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Silversea the victor in intense competition for Crystal Endeavor

The ship will be renamed Silver Endeavour and is destined to always operate in polar waters, Silversea's Roberto Martinoli said
It's official: Royal Caribbean Group acquired Crystal Endeavor for Silversea Cruises for $275m and the expedition ship — renamed Silver Endeavour — is to debut in Antarctica in November.

'She's perfect for what we do,' Roberto Martinoli, president and CEO of Silversea, told Seatrade Cruise News.

The 200-passenger, 20,449gt ship is a 'great asset that can very well replicate the Silversea experience — the Zodiac operations, the hotel operation, the creature comforts,' he continued. The Polar Class 6 vessel is built to a 'very, very high standard' and 'very well thought out,' Martinoli said, with a 'beautiful enclosed pool' and 'a lot of open deck space to observe wildlife.'

'Hot ticket'

Crystal Endeavor was a 'hot ticket' among the ships that became available with Crystal Cruises' insolvency. Two of the other confirmed bidders were The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio's Heritage Group, which acquired Crystal Symphony, Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Cruises brand

Delivered by MV Werften in 2021, Endeavor had entered service in the Arctic last July then completed an Antarctica season before Crystal's collapse. It has been at anchorage off Gibraltar since late March, pending a sale.

Silversea was immediately interested and hung in through a 'very complicated process' involving numerous parties.

15-year loan guaranteed by Euler Hermes

Martinoli deemed $275m a 'fair price,' and Royal Caribbean Group said Silver Endeavour is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings, cash flow and return on invested capital.

The acquisition will be fully financed by a 15-year unsecured term loan, guaranteed by the German export credit agency Euler Hermes, with no amortization payments in the first two years.

Sources familiar with the process earlier said The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection put in the highest bid, with reports ranging from $350m to $375m. If true, that was around the hefty price Genting Hong Kong had said it paid for the ship — €350m, or about $385m at today's exchange rate. This would make it the most expensive passenger ship ever built at $1.9m per berth.

So Royal Caribbean Group paid significantly less than the construction cost.

Factors beyond price may have come into play

'We don't know what the other bids were,' Martinoli said. Nor could he comment on the banks' decision but added that in transactions like this, 'Sometimes it's not just the price'; a host of factors may come into play.

'We are really excited,' Martinoli said. He spent a couple days onboard, personally inspecting the ship from bow to stern and was 'very pleased.'

Endeavor launched with 18 Zodiacs, 14 sea kayaks, snorkel gear, a six-guest submersible, two helicopters, a remotely operated vehicle and a long-range gimbal camera system that can capture high-quality images from five kilometers.

Changes planned?

Silversea is weighing whether it will keep the helicopters, since 'We are not big fans [of those],' as Martinoli put it.

The ship also has a casino, which isn't part of Silversea's expedition concept, so that's likely to be replaced by cabins, and the line may look to add a few more rooms elsewhere because Endeavor is so spacious.

Martinoli isn't sure whether such work can be done before the Antarctica season; it depends on the supply chain and the availability of materials. Most likely the ship will go to a Mediterranean yard for minor changes like getting its new name.

Replaces Silver Explorer in Antarctica

Silver Endeavour will replace Silver Explorer for the 2022/23 Antarctica season from Puerto Williams, Chile, including the Antarctica Bridge sailings. Explorer is expected to be idle for a few months before resuming service.

Going forward, Silver Endeavour will 'always be in polar waters,' according to Martinoli, and move quickly between the Antarctica and Arctic seasons.

This makes the fifth expedition ship in a fleet of 11 for Silversea, and the fourth to join since 2020.

More expedition capacity planned

'Our aim is to add more capacity beyond Endeavor,' Martinoli said. 'We continue to work on a newbuild design. [Endeavor] is an opportunity to accelerate our growth plans in the expedition sector.'

Deposits protected

As part of the ongoing RCL Cares program, Royal Caribbean Group will protect the deposits of travelers who were booked on Crystal Endeavor and make a new booking on one of the Group's global brands – Silversea, Royal Caribbean International or Celebrity Cruises.

'We believe those Crystal guests will receive back their deposits, but we want to give them added assurance,' said Jason Liberty, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group.

To the extent Crystal Endeavor passengers do not get their deposits back from other sources, Royal Caribbean Group will refund any amount paid on their new booking up to the amount of their lost deposit from Crystal. Terms will be provided soon on each brand's website.

Silversea added it will welcome Crystal Endeavor's former crew, giving them priority for employment here.

See also 'Norton Rose Fulbright advises KfW IPEX-Bank on complex Crystal Endeavor sale'