Monday, August 4, 2008

Silversea To Give Regent SERIOUS Competition in French Polynesia

It is now official. Silversea has announced that is exploration ship, Prince Albert II, is going to be cruising Tahiti and French Polynesia from mid-March 2009 through October 2009.

The ship is significantly different than Regent's Paul Gauguin both in size and approach. The Silversea experience is defined as "luxury" and "exploration" rather than a more typical cruise experience...albeit a very nice one on the Paul Gauguin.

What really shocks me is the price difference between the two lines. Just grabbing two 14 day cruises, a 14 day cruise on Regent starts at $6,305 per person (including an air credit), while on Silversea it starts at $4,917 per person...or 28% less than Regent. And this is for a cruise that is billed as "ultra-luxury" while the Paul Gauguin is very nice, but not really at the luxury level. While I have no experience (nor does anyone :-) ) with the product, even if the promised levels of service were not met, the price difference makes that very much forgiving. More importantly, it does not mean that Silversea is giving away the store, but rather it underscores my assertions that Regent has pricing that just cannot be justified. I would consider the Silversea prices as well placed.

The other big difference is that Silvesea is going to have a far more diverse series of itineraries and a far less structured one at that.

From today's press release:

"Following only a tentative schedule that allows for moment-by-moment flexibility, expeditions stay longer at sites of particular interest, or make slight detours whenever weather, nature or mere curiosity dictate. Highlights of the 2009 French Polynesia program include:

AUSTRAL ISLAND ADVENTURES Nestled in the Tropic of Capricorn, the remote Austral Islands lie hundreds of miles south of Tahiti and enjoy a slightly cooler climate. Tubuai, largest of these volcanic islands, is probably best known for the failed landing attempts of the H.M.S. Bounty. (The island's villagers assaulted the unwelcome ship with a barrage of stones, and ultimately the mutineers sailed off to Pitcairn.) Prince Albert II and her fleet of 8 Zodiac boats will explore the unique culture, flora and fauna of Rapa, Raivavae, Tubuai, Rurutu and Rimatara on five 11-day, roundtrip journeys from Papeete. Silver Sailing fares start at $3,897 per person, based on double occupancy.

JOURNEYS TO THE MARQUESAS The mountainous islands of the Marquesas are located nearly 900 miles northeast of Tahiti and just south of the equator. With a lush, vibrant terrain bursting with myriad exotic flowers and fruit trees, it's easy to understand how this tropical paradise captivated the artist Paul Gauguin, who made the Marquesas his adopted home. On four roundtrip journeys of 14 days from Papeete, Prince Albert II's expedition team will lead in-depth explorations of Fatu Hiva, Pua Mau, Hiva Oa, Atuona, Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva and Tahuata, as well as Manihi and Fakarava Island in the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Society Islands of Bora Bora and Tahaa. Silver Sailing fares start at $4,917 per person, based on double occupancy.

TUAMOTU EXPEDITIONS The isolated Tuamotu Islands, northeast of Tahiti, comprise the world's largest chain of atolls. Its 78 sparsely populated coral islands span over 900 miles of aquamarine waters. Dotted with quaint villages, coral churches and an abundance of wildlife -- from bottlenose dolphins and coconut crabs to the rarest of birds, this remote archipelago offers endless possibilities for real Robinson Crusoe-style adventures. Departing from Papeete, Prince Albert II will embark on five 10-day expeditions to the Tuamotu islands of Tikihau, Rangiroa, Apataki, Arutua and Fakarava, as well as Raiatea, Maupihaa and Huahine in the Society Islands. Silver Sailing fares start at $3,597 per person, based on double occupancy.

The Prince Albert II offers full-scale exploring from an ultra-luxury base at sea, in true Silversea style. With the largest average size accommodations of any expedition ship, guests will enjoy spacious, ocean-view accommodations (many with French balconies or large private verandas), sumptuous gourmet cuisine, warm hospitality and personalized service (with a crew-to-guest ratio of nearly 1 to 1), and Silversea's generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, including complimentary beverages, bottled water, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and all gratuities. Plus, complimentary Butler Service is provided in the Grand and Owner's Suites. "

I have to say that I am pretty excited about this and, if I wasn't going to Africa next summer I would probably have booked one of these cruises...before I even posted it here.