Two exploration cruise ships delivered by a Chinese shipbuilder
Expedition cruises with a new generation of ships offering more luxury and amenities continue to be one of the fastest growing segments of the cruise industry. Once focused primarily on destinations rather than onboard luxuries, the market has evolved to add more functionality for passengers onboard ships while expanding the far-flung destinations featured during voyages.
The China Merchant Heavy Industries (CMHI) shipyard in Haimen recently completed construction of the fourth and fifth Infinity Series vessels under construction for shipowner SunStone Maritime Group of Denmark. The ships, which are part of the trend of using improved technology to expand the market, were delivered on Oct. 21 in China. In line with SunStone’s business model, both vessels will operate under long-term charters. The Sylvia Earle will work with Aurora Expeditions, and the Ocean Odyssey will be with Vantage Deluxe World Travel, which also operates a sister ship ocean explorer.
Construction of the first ship of the class, the Greg Mortimer, commenced in April 2018 and was delivered in September 2019. She is also operating under a long-term charter for Aurora Expeditions. Each of the ships weighs 8,500 gross tons and the class has been expanded to a total of six ships. The last ship built by CMHI, the ocean albatross, was launched in September 2022 with delivery scheduled for Spring 2023. She will also be chartered year-round with Albatros Expeditions. SunStone expressed interest in building at least one additional vessel, but reported that the CMHI had turned down new orders, prompting the company in May 2022 to report that it was planning a new class and seeking a new one. shipyard.
Sylvia Earle prepares for sea trials (SunStone)
The Infinity class is the product of a collaboration between European design and technology and Chinese shipbuilding. The ships most distinctive feature is the use of Ulstein Design & Solutions’ X-Bow first deployed over 15 years ago. According to Ulstein, the shape of the bow results in a wave-piercing effect at small wave heights and also reduces pitching and impact loads from the bow in larger seas. It is well suited for expedition vessels looking to reach some of the most remote locations and deal with rough seas, such as when sailing in Antarctica.
Each of the ships is approximately 340 feet long and 59 feet wide. They have a draft of just under 17 feet. They have a passenger capacity of between 130 and 200 people and a crew of between 85 and 115. The vessels are ice class 1A, polar code 6 and are built with a safe return to port, dynamic positioning and stabilizers at zero speed.
Individual operators have made some design changes, but overall the ships are equipped with zodiacs for passenger exploration and shore travel, as well as restaurants, lounges, and observation decks. Amenities include a swimming pool and hot tubs as well as a gym and spa.
Bow Observation Lounge on Ocean Explorer (Vantage Deluxe World Travel)
Restaurant on the Ocean Explorer (Vantage Deluxe World Travel)