With its newly retrofitted Silver Cloud, Silversea is taking expedition cruising to a new level – offering travellers both adventure and luxury in places like the Arctic and Antarctica.
Travel Courier had an opportunity to tour the expedition ship during a recent port call in Quebec City, part of a fall foliage itinerary.
Launched in 1994 as Silversea’s lead ship, Silver Cloud was completely refitted in 2017 into a proper ice-rated luxury polar expedition ship. Most of the US$40-million enhancements were behind the scenes and not readily noticeable to passengers, such as a new bulbous bow, new steel plating in the ship’s hull, new heating systems, new windows, new radars and updated navigation system, new satellite domes and entirely new black and greywater waste treatment facilities.
Silver Cloud is rated to Ice Class 1C, an internationally recognized designation for vessels sailing within polar waters.
Joining the tour in Quebec City was Silversea’s Brad Ball (pictured above), who noted that the 254-passenger (only 200 in polar waters) Silver Cloud boasts among the highest space-to-guest ratios of any polar expedition ships and a crew to passenger ratio of 1:1.
Ball likened the ship to a five-star floating hotel that combines luxury and adventure.
“It still has all the grace and beauty of the original vessel,” he said. “The real beauty of it is that with only 200 guests [on sailings that feature polar waters] they basically have the ship to themselves.”
The ship is augmented by a fleet of 16 Zodiac crafts, allowing for up-close explorations. Complimentary kayaking is also available.
Silver Cloud is also set to be the first expedition ship to do a world cruise.
Silversea’s groundbreaking Expedition World Cruise 2021, now open for bookings, will feature 107 destinations in 30 countries across six continents over 167 days, covering a total of 39,000 nautical miles.
Silver Cloud will depart Ushuaia, Argentina, on Jan. 30, 2021.
The Expedition World Cruise 2021 will connect an unprecedented range of immersive travel experiences: in Antarctica, world-cruising guests will explore the frozen continent by Zodiac, taking to land to witness incredible landscapes and rare wildlife species; in the South Pacific, guests will meet the descendants of the famous Bounty Mutineers in Pitcairn, after spending two days on Easter Island; in French Polynesia, guests will swim with rays in Bora Bora, explore Aitutaki’s lagoon, and discover a typical Samoan village; a traditional land diving ceremony will enrich the call at Pentecost Island; Zodiacs will enable on-water exploration of Australia’s Kimberley region; guests will witness orangutans in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park; they will enjoy a behind-the-scenes exploration of Luxor, Egypt, and sail through the iconic Suez Canal, before journeying back in time through the historical highlights of Greece, Albania, Tunisia and Spain; they will visit the ancient monastery of Mont St. Michel, the memorial sites on Normandy’s beaches, and the delights of the United Kingdom; and will conclude by travelling deeper into some of Northern Europe’s most remarkable destinations, including Iceland, Svalbard and Norway’s North Cape.
Enriching the experience for guests, a number of world-class experts will join the voyage, offering workshops and lectures, and accompanying shore excursions. In addition to 70 members from Silversea’s industry-leading Expedition Team and Artist in Residence Antony Smith, more than 20 featured guest speakers will board Silver Cloud to enhance the cruising experiences.
A number of exclusive events will also enhance the voyage, allowing guests to gain insight into many fascinating cultures with special access, including a special bon voyage reception for world-cruising guests on the rooftop of Palacio Concha, a grand mansion in Chile’s Santiago; privileged access to Robert Louis Stevenson’s former home in Apia, Samoa Islands, for a private dinner; a night at the illustrious China Club, at which Silversea’s guests will enjoy a private dinner on the 52nd floor of Singapore’s Capital Tower; a bespoke banquet on the walkway of London’s most famous landmark, the Tower Bridge; and a Viking farewell to round off the Expedition World Cruise 2021, which will comprise an authentic culinary experience in Iceland’s Kjarnaskogur Forest.
Fares for the full sailing start at $175,000 per person.
Along with luxury, part of any Silversea cruise experience are the inclusions – even shore excursions on expedition sailings – attention to detail and personal service.
“We’re all-inclusive, no one is going to nickel and dime you. There’s no sticker shock,” Ball told Travel Courier. “We find that Canadians don’t mind paying more when they know that they’re getting more.”
A generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities include complimentary beverages, wines and spirits, a stocked in-suite bar and complimentary WiFi and gratuities.
Ball added, “On Silversea, you pay a little more, but you’re getting so much more, and you pay up front. We’re like a country club, you pay the price of admission and you’re welcome. People want experiences and that’s what we offer. You can only have so much caviar and Champagne, which we have, but there’s so much more.”
Ball said Silversea excursions go beyond cooking classes and vineyard tours.
“We offer access, behind the scenes,” he said. “To find these place on your own is a lot of work.”
Ball noted that the Arctic and Antarctic are the line’s strongest markets and sell out quickly.
“There’s always something to see that’s different,” he said.
Québec City popular with cruisers
Known as the most European city in North America, the spotlight continues to shine on Québec City, which is becoming a popular port of call with major cruise lines, including Silversea.
And, with multi-year infrastructure and port developments underway, Québec is poised to be a year-round cruise destination.
Located at the confluence of the St. Charles and St. Lawrence Rivers, Québec, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight of many Canada/New England cruises.
In 2018, the port welcomed 230,940 visitors, a nearly 15% increase over the 200,000 visitors in 2017. The port has a goal of reaching 400,000 passengers by 2025.
The cruise industry is showing a significant impact on tourism in the Québec City region. According to a recent study conducted by Business Research & Economic Advisors, the economic impact for Québec City is estimated at $106 million, including $73 million in cruise line spending and $30 million in passenger spending.
Québec City has invested in a $39-million project to create a public space for cruise passengers at Pier 22, beside the Ross Gaudreault Cruise Terminal. Place des Canotiers has become the new signature park along the St. Lawrence River.
In 2018, a record 156 ships called in Québec City, 14 of which embarked and disembarked at the port. Eight ships made inaugural visits, including Disney Magic. All the major American cruise lines call on Québec – Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, as well as major European lines such as Cunard, AIDA, MSC, Viking Cruises, Hurtigurten, TUI, Ponant, Scenic and Fred Olsen Cruises.
Currently, the Québec cruise season runs from May through October. The 2019 season is experiencing record deployment from Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, including numerous overnights, offering passengers more time to enjoy the city.