Travellers wanting to see WA's Kimberley coast in comfort have been given another option, thanks to Italian cruise operator Silversea. The group has increased its diversification into expedition- style cruises, adding a third small ship to its fleet.
The newly christened 120-passenger Silver Discoverer is operating 10-day cruises from Broome to Darwin, via the Indonesian island of Leti. The first Silver Discoverer cruise left on April 2 from Broome; the return cruise departed from Darwin on April 12.
Guests spend six days exploring the Kimberley coastline, being taken on zodiacs to isolated locations, including Bigge Island, King George Falls, Yampi Sound, Horizontal Falls and Raft Point, with cruises starting about $8000, under Silversea's all-inclusive packaging model.
Australia's North West tourism chief executive Glen Chidlow said Silversea Discoverer would attract tourists who would not otherwise come to the Kimberley. "They're doing it because they can do it with Silversea," he said.
"People get very attached to a cruise company or a vessel. They don't quite have a customer for life but people have their favourites."
Silversea began expanding into expedition tours in remote locations such as the Arctic and Antarctic, northern Russia and South America in 1998.
Its adventure flagship was the 117-berth Silver Explorer, and it added a specialist Galapagos vessel to its fleet in September last year. It recently bought the 25-year- old, 120-berth small cruise ship Clipper Odyssey, rebadged it Silver Discoverer and sent it to a Singapore shipyard for a revamp of its guest rooms and communal areas.
The group was founded 20 years ago by the Lefebvre family of Rome, who sold package tour operator Sitmar Cruises in 1988. Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio and managing director Enzo Visone were on this month's debut journey for Silver Discoverer, with Mr Visone checking everything from the engine room to paintwork as the boat prepared to sail.
Silversea Australian chief Karen Christensen said more than 60 per cent of the Silversea group's guests were repeat customers.
The Kimberley coast fitted in with the group's aim of taking guests to places that most travellers could only dream about, she said.
"It seems only fitting that this latest addition to our fleet will be sailing to what are arguably some of the world's most remote, most pristine and least explored regions."
Silver Discoverer's last 2014 cruise from Broome will depart on May 12 for Bali. The ship will then be used for expedition tours around locations including Borneo, north-east Russia, Papua New Guinea and sub-Antarctic New Zealand islands.
It will return to the Kimberley on March 28 next year for five cruises between Broome and Darwin, via Leti.
Most of the people booked on this year's cruises are Australians.
Travel agents, silversea.com or 1300 306 872.