These new expedition ships are changing cruising as we know it
“Things are moving away from the old-fashioned, ‘follow the paddle’ tours,” says Adam Coulter, editor of Cruise Critic UK. visit. “
This was the inspiration for Silversea’s “Sea and Land Taste” program (“SALT” for short), which Muckermann conceived as a way to better connect customers to the dining options at their destinations. To do this, she recruited journalist Adam Sachs, former editor-in-chief of Flavor, to create a global collection of culinary adventures – on land and on board – that tell the story of a destination through food: both rustic and refined, high end and low end, all authentic and hyperlocal.
Since its introduction in 2019, SALT has earned Silversea a lot of buzz in the cruise world and, more importantly, outside of it, among the many food-focused travelers who might not trust a company. luxury cruise ship to deliver the goods. The hiring of Sachs (full disclosure: Sachs is a friend and colleague) and a significant investment in local “knowledge brokers” made it clear that Silversea was serious about SALT’s credo and credo: improving connections between the ship and land and provide a strong sense of belonging to discerning guests.
The company even designed a brand new vessel to showcase SALT programming: Silver moon launched this summer (after a COVID-related delay) with a season of crossings in Greece. The ship has a state-of-the-art food lab for cooking lessons and demonstrations, while the new SALT kitchen focuses on regional dishes, modifying its menu to reflect each location. (By Muckermann, it quickly became Silver moon most frequented restaurant.)
Air-conditioned coach tours? Pooh. Luxury cruisers today seem just as happy to drive a mud-splashed 4×4 to a Balinese rice field and have lunch on nasi goreng instead of a poolside burger. Coulter, for his part, is impressed. Silversea’s approach “shows a real respect for destinations – and also for travelers themselves, who are looking for something more in-depth”.
“There’s a reason cruise lines are now taking advantage of connections to destinations and onshore experiences,” says Ashton Palmer, President of Expedition Trips (and a Condé Nast Traveler travel specialist). “First of all, the level of small luxury ships is stabilizing, so it is more difficult for travelers to differentiate themselves among the higher level. Second, we are in the midst of an unprecedented boom in the construction of new vessels, especially small vessels, many of which operate year round. Cruise lines therefore had to search for new routes in less crowded places.
The rise of dynamic itineraries
All of this has led luxury lines to rely on land-based activities as a point of distinction, Palmer says. This is especially true in emerging destinations with limited hotel options, where Silversea, Seabourn, Lindblad, etc. and unique experiences on land.
That’s right: Cruise brochures today are filled with distant ports of call, from the Lacépedes Islands in Australia to Cape Verde, from Papua New Guinea to Oman. (The nine Silversea ships will visit 928 ports alone in 2022, with 65 new destinations added this year.)
Of course, reaching these destinations – many of which don’t even have suitable ports, let alone cruise terminals – requires a different type of ship: small, nimble, and with its own landing craft. (Which, by the way, is the literal definition of an expedition ship.) The smaller, next-gen luxury ships fit the profile by design – they’re built to go anywhere. Even adjustments, in a pinch, can be done via Zodiac. “A ship like Origin of money could sail for 18 months and never touch a port once, ”explains Muckermann. Access to a wider range of destinations allows them to sail 365 days a year. Is it any wonder that small ships are the next big thing?
Which brings us back to this happy blurring of the lines. The old-fashioned distinctions that prevented us from finding a happy medium: between ship and yacht, grandiose and intimate, leisure and expedition, hardcore and luxury, adventure and discovery, have disappeared or are quickly disappearing. The result? Something that just feels right.