Fascinated by the hieroglyphs, tombs and myths of Egypt, Silversea Cruises’ president Barbara Muckermann once envisaged a career as an archaeologist.
“I travelled extensively with my father from a young age, which shaped my strong desire to experience our beautiful planet and engage with its diverse people and cultures,” she explains. “While my choice of profession changed, I never lost sight of the transformative power of travel and I have dedicated my career to connecting people with the most enriching experiences around the world.”
Muckermann first joined the cruise sector in 1997 and has since held various positions of responsibility at different organisations in the marketing, travel and luxury sectors, including Italian fashion house Loro Piana, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises. In 2001, she took a role at Silversea, staying until 2006 when she returned to academia to complete an MBA at London Business School and Columbia University in New York, and subsequently taught strategy and worked in research. “While the experience was both challenging and rewarding, I was eager to return to the world of travel,” she says.
In 2016, Muckermann returned to Silversea as chief marketing officer, became chief commercial officer in 2021 and in January 2023, she was appointed as the first woman president of Silversea. “I am thrilled to be at Silversea’s helm, leading such a talented and passionate team during what is an incredibly exciting time for the luxury cruise industry,” she says. “Working closely with colleagues at Royal Caribbean Group, we continue to strengthen our position as the leading ultra-luxury cruise line for the benefit of our guests.”
More than 25 years in the luxury industries and time spent onboard cruise ships has taught Muckermann that listening to customers will be fundamental for driving Silversea’s ongoing success. “My experiences onboard have shown me that our guests’ changing needs must drive the evolution of our brand,” says Muckermann. “Increasingly, we are appealing to Baby Boomers [those born between 1946 and 1964], who value experiences, authenticity and unique moments over material goods. This is the new currency of luxury.”
This knowledge inspired the launch of Silversea’s S.A.L.T. culinary and Otium wellness programmes. “The former offers ‘deep travel’ through authentic destination immersion, while the latter is centred upon indulgence, moments of pleasure and complete relaxation, championing the luxuriousness of our offering,” says Muckermann. “We will always listen carefully to our guests to innovate and remain firmly at the forefront of the industry.”
Feedback from Silversea’s guests also prompted the creation of Antarctica Bridge, the first fly-cruise programme in the ultra-luxury segment that enables guests to skip the Drake Passage when cruising in Antarctica. “Time-conscious travellers expressed their desire to experience the White Continent without spending two days each way crossing the Drake Passage, and our Antarctica Bridge programme has been hugely successful,” says Muckermann. “My first time flying in business-class comfort on a Silversea-chartered plane to Antarctica was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The landscape there is truly unique, and I’ll never forget seeing my first iceberg, catching a glimpse of a penguin colony, or being surrounded by snow-covered mountains at the end of the earth.”
Participating in these experiences first-hand empowers Muckermann to find ways to refine and expand Silversea’s destination offerings, both in Antarctica and in other destinations across the world. “Immersive travel and luxurious comfort are at the heart of the Silversea product and enabling our guests to ‘travel deeper in luxury’ is our core mission, so we’re always looking for ways to refine and expand our offering," says Muckermann. “It’s only by experiencing the product first-hand like a guest that you develop such a strong understanding of what it means to be immersed into a destination, while enjoying true luxury and comfort.”
One of Silversea’s key priorities is to identify new ports of call around the world to help it continue developing increasingly varied itineraries. “Silversea is truly a destination leader; we call at over 900 destinations around the globe, which is more than any other cruise line,” says Muckermann. “We’re always looking for new destinations, itineraries and experiences to offer our well-travelled guests. This is one of the factors that sets us apart from others in the industry.”
During a scouting mission to Antarctica, Silversea identified 42 potential new sites it can use for landings. “This means our guests can explore new places in the region,” says Muckermann. “We’ve also set about exploring the lesser-known Canadian Arctic, providing our guests with unique experiences that they cannot get elsewhere.
“However, the reality is that there’s so much more of the world left to explore. We recently developed new programmes in the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific and the Arabian Peninsula. We’ve also worked with the South African government to open new destinations and have been granted access to smaller ports. This means that in 2024, we’ll become the first cruise player to offer a true expedition along the unspoiled South African coast.”
