SunStone Ships is one of the world's leading tonnage providers in the expedition and small cruise ship market. World Cruise Industry Review talks to the company's CEO, Niels-Erik Lund, about the unique services the company provides and the upcoming renovation works across its existing fleet.
Niels-Erik Lund: Working with SunStone gives travel companies the opportunity to increase or, if they see fit, decrease the carrying capacities of their vessels with a corporate partner that boasts 15 years of experience in the sector.
We have a proven record of helping our clients by not only enhancing carrying capacity on individual vessels - in some cases going from 80 to 120 passengers, or from 120 to 200 passengers, per ship - but also adding new ships to their fleets and sourcing second-hand tonnage from reputable partners or new ships entirely.
We work closely with Cruise Management International, using its services - as one of the largest and most experienced technical managers within cruise - on most of the vessels we charter to the travel industry. We also regularly collaborate with CMI Leisure, a hotel-management company that provides key additional services to several SunStone ships. Some charterers prefer to work with other hotel management companies or have in-house hotel operations, which is also acceptable on a number of our vessels.
Customers chartering SunStone ships have full support during long-term charter periods. This includes guidance with itinerary planning, advice on port operations, and the implementation and follow-through of all new requirements and regulations that will likely affect the tour operator or travel company, on and offshore. SunStone will also work with charterers on the onboard product, in the physical facilities, where upgrades are constantly being made to public areas, cabins and suites, and in outside areas, to provide the most suitable product for the tour operator and travel company.
SunStone vessels operate worldwide, although mainly in more remote areas. During winter, there are typically five or six SunStone vessels in Antarctica and, in the summer, most of our ships ply the waters around the Arctic Circle. However, our vessels can also be found operating in the Great Lakes, the Caribbean and across the South Pacific.
Worldwide market demographics are changing. More young people have the time and money to explore areas of the world that previous generations had very little chance of visiting. Many people now retire as young as 55 years old and, if they have already been on several large cruise vessels, they typically want to see areas of the world only accessible by small ships.
Due to the global shortage of tonnage with no more second-hand vessels available, SunStone has carried out major upgrades on the existing fleet in 2015 and 2016, and plans to continue to do so in 2017. This year, the Sea Adventurer will undergo an approximate $10-million upgrade, with new main and auxiliary engines, propellers and automation systems; nine new suites; and all cabins and public spaces fully refurbished.
Up to 60 suites on the Sea Spirit will also be renovated and fitted with new bathrooms, while the Ocean Diamond will have one full cabin deck completely upgraded with new bathrooms. The Sea Discoverer - currently laid up in Sweden - is planned to have a complete renovation of all interior spaces, and will start trading in late 2017.