(11:45 a.m. EDT) -- Silversea celebrated a major milestone in the company's history Sunday, commemorating 10 years of luxury expedition cruises with an event aboard Silver Cloud Expedition. Company executives spoke about the history of the luxury cruise line's expedition arm and shared thoughts on its future, including the possibility of more expedition ship and longer stays in various destinations.
"For us, today is a huge moment," said Conrad Combrink, Silversea's Senior Vice President, Strategic Development Expeditions and Experiences, speaking at a news conference onboard Silver Cloud as the ship sailed the English Channel. "It is 10 years ago today that we christened our first expedition ship, Prince Albert II [now Silver Explorer]. We literally stripped the ship bare and started to create something very unique, and that was Silversea Expeditions."
Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio told assembled guests that Silversea Expeditions was created out of a desire to explore the world in an adventurous way without sacrificing comfort.
"I don't perceive luxury to be an extra bottle of champagne," he stated. "I perceive luxury as the possibility of achieving unique experiences, in a very organized way and with good support. What we offer is not only a beautiful ship with good food and service; we offer [the ability to visit] destinations with a unique team of experts.
As Silversea moves into its next decade with its Expeditions brand, Lefebvre said the line would look at basing its ships in certain destinations for an extended period.
"We have several ideas -- not only ships of different sizes, but the possibility to relocate certain ships to different destinations. With most destinations, we're just passing through. Silver Galapagos serves the Galapagos full time. Other destinations have that possibility. This is something we're talking about [for the future]," he said.
Regarding ships, Silver Cloud Expedition was transformed in November 2017 from the line's first luxury cruise ship into the fourth vessel for its Silversea Expeditions brand, complete with an ice-strengthened hull and revitalized suites. The company is considering converting Cloud's sister-ship, the 296-passenger Silver Wind, into a dedicated expedition vessel as well but has not announced a decision. The line does intend to equip the larger, 386-passenger Silver Whisper with a fleet of Zodiac skiffs in time for its 2020 World Cruise, which will feature landings on all seven continents.
When Silversea unveiled Silversea Expeditions in 2008, the decision was met with some skepticism. Historically, expedition cruises were operated aboard older ex-research vessels with limited amenities and rugged features. The idea of a luxury expedition cruise, complete with lavish suites, butler service and Relais & Chateaux-inspired dining available in the farthest reaches of the Arctic or Antarctic, was a novel one.
A decade later, Silversea's success is evident not only within its own fleet of four dedicated luxury expedition ships that complement the line's five "classic" luxury ships, but in the decisions of its competitors. More small-ship expedition vessels are on order now than at any other time in history, with many of those destined for premium or luxury brands. (These include Scenic Eclipse and Crystal Endeavor.)
Silversea intends to embrace the next decade in much the same way it has treated the first for its Expeditions brand, driven by a desire to create itineraries that push further into more remote areas like the Northeast Passage. Its first transit from Nome, Alaska, to Tromso, Norway, sets sail aboard Silver Explorer next August; it's a 25-day expedition that few lines have undertaken. Combrink also expressed interest in going into the Northwest Passage again and praised the line's expedition forays into Bangladesh.
"In 10 years at Silversea Expeditions, I can't think of anything we wanted to do that we weren't able to accomplish," he concluded.
--By Aaron Saunders, Cruise Critic Contributor