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Luxury lines' deep dive into destination immersion

From left, Explora Journeys' Michael Ungerer, Seabourn's Josh Leibowitz, Ponant's Navin Sawhney, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's Douglas Prothero, Silversea's Roberto Martinoli
As cruise lines have rethought their approach to luxury in recent years, many have settled on destination immersion as a luxury signifier. But what, really, does it mean?

Cruise lines represented on a Luxury Cruising Leaders panel at Seatrade Cruise Global on Tuesday offered examples of their style of destination immersion, giving specificity to the general purpose concept.

Patron of the Arts program

At the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, CEO Doug Prothero cited the line’s Patron of the Arts program as an example. The initiative invites artists, speakers and cultural contributors from destinations aboard the ships for performances, demonstrations and lectures.

'We’ve been doing plenty of things on shore,' Prothero said, but almost nothing onboard the ships. 'This is the other frontier for this [type of] traveler.'


For Silversea Cruises President Roberto Martinoli, destination immersion is epitomized by Silversea’s S.A.L.T. culinary program, which builds menus, shore excursions and cooking demonstrations around local foods, chefs and growers.

In the past, the so-called silent generation of luxury cruisers was satisfied with a top-quality Kansas City steak anywhere in the world, Martinoli said. But baby boomers want a more exotic, more authentic and more surprising experience of luxury.

Martinoli said the idea grew out of Silversea’s expansion into the Galápagos Islands, where Ecuador mandates a strict sourcing of local foodstuffs. Turning a restriction into a benefit pushed Silversea to examine how the idea could be executed elsewhere.

'We started thinking that a culinary program centered around the place you visit would be great,' said Martinoli, who called the concept 'an incredible success.'

Inuit ice navigators

Ponant Americas CEO Navin Sawhney pointed to a navigation program for Ponant’s new ice-hardened vessel, Le Commandant Charcot, as his example of destination immersion.

'When you go to the High Arctic, you really don’t think much about the local people or culture,' Sawhney said. But Ponant developed a presentation with First Nations Inuit tribal members on old school ways of navigating the ice, which is offered in contrast with more technological methods.

Sawhney called it 'citizen science in fundamental form,' that leaves 'a remarkable memory in the minds of passengers.'

Smithsonian Journeys

A second example Sawhney cited is Ponant’s Smithsonian Journeys excursion series curated by the famed Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC One such excursion on a Baltic Sea itinerary features former Polish president and labor leader Lech Wałęsa talking about 'solidarity 40 years ago and today.'

Active luxury

Josh Leibowitz, CEO of Seabourn, said the marina platform on his company’s ships provides local immersion wherever the ship goes by bringing passengers closer to nature. He recalled being in Greece on a ship with his wife and trying out the towed banana boat raft. 'When you talk about immersion, this is a combination of new experiences that pique your senses, a combination of togetherness, and it’s a combination of fun. 

'We call it active luxury at Seabourn, and I think that’s part of what luxury is, is moving and having those experiences together,' Leibowitz said.