The Antarctic Experience Aboard Seabourn Pursuit Let’s You See Parts of The World No One Else Has

Life-enriching submersible experiences are just the start when it comes to this extraordinary voyage.

Light beams come on as we descend further below the icy surface, losing sunlight the deeper we go, the deep turquoise-green water of the Southern Ocean immersing the acrylic bubble that is our state-of-the-art submersible. Just six of us are tucked into the two transparent spheres, joined in the middle by the pilot’s seat, of the U-Boat Cruise Sub 7–300, which takes passengers to depths of up to 300m beneath Seabourn’s yacht-like new expedition ship.

Citation Longitude
Citation Longitude

“When you’re diving in tropical waters, you know that many people will have been to that very spot before,” explains our sub pilot, Merel Dalebout, who’s also a knowledgeable naturalist. “You know what kind of marine life you’re going to see. Here in Antarctica, we’re going to parts of the marine environment that potentially no one has been to before, so we never know exactly what we’re going to see on any of our descents.”

In Antarctic waters, you’re unlikely to see the larger marine life you encounter in other parts of the world, but diving deep below the surface of this Polar environment brings you in close proximity to the abundance of alien-like marine creatures, with species like the sea spider magnified by polar gigantism.

“The biodiversity in Antarctic waters is huge,” Merel says as she fine tunes our buoyancy until we’re almost hovering in the water, moving slowly to ensure we’re not disturbing any of the marine life. “The greatest diversity in terms of evolution is in the oceans. And while a lot of wildlife is documented above the surface, underwater you might even be seeing creatures that aren’t yet known.”

As the summer plankton bloom is starting, the water around us sparkles with these iridescent, life-giving nutrients of the ocean, and krill also passes through the submersible’s beams of light. With a little downward thrust, and with the help of sonar, we find an underwater upright surface, every inch of which is covered in a staggering array of sea creatures, such as the Antarctic sun starfish: a species which lies amid rocks that have fallen out of melted ice on the surface. “We’re really in a golden age of ocean exploration,” Merel says on our ascent. “Subs like these allow us to see this magical environment.” 

This is among the unique experiences setting apart the experience Seabourn provides of the coldest and windiest continent on Earth, from its new expedition ship. Launched in 2023 on the tail of sister expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, the brand-new 558-ft PC6 Polar Class standard vessel Seabourn Pursuit boasts state-of-the-art technology and hardware, extending its capabilities in this extreme environment with 30,000 sq ft of panoramic outdoor and stylishly designed interior deck space. 

Adam D. Tihany of Tihany Product Design led the design of the 264-suite ship’s elegant interiors, which feature custom-made furnishings, further elevated by an extensive collection of contemporary art curated by the London-based curatorial studio Double Decker. The bold and colourful artworks selected were inspired by exploration and the extraordinary wonders of our planet. 

Among the works featured throughout interiors which pair wood and metal finishings with sumptuous fabrics is the main atrium’s Magical Sky installation, designed by Double Decker and produced by Cory Barr, representing the shapes and colours of the sky. The Milan-based 6:AM Glassworks produced the ship’s Water Drops series of Murano blown glass pieces representing water, sea and ice, and a photographic collection from photographer Bruce Boyd and artist Tharien Smith showcasing tropical flowers in ice to form a dialogue between Amazonian flora and Polar ice. Vintage maps feature throughout the vessel.

On board, sailing time can be spent unwinding and taking in the panoramic views found in the Bow and Constellation Lounges, with a coffee, pastry or gelato at Seabourn Square, or by the vaper fireplace of the Expedition Lounge. In the evening, each of these spaces becomes a social hub (as does The Club—the name of which speaks for itself). Daily changing menus are served in The Restaurant, offering a fine dining experience, and The Colonnade for more casual dinners. A sushi bar provides another dining alternative in The Club.

Designed with a floating forest concept, the spa features a contemporary tree-inspired textured mural and combines light wood with bronze detailing throughout. Floor to ceiling windows make the ship’s ocean views the focus of the fitness centre, yoga area and sauna, which are joined by the spa’s treatment rooms and salon.  

Enhancing wildlife viewing on board, a 4K GSS Cineflex Camera mounted on the mast of the Constellation Lounge broadcasts imagery from up to five miles away on monitors throughout the ship. Opportunities also abound to enrich your knowledge of Antarctica and its wildlife at lectures in the ship’s Discovery Centre.

As well as carrying two state-of-the-art submersibles on board, the ship comes with 24 Zodiacs and a collection of two-person kayaks, all facilitating exploration of the land and sea in the company of Pursuit’s 24-person expedition team. Made up of naturalists among other experts, the team makes the off-ship exploration far more rewarding.

I kayak through the icy waters off Cuverville Island with lead kayaking guide, Robert Egelstaff, whose explorative accomplishments have included the first successful recreation of Shackleton’s Antarctic voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia. It’s here in the Errera Channel that the expedition guides find a tranquil waterway, sheltered between glaciers and mountains, where brash ice and small icebergs have congregated.

We carve a path between the larger chunks of glacial and sea ice, making our way through the channel to reboard the Zodiac on the other side. Twice, as we paddle across the mirror-like water’s surface, we hear the distant rumble of an avalanche followed by the sight of snow dust rising up from the other side of the mountain. Seals lounge on snowy surfaces and penguins waddle across the rocks and vast white slopes. A giant petrel swoops over and more of the resident penguins appear momentarily above the water before dipping back below the surface.

Other days are spent trekking through the snow to see the penguin colonies on mountain-backed shores, and gliding amid giant glaciers on Zodiac tours. We slowly cruise through breathtakingly scenic channels all the way down to Crystal Sound where, amid the icebergs, we celebrate crossing south of the Antarctic Circle with champagne and caviar on the bow of the boat.

Each step of the way, landings and Zodiac cruises bring us up close to Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap penguins and both Weddell and Crabeater seals. Humpback whales and pods of orcas make their dramatic appearance alongside the ship on its passage through Antarctic channels and on the open ocean seabirds like albatrosses fly overhead. 

The privilege of being in Antarctica aboard a ship of this standard is enhanced by the knowledge that it is also operating in an environmentally tenable way. Ensuring safe and responsible exploration of Antarctica, Seabourn is a member of IAATO (The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators), while also operating within the Antarctic Treaty guidelines.

Following this inaugural Antarctic season, the ship will set sail for the South Pacific and Australia, affording exploration of northern Australia’s Kimberley region along with parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, before returning to South America and Antarctica later in the year. Just as it has in these Antarctic waters, the experience of each destination will be enhanced by this vessel’s expedition capabilities, and the spirit of adventure of those who staff it.

From around €31,000 per person for Winter 2024/2025 voyages, based on two sharing a Grand Wintergarden Suite. Click here for more information. 

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