Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Quark Expeditions Makes Plans For Its Latest Ships

Source: www.latecruisenews.com

by Kevin Griffin

former Ponant Le Diamant, now Ocean Diamond
In the past two years, Toronto-based TUI-owned Quark Expeditions has gone from using largely Russian-supplied tonnage to working more closely with International Shipping Partners of Miami as its main supplier of ships. Starting with the 4,200-ton 114-berth Sea Spirit, which was acquired from Cruise West just before that company’s bankruptcy, Quark has now taken on the 8,282-ton 189-berth Ocean Diamond, more recently acquired by ISP and for the time being chartered back to her previous owners, Compagnie du Ponant, for whom she operated as Le Diamant, for rthe summer of 2012.

Both Sea Spirit and Ocean Diamond will be used in Antarctica, together with a third ISP fleetmate, the 4,376-ton 122-berth Clipper Adventurer, all of which will sail from Quark’s usual base port of Ushuaia, Argentina.

Akademik Ioffe
In the meantime, two of Quark’s previous mainstays, the 110-berth Russian-owned 6,450-ton Akademik Ioffe and 6,344-ton Akademik Sergey Vavilov, are moving over one at a time to be operated by Vancouver-based independent One Ocean Expeditions. These ships are no longer favoured by Quark because they have a high proportion of accommodations with shared facilities.

In her first season with Quark, 2012-13, which stretches from November through March, the Ocean Diamond will perform two 19-night cruises to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia, from $9,695* per person on November 3 or $12,795 on December 26, and eight departures to the Antarctic Peninsula, from $4,295 for 9 nights or $4,795 for 11 nights.

The Sea Spirit will undertake nine cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula, a cruise to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia, at the same starting fares as Ocean Diamond, plus a 13-night departure to the Weddell Sea, from $11,995, and another 14-night cruise to the Peninsula that will cross of the Antarctic Circle, starting at $12,795, and a 15-night early season cruise on October 28 that will concentrate on South Georgia, from $10,295 per person.

Clipper Adventurer
The Clipper Adventurer, meanwhile, will perform two new expedition voyages for Quark. Known as the “Antarctic Express,” this will involve two charter aircraft flying the Drake Passage to King Edward Island, where passengers will join ship, 7 nights from $7,995 per person. At the beginning of these cruises, the option will be to sail south and fly north, from $9,995 for 9 nights, and at the end fly south and sail north, from $6,395 for 8 nights, for a total of four shorter cruises that will avoid a double crossing of the Drake Passage.

The Clipper Adventurer will kick off the season with a single Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia voyage and will also perform nine Antarctic Peninsula voyages from Ushuaia, with fares similar to the Ocean Diamond and Sea Spirit.

Akademik Sergey Vavilov
Various ships will be chosen to perform different cruises in the Arctic thereafter. For this summer, these will be offered by the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, in her final Quark season, and the chartered Russian icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn, which will be offering two cruises from Murmansk, one to Franz Josef Land, 12 nights from $12,995 per person, and one to both Novaia Zemlia and Franz Josef Land, 14 nights from $15,995. Either the Sea Spirit or Ocean Diamond will be used in the Arctic and Spitsbergen in 2013.

And speaking of Russian icebreakers, efforts are apparently also being made to bring back the Kapitan Khlebnikov for further Antarctic departures in the future as well. While we await further news from Quark, it is quite clear that they are in the course of upgrading their fleet to a higher level of comfort than in past years, with ice-strengthened cruise ships replacing the chartered scientific research ships used in the past. Both the Sea Spirit and Ocean Diamond have a reputation for having worked for more upmarket operators in their own past careers.

* Currencies quoted are USD