SunStone Maritime Group shares its vision for the future

Niels-Erik Lund and Carsten Lund explain to Alex Smith why the expedition shipowner is changing its strategy as it continues to expand 

SunStone Maritime Group shares its vision for the future

SunStone Maritime Group

By Alex Smith |

SunStone Maritime Group decided to make its first move into the expedition cruise market in 2003, switching its focus away from passenger ferry and large cruise ship ownership and management. Since that time, the company has grown dramatically to become the biggest tonnage provider to the expedition cruise market. 

“We started off operating vessels for others, while at the same time buying second-hand ships and refitting them for expedition cruising,” explains Niels-Erik Lund, founder and CEO of SunStone. “We became the biggest operator in the market, and learned a lot as we did so. All that knowledge then went into building the Infinity-class vessels.” 

The Infinity class was the first series of new ships that SunStone had constructed, meaning it had to establish its priorities and needs for the new vessels while designing them. According to Carsten Lund, SunStone’s chief commercial officer, this meant finding a balance between a desire for innovation and a need to comply with a demanding set of safety requirements. 

“When we started designing these ships, we took the approach of finding the best solutions available for both safety and sustainability,” says Carsten. “Our ships can be far away from ports and other people, sometimes for weeks at a time, which makes it important that we choose well-proven technology. At the same time, we wanted to choose the best possible option from a sustainability standpoint. So, while it was impossible for us to use something like an LNG engine onboard the ships, we chose what were, at the time, the cleanest, Tier III-compliant engines running on marine gas oil.” 

SunStone Maritime Group

“Going forward, we will only be building our own ships,” says Niels-Erik Lund

The resulting design envisioned a 104-metre-long vessel which could be delivered in a variety of configurations, with capacity ranging between 140 and 186 passengers. One significant decision SunStone made was to choose Ulstein Group’s X-Bow, an inverted bow concept that is designed to provide more comfortable and efficient sailing. According to Carsten, this decision has proven to be a successful one since the Infinity class has begun sailing.  

“We were the first company to bring the X-Bow hull to the cruise industry, and we’ve been surprised by how good it actually is,” says Carsten. “The ships pierce through the water rather than slamming against it, which reduces the amount of resistance and wasted energy. That in turn gives us a more efficient ship that consumes less fuel, produces less emissions and delivers a more pleasant ride. We’re very happy with the results.” 

Greg Mortimer, the first Infinity-class vessel, was delivered by shipbuilder China Merchants Heavy Industry in 2019. A further five ships have followed since then, with the seventh and final Infinity newbuild to be completed in August 2025. The success of the ship series has led SunStone to shift its strategy permanently.  

“Our vision has changed,” says Niels-Erik. “We’ve decided that we will no longer be buying any second-hand ships. Going forward, we will only be building our own ships rather than managing ships for others.” 

The group is therefore planning its next series of ships; the Boundless class. The new vessels will be significantly larger than their predecessors at 126 metres long and with capacity for up to 260 passengers depending on configuration. Despite this, the ships will also be more efficient, says Niels-Erik. 

“Even though the Boundless-series ships are going to be much larger than the Infinity class, our modelling shows they will consume less fuel,” he says. 

SunStone Maritime Group

“When we started designing these ships, we found the best solutions available for both safety and sustainability,” says Carsten Lund

While the Boundless class ships may be larger, SunStone is committing to maintaining a small ship experience across the fleet. 

“We want to stay small enough that we can still allow everyone to experience the pristine locations they came to see, on Zodiacs, kayaks, or otherwise,” says Niels-Erik. “That means a few hundred passengers onboard ships with a high ice-class rating and a high standard of safety.” 

Carsten adds: “That’s exactly the expedition product our clients and their passengers are expecting. They anticipate a luxurious experience onboard, but they also want the chance that they’ll be interrupted during dinner to hurry off the ship and see whales swimming nearby. They go on these trips with the expectation of experiencing these remote areas first-hand.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

Contact author


Subscribe to the Cruise & Ferry newsletter

  • ©2024 Tudor Rose. All Rights Reserved. Cruise & Ferry is published by Tudor Rose.