For many cruisers, high-end luxury line Seabourn means relaxation and indulgence, with the most taxing shore excursion being served champagne and caviar in some rolling Caribbean surf.
But it is increasingly targeting adventurous guests in their early 60s who are prepared to kayak, trek and sail to the ends of the Earth to tick off bucket-list experiences.
Whether it’s canoeing alongside whales or taking a $72,000-a-person trip to an emperor penguin colony, Seabourn aims to give its passengers the thrill of a lifetime while providing every comfort on board.
The man in charge of the Ventures by Seabourn programme is Robin West, the line’s manager of expedition operations and planning.
He keeps pushing the boundaries in line with his guests’ expectations, ensuring as many as possible get to ride on Zodiac inflatables then kayak into rarely visited places before being picked up again and returned to the ship.
With Seabourn returning to Alaska in 2017 after a 15-year break, South African-born Robin is busy planning expeditions there, as well as to Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland and the Norwegian fjords.
Experts give talks on board then guests are giving safety training before heading off on kayaks. In Antarctica they wear special outfits that would allow them to survive two hours floating in the water.
The take-up for such challenging trips is surprisingly high, with up to half the passengers on board taking to the paddles in small groups led by expert guides.
In the well-visited ports in Alaska, Seabourn guests will be taken to unfamiliar islands and fjords and given salmon bakes on the shoreside. A privileged few will see the inside of an ice cave.
The cost is not as prohibitive as you might think. Kayak excursions can cost $295 a person – not too bad for the experience of a lifetime.
Robin said: ‘The most expensive tours are the ones that sell out 100 per cent of the time. For bucket-list items, the experience far outweighs the cost.’
Some passengers take it to extremes, of course. After a group of guests requested it, Seabourn now arranges trips to the South Pole, at a cool $45,000 a person. Throw in a visit to a colony of emperor penguins and the cost rises to $72,000 each.
But less ambitious passengers can still have a dream holiday without a nightmare bill.
Ventures by Seabourn, says Robin, is a ‘fantastic marriage between luxury and expedition. Guests in their 40s, 50s and 60s are much more active than they were 20 years ago. People want to learn more about their surroundings and the world around them. We make sure the experience on board the ship is just as good as the experience off it.’