It has been five years since Silversea Cruises launched its first expedition ship, the Silversea Explorer. But in the last year it has stepped up the pace, launching the Silver Galapagos this month and announcing plans for a third ship, the Silver Discoverer, in 2014. In one fell swoop, that ship will add more than 150 destinations to the line's catalog. Ellen Bettridge, who arrived 18 months ago as Silversea's president of the Americas, talked about Silversea's expedition fleet with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst.
Q: Why has Silversea expanded into expedition cruising?
A: We've had our Silver Explorer for five years now, and we've had great success with her. She truly is an expedition ship, which has been what encouraged us to purchase the Silver Galapagos. Expedition cruising is just really hot right now, and especially when we can actually own this market, because we have that luxury twist. So we believe this is a great way to bring customers something that they're really asking for.
Q: Is the demand growing faster for expedition cruising than for the traditional luxury cruise?
A: It is hard to say that. Interest in expedition cruising is clearly rising. We have a lot more space on our traditional ships. So it's hard to compare them. Among your affluent baby boomers and seasoned travelers, they really are looking to enrich their knowledge. They want to do things that are less traditional, and they want to go to exciting, maybe less established, destinations. With the Silver Explorer we were going to Antarctica and the Arctic and Chilean fjords, and these were bucket-list destinations, and now we can bring even more of them to people.
Q: Does expedition cruising give Silversea a new passenger base? How is it demographically different?
A: Expedition cruises definitely appeal to your adventure seekers, your nature lovers, very well-educated professionals. ... But it also is going to attract families and grandparents who want to take their families, and it can reach a younger demographic, as well, who then ideally would move on to our classic ships.
Q: By adding another type of cruise, is there a risk of confusing people over what the Silversea brand represents?
A: Since Silversea got started 20 years ago, it has always strived to be that innovator in the luxury cruise industry. And a part of it is where you go. So we believe with Silversea Expeditions we're going to be able to offer journeys that are as exhilarating as they are luxurious, so that your guests are going to have more choices, and truly to be able to go wherever they want to go with Silversea.
Q: Is adding a third ship part of a strategic plan or more of an opportunistic decision?
A: Because we've seen so much success with Silversea Expeditions and already with Silver Explorer, it really was part of a larger strategic plan, a growing expedition plan. If you're going to be in that space, be in it. So we've got the Silver Explorer, we've got the Silver Galapagos, and now we've got the Silver Discoverer, and now we can actually call it a brand, vs. "Oh, it's just that other ship." So it really is part of a much larger vision and strategic plan for the company.
Q: How did you decide on the name for the ship?
A: Some of us got together and tried to think through different names. Silver Explorer says it all as to what it is and speaks to where you're going. You're exploring. And then with Silver Discoverer, we tossed around some other names, but Discoverer resonated with us because that is really what people are going to do.
Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.