Sunstone Ships is bouncing back to success

Niels Erik-Lund tells Alex Smith how SunStone Ships is successfully coming out the other side of the pandemic and looking to the future with new construction projects

Sunstone Ships is bouncing back to success
The new Boundless series of ships has been designed for both warm- and cold-water sailing

Like the rest of the cruise industry, SunStone Ships has endured a difficult few years as its ships stayed laid up during the pandemic. However, a full restart in operations in recent months is now bringing SunStone back to a position of strength.  

“We have all 10 of our ships operating according to schedule, including cruises in Iceland, the Great Lakes, Alaska, Canada, and the Arctic,” says Niels-Erik Lund, CEO of SunStone Ships. “It’s very good news, finally. All of our charterers have survived this difficult period, and we’re all extremely happy to be back in operation.” 

Three of SunStone’s new Infinity-series ships completed full seasons in winter 2021-2022, including Greg Mortimer, Ocean Explorer and Ocean Victory. A further two ships, Sylvia Earle and Ocean Odyssey, will join the fleet in the coming months. 

“The vessels have been received very positively,” says Lund. “All of our charterers are extremely pleased with the performance of all three ships so far. We started in Antarctica this winter and were one of the only operators who managed to operate our entire schedule without disruption from Covid or other issues. Now they’re on course for summer charter, and guests are very happy with the experience onboard.” 

Onshore, developments have also been taking place that will provide SunStone with new opportunities. Along with fellow shareholders of Cruise Management International (CMI) and CMI Leisure Management, SunStone Ships has signed a letter of intent to sell the companies to Anglo-Eastern Univan Group, the world’s largest provider of independent ship management services. 

“Anglo-Eastern has more than 30,000 crew members and a further 1,800 people in offices around the world,” says Lund. “With the acquisition of CMI, it is breaking into the cruise market for the first time, which makes a lot of sense for the company. It also makes a lot of sense for us, because we now have the power of the Anglo-Eastern name behind us, as well as the extensive infrastructure of academies and offices it has around the world. I think it’s a very positive development for both partners, and one that will increase the quality of ship management that we have today.” 

SunStone has also been moving forward with its plans for a new class of ships, the Boundless series.  

“We have a full specification for the ship, so we now know exactly what we’re looking to have built,” says Lund. “We’ve been talking with a number of shipyards, and we’re hoping to make a decision on construction very soon. It would be a very significant contract, with options for up to 10 vessels.” 

The design of the ships will feature elements of the Infinity class, along with new onboard amenities. 

“We’ve taken the very best parts of the Infinity class, including technical aspects such as dynamic positioning, zero-speed stabilisers, Safe Return to Port and an ice-strengthened hull designed to Polar Code 6 standards,” says Lund. “To that strong foundation, we’ve added some important features. These include a large marina area which can store equipment including Zodiacs, jet skis, windsurfs, and even a water plane for much quicker deployment and embarkation.  

“Another major addition is a large pool deck in the centre of the ship with a retractable glass dome. In polar waters, we deploy the glass cover to allow guests to enjoy a heated pool, while in the summertime we can offer a large open space.” 

The added outdoor space offered by the pool deck is indicative of a change of design philosophy for the new vessels, which will also feature balconies in all its suites.  

“In general, the ships will offer more outdoor space than the Infinity series did,” explains Lund. “That’s because while the Infinity series was very much designed for polar exploration, the Boundless series will be equally focused on sailing in warm and cold waters. The ships will be scaled up in both size and functionality.” 

As the shipowner continues to bounce back, Lund is clear that its strategy will remain squarely focused on expanding its presence in the expedition sector. 

“We see growth across nationalities and demographics, expanding outside of the traditional American market, as people from all over the world want to go on an expedition,” he says. “We expect to see that expansion continue, and as an expert in the sector, we will continue to do what we do best to meet that demand.”  

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2022 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 here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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Alex Smith
By Alex Smith
17 November 2022

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