An Interview with Robin West
The optional Ventures by Seabourn™ program of onboard enrichment and active excursions is one of the most exciting innovations introduced by Seabourn. The man in charge of its research and development is Robin West, a veteran worldwide expedition leader who is now Seabourn's Director of Expedition Operations.
We caught up with Robin between expeditions to find out more about the program and the benefits it offers you.
Q: How did Ventures by Seabourn come to be?
A: Ventures by Seabourn grew out of Seabourn's first Antarctica voyages. That was the first time Seabourn guests had been introduced to expedition-style cruising and their response was overwhelming. As a result, we refined the concept and adapted it to other cruise itineraries and developed a two-part program that both enhances and extends the way our guests experience destinations by providing added onboard enrichment and offering optional extra-cost excursions during cruises.
Q: What features make for a good potential destination for Ventures by Seabourn programs?
A: When selecting a Ventures by Seabourn destination, we need to take into account guests who may not choose a Ventures excursion. Destinations have to be equally attractive for them and for the Ventures program. We work closely with Seabourn's Senior Director of Itinerary Planning, Tim Littley, looking for appealing areas within reach of the ship: an interesting island close by, an unexplored fjord, glacier, waterfall or other scenic site in the area, an area of sheltered water, geological formation, archaeological site, cliff, hiking trail, seasonal occurrence, or wildlife such as whales, puffins and so forth. Our team members have significant global experience and go over the route with Tim. On many occasions, they know from past personal experience what we can do; what works and what does not. Using their experience, we fine-tune and tweak arrival and departure times to facilitate maneuvers like stopping at a remote island before arriving at the port for the day. We have managed to strike a fantastic balance allowing extra stops, early arrivals, or later departures for Ventures tours, without impacting other guests' experiences. In fact, all of it actually adds up to a phenomenal program, which is available to all guests and enhances their experience.
Q: What sorts of experiences does Ventures by Seabourn offer?
A: Ventures by Seabourn is designed to enhance and extend the way Seabourn guests experience destinations in two main ways. In the onboard portion, our Ventures team delivers a multitude of natural history lectures as a part of the Seabourn Conversations onboard enrichment program. Our team consists of experts in marine biology, history, archaeology, glaciology, ornithology and so on. It is an experienced team and very diverse. They are regularly out on deck pointing out wildlife and other passing features to guests when the ship is underway. They are equipped with Swarovski® binoculars and iPads with loads of educational apps for the areas,along with iSailor and nautical charts. They engage with guests all day, in casual conversations, at meals and so forth. They comprise a truly fascinating group of traveling companions. In the destinations, the practical portion has three core excursion components: Zodiac tours, kayaking tours and hiking excursions available for an additional fee. These optional activities are done in small groups, a dozen guests at a time, so it's really a boutique experience. The same expert who introduced you to the family of auks in a lecture, spoke to you on deck, and joined you for dinner is now your Zodiac driver as you cruise by Storrstappen Island watching a million puffins, guillemots, white-tailed sea eagles, gannets, kittiwakes and seals. Viking expert Dr. Colleen Batey gives you a fascinating slide talk, and the next day she pilots your Zodiac from Qaqortoq to Hvalsey, to stand there with you in the same Viking church she showed you in her pictures. On our guided kayaking tours, guests explore waterways without engine noise, allowing them to get closer to wildlife. Guests who join us kayaking in Antarctica, Alaska and the Amazon have some incredible wildlife encounters. Guided hikes let us penetrate the interior of places and attain breathtaking views, like the famous Pulpit Rock, or the bizarre pierced mountain of Torghatten in Norway. In some destinations, we use Zodiacs to land on a remote island or beach that is otherwise inaccessible, head off on foot, and approach nesting birds, see puffins coming and going from their burrows, touch the plant life and so forth.
Q: So, if I'm not a kayaker or a hiker, what does Ventures by Seabourn offer me?
A: If you are not someone interested in hiking, kayaking or going on Zodiac tours, you still share your voyage with the Ventures by Seabourn team. Aside from being experts on wildlife, culture, history, destinations and remote areas, they're accomplished, outgoing people who have interesting backgrounds and careers. Trevor Potts, one of our team members, actually re-enacted Ernest Shackleton's open-boat voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, considered the greatest open-boat passage in history. Share a drink with him, and you might convince him to recount what it is like to be in a small open boat in the Southern Ocean, with no modern-day equipment, exactly as Shackleton and his men did it. Share breakfast at The Colonnade with Dr. Colleen Batey and she'll probably share first-hand accounts of excavating significant Viking ruins. The Ventures team on the "Route of the Vikings" might wake you up at 1 a.m. with an announcement to come outside and see the northern lights. If you go, they'll explain that aurora borealis means "dawn of the north," after Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn. They will go on to recount many cultural groups' legends about the lights. The Ventures team truly adds a meaningful component of education that enriches Seabourn guests' understanding and appreciation of their travels.
