An interview with Conrad Combrink of Silversea Expeditions

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Silversea's long term itinerary planning expert and Senior Vice President of Expeditions Conrad Combrink recently closed the Cape Town office and moved to Miami, where he has taken control of developing new and exciting itineraries fleetwide.

For a cruise line known for its amazing voyages, this is no small task, and to achieve it he has a multi-disciplinary department. At Silversea, as we know, it is all about the destination, and creating an extraordinary destination experience from a luxury platform.

Silver Wind returned to the fleet in Crete on 28th May 2022 following her conversion to an expedition ship, with a fascinating itinerary featuring ancient sites and monuments along the way, on which Silversea can create a hybrid experience focused on the archaeological and anthropological treasures of the southern Mediterranean.

Silver Wind, Silversea Expeditions

With more suites than Silver Cloud, the newly refurbished Silver Wind can accommodate 270 guests. She has more space aft on decks 5 and 6 to accommodate no fewer than 26 Zodiacs, and kayaks too. She will carry an amazing team of 30 expedition staff, and to enable her to travel further and deeper into wilderness areas, she will have an ice-strengthened hull and added duck tail for stability. Of course there has also been money spent upgrading the technical systems, and on ensuring she is environmentally sound, alongside a refresh on the hotel side. The upgrade is near identical to that of Silver Cloud, which has been so successful.

The upgraded expedition ships are great for entering new markets, and bring plenty of new to Silversea guests whilst still embracing the loyal Venetians. A new and dedicated expedition crowd, driven by destination, choose Silversea vessels over other offerings in the market as they are faster, more stable and feature all creature comforts. Those who designated the vessels 'too big' before experiencing them are now huge fans, enjoying the good flow on board, and the fact that they are more comfortable in rough water. Meanwhile for classic cruise aficionados, this is a good opportunity to make the crossover and see how they like it, especially for must-do destinations like Antarctica, because of the perceived lack of facilities on smaller ships.

Silver Cloud in Svalbard

The plan to sail the Amazon was very well received, and whilst Silversea were unable to operate the itinerary in the end, this is definitely one for the future as demand was so high. Likewise the Indian Ocean including Africa and the islands, traditionally operated by Silver Explorer, will be on board Silver Cloud next year. Australia and the South Pacific, including the Kimberley, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are all more appealing on a larger ship with plenty of deck space.

Silversea have reimagined the entire Antarctica experience, and others would do well to take note. The standard programme for Antarctica operators is that you bring your clients into Buenos Aires, or at a pinch, Santiago de Chile, overnight them, and then fly them southwards the following morning, which requires a very early start on an economy class aircraft, followed by a tedious wait for embarkation. Likewise on the return, an afternoon flight arrives too late to connect with onward travel.

Silversea Expeditions in Antarctica

Silversea have addressed themselves to the detail, and created a completely new structure to avoid the wasted hours and hanging about. Embarking clients fly into Santiago de Chile and overnight at the lovely Mandarin Oriental, in a section dedicated to Silversea clients. The following day, they take an exclusive Silversea charter flight around lunchtime to Puerto Williams with a business class 2:2 configuration and seat pitch of 35 inches, upgraded meal with great wines and proper glass and china, and leaving from a dedicated private terminal at Santiago. On arrival, they transfer straight to the ship. Earlier the same day, disembarking clients have transferred straight to the airport for a morning flight arriving at Santiago in time to make same day connections.

Silversea's partner airline DAP also operates the flights to King George Island for the Antarctica Bridge programme which enables guests to fly across the Drake Passage, and creates a shorter trip for those who want to visit but don't have weeks to spare.

Silversea's Antarctica Bridge programme

We spoke finally about the newest addition to the expedition fleet, Silver Origin. Conrad says he has never been on a small ship that feels so open and spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows creating the illusion of no barrier whatsoever between the ship and the destination. Plenty of open deck space and under cover deck space means you don't ever lose the views, and you are living in the perfect base camp for daily exploration.

Silver Origin - Observation Lounge

So what next for Silversea Expeditions? Conrad reminds me that just before the onset of Covid back in 2020, the company was poised to order new ships, and it is clear there is still a strong commitment to growth. With Explorer leaving the fleet in late 2023, more capacity is definitely needed as soon as possible. So watch this space - there is more to come from this dynamic company.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Adventures. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Silver Origin and she has also sailed with Seabourn, Ponant and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite adventure destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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