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Q& A Conrad combrink, Director of Expedition Cruises,

Silversea Expeditions

What inspired you to get into expedition travel?
I started my sea-going career working on larger passengers ships, when a friend triggered my interest in the Antarctic. I started looking at various ways to get down to the white continent and ended up taking a few months leave from the big cruise ship company I worked for at the time to go to Antarctica. After being onboard the vessel the World Discoverer I for only a few days I realised I had found my perfect career path and I have never been back to a 'normal' cruise ship.
Do you think the words 'adventure' and 'luxury' can truly sit together? If so, why?
In today's very competitive market companies need to come up with a niche. Expedition cruising is no exception, and Silversea has the unique opportunity to blend the two. In the past, expedition companies got away with offering a lower standard onboard product because the destinations were so in demand. Most guests travelling on these itineraries were generally used to and seeking luxury but were willing to compromise on that to see the destinations but now they don't have to. The concept is not new to the travel industry; companies that offer safaris in Africa long ago realised this niche market and have successfully operated "Luxurious Adventure Holidays".
Conrad Combrink
Conrad Combrink
What makes a luxury expedition different?
It really is a holistic approach to the entire product. It is everything from the way we plan and implement the itinerary, to the approach to the service delivery onboard the ship and the amenities onboard the vessel.

Does the amount of money people spend impact greatly on the rarity of what they wish /expect to see?What I love about expedition cruising is that I see it as the "Great Equalizer". When we go out on the Zodiacs, all wearing our parkas, we experience the same joy and thrills regardless of our backgrounds. As crew onboard the mv Prince Albert II, we have a unique responsibility where we can make people's dreams come true.

What is your own personal litmus test of something that can truly be called an adventure?
An adventure can be cruising next to a humpback whale mother and calf for 45 minutes, or visiting a remote Kuna Indian tribe in the Darien jungle. I think the best way that I can define an adventure is something that we do that we normally would not think of doing in our everyday life. It is fantastic to see people push their own personal boundaries, whether it is physical or emotional.
What single defining thing do you hope an expedition cruise can teach people?
Tolerance and understanding for other humans and cultures. We also hope to create ambassadors for the fragile polar regions. I believe that all guests that have stood on the Antarctic continent or have seen a polar bear in the wild up in the Arctic will want to see these regions remain intact for future generations, and that they should spread the word.
Prince Albert II
Silversea Cruises, Prince Albert II
What are your favourite countries and why?
Most countries in the world have something special to offer, something unique about them, it would be really difficult to choose.
What is the most extraordinary travel experience of your life?
My first time to Svalbard we encountered a lot of sea ice and decided to operate Zodiac cruises in the ice. A unique experience in itself, however, within minutes we encountered two polar bears on the ice, and they stuck around. They were so inquisitive and were as interested in us as we were in them. We spent the next two hours with these bears, watching them, watching us. It was surreal. At one stage one Polar Bear was 'showing off' and fell in the water. He immediately got out, shook himself off, looked at us, and it was so clear the fall was unintended, and it almost looked like the bear was ashamed of the mishap. He turned around and simply walked away, not to be seen again.
What is the best thing (travelwise) that money can buy?
An expedition on the mv Prince Albert II of course!
What is the best thing it can't?
That amazing sense of euphoria when you witness an event in nature, and realise that what you have just witnessed was shared with only a handful of people on the planet.

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Photos: Silversea
Updated 14/5/12
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