New Small Ships Delivered and Ordered
By Anne Kalosh.
Recent deliveries and new build orders — Greg Mortimer for Aurora Expeditions, Emerald Harmony for Emerald Waterways and Aranui 6 for Aranui Cruises — illustrate the diversified travel options for small-ship aficionados.
Greg Mortimer, with its distinctive inverted X-Bow, became the first of what could stretch to a 10-strong series of expedition vessels built in China. The specially designed Emerald Harmony, which just began service on the Mekong River, can sail all the way into the heart of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, setting it apart from deeper-draft vessels that need to dock at remote landing sites. And Aranui Cruises is building a new vessel, Aranui 6, to sail the South Pacific.
Miami-based SunStone Ships is behind a series of Infinity-class new builds that marry European design and quality with Chinese shipbuilding efficiency. The first out, Greg Mortimer, has been chartered by Australia’s Aurora Expeditions.
“We are very pleased with the quality and high building standards of China Merchants Heavy Industry, which are fully at the level of European shipyards,” SunStone President and CEO Niels-Erik Lund said. “A quality this high will not go unnoticed in the cruise industry. We look forward to continuing our relationships with all our partners in the Infinity-class project, and we are moving fast forward as planned at very satisfactory speed, safety and quality level.”
Infinity-class vessels measure 8,000 gross tons and 341 feet/104 meters in length. Each has capacity for 130 to 200 passengers and 85 to 115 crew, depending on the charterer’s requirements.
Design and Technical Prowess
The vessels are built to Ice Class 1A/Polar Code 6 standard and have features like dynamic positioning, enabling them to remain stationary at sea without dropping anchor in sensitive areas, and zero-speed stabilizers, which keep them steady even when not underway. Their patented X-Bow by Norway’s Ulstein Design & Solutions facilitates better seakeeping and energy efficiency.
The ships are small enough to give an exclusive atmosphere yet large enough to provide facilities such as a swimming pool, bar and restaurants, lounges, library, lecture theater, gym, spa and boutique.
Aurora Expeditions will deploy Greg Mortimer in Antarctica during its inaugural season, starting in October. The company’s first purpose-built ship, it is named after Aurora’s founder, an Australian mountaineer who’s conquered Everest.
SunStone has contracted six further Infinity-class new builds and has long-term charter agreements in place for all. Aurora is going to take a second ship, and the others will sail for operators like Albatros Expeditions, Vantage Cruise Line and Victory Cruise Lines. SunStone also holds options for three further Infinity-class vessels.
Emerald Waterways, a new brand formed by Australia’s Scenic Group, started operations in 2014 in Europe. It offers a “four-star-plus” alternative to the top-luxury Scenic brand. Emerald’s first Asia cruises were introduced on the 68-passenger Mekong Navigator in 2016.
Recently the new Star-Ship Emerald Harmony began Mekong service in Cambodia and Vietnam. The vessel’s shallow draft enables turnarounds in Ho Chi Minh City, eliminating bus rides to a remote landing site.
Thirteen-, 17- and 21-day cruise and land tours combine an eight-day sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, Cambodia, with overnights in Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hoi An, Vietnam, at the beginning or end of the cruise.
A free extension to Sapa, Vietnam, or Luang Prabang, Laos, is available with all itineraries, or two flights for the price of one combined with free extensions on 17- to 21-night itineraries. These launch offers apply to new Mekong sailings booked by Oct. 31, 2019.
Emerald Harmony is also the first Star-Ship to remove all nonessential single-use plastics. Passengers are provided a metal water bottle to refill from water stations on board, and reusable glass water bottles are provided in the cabins.
In addition, recyclable bamboo and paper straws are used in the Reflections Restaurant and Horizon Bar & Lounge, and refillable dispensers replace cabin toiletry miniatures.
Emerald Waterways plans to make all its Star-Ships single-use plastic-free by the end of 2020.
Chinese shipyard Huanghai Shipbuilding signed a contract with Aranui Cruises of Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime to build Aranui 6.
Aranui Cruises, whose last new build, Aranui 5, emerged from the same Chinese shipyard in 2015, combines passenger and cargo operations on far-flung voyages in the South Pacific.
At 459 feet/140 meters with capacity for 280 passengers and 119 crew, Aranui 6 will be slightly larger than Aranui 5, which stretches 410 feet/125 meters and carries 256 passengers.
The 14,500-gross-ton new build will offer a lounge, grill bar, shops, conference room, children’s playground, library, gym, spa and superior deluxe suites.
Its delivery date and deployment have not been announced.
Aranui 5, meanwhile, is going to operate new itineraries in 2021, including a maiden voyage to the Cook Islands, an expanded Pitcairn itinerary and its first dedicated Society Islands cruise.
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