Silversea’s efforts to expand its itineraries is largely being facilitated by what Muckermann terms as its “aggressive” shipbuilding strategy, which has seen it debut five new vessels in three years. In 2022, the brand expanded its fleet of classic ocean cruise vessels from four to six with the addition of sisters Silver Moon and Silver Dawn and also introduced both Silver Origin and Silver Endeavour to its ultra-luxury expedition fleet, which now comprises five ships. Silver Endeavour was acquired from Crystal Cruises and extensively renovated before entering service, while the 100-guest Silver Origin was the first of Silversea’s ships to be purpose-built for a specific destination.
“As part of our shipbuilding strategy, we aim to introduce new vessels that are perfectly tailored for their purpose,” says Muckermann. “Silver Origin, for example, is designed for sailing in the Galápagos Islands and was christened there in an expedition-style naming ceremony while we admired it from Zodiacs in the archipelago.”
Meanwhile Silver Endeavour is designed for the polar regions. “With the acquisition of Silver Endeavour, the most luxurious expedition ship at sea, we gained an outpost of discovery that can push the boundaries of exploration even further,” says Muckermann. “In August 2023, we became the first expedition cruise line to operate a number of voyages from the small hamlet of Pond Inlet, located on the northern end of Baffin Island in Canada. These programmes are planned again for 2024, and we continue to look for exciting new itineraries that showcase Silver Endeavour’s incredible expedition capabilities.”
In August 2023, Silversea welcomed its first Nova-class vessel, Silver Nova, which began service with a seven-day maiden voyage in the Adriatic. Designed for ocean cruising, the ship is the first in the fleet to feature a horizontal layout and asymmetrical design, as well as some of the most spacious suites at sea and multiple high-end public venues. In addition, it has an industry-first micro auto gasification system to convert onboard waste into thermal energy, batteries and dual-fuel engines running primarily on LNG.
“Watching our fleet’s 12th ship, Silver Nova, come to life and finally set sail is an experience I’ll never forget,” says Muckermann. “Our incredible new ship is unlike anything else in the industry and sets the benchmark for the future of ultra-luxury cruise travel. The ship was years in the making, so it was very emotional to finally welcome guests onboard.”
Silver Nova has received “such amazing feedback” from trade partners, members of the press and guests, according to Muckermann. “We had particularly strong feedback on the asymmetrical design, which brings the destination into view from virtually all public venues and suites,” she says. “At 75gt per guest, Silver Nova is one of the most spacious ships at sea, and the 4,000 square metres of glass connects guests with the destination like never before.
“Other notable new features include the S.A.L.T. Chef’s Table, which showcases the talents of our chefs to just a handful of guests each evening; outward-facing venues, such as The Marquee and the Dusk Bar; and the Cliff Whirlpool, which overlooks the destination on one side. The ship also introduces the latest iterations of our S.A.L.T. culinary and Otium wellness programmes, with enhanced venues and enriched offerings. The adjective used more than any other throughout the course of the architectural preview was ‘game changing’ and this is how best to describe it.”
Silver Nova will spend its inaugural season sailing the Mediterranean before operating voyages in the Americas, Alaska, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It will be joined by sister ship Silver Ray in 2024.
In addition to debuting new ships and exploring additional destinations, Muckermann and her team will continue to invest in other initiatives to further enhance the guest experience in 2023 and beyond. “The next five years will see us strengthen our position as the leader in the ultra-luxury cruising space,” she says. “By 2027, we project that one in three ultra-luxury cruisers will choose Silversea. We’ll achieve this with our shipbuilding approach and by leveraging our destination expertise to offer guests the most desirable itineraries and unparalleled experiences, attracting the next generation of experience-focused travellers.”
Muckermann predicts the increasing interest in experiential travel will lead to further growth for the luxury cruise sector. “Travellers are hungry for once-in-a-lifetime trips and experiences that money just can’t buy,” she explains. “All the major players are reporting figures above 2019 numbers, which shows the pent-up demand in every market for luxury cruising. There are also new players entering the industry, which is another encouraging sign of burgeoning demand. Ultra-luxury cruise travel has a very bright future ahead of it and Silversea will continue to position itself to cater for this interest to ensure we remain at the forefront of the industry.”
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.