Who’s leading the way in the cruise hybrid model?
We really are spoiled for choice at the moment! There are a lot of ships that fit the hybrid model to a T—that is to say ‘ultra-luxury expedition’. The itineraries are inspired, the onboard expedition teams are the best in the business, the ships are simply stunning; beautifully designed, environmentally conscious and sporting an ever-growing range of expedition extras.
Amongst several outstanding lines is Scenic Eclipse with her ice-strengthened hull, helipad (two Airbus H130 helicopters), aft marina, fleet of Zodiacs (large-capacity inflatable boats) and a 7-person submarine. Another showstopper due to set sail in 2020 is Crystal Cruises´ Crystal Endeavour, whose two excursion helicopters, submarine, and aft marina are just three of her standout features. Ponant’s Le Jacques-Cartier and Le Bellot are set to launch in 2020, along with Silversea’s Silver Moon and Silver Origin.
Whilst further on the horizon but coming ever tantalisingly closer is Seabourn’s Seabourn Venture, which is scheduled to launch in June 2021, with a second yet-to-be-named sister ship slated to launch in May 2022. Both ships will be designed and built for diverse environments to PC6 Polar Class standards and will include a plethora of modern hardware and technology—like twin custom-built submarines and 24 Zodiacs—that will extend the ships global deployment and capabilities.
Where do you see this sector heading?
I think that the small ships arena is going to be very exciting to watch develop over the next few years. Itineraries will get more adventures and there will be a lot of new, small port interest, bringing new opportunities for Ground Operators to get creative and craft exploration styled shore excursions. We’ll be discussing this more during the panel.
On the land side, there is definitely a trend, or should I say, a hankering for authentic, in-depth, expedition-style touring with longer pre/post land programmes. Guests have obviously been expressing a desire to spend more time on land and operators have been listening to that request. Generally, there is much less of an ‘organised shore excursion’ feel to the land programs of the new Hybrid fleet—no doubt thanks to the smaller excursion group sizes and the activities organised onboard. For example, zodiac landings, hiking and kayaking.
It might come as a surprise to some, but luxury expedition cruising is not just about visiting the Polar regions in order to view penguins and polar bears from close range. Cultural experiences and close interaction, learning and experiencing something new is a big part of the hybrid expedition model. It’s all about discovery.
I will say though, entertainment onboard a smaller expedition styled ship can be quite different to the glitzy West End styled productions frequently associated with cruising in general, and might even be considered, by some, to be pretty low-key. Instead, it often comes in the form of lectures and preparing for the next day’s exploration – which might be a hike, a zodiac excursion or a land-based experience, so an outstanding and experienced expedition team is a must.
And regarding Seatrade Cruise Global 2020?
With the number of hybrid new builds on the order book, the future looks very promising for ports, destinations and tour operators. I can’t wait to discuss the new cruise hybrid, and can imagine the exhibition floor is going to be a-buzz with itinerary planners on the hunt for new and exciting ports!