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Seabourn Charters Both Seabourn Venture & Seabourn Pursuit to APT (Australian Pacific Touring Group): What Does It Mean? 

It was somewhat quietly announced yesterday that APT (Australian Pacific Touring Group) will be chartering both of Seabourn’s expedition ships, Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit.  However, the duration of the charters and/or if they are based upon particular sailings or lengths of time is unclear.

Seabourn Venture
Seabourn Venture

According to multiple sources (Cruise Industry News, Seatrade, etc.), APT will be offering sailings “to destinations including: the UK, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, the Kimberley, and Antarctica in 2025… with APT’s brand-new Antarctica itineraries set to launch in early March for 2026 departures.”  That appears to be close to, if not, the entirety of the Seabourn Expedition program!

I reached out to both Seabourn’s president, Natalya Leahy, and Seabourn’s Vice President, Sales & Trade Relations, late yesterday with a number of questions and seeking clarifications.  I have yet to hear back from either.  (If I do, I will let you know.) 

My initial impression is that Seabourn is looking to offload some of its most operationally expensive hardware to assist in boosting its bottom line. This has nothing to do with whether Seabourn is delivering a strong expedition product, but rather whether it is cost-effective and if it has over-capacity for its demographic.

My first thoughts are that the concept may be similar to Ponant, which has many more ships, and charters out a ship to Abercombie & Kent for Antarctica expeditions. In that situation, Ponant provides the ship, technical team, and hotel services, but A&K provides the hosts and expedition team. 

But I do have questions…lots of them, starting with if the arrangement will be similar to that which Ponant operates. Others include, but are not limited to:

  • Are the charters for particular sailings or for a specific period of time?
  • Will the sailings be cross-marketed by both Seabourn and APT or just APT?
  • Will the standards onboard (hotel and expedition) remain at the same levels or adjusted up or down?
  • Are there options to extend or expand the charters or even a purchase option?
  • Will the ships continue to garner the name “Seabourn”? (My guess is yes.)

This move, however, raises more questions about Seabourn.  In fact, at least to me, it is ironic that the announcement was made on Seabourn Odyssey; a ship which Seabourn just sold and is about to depart the fleet.

The first question is: Why is Seabourn shrinking its fleet from seven to, at least for now, four, which reduces its capacity from just over 3,000 to 2,100; a thirty (30%) percent reduction? 

I am sure you remember when I was told – yes, I was told – that Seabourn was sold, and it caused all sorts of now-“resolved” problems for me and Goldring Travel, even though I was neither the first nor the last to report it. Well, I have to say that these last two moves (sale of Seabourn Odyssey and chartering off Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit) make me wonder if that is the actual longer-term plan.

By Seabourn selling off its oldest ship and chartering off its two expedition ships, it most probably makes Seabourn’s bottom line look stronger even with the remaining ships sailing at less than full capacity. That would make it more attractive for the now – seemingly ubiquitous in the cruise industry – venture capital investors. Again, I have no reports of this; I am merely connecting dots and speculating with a bit of an educated mind. (Note: Sailing at less than full capacity is not limited to Seabourn in the luxury and expedition markets.) 

It also could be that APT wants to get into the expedition market, and even though there are ships it could have picked up (such as the now-out-of-business Vantage ships it chartered from Sunstone), the Seabourn ships and support were more to its liking. While, at the same time, Seabourn gets some more positive (or less negative?) net cash flow out of the ships.  

I would offer up that maybe Seabourn is contemplating a new ship, but Carnival Corp. announced that there would be no new ships. As Cruise Industry News quoted Carnival Corp’s president in March 2023 that after Seabourn Pursuit and four ships for other lines, there will be none in 2026, and “One or two, and whether that starts in 2027 or after 2027 is still a question mark.” Hence, I don’t see that as a viable possibility. 

I am sure there are other possibilities, but there is only so much conjecture and theory I want to put into one article; especially while I await a response to my correspondence or additional information being otherwise made public. 

Regardless of the reason for these charters, it concerns me. While the other luxury lines, such as Silversea, Explora Journeys, and Regent Seven Seas are expanding, Seabourn is contracting…significantly. Is it possible Seabourn is going with “lean and mean”?  I guess so, but with its newest ship launched in 2017 and its oldest launched in 2010, both lacking the innovations and designs developed in the following years, Seabourn has gone from having the newest fleet in the luxury market to one of the oldest and one of the largest fleets to one of the smallest. 

Seabourn Spirit (now modernized and sailing for Windstar)
Seabourn Spirit (now modernized and sailing for Windstar)

As I have been an advocate for, and fan of, Seabourn for decades (and probably have the largest collection of Seabourn memorabilia around), I hope that this move ultimately is good news.  Just as a friend of mine was incredibly upset by his baby, American Queen Voyages, closing down yesterday, it would truly be devastating to see the baby of Debbie Natansohn, and the line that really raised me into the luxury market, not remain at the top  or worse.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for good news! 

Interested in a Luxury Journey by Cruise, Expedition, or Land?

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