Finding new opportunities despite Covid-19 challenges

Justin Poulsen of Silversea Cruises shares how the Covid-19 crisis has created the chance for it to forge new partnerships and make more socially and environmentally responsible itinerary planning decisions

Finding new opportunities despite Covid-19 challenges
Silver Endeavour will sail to destinations in Antarctica when it debuts in November 2022

While the Covid-19 pandemic posed immense challenges to the global travel industry and the cruise sector, many cruise professionals displayed tremendous fortitude, ingenuity, and resilience to overcome these challenges and emerge even stronger than before.

Though he concedes that the past two years have been challenging, Silversea Cruises’ vice president of itinerary planning Justin Poulsen has identified some unexpected benefits.

“Silversea has always carefully considered how its operations might impact the communities we visit, but the pandemic has made us more cognisant of this than ever before,” he says. “We are placing an even greater emphasis on ensuring we view our planning process through a lens of social and environmental responsibility. “Our approach is certainly evolving with this mindset and we’re strengthening existing partnerships and creating new relationships in order to exchange ideas, build our knowledge base about community profiles and proactively co-develop solutions to anticipate potential problems before they materialise.

“There are amazing new opportunities for collaboration and developing joint ventures that increase safety and social equity while also unlocking new transformational travel experiences and rethinking how we deliver existing destinations.”

While Poulsen notes that the general trajectory of the cruise industry’s path out of the Covid-19 pandemic is “overwhelmingly positive”, with every day bringing it closer to normalcy, he says that guests are aware that the world is still in a state of flux.

“Conditions and compliance schemes across the globe are subject to change at any moment,” says Poulsen. “The expectation is that cruise lines and destinations will have open lines of communication to exchange information in order to make good, early decisions and share itinerary, product delivery and protocol adjustments with guests in a timely manner,” says Poulsen. “Our commitment to creating seamless, ultra-luxury travel experiences hasn’t changed despite the operating landscape, so staying informed and adaptable is key.”

Poulsen adds that guests also want to have confidence that Silversea has implemented health and safety protocols to protect passengers, crew and destination communities. “To deliver on this promise we leverage critical partnerships across the industry and destination spectrum to have the right processes and infrastructure in place,” he says.

Now that many cruise brands have successfully carried thousands of guests on post-pandemic cruises and more destinations are reopening to international travellers, Poulsen expects Silversea to continue seeing robust demand for itineraries in all deployment geographies in 2022 and beyond.

“Interest in more distant regions has unquestionably grown due to closures during the pandemic, and cruise lines that can demonstrate an ability to deliver these destinations comfortably, reliably and safely will be best positioned to capture this opportunity,” he says. “Bucket-list itineraries like Silversea’s ‘Grand Voyages’ and polar expeditions are certain to grow in popularity as well.”

To capitalise on this demand for so-called bucket-list destinations, Silversea has developed an Arctic season for its newest polar expedition cruise vessel, the 200-guest Silver Endeavour. The ship, which previously sailed for the now-defunct Crystal Cruises brand, is undergoing an extensive renovation and will start service for Silversea in November 2022.

Silver Endeavour will sail in Antarctica during its inaugural season. “We’ll offer a Fly & Cruise programme, which will bring guests directly to King George Island to embark Silver Endeavour in Antarctica,” says Poulsen. “We’ll also offer a crossing of the Drake Passage.”
Silver Endeavour will then set course for Northern Europe and the Arctic.

“Silver Endeavour will sail to Greenland and the Canadian Arctic,” says Poulsen. “Particularly spectacular highlights include expeditions in Hudson Bay with turnarounds in Churchill, Manitoba and voyages into the high Canadian Arctic to explore Ellesmere and the Baffin Islands. These extremely remote destinations are unlocked via turnarounds in Mittimatalik (also known as Pond Inelt), a small, predominantly Inuit community in Nunavut.”

Silversea plans to continue calling at destinations that offer similarly adventurous experiences in the future too. For example, the brand will base two ships in Alaska for the 2024 season, Silver Muse and Silver Nova. The latter, which will debut in summer 2023, will be both the first vessel in Silversea’s new Nova class and the first cruise ship in the world to operate using fuel cells and hybrid technology while in port to eliminate emissions.

“Silver Nova, which will have a new asymmetric design, will give us a completely new platform via which to deliver the Alaska cruise experience in sensational, innovative new ways,” says Poulsen.

Alaska is just one of the more than 690 destinations Silversea will be visiting in 125 countries across all seven continents in the 2023-2024 season. Other highlights of the season will include maiden calls at over 60 new ports, the brand’s first expedition itineraries in the Baltic Sea and Arabian Peninsula, and its debut ‘Grand Africa and Arabia’ voyage. Silversea has created an equally impressive array of itineraries for the 2024-2025 season. It has developed 341 new sailings that will unlock 695 destinations in 120 countries, bringing the total number of destinations in Silversea’s portfolio to over 900.

“One of the highlights for spring 2025 will be the 11- to 13-night voyages in French Polynesia,” says Poulsen. “Silver Shadow will operate seven voyages from Papeete to other islands in French Polynesia as well as the Society Islands, Marquesas and the Tuamotu Archipelago. This is just one example of the many exciting itineraries we’ve planned for guests over the coming years.”

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

 

 

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
14 November 2022

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