy little 5,218-ton vessel that looks and acts like an expedition ship as well as someone's large private yacht, painted in white with a long black stripe running the entire length. The 128-passenger Clipper Odyssey undertakes cruises to out-of-the-way places where it may dock. For more remote destinations such as the Russian Far East, the Bering Sea and Indonesia, Zodiac landing crafts, accessed from an aft marina, transport passengers ashore.
Designed by Dutch naval architects and constructed in Japan in 1989, it cruised for almost ten years in the Japanese market as the Oceanic Grace, before moving to Spice Island Cruises as the Oceanic Odyssey. The latter stint lasted but a year, and Clipper Cruise Line/INTRAV of St. Louis bought the ship in 1999, reflagged it to the Bahamas, and placed it year-round in the Pacific Ocean cruising Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia/New Zealand, South Pacific islands and the northern Pacific regions of Russia and Alaska.
In May 2007, the Clipper Odyssey and running mate, Clipper Adventurer, were purchased by its current Danish owners and put under International Shipping Partners, a small-ship management company based in Miami. In April 2008, Zegrahm Expeditions will take it on a five-year charter, starting with springtime itineraries in Japan; Abercrombie & Kent will supply the expedition leaders and market this cruise and a number of others.
Note: Zegrahm, based in Seattle, is a top-end soft adventure and educational tour operator employing some of the best lecturers and expedition leaders in the business. Zegrahm charters ships to alumni, museum and affinity groups and sells directly to individuals. The ship will continue to operate in very good hands.
Roomier and more comfortable than many expedition cruise ships, the Clipper Odyssey is ideally suited for small-ship cruising, with a spacious main lounge that works well for enrichment lectures and for socializing in small groups. The attractive library displays a good reference collection that supports its itineraries. Two dining venues for breakfast and lunch give passengers a distinctive choice between a traditional restaurant and a more informal buffet style.
The majority of passengers are well-traveled working and retired North Americans with enough of a disposable income to opt for a relatively expensive cruise. Some love cruising and have sampled the big ships, and others would only consider a small ship such as this one. Nearly all like partaking of the friendly social life fostered among passengers, officers, staff and crew. Many staff members have served aboard the Clipper Odyssey for six years or more, and they have been invited to stay on under the new owners.
And the crew really did make the trip extra special. The captain was an Australian living in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, and had been with the ship for nine years. He proved to be a great ambassador during all the port calls and provided a friendly welcome on the bridge, as did the other officers.