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Seabourn debuts 2nd luxury expedition cruise ship, Seabourn Pursuit

When you’re in the business of offering immersive destination experiences in hard-to-reach places, one adventurous cruise ship is not enough. You need two.

Two expedition ships allow you to dedicate one to bucket list polar destinations in the Arctic and Antarctica while the other explores exotic warm-weather locales around the Pacific. Then, the latter can dart back to Antarctica for the season to fulfill more passengers’ dreams of visiting the Lost Continent.

With that goal in mind, luxury cruise line Seabourn took delivery of Seabourn Pursuit, its second luxury expedition ship to debut in as many years, from the T. Mariotti shipyard in Genoa, Italy, on Monday.

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The transfer of ownership took place on board the 264-passenger vessel even as contractors worked to put the finishing touches on the ship. Executives from the shipyard and the cruise line spoke about their partnership and accomplishments before signing the papers to officially add Pursuit to the Seabourn fleet.

The handover ceremony for Seabourn Pursuit. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

On Tuesday, the ship set sail for Malta to finish the preparations for its maiden voyage from the island nation on Aug. 12. The ship will sail five sold-out Mediterranean cruises, operating as a traditional cruise ship instead of as an expedition ship, before crossing the Atlantic for a quick celebration in Miami.

Only once the ship reaches Barbados on Oct. 12 will it fully transform into an expedition vessel, complete with a team of 24 expedition leaders. Their role will be to deploy and drive the ship’s 24 Zodiac rafts; educate passengers about the geography, wildlife and cultures they’re visiting; and host guests at dinner.

Complementary itineraries

Seabourn Pursuit’s itineraries will complement those of its identical sister, Seabourn Venture. Its first expeditions will explore the Amazon River before continuing south to join its sister for a season of Antarctica cruises. The two will meet for the first time in Ushuaia, Argentina, on Nov. 28.

As the southern summer ends, Seabourn Venture will head up through the Atlantic to the British Isles and on to the Arctic while Seabourn Pursuit sails north into the Pacific along the Chilean coast and then west to explore the islands of the Pacific.

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Seabourn Pursuit will offer the line’s first cruises to the Kimberley region of Australia, as well as visits to places like Easter Island, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. After eight months of enjoying the warm weather, it will return to Antarctica to reunite with Seabourn Venture.

Related: Expedition cruises: The ultimate guide to cruising to remote, hard-to-reach places

No more compromises in ship design

Adventure cruising used to require a compromise, explained Robin West, Seabourn’s vice president of expedition operations, at a press conference following the handover ceremony. In order to get to far-flung destinations such as Antarctica, cruise travelers would have to sacrifice onboard luxuries and settle for older repurposed vessels that lacked creature comforts.

No more. The era of luxurious adventuring has arrived, and Seabourn is among several cruise lines building ships that are tough on the outside but cushy on the inside. Seabourn Pursuit will bring Seabourn’s authentic service, fine dining, artistic design and creature comforts to the remote corners of the globe.

In addition to luxuries like an onboard spa and nightly entertainment, Seabourn Pursuit features a design that seamlessly blends the practical needs of a hardy expedition vessel with the space and ocean vistas that allow guests to connect with the destinations visited. Interiors were created by preeminent luxury designer Adam Tihany and his Tihany Design team.

Every room on board is a suite with a balcony, and each features both a walk-in closet and a heated gear locker for drying wet jackets and boots. Sixteen panoramic veranda suites maximize views with interior sitting areas framed by rounded floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. Some suites have tubs with windows to provide views at all times.

Most of the public spaces were also created to maximize outdoor viewing spaces. The saunas in the spa have huge windows. The Bow Lounge is a mix of bridge and bar with computer screens showing the ship’s coordinates and views from external cameras, huge windows looking out onto an open public deck and a coffee-and-snack corner to warm you up when you come in from the cold.

Know, though, that the top deck does not resemble the ritzy resort pool areas you’ll find on Seabourn’s typical cruise ships. Instead, it’s the expedition operation center where Zodiacs and scuba gear are stored. Two seven-seater submersibles and a fleet of sea kayaks are stored in two garages on Deck 3. Guests looking for a swim or soak will find an infinity pool and hot tubs aft of The Colonnade buffet restaurant on Deck 5.

Looking ahead

While shipyard bigwigs unabashedly hinted that they’d love for Seabourn to order more ships, Seabourn has not announced plans to build more ships. Instead, Natalya Leahy, Seabourn’s president, told guests at the press conference that she intends to take the cruise line to the next level by doubling down on what it does well.

“We surround and shower people with very authentic, very curated attention in very meticulously designed ships that really scream luxury, and that’s not a shift in a strategy but an evolution of ultra-luxury Seabourn experiences,” she said. “We take people to places that few can ever visit in a lifetime, and we allow them to experience these places closer and in the most innovative ways you can ever imagine.”

To that end, the line is focusing on the small details that make travel more meaningful. In her first 100 days as president, Leahy launched a campaign called Delight in the Details, which “goes from delivering the really small unique experiences and delights on board the ships that everyone knows as Seabourn Moments to taking people and allowing them to experience destinations in new, even more bespoke ways,” she explained.

Leahy has even created a new destinations department to curate more authentic and innovative experiences on land for the line’s guests. The line is also looking at new itineraries, perhaps the Indian Ocean, to take more guests to the places on their bucket lists.

“My vision is to allow even deeper experiences of every destination, not only on expedition but on all our oceans,” Leahy said.

The company hopes that its expedition ships and their intriguing destinations will bring new travelers to cruising, specifically Seabourn cruises. In the past 12 months, 50% of Seabourn Venture’s passengers were new to cruise or new to Seabourn. They come for the destinations, but Leahy’s vision is they’ll stay with the brand because they fall in love with the experience of cruising in luxury.

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