(10:25 a.m. EST) -- Silversea Cruises' luxury expedition ship, Silver Cloud, made its inaugural landing in Antarctica this week.
In a post on Cruise Critic's Silversea Cruises forum, Silversea's Director of Expeditions Conrad Combrink reported that the December 1 voyage was delayed a day in Ushuaia because of bad weather and 26-foot swells in the Drake Passage. Passengers were given tours in the immediate area and the ship left in the evening on December 2, he said.
"The ship made incredibly good speed across the Drake Passage and arrived on time in Antarctica (Aitcho Island) today for her first ever landing. They are now on the way to Yankee harbor for a second landing of the day," he wrote on December 4.
Silver Cloud underwent a $40 million refurbishment earlier this year that converted the 23-year-old ship into an ice-class polar expedition vessel. Several signature Silversea venues, such as Tor's Observation Lounge and the Zagara spa, were added to the 254-passenger ship, which takes only 200 cruisers at a time on trips to the polar regions.
A dedicated Photo Academy, with state-of-the-art equipment and professional photo-editing software, was also added; it's used in conjunction with classes offered by the ship's resident photo expert.
"We are extremely excited to announce Silver Cloud's debut in Antarctica," said Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea's Chairman, in a press release. "As the first ship in our classic luxury fleet when she debuted in 1994, it only makes sense that she should continue her career as our first vessel to truly bridge the gap between luxury and expedition cruising."
The ship had intended on making its first Antarctica voyage in November, but mechanical issues coupled with storms led to the trip's cancellation. Passengers on that cruise, who had to disembark in Puerto Madryn, Argentina, received a full reimbursement of their cruise fare and airfare already paid, new flights home and a 25-percent discount on a future cruise (including any already booked).
Silver Cloud will make 10-day roundtrip voyages to Antarctica from Argentina through February, when it will transit to South Africa. From there, the ship will travel up the western coast of Africa to Northern Europe and Svalbard and a summer season in the Arctic. It will be back in Antarctica at the end of 2018.
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor