When Scenic’s long-awaited sleek new expedition yacht Eclipse takes its first paying guests on board next month, it will be carrying the very latest essential for luxury adventure – a submarine.
While Richard Branson’s Virgin has been concentrating on space travel, other cruise operators have spied another “last frontier” – below the surface of the oceans.
“Our U-Boat Worx Cruise Submarine 7 is capable of diving to a depth of 200 metres with seating for up to six guests. Custom-built for optimal sightseeing, an excursion into the wide blue sea will be truly unforgettable,” says the Scenic’s online brochure.
“Witnessing wildlife in its natural habitat takes on a new dimension when you’re below the surface. In the crystal clear polar waters, gasp in awe at whales, penguins, seals, walruses and other marine life and their young – the possibilities are endless.”
Scenic will be offering a range of submarine excursions for an additional fee of around US$250 for 20-30 minutes. And it won’t be alone.
Crystal Esprit, a 62-passenger expedition yacht, has been offering submarine excursions for several years. It’s US$2.95 million UBoat Worx C-Explorer 3 also can go down almost 1,000 feet in air conditioned comfort with two guests and a skipper.
This sleek submersible can dive up to 300 meters , is air-conditioned, has a Bluetooth stereo system and carries two guests and a captain. And it comes with a hefty price tag. According to Erik Hasselman, commercial director at the Netherlands-based U-Boat Worx, which made the sub, the cost of a new C-Explorer 3 like this starts at around €2.5 million ($2.95 million).
Being in the sub, which was originally built for scientific research, “is a magic experience,” according to Mr Hasselman.
Mr Hasselman, says of the experience: “You simply submerge in a new world with the ease of stepping into your car and driving to the supermarket. The view from the inside is virtually unimpeded, so you can see 360-degrees around, which makes you feel like you’re in an aquarium.”
The sensation doesn’t come cheap. It costs US$599 a trip.
But Carolyn Spencer Brown, chief content strategist at Cruise Critic, wrote after her first journey: “It was a fabulous way to journey to the depths of the sea without getting your hair wet. Everywhere you looked there were creatures to watch and none seemed bothered by the odd contraption sitting on the sea bed and three pairs of eyes staring out avidly.”
Scenic and Crystal are soon to be joined by Seabourn.
The ultra-lux expedition line’s Seabourn Venture and her yet-to-be-named sister will sail carry two U-Boat Worx Cruise Sub 7 subs designed for Seabourn.
The battery-powered six-seater goes down 300 meters. Passengers are accommodated in two clear acrylic spheres flanking the pilot’s station. The views are uninterrupted. The three passenger seats in each sphere are mounted on a rotating platform that can turn for best sightlines.
Robin West, vice president of Expedition Operations for Seabourn, says: “The undersea world is often considered as the last great frontier on Earth, with more than 80 percent of the underwater realm remaining unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“With these subs, we’re going to take our guests to places that few have ever seen firsthand, leaving them with a perspective on the world around us that is jaw-dropping and will create stories to last a lifetime.”
The subs will have an underwater video camera system and an internal video recording system. A six-function manipulator arm capable of lifting up to 32 kg (about 70 pounds) will also be mounted on the side of the sub.
Each sub will also have two air conditioning systems, a Bluetooth stereo system, and champagne chiller.
Seabourn Venture is scheduled to launch in June 2021, with a second launch in May 2022.