PHOTO: Silversea Expeditions' Silver Explorer. (photo courtesy of Silversea)
We already knew a boom was coming to expedition cruising like the one that preceded it for river cruising. Now it seems to be getting even bigger.
News from Silversea Expeditions and China foreshadow even more new ships in the burgeoning market, but what might things look like for the future traveler charged with choosing among them all?
The Silversea Expeditions fleet currently consists of the existing Silver Explorer, Silver Discoverer and Silver Galapagos. Joining will soon be the newly ice-strengthened Silver Cloud later this year while the Explorer will undergo a nearly three-week refurbishment at the end of this month to enhance its public spaces and suites.
What’s more, the company is discussing possible expedition new-builds.
Seatrade Cruise News is reporting that during Silver Muse’s recent introduction, Silversea Cruises chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio said the company is looking at constructing fresh expedition ships with capacities no larger than 240 guests.
Lefebvre was quoted as saying, “We're still defining the exact capacity and whether to build one or more ships, the same size or different.”
He doesn't foresee employing LNG or fuel cell power yet, nor is he daunted by the plans of competitors, believing older vessels will have to be retired and some announced won’t even see the light of day. He is most optimistic about destinations such as Asia or Colombia and other South American regions.
Lefebvre also discussed the potential of building in various existing or new shipyards and applauded SunStone Ships and China Merchants Industry Holdings as a good start for Chinese shipbuilding.
In fact, that’s the other new development, wherein the two groups have signed on to construct four expedition ships with options for six more, also according to Seatrade Cruise News. The stable X-bow ships are set to be chartered to various clients and will first launch in August 2019.
Add these expedition ships to others already being built or on order from Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Hurtigruten, Norwegian Cruise Company, Oceanwide Expeditions, Ponant, Scenic and more, and a very busy market is on its way.
However, it may not be as congested as one might initially think. One, these ships are much smaller than mega ocean ships, and two, they can much more easily sail to remote areas in the world.
There is a much bigger expedition cruising world for far smaller ships to go around. Where each of them end up will jive with where travelers most want to go or not.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Expedition Cruise Destinations
What will differentiate the ships most will be onboard features and toys, (i.e. helicopters, submarines, etc.).
For years, expedition cruising has been serviced by aging vessels. Now, newer ships are being built to the exacting specifications of more discerning travelers. Adventure travel no longer means rugged but can come with all the comforts of home and, in many luxurious cases, then some.
Of course, the price point will be the final deciding factor for many in choosing which to actually embark on.
Competition is always good for the consumer, and each of these cruise companies will have to be mindful of how to most efficiently price their product. Well-established lines like Crystal and Silversea already have a lot of built-in loyalty, but newcomers will likely have to offer incentives to entice travelers to their ships.
Cruisers can expect far greater choice from the expedition cruise market in the coming decade as new inevitably displaces old. In the meantime, it’s great that existing ships are being refurbished to stay on par.