Silver Endeavour Redefines Polar Cruise Luxury
Caviar and white-glove service. Glittering crystal chandeliers and infinity pools that melt into the horizon. Haute cuisine and fine wines. All are hallmarks of luxury travel.
The November 2022 debut of the Silver Endeavour, the newest member of the Silversea fleet, raises the bar for amenities. The vessel is said to be, on a per-berth basis, the most expensive cruise ship ever built and boasts public spaces and private places amenities that most of us have never dreamed of. Which begs these questions: Do hardy travelers in search of adventure in the world’s most inhospitable places really need a butler? Caviar? A spa?
“Why not? Comfort is important in travel, and attention to detail and a sense of seamlessness enhance the cruise experience,” says Barbara Muckermann, Chief Commercial Officer of Silversea.
“But luxury, increasingly, is defined partly by what does not happen. It’s the absence of unnecessary stress. It’s the millions of details that must be attended to and the realization that all of them have been addressed. That’s also the experience we want to give the Silversea passenger.”
Removing the friction points in travel matters more than ever, says Wendy Perrin, Editor in Chief of trip-planning advisory WendyPerrin.com.
“I don’t want to spend my vacation time dealing with hassles and annoyances,” she says. “I want to be relaxed. People want to eliminate the work from their vacation, and the more a company can eliminate logistics and give the time back to you, the better.”
When the pandemic swept in, travelers watched helplessly as their options evaporated. Vacations were canceled, sometimes repeatedly, and even when the world began to travel again, beloved cities and ports remained closed.
“The true definition of luxury today is when you get to keep your options,” says Peter Greenberg, a longtime journalist who is CBS News’ Travel Editor. “We redefined what mattered. It’s no longer just rich Corinthian leather, but space, breathability, clarity. “
Just as there is no longer one definition of luxury, there is no one perception of it either. Luxury, Perrin says, means different things to different people.
“To me, some of the things that are the height of luxury are things that money can’t buy — things like privacy, solitude, quiet,” Perrin says. “Imagine being out in the middle of the desert, and someone has set up a table for you. A four-course gourmet dinner magically appears for just you and your loved one, and there’s nobody else there.”
Comfort and service? Say ahh
As the virus revealed our planet as a precious and vital place, I grew even more determined to reach distant vistas I had previously only dreamed of. I want to understand the processes by which the world’s most magnificent scenery was crafted, about the wildlife that graces it, and learn how to better conserve it for future generations.
Connecting with people remains essential, but now I want to know more of the stories behind the faces of those I meet and about their cultures, I want to understand the route by which they came to where they are.
I have roughed it in more than a few corners of the world, but I also enjoy having creature comforts close at hand. A perfect Negroni served in a lounge where a skilled pianist eases through standards. Room service on a private balcony facing a view that spills unimpeded for miles. A meal I could never re-create at home.
Perrin says a cruise is my ticket.
“An expedition cruise ship gets you easily to places that would be hard to reach,” she says. “Luxury is an expedition ship going to a remote place or sailing an archipelago that would be hard to get around in otherwise, combining places that you normally wouldn’t be able to combine.
“People want to save time, and if you’re cutting out flights and trains, cutting out complications, that’s luxury.”
New luxury in Antarctica
Although ships have sailed with guests to Antarctica for more than 60 years, it hasn’t usually been in the greatest comfort.
“There are a lot of expedition ships,” Greenberg says. “Many are older vessels — converted trawlers, old research ships or former Coast Guard ships. They’re big on adventure, but not on comfort or communications.”
The appeal of these journeys is more than just the icy spectacle of polar regions. These ships call on the Galápagos Islands, the isolated Kimberly coastline of Western Australia, and unique African and Indian Ocean ports, especially in the spring and summer shoulder seasons in the Northern Hemisphere when the poles become inaccessible.
Some in the cruise industry seem to have been able to anticipate this move to luxury. In 2007, Silversea hired expedition guide Conrad Combrink to create a luxury expedition product, something that until then had not existed.
This means oversized cabins (in reality, suites) that offer balconies, previously a rarity in the expedition sector. It means gourmet cuisine, and it means a crew that included not only waiters and butlers that cater to a well-traveled guest’s every whim but also a crack team of expedition guides to provide skilled interpretation in these remote places.
Climbing into a kayak to paddle within kissing distance of mammoth icebergs was still adventurous, but it was hardly roughing it. Initially Silversea’s competition scoffed. Today, one line after another is playing catch-up, using increasingly well-appointed ships as catnip for a sophisticated and eager audience venturing more deeply and knowledgeably to places that once were off-limits.
“My last time in Antarctica I did a kayak trip,” says Greenberg, who urges anyone headed to the seventh continent to gear up for a paddling experience at least once. “It was the lack of sound that I first noticed. It’s just me, I’m in middle of a body of water that was once forbidden place and you’re forced to reassess your priorities, your life. You’ll know, then, this is why you came to Antarctica.”
Luxury that feels almost unreal
Enter Silver Endeavour. We can only guess whether Crystal Cruises knew, in 2018, that the expedition vessel it started building would turn out to have what is widely considered the best passenger space ratio in the industry. Crystal succumbed to pandemic financial pressures, and in summer 2022 Silversea moved to acquire the ship, one that had sailed with guests for only a few months.
While the company negotiated to acquire the vessel, Silversea’s Muckermann spent three days on the ship. “She is so luxurious that it almost feels unreal,” she says “It’s like bringing a top luxury city hotel with you to the most remote area of the planet.”
Silver Endeavour layers on amenities that are both thoughtful and opulent. The smallest suites measure an industry-leading 300-plus square feet, excluding a capacious balcony. Bathrooms with heated flooring are configured to allow separate toilet/shower option so two people can get ready for an expedition or a gourmet meal at the same time.
Programmed lights allow multiple mood settings; there are ample electrical and charging outlets; and you’ll find an in-suite coffee maker and a well-stocked, fold-out minibar. And when you return from a shore expedition with wet clothes, every suite has a special cabinet with a drying system for damp parkas.
Dirty boots from your shore activities? They’ll be grabbed from you before you ask, and your butler may be carrying a tray holding that crisp martini you enjoy.
“You’re not an observer,” Greenberg says. “You’re a participant. You’re not just watching it from your balcony; you’re going ashore, not for an hour, but for a full day. You are perfectly prepared for the elements, which for many of us is a brave new world. “
“After the excursion you don’t just come back and have a meal. You share the experience with others — and you will have seen things that they didn’t, and vice versa.
“It’s this great hybrid — you get a full adventure experience. And then if you want to go to the spa, it’s waiting for you.”