As Director of Expeditions for Silversea Expeditions, Conrad Combrink surely has one of the most enviable jobs in the cruise industry. Not only does he have the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most captivatingly beautiful regions first-hand, but he gets to use these experiences to design and plan itineraries for Silversea’s guests to enjoy. If you have already been on a voyage on Silversea’s Silver Explorer, then it’s more than likley that Conrad was involved in planning your itinerary and played a large part in your overall expedition experience.
With Silversea Expeditions’ new ship Silver Galapagos set to embark on her first schedule of Galapagos itineraires in October 2013, we took the opportunity to ask Conrad some questions regarding his role for Silversea and why he believes Silversea Expeditions offer such a unique proposition for those who wish to combine soft-adventure style cruising with an elegant six-star experience.
How did you get into expedition planning for Silversea Expeditions?
In 1997 I worked for Society Expeditions where I went on my first cruise to Antarctica and absolutely fell in love with it. Despite starting my career on mainstream cruise lines I knew that from my first visit to Antarctica there was no other type of cruising for me. At 24 I started my first job as expedition leader and from there I’ve never looked back.
During my expedition cruising career, World Discoverer II had always been (and still is to this day) one of my favourite ships in the world. In 2007 when I saw a press release that Silversea had purchased the ship to set up their expeditions programme, I gave them a call, was offered the job of Director of Expedition Cruising and the rest as they say is history! I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved with Silver Explorer in the past 5 years and am very excited about the first sailing of Silver Galapagos next month.
Do you personally visit each destination before deciding to include it as part of the Silversea Expeditions programme?
After 20 years in the travel industry, I’ve travelled to most places that we offer on our itineraries. If there is a destination we’d like to feature that I’ve not previously travelled to, I or one of our experienced expedition team will scout the area thoroughly and work out the best possible way to make the most of our visit to the destination.
How do you ensure that Silversea Expeditions offer an experience that differs to other operators?
On each of our voyages we have an experienced team of 11 expedition staff, one of the largest expedition teams in the industry. Each member of the team is picked for their expertise and knowledge and have travelled extensively to the regions we visit. Dependent on where in the world we are we’ll have an ornithologist, marine biologist, botanist, environmentalist onboard to name but a few. We try to cover all areas of interest so each guest can get the absolute most out of their trip. Not only do these expedition team members lecture throughout the voyage they also drive the guests in the zodiacs and explore each of the destinations with our guests, ensuring that no matter what questions a guest may have while exploring, there is always an expert on hand to answer their questions.
As one of the only luxury expedition operators in the market place, the experience we offer onboard with each guest enjoying butler service, fine dining, complimentary champagne, wine and beer and all ocean view spacious accommodation mean the overall experience both onboard and onshore is an experience unique to Silversea Expeditions.
If you could recommend one single highlight offered within the Silversea Expeditions programme, what would it be?
It’s impossible to pick one single highlight, but if I had to choose I would recommend the Chilean Fjords due to the spectacular scenery. You’ll see snow-capped mountains, stunning glaciers, ribbons of waterfalls and fjords with floating ice in amazing shades of blue and green. If you’re really lucky you’ll see a calving glaciers with falling ice which is truly a spectacular sight.
As it’s impossible to choose just one highlight my other recommendation would be the Russian Far East for the sheer diversity of the region. It’s so unique as an area as it offers both wildlife and culture in equal measures. You can look for brown bears, walrus and sea lions and it’s particularly great for bird watchers with some likely sightings of extremely rare birds. On the other hand you also have real history and culture to explore and enjoy.
We’d like to thank Conrad for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
Are you interested in finding out more about Silversea Expeditions and the itineraries they offer? If so, please call one of our Cruise Experts on 0800 008 6677 to request their latest brochure or ask any questions you might have. For those who would like to find out more about Conrad and his team of Expedition Planners, we highly recommend you take a look at the voyage journals on their website.