By Anne Kalosh.
Branching out into the ocean cruise sector, Mystic Invest’s Mário Ferreira sees ample opportunity to build and manage small expedition ships with “the same great quality, style and value for money” as his European river vessels. (Mystic Invest is a holding company and the parent of DouroAzul, Mystic Cruises, Nicko Cruises and other brands.)
His first new build, WORLD EXPLORER, is under construction in Portugal for delivery in autumn 2018 under Ferreira’s Mystic Cruises brand. It’s chartered for two Antarctica seasons (2018/19 and 2019/20) to Quark Expeditions and the rest of the year will operate for Germany’s Nicko Cruises, a company owned by Mystic Invest.
Ferreira’s aim is to introduce one expedition ship a year for the next four years, and he envisions his new Mystic Cruises could eventually field 10 ships. Since each carries only 200 passengers, they are the perfect size for his Porto-based DouroAzul operation, which builds and manages Douro River vessels for its own brand and other lines.
DouroAzul is the largest Douro company with 16 vessels and 500 crew sailing for brands like AmaWaterways, Avalon, Jules Verne, Riviera, Scenic, Uniworld and Viking River. Four more new builds are coming by 2019.
Ferreira isn’t daunted by the fact that Hapag-Lloyd, Ponant, Lindblad Expeditions and many others are building, too, since he doesn’t think all the expedition ships on order are adequate to replace the aging fleet.
“There is huge demand,” Ferreira said, citing natural market growth and the fact that of the current fleet of 40 or so approximately 10,000-gross-ton expedition ships, the average age is 25 years. He thinks it will be too costly to update those for new safety and environmental standards. (Read more about the growing expedition cruise niche here.)
When the 9,300-gross-ton WORLD EXPLORER emerges from Portugal’s WestSea Viana Shipyard in November next year, it will cross from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro in a trans-Atlantic style offering many classic touches that Ferreira thinks will particularly appeal to Portuguese and other European travelers. Then the ship begins its Antarctica service for Quark.
After the Antarctica season, WORLD EXPLORER will sail for Nicko Cruises to destinations like the Arctic, Norwegian Fjords and Mediterranean.
The ship will carry 200 passengers in mostly all-balcony suite accommodations. It will offer a theater/lecture hall, main lounge, observation bar, restaurant, library/chart room, small casino, fitness room, outdoor pool and jogging track. A bow observation deck, mudroom and lockers for passenger gear are among the expedition features.
Nearly all accommodations are balcony suites of a standard 280 square feet with top suites ranging from 387 square feet to 490 square feet including balcony. Two dozen “infinity” cabins, 280 square feet each, don’t have balconies but a glass wall facing the sea. The top part of the glass can be opened to the fresh air.
Rolls-Royce specially developed an energy-efficient hybrid propulsion system for WORLD EXPLORER and, according to Ferreira, from an environmental perspective, the ship will meet the highest emissions, waste treatment and no-discharge standards for operations in the polar regions, Alaska and the Baltic.
WORLD EXPLORER will fly the Portuguese flag and carry 111 international crew.
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