Followers of news on business, international relations and the maritime industry would have heard of the so-called “Cold Rush” – optimism for potential opportunities in the Arctic in the fields of oil and gas drilling, faster shipping routes, and tourism. In the wake of hefty costs, risky operations, falling oil prices, an uncertain regulatory environment, negative public perception and environmental advocacies, however, some companies have since had to ‘cool down’ their activities and expectations in the region.
We have seen exits and project suspensions from the likes of Chevron, Rosneft, Statoil, Total and most recently, Royal Dutch Shell, for example. But if there is one segment of the maritime industry that is still making a heavy play for the region, that would be travel and tourism via cruising. In Toronto, Canada, Polar tour operators get together for the first Antarctic / Arctic conference on polar guiding, organized by International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (“IAATO”) and Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (“AECO”). The goal? To share knowledge and best practices, to be able to practice Polar region travels that are safe and environmentally conscious. The agenda includes talks, workshops and presentations covering a wide variety of topics including education, science, operations, risk management, and heritage and environmental conservation. Attendees include field staff, operators, and representatives from government agencies, non-government conservation organizations and science institutes.
They, like many other players in the tourism industry, are preparing for what may soon be a growth in tourism to the Polar Regions. There is, after all, romance in the remote, plus the wildlife that could be spotted here is the stuff of dreams – polar bears, penguins, whales, walruses, seals and seabirds – and there is now greater access with rising temperatures and receding ice.
More and more players are making their way to the region (see related article, “Luxe Expedition Ship For Arctic Tourism”), like Silversea Cruises. The luxury cruise line already has three expedition ships including the Silver Explorer, which is no stranger to Arctic and Antarctic sailings. In an announcement made late last September, though, the line shared plans to add yet one more; the Silver Cloud is set to undergo refurbishment starting August, 2017, for conversion into an ice-class ship with capacity to carry 200 passengers on Arctic and Antarctic trips, possibly by November, 2017.
Expectations for the line’s expedition cruises are high, with patrons used to educational presentations and lectures on destinations, complimentary excursions, plus watercraft and staff ready for exploration activities even to remote locations. Signature luxury details are also expected of Silversea even in the hardy Polar Regions, and it is said that with the Silver Cloud, these will not be in short supply – there will still be the same, broad range of dining options, butler service, and complimentary beverages and Wi-Fi. The Silver Cloud is also set to hold the record of having the highest staff and space-to-guest ratio in the field of luxury, ice-class expedition ships.
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Faust, Chris Gray. “Silversea Moves Silver Cloud to Expedition Fleet for Polar Cruises.” Cruise Critic, 18 Sep 2015. Web. 05 Oct 2015. http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=6538
Fiske, David. “Silver Cloud to join Silversea’s expedition fleet in 2017.” World of Cruising, 25 Sep 2015. Web. 05 Oct 2015. https://www.worldofcruising.co.uk/silver-cloud-to-join-silverseas-expedition-fleet-in-2017/
“Polar Tour Operators hold first Antarctic/Arctic field guide conference.” MercoPress., 24 Sep 2015. Web. 05 Oct 2015. http://en.mercopress.com/2015/09/24/polar-tour-operators-hold-first-antarctic-arctic-field-guide-conference
Russell, Emily. “As ice melts, Arctic opens for cruise ships.” Alaska Public Media, 28 Sep 2015. Web. 05 Oct 2015. http://www.alaskapublic.org/2015/09/28/as-ice-melts-arctic-opens-for-cruise-ships/
Sloan, Gene. “Iconic luxury ship to be reconfigured for polar exploring.” USA Today, 21 Sep 2015. Web. 05 Oct 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/cruiselog/2015/09/21/silversea-cruise-arctic-antarctica/72520680/
Wood, Donald. “Silversea Strengthening Silver Cloud Cruise Ship for Polar Exploration.” Travel Pulse, 21 Sep 2015. Web. 05 Oct 2015. http://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/silversea-strengthening-silver-cloud-cruise-ship-for-polar-exploration.html
Image “Polar Bear Walking” courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net