Greg Mortimer of Aurora Expeditions sailed from Argentina on her maiden voyage to Antarctica in 2019, making it the first passenger ship to sail with Ulstein’s revolutionary X-BOW concept.
The inverted bow design – often referred to as a “game changer” for the maritime industry – features a curved hull that allows the bow to penetrate waves rather than bump against them. According to CEO Monique Ponfoort, Aurora Expeditions enables those on board a “faster and more comfortable” journey.
With less speed lost to waves and less pitching / lifting, the higher speed the Greg Mortimer reaches means less power is used and, in turn, fewer emissions are generated during a trip. The design offers trips to some of the most pristine parts of nature and helps the operator to minimize the impact.
“Aurora Expeditions is committed to a kind of journey that is as easy as possible,” says Ponfoort. “The Ulstein X-BOW® cuts sea waves, minimizes aquatic vibrations and disturbances and delivers faster transits through the waves. This also helps to reduce fuel consumption significantly. ”
Later this year, Aurora Expeditions will launch its second passenger ship, the Sylvia Earle, which has the same low fuel consumption and efficiency as the X-BOW.
The sister ship will “largely mirror” its older sibling, which will offer panoramic observation areas, custom-built hydraulic viewing platforms, activity prep areas, and zodiac docks to launch inflatable ships and bring guests closer to the sights.
“In polar regions, passengers can experience the majesty of an iceberg as soon as it appears on the horizon.”
In addition, the Sylvia Earle has a two-tier glass atrium in the bow, through which guests can look in the direction of travel.
“In polar regions, passengers can immediately see the majesty of an iceberg on the horizon,” says Ponfoort.
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The ship was named after the renowned marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle for her achievements in the field of marine protection and also has the ‘Sylvia Earle Science Center’, where guests are informed about marine animals and nature conservation.
An outdoor pool, which is heated with the warmth of the ship’s engine, will also be accessible on the “sun deck” and offer the ship’s 132 adventurers the opportunity to relax while traveling to warmer regions.
Likewise, the ship will be equipped with technology that exceeds the safety requirements for a ship of its size, including return-to-port equipment that doubles as a propulsion system and assists the ship in the event of engine failure.
Shortly after the Sylvia Earle is on the water in late 2021, Aurora Expeditions will also launch her new Arctic and Global 2022 program. With destinations like the Northwest Passage, the Russian Far East, and Alaska, guests venture into places few others have.
“Many of our destinations, such as Wrangel Island and the Kuril Islands and the Northwest Passage; the Aleutian Islands in Alaska; and Haida Gwaii off Canada’s west coast are rarely visited, ”explains Ponfoort.
On a Sylvia Earle trip, guests have the option of participating in a range of activities, from wildlife encounters to guided hikes, scuba diving, kayaking, and even polar flights.
On Sylvia Earle’s Russian Far East tour, for example, guests will go to the Kamchatka Peninsula to admire the region’s world heritage volcanoes, the abundant brown bear population and the birch forests.
While cruises were suspended for most of last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, work on the Sylvia Earle continued. The ship will go to sea for testing in March before being delivered and launched later this year. Aurora Expeditions does not expect any delays in the schedule.
“Fortunately, the pandemic has not delayed the construction of the Sylvia Earle and it is expected to be delivered in October 2021 to be ready for its maiden voyage the following month,” confirms Ponfoort.
“Our top priority remains our safe and healthy return to service.”
Of course, Covid-19 disrupted Aurora Expeditions’ journeys as much as any cruise operator. In May last year, the company suffered an outbreak aboard the Greg Mortimer, in which 60% of its passengers and crew fell ill with the virus. Since then, most of the trips have been interrupted.
However, the cruise company has used the downtime to hear feedback, review its operations, and create new expeditions for its customers. Health and safety were understandably high on the list of concerns.
“Our top priority remains our safe and healthy return to service for our passengers, crew, and the people and places we visit,” emphasizes Ponfoort. “In the future, all of our passengers will be tested for Covid-19 before they leave home, before embarkation and back on board.”
“We are all fully focused on the well-being of our expeditionists, working closely with leading industry and government agencies to develop, evaluate, and implement rigorous new health and safety protocols that will be among the best in the world.”
In 2020, Carnival Corporation, the industry’s largest cruise line, lost a total of $ 10.2 billion when the pandemic forced ships to dock. The same struggles can be felt across the industry, and the situation won’t get worse until the disruption extends through 2021. However, Aurora Expeditions is confident that it and the wider cruise industry can bounce back.
“2020 was the most challenging year in history for the global travel and cruise industry, but with the onset of vaccines in different countries, I am optimistic and excited that we will be sailing in much calmer waters in 2021,” says Ponfoort. “I also believe that the cruise industry is incredibly resilient and will rebound bigger, stronger and better than ever.”
“There is a pent-up demand for unique experiences that take you beyond your comfort zone.”
Although the company was forced to cancel many of its scheduled trips, it saw a high rate of rebooking. Approximately 75% of guests who have been canceled chose to rebook future trips rather than requesting a refund.
According to a recent survey by Hilton, nearly a quarter of UK travelers intend to take the “trip of a lifetime” in 2021. Unsurprisingly, the company has seen record interest in its new program for 2022 – a sign of demand for the luxury experiences on board its ships.
“There is a lot of catching up to do for unique experiences that push you beyond your comfort zone and allow you to reconnect and immerse yourself in nature,” explains Ponfoort. “A lot of people travel to discover places they have never seen. At Aurora Expeditions, we travel to discover places that few people have ever seen. ”
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