The Silver Cloud cruise ship transformed into a luxury ice rover

(CNN) — What does it take to reach the most remote corners of the globe?

Cruise lines are asking this question more than ever, as the reduction in Arctic ice has made previously unnavigable regions more accessible.

While the Cruise Lines International Association touts cruises as a healthy market with growth projections of around 4% this year, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators reports more than triple that percentage, with Antarctic cruises having increased by 15% this year compared to the previous season.

Eager to meet the growing demand for expeditions to the ends of the earth, Silversea Cruises recently completed an extensive three-year process of renovating its oldest ship into its newest expedition-class vessel, Silver Cloud Expedition, which has made its debut in November.
Having undergone a bow-to-stern overhaul, Silver Cloud Expedition is equipped to travel the polar waters of the Antarctic and Arctic Oceans with state-of-the-art technology and plenty of amenities to enjoy the voyage in style.

Renovations from bow to stern

Silversea Cruises recently upgraded the Silver Cloud to an ice-class expedition vessel.

From Silversea Cruises

The $46.5 million project was conceived three years ago, in response to demand for polar expeditions from Silversea’s only ice-class vessel, the 144-passenger Silver Explorer. (The term “ice class” is a classification used by commercial-grade vessels to determine their level of resistance to navigating sea ice).

Looking into their fleet of nine, Silversea chose to transform their oldest and original ship, the Silver Cloud, christened in 1993. Taking the ship out of service for 65 days, an army of 400 specialists worked around the clock at the Palumbo Malta shipyard in Cospicua, Malta, to prepare the vessel for the Arctic, with permission to sail in waters with 10% ice cover.

So what does it take to meet the Ice Class requirements?

The biggest and most essential element of the Silver Cloud Expedition refit is a new reinforced bow and a redesigned hull along the waterline.

The new bow is built to meet the demands of the unwieldy patches of ice the ship may encounter, while steel plates have been added along the ship’s hull from decks one through three to add redundancy for the protection of the ship.

Brian William Swenson, project manager of the Ice Class Transformation Project for Silver Cloud Expedition, spoke about the logistical precision required for the ship’s two-month drydock.

“We have to work closely on all aspects of the ship. As we remove objects in and out of the engine rooms, they are also trying to put in place the ice belt” (the area where the ship comes into contact with ice).

All of the ship’s navigation systems have been upgraded with sophisticated radars and GPS, as well as thermal imaging and sonar that help navigate arctic waters.

Swenson further explains that the ship will “use the latest technical advances with the sonar system, which will allow the ship to detect ice and other objects up to 1,000 meters away.”

The threat of ice is a legitimate hazard to ships venturing into polar regions, as perforated hulls can compromise a ship’s stability and buoyancy, as well as the threat of loss of power in some of the most remote from the globe.

Interiors

Silver Cloud's interiors feature elegant, understated tones.

Silver Cloud’s interiors feature elegant, understated tones.

From Silversea Cruises

As for what is visible to passengers aboard the ship, Silver Cloud Expedition has emerged a glistening new ship with no aspect of its interiors left untouched. She is the first luxury cruise ship to be upgraded to an ice class ship.

Complying with ice class regulations for all arctic vessels, the Silver Cloud Expedition replaced or modified all glass windows and portholes to strengthen them for arctic waters.

The ship features many of the same sleek, understated tones and fixtures found on Silversea’s newest ship, the Silver Muse, which debuted in April.

The recently reconfigured ship includes all suites, most with private balconies.

Suites in all categories have walk-in closets, butler service, 40″ flat-screen TVs, fully interactive TV system (with hundreds of movies, TV shows and entertainment). other multimedia content) and a free Wi-Fi connection (one hour/day) .

The ship has five dining options, including La Dame, a Relais & Châteaux restaurant whose CEO, Roberto Martinoli, is proud to be “the first and only Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Antarctica”.

To meet the demand for well-being around the world, the ship has a brand new fitness center with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment and a new “Zagara” spa concept. , as seen on the Silver Muse.

Technology and amenities

The Silver Cloud Expedition is also the first to showcase some cutting-edge methods for best exploring glacial waters.

Adding ease and stability to Zodiacs, the Silver Cloud Expedition features first-class custom loading and unloading platforms that will aid in the safety and speed of boarding small exploration vessels.

The Zodiacs on board are a new fleet of 16 with significantly increased touring distance and expanded GPS capabilities.

Twelve kayaks are also available for exploring the coasts, which benefit from the new system of cranes and floats used for the Zodiacs to improve the previously precarious conditions for embarking and disembarking the kayaks.

And it certainly helps brave the elements with free arctic-grade parkas available to customers.

The Silver Cloud Expedition features the ocean’s first-ever floating photo lab called Photo Studio. Passengers can personally edit their newly captured images on PC and Mac on professional photo programs with the help of a photo studio manager, then print their photos for postcards, large posters and extended panoramas.

Keep blue waters green

The price for a 10-day trip to Antarctica starts at $15,200.

The price for a 10-day trip to Antarctica starts at $15,200.

From Silversea Cruises

As for environmental initiatives, the Silver Cloud Expedition includes upgrades including a new wastewater treatment plant, a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis plant, food digesters that minimize waste stream and an incinerator half the size of what existed before. .

Martinoli adds that “the ship will only burn marine diesel, the best possible fuel you can burn today on a diesel engine.”

He says efforts are being made to keep emissions from the new ship to a minimum when traversing ice-covered waters, and the ship “will discharge water very close to potable water, to standards above the law”.

life on board

The ship is considered an ultra-luxury product, and Martinoli says he is proud to have “the most luxurious ship going to Antarctica”.

Cruises for up to 200 people in the Northern and Southern Arctic regions will last longer than the typical week-long cruise, extending from 11 to 18 nights.

Pricing for a 10-day Antarctica voyage starts at $15,200 and can stretch north of $50,000 for the owner’s suite on board. Priced to meet the market, Silversea’s fares are about the same as the most comparable luxury arctic line, Ponant.

Silver Cloud features the highest crew to guest ratio in the Silversea fleet and a notable ratio in the cruise industry: over 1 to 1 in polar regions.

Passengers can expect a cosmopolitan scene aboard the ship, while well-heeled baby boomers from around the world seek Silversea’s attentive yet unobtrusive service.

Giving an overview of the rise of cruising, Martinoli says that “people no longer value material possessions as they used to; they much prefer experiences and the opportunity to explore”.

Among the unforgettable experiences that the Silver Cloud Expedition will offer: polar diving.

“You’re going to have the chance to go swimming in polar waters, safely, from the Zodiacs,” says Martinoli. “It’s going to be cold… but you’ll have a jumpsuit, of course!”