Q: What makes Ventures by Seabourn different from other companies' programs?
A: Ventures by Seabourn is uniquely Seabourn and is not available in its current form on any other luxury cruise line. All of us are extremely proud of it. Because Seabourn's intimate ships are equipped with the correct hardware, no other luxury cruise line offers both the dedicated onboard academic program and the optional off-ship experiences.
Q: How do you choose and enroll an expedition team?
A: The expedition-travel industry is very small. I have had the privilege to work in it for the last 15 years for multiple companies in multiple destinations. I have been fortunate to work with some of the best staff in the industry and have managed to make some excellent contacts and trusted friends. In the small community, word of mouth is the best way to employ the best staff.
Q: What other destinations have you developed so far?
A: Ventures by Seabourn started in Northern Europe on board Seabourn Quest in 2015, where we added naturalists and archaeologists on board, and offered optional Zodiac cruises, trekking and kayaking in the Norwegian fjords. Since then, it has expanded to add optional kayaking in Antarctica, archaeologist-guided visits to ancient Viking sites in Greenland, Zodiac cruises of seabird breeding cliffs in Iceland and the British Isles, and kayaking the flooded forests in the Amazon. We'll be offering some exciting new optional excursions in Western Australia's spectacular Kimberleys, in the islands of Indonesia, as well as New Zealand, Alaska, Canada, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands. By the end of 2018, we hope to have Ventures by Seabourn offered on selected sailings across the entire fleet.
We invite you to experience one of our unique, thoughtfully curated sailings to Alaska on Seabourn Sojourn, including:
12-Day Wellness in the Wilderness with Dr. Weil
Vancouver to Seward (Anchorage)
June 16, 2018
12-Day Ultimate Alaska & Inside Passage
June 4; September 25, 2018
14-Day Ultimate Glacier & Fjord Adventure
Seward (Anchorage) to Vancouver
June 28; July 23; September 11, 2018
11-Day Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn
Vancouver to Seward (Anchorage)
July 12; August 6, 31, 2018
Book your ultimate Alaska cruise during our Signature Savings Event and enjoy more offers – but hurry, it ends March 13. Don't forget that when sailing in 2018, you will also benefit from a variety of special touches and unique events created just for our 30th Anniversary year. For more information about our extraordinary Alaska cruises, please contact a travel professional, call Seabourn
Terms & Conditions:
*Signature Savings offers expire March 13, 2018. Featured fares are per person based on double occupancy, cruise only. Fares are in U.S. dollars. Taxes, Fees & Port Expenses are additional and range from $70.00 to $3,430.00. Subject to availability and valid only for residents of the Americas. Offers are available for new bookings only, are not combinable with any other discounts and are not transferable or refundable. Offers are applicable on select 2018 & 2019 departures. Complimentary veranda for ocean view on select sailings and complimentary three veranda suite category upgrade on select sailings are subject to availability at time of booking. Upgrade will be reflected in fare paid for selected suite category. Combination Cruise Savings of up to 15% apply when combining consecutive cruises on the same ship and are subject to availability. Reduced deposit offer is valid for new bookings only, on select voyages departing between May 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019; excluding Ovation Inaugural Voyage. Signature Savings shipboard credit offer is offered in the following amounts on select voyages for cruises departing after February 1, 2018: Alaska cruises receive $200USD per suite ($100USD/person); Canada and Caribbean cruises receive $300USD per suite ($150USD/person); Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Arabia and Africa cruises receive $400USD per suite ($200USD/person); South America cruises receive $500USD per suite ($250USD/person). Premium Suite shipboard credit offer of $1,000USD per suite ($500USD/person) on select voyages available only in PH, PS, OW, SS, WG and GR suite categories only. All shipboard credit offers are in U.S. dollars and are non-refundable, non-transferable, not for cash value, expires at the end of the cruise, may not be used in the casino and are not combinable with any other shipboard credit offer. Air credit available on new bookings only made between December 21, 2017 and March 13, 2018, for round-trip flights booked by March 13, 2018 through Seabourn's Flight Ease® program based on promo RX. Offer is available to guests 1 & 2 sharing a suite, is non-transferable, and is not combinable with any other fares. Certain restrictions may apply. Seats are limited and may not be available on every flight. Fares include one complimentary checked bag, additional fees for baggage and other charges may be directly assessed by airlines or airports; please refer to the applicable airline website for further information. Air credit not combinable with any other shipboard credit (except Premium Suite SBC or Signature Savings SBC, but not both) or air offer, and may vary by sailing date. Offers are capacity controlled, and may be modified or withdrawn without prior notice. Other restrictions may apply. All savings amounts are included in fares shown. Seabourn reserves the right to correct errors. Ships' registry: Bahamas. ©2018 Seabourn.