Seabourn Goes To Antarctica – The Right Way – Other Cruise News: Discovery To Replace Ocean Countess – MS Hamburg Also To Sail Antarctica

by Kevin Griffin

Last week came news from Seabourn that it would be sending the Seabourn Quest to the Antarctic in 2013/14. This is a first for the line, although its now parent company Holland America Line, has been sending ships to the Antarctic for some time now. The difference is that Seabourn will make actual landings, instead of just cruising by. The surprise news also broke over the weekend that Voyages of Discovery will be chartering its Discovery to Cruise & Maritime Voyages as a replacement for the Ocean Countess. Voyages of Discovery, meanwhile, will take delivery of its newly-refitted single-sitting Voyager in early December. Finally, Plantours is planning to return to the Antarctic in 2013 with its newly acquired MS Hamburg.


Seabourn Goes To Antarctica – The Right Way

Seabourn plans to extend its cruise destinations to include Antarctica for the first time in 2013. Seabourn Quest, the line’s newest ship, will offer a series of four 21- to 24-day voyages sailing between Valparaiso, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina beginning in November 2013.Seabourn Quest

Noted Seabourn president Richard Meadows: “Antarctica was the only continent that Seabourn did not feature in our itineraries. This expands our global reach to all seven continents and builds on our already impressive list of exotic destinations.”

The all-suite ship will cruise the Chilean coast, with visits to Puerto Montt for the Chilean Lakes district, Castro on the island of Chiloe, and Puerto Chacabuco, where guests can access Torres del Paine National Park. She will then cruise the Chilean Fjords before transiting the Beagle Channel and its Glacier Alley. 

Following a call at Ushuaia in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, the Quest will cruise by Cape Horn bound for the southern ocean. Guests will experience five days in Antarctica, including scenic cruising of highlights such as the Lemaire Channel, picturesque Paradise Bay and the Gerlache Strait.

An experienced Antarctic expedition staff will see that guests enjoy the best of the available sites landing sites and cruising in inflatables, based on local conditions. Scientists, naturalists and other lecturers will speak on board and also accompany guests ashore to add insights to their experiences.

In the South Atlantic, guests will enjoy visits to Port Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, and Montevideo, Uruguay, en route to or from Buenos Aires.

A 24-day version will include two days exploring the sub-Antarctic wildlife island of South Georgia, renowned for its beauty and vast, teeming rookeries of king penguins and seabirds, as well as breeding elephant and fur seals.

Although parent company Holland America Line has been sending ships to the Antarctic for some time now, the difference is that Seabourn will make actual landings instead of just cruising by. The whole idea of going to Antarctica without making any landings can best be compared to a date without a goodnight kiss!


Discovery to Replace Ocean Countess

The news broke last week that All Discovery Cruises would be chartering its 700-passenger Discovery to Cruise & Maritime Voyages, who will use the ship beginning in February 2013 to offer cruises in Northern Europe, the Med and the Black Sea. She completes her last Voyages of Discovery cruise next month, after which she will go for a previously-planned month-long refit before delivering to Cruise & Maritime Voyages. Discovery - Voyages of Discovery

In its first season, Cruise & Maritime will operate the Discovery for a period of 249 days.

It is understood that the five-year charter, which has been described as a form of “joint venture” between All Discovery and Cruise & Maritime, will extend All Discovery’s product offerings from luxury and destination cruising into the value end of the market.

Departures will be offered from five UK ports – Bristol, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle and Harwich, together with fly-cruises to the Med and Black Sea in autumn 2013. The addition of fly-cruises is a new step for Cruise & Maritime, which up till now has operated on a cruise-only basis from the UK.

In its own statement, All Discovery Cruises said that “The new program will offer a range of UK regional departures as well as some Mediterranean fly cruises. The on board experience will be provided by CMV with entertainment options including production shows, comedians and specialty acts as well as guest speakers on the longer cruises. Bookings on Discovery for departures from February 2013 will now be made through CMV and a new CMV brochure that features Discovery will be sent out shortly.”

The Discovery will replace Cruise & Maritimes’ usual summer charter of the 780-passenger Ocean Countess. Chris Coates, director of Cruise & Maritime Voyages, added “We have enjoyed three highly successful summer seasons operating Ocean Countess, and now look forward to operating the upgraded Discovery and establishing her as a great value cruise brand.”
Discovery will remain a two-sitting ship for meals and certain other on-board changes will also be evident (for example, gratuities will now be extra).Voyages of Discovery's Voyager ex Alexander von Humboldt

Meanwhile, Voyages of Discovery will continue to operate with its new 550-passenger Voyager, which enters service on December 4.

Being a single-sitting ship with a few extra balconies, the Voyager will bring a new standard of service to the style of discovery cruising that Voyages of Discovery operates, enabling guests to explore and learn about different destinations, cultures and history. (The bottom image is Alexander von Humboldt before conversion and the top image Voyager as converted, with modified blunt bow and the addition of thirty new balcony cabins).

All Leisure Group, owners of Voyages of Discovery and Swan Hellenic, as well as Hebridean Island Cruises (and since May Page & Moy), lost £11.2 million during the first half of this year, so the charter of the Discovery to Cruise & Maritime will not only mean that the ship has a continued revenue stream, but Voyages of Discovery will have 23% fewer berths to fill on the Voyager rather than having to add yet another ship in harsh economic times. Marco Polo - Photo M. Sudders

Cruise & Maritime’s 848-passenger Marco Polo will continue to operate year-round from Tilbury, with longer cruises on offer during the winter period. The lower capacity of Discovery compared to Ocean Countess will also mean that Cruise & Maritime will have about 10% fewer berths on its second ship, although the charter period will be different.

MS Hamburg Also To Sail Antarctica

Following in the wake of Plantours’ Vistamar in past years, its latest vessel, MS Hamburg, will also be offering a series of Antarctic cruises in 2012/13. The Hamburg will offer three Antarctic cruises this winter, varying from 11 to 16 nights. Plantours’ Vistamar currently Orient Queen II

The first, on December 21, departs Buenos Aires and cruises the Antarctic Peninsula, finishing in Ushuaia. The second departs Ushuaia January 6, 2013 for a round-trip cruise to the Falkland Islands and the Antractic Peninsula. The third departs Ushuaia January 17, 2013, and cruises the Antarctic Peninsula and Chilean Fjords before terminating in Valparaiso.

The two January cruises can also be combined for a 26-night cruise that includes all of the the Falkland Islands, two visits to the Antarctic Peninsula and the Chilean Fjords.

The MS Hamburg was renamed in her namesake city of Hamburg on June 7. Formerly Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus, her capacity has been reduced slightly, from 420 to about 400 passengers.Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Columbus currently Plantours & Partner's Hamburg

It is about forty years now since Hamburg had a cruise ship named after it, when German Atlantic Line operated a ship of the same name. The last Hamburg was sold to the Black sea Shipping Company of Odessa and renamed Maxim Gorkiy. The Gorkiy was scrapped in 2009.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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