Quentin Long reckons Silversea’s announcement that it will begin high-end cruises off the Kimberley coast could just about be the biggest news in Australian travel this year. Oh, yeah, he’s excited…
Once a year I hit upon a story and say “that’s BIG”.
They usually have a couple of characteristics: risky, game-changing with global ramifications for our local operators.
Last year it was the opening of QT Sydney. This year it happened yesterday, at a lunch billed as a “big reveal”. Cue my eye-rolling.
I have been to enough “reveals” to know that rarely are they anything but a true lipstick-on-a-pig affair. But this reveal was, if you followed my twitter feed you would know, MASSIVE.
Silversea, the Italian-born, Monaco-based true luxury cruise ship operator, is launching its third expedition ship in Singapore. Okay, not such a big deal in itself.
The BIG deal is that the ship, Silver Discoverer, will ply her trade predominantly in the Australian and New Zealand market, with cruising the Kimberley coast the flagship product.
This is huge for two reasons. Silversea has single-handedly just put a Kimberely cruise onto the bucket list of thousands of wealthy travellers around the world.
As a global company, with the US as its number one market, Silversea will use its marketing power to sell Kimberley cruising to the world for the first time. The current crop of great operators are Australian based and, therefore, do not have a global reach.
The second reason is the product standard has just been lifted. Orion and True North are fabulous products with incredible levels of service delivering fantastic experiences. But the Silversea scale, systems and standards will now take this to a higher level.
But it is a huge risk; Silversea has truly “strapped on a pair”. The first sailing is 1 March, 2014, a mere six months and three weeks from the announcement.
In that time, the ship needs to be completely renovated, refurbed and scrubbed up. Plus it needs to sell 50 cabins. Considering the usual lead times of 12-18 months, that’s a huge risk.
Lucky then, it can tap into its past clients who are repeat guests rusted onto the Silversea brand of expedition cruises (it currently has the Galapagos, Arctic and Antarctica covered).
Steve Odell, President of Silversea everywhere except the US, told me at the announcement that past guests had signed up that morning. When I pushed him for a number, he said he didn’t know. True or not, it will get done.
If past experience is something to go by, the experience itself is going to be outstanding. Silversea has secured the services of a former Orion expedition director to ensure the experiences are not only up to scratch but better than current offerings.
In strict terms of on-board amenities and service, Silversea will again lead the pack; all-inclusive, and that’s food and wine. The dedicated butler service and all-suite ship design means it’s a new dawn for cruising the Kimberley.
Get excited people.