Seabourn Venture is the luxury cruise line’s first purpose-built expedition ship, bringing a six-star experience to the ocean waves. Ahead of her launch, we caught up with Robin West, Senior Vice-President of Expedition Operations at Seabourn, to find out more about what intrepid travellers can expect from this exciting style of cruising.

As Seabourn’s global expedition programming – what would you say are the essential components for creating a great expedition? 

A great expedition is a combination of remote destinations, where culture and natural history combine to create an educational experience, one that is enhanced by the expedition team who deliver the product, both on and off the ship. The ship and its capabilities also play a key role, not only by getting you there safely and in comfort, but the overall experience once at the destination. The expedition team, their background, skills and experience are key in the final delivery of the destination experience. At Seabourn, we have built a ship, designed itineraries, and staffed world-class expedition team members to deliver great expeditions.

Expedition cruising has been identified as a major travel trend in 2022 and for years to come. Which itinerary would you recommend to someone who hasn’t embarked on an expedition cruise before, and why?

This really depends on an individual’s personal interest. Some expeditions focus on culture, like the South Pacific and Papua New Guinea, others focus on natural history and some voyages are more historical journeys of exploration, like the Northwest and Northeast Passage or a Cape to Cape voyage. The Arctic and Antarctica are incredible destinations with a great combination of natural history, history and breathtaking scenery. All of these would be excellent first-time expeditions.

My one recommendation is not to visit Antarctica first. When I used to work as Expedition Leader, I would always start an Antarctica Expedition by saying, “every other destination after this will be dull in comparison”. Guests would laugh, but by the end of the expedition, they understood what I meant!

Seabourn Antarctica Kayaks, expedition ships and cruising

What sort of holidaymaker do you think is attracted to an expedition cruise, and do you think attitudes towards this sort of travel have changed since the onset of the pandemic?

Generally speaking, our guests are well travelled, well educated and have an urge to explore new remote areas which are only achievable on a purpose-built expedition ship. I believe people’s attitudes have changed since the onset of the pandemic. We used to take the ability to fly and travel for granted, now we realise we need to make the most of the time we are given and some of the more bucket list destinations we would put off till later, we want to explore now.

Expedition ships are kitted out with a host of features that make them perfectly equipped for this type of cruising. What makes Seabourn Venture so well adapted to expeditions?

Seabourn Venture and her sister ship, Seabourn Pursuit, are built and designed by a team that has extensive expedition operational experience. We built a ship with excellent autonomy to allow it to explore remote destinations for extended periods of time. It has a PC6 ice-strengthened hull, Azipod propulsion and three bow thrusters, allowing it to operate in heavy ice conditions with absolute ease, comfort, and safety. It has a very shallow draft, with a full dynamic positioning system, which gives us access to more secluded, environmentally sensitive destinations without having to drop anchor.

We have a world-class 26-person expedition team, comprising scholars, historians, geologists, marine biologists, naturalists, submarine pilots, kayak guides and professional photographers and videographers. We have two six-seater submarines which can take guests to 300 meters or 1,000 feet below sea level, delivering exceptionally underwater experiences. The ship is equipped with 24 Zodiacs and eight double sea kayaks to explore remote areas. All of this is complemented by the ultra-luxury onboard experience that is Seabourn. In short, Seabourn Expeditions is a product that has no compromise between the on- and off-ship experience. It is a true ultra-luxury expedition.

You mentioned Seabourn’s submarines. Can you tell us more about these and what guests can expect from this experience?

The submarines are truly incredible. I have been fortunate enough to do multiple dives in our first two subs, 71/1 and 71/2, aptly named as 71% of the earth is covered by the ocean. Both subs are capable of taking six guests to a maximum depth of 300 metres. The submarines are going to deliver a true expedition experience and I say that because at depths below 40 metres (below scuba diving depths) the ocean is almost completely unexplored.

An average sub dive will be about 45 minutes in duration, exploring depths between 50 to 150 metres. The submarines have eight sets of floodlights and eight sets of led spotlights giving incredible light at greater depths. Both submarines are equipped with a 4K underwater video camera system, capable of capturing underwater footage, that can be shared later with guests onboard. The submarines are luxuriously appointed with leather seating, air conditioning and a surround sound system.

What guests will encounter while on a sub dive is very region-specific. Some dives may explore a wreck, others coral reefs, some dives might focus on a specific geological formation, others could be exploring the walls of a fjord. What’s most exciting for me is the true exploratory nature that the submarines bring to the overall expedition experience.

Seabourn submarine

Where is your favourite expedition destination, and is there anywhere you haven’t managed to travel to yet that’s still on your bucket list?

For cold-weather destinations, my favourite is Antarctica, coupled with South Georgia. For a warm-weather destination, I would love to return to Aldabra in the Seychelles. New Zealand is a place I have not managed to visit yet and it has eluded me. I would love to visit one day.

To discover our collection of expedition cruises on board Seabourn Venture, click here.