Mango Meets Robin West
Exploring a dramatic Norwegian fjord by kayak; getting up close to puffins and eiders in Iceland in a zodiac inflatable boat; kayaking in Antarctica and trekking across scenic and remote islands: Ventures by Seabourn takes guests to places they would only dream about, led by an expert on-board team of scientists, scholars and naturalists. Robin West, Seabourn’s Manager of Expedition Operations & Planning, is the lucky person tasked with the job of developing Ventures by Seabourn.
Launched in 2015, Ventures by Seabourn is an immersive shore programme from the world’s finest ultra-luxury cruise line. On board, a team of experts (scientists, botanists, archaeologists, historians, ornithologists) give lectures to guests, about the destinations they are visiting – and then accompany them, as they explore these remoter areas in-depth, in Zodiac inflatable boats or paddling in double sea kayaks launched from the unique fold-out water sports marina on board all Seabourn vessels. Ventures currently stretches from Northern Europe in the Norwegian Fjords, Iceland and Greenland, to Antarctica and the Arctic Region and – new for 2017 – Alaska. Next year will also see the programme going into Australia and New Zealand, and The Amazon.
Mango caught up with Robin this week, as he dropped into London for a quick visit:
Tell us, briefly, how you came to your present role with Seabourn?
I was born and grew up in South Africa and could either be found in the ocean or on the rugby pitch whilst growing up. After university, my love for adventure developed into a career when I became an owner and operator of two PADI Dive Centers and outdoor adventure companies.
I then sought out adventure beyond Africa, setting my mind to global expedition travel. I worked on expedition cruise ships, covering all corners of the world over the course of the next 14 years – this gave me real experience in the operations of the expedition business. I also gained a deep knowledge of some of the most remote and exciting places in the world. I joined Seabourn for the maiden voyage to Antarctica in 2013 and my new role as Manager of Expedition Operations & Planning, involves all aspects of expedition operations.
What are you working on now? – what have got coming up?
We are currently working on setting up the Australasia Ventures programme which will be launched on Seabourn Encore in January 2017 as well as our Alaska programme which will be launched on Seabourn Sojourn in June 2017. This is the first time in 15 years that Seabourn returns to Alaska. The Ventures programme in Alaska will be amazing, I am so looking forward to our clients’ reactions to it. We are also looking at other parts of the world for Seabourn Ventures – watch this space!
What changes in cruising do you expect to see in the next five years?
The cruise industry is going to grow tremendously. The opportunities for expansion are great, particularly in Europe and Asia. Ships are going to get bigger and bigger, resulting in cruising becoming more and more accessible. The luxury/ultra-luxury end of the market – where Seabourn is a leader – is also seeing a substantial growth with many new-builds on the books. So competition among luxury companies to deliver more authentic and unique experiences is going to be key. This is what Ventures by Seabourn is all about; the programme brings together our two worlds, on board and on shore, to create a luxury trip like no other.
What is your own favourite journey (or place)?
I have two special places in the world. One being Antarctica coupled with South Georgia and the other is an island in the Indian Ocean called Aldabra. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for the giant land turtles that live in the wild there as well as the sea turtles and seabird population, chiefly composed of terns and frigate birds. Both places offer incredible beauty and natural history and are must-see destinations. I have been fortunate enough to visit both on several occasions and each visit is as overwhelming and breath-taking as the first.
Who are your heroes, who has inspired you, in real life?
I have worked with and for many people from whom I have learnt valuable lessons. When I finished university I met a gentlemen called Greg Horn who influenced my life to become a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. As a result I travelled the world, owned two PADI Dive Centers, got my first job on an expedition ship – and ultimately to Seabourn. So Greg has been the greatest influence in my life, career-wise. On a personal level, I would have to say my wife, who I met 15 years ago.
And in history?
The polar explorers Sir Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen, the first person to reach both poles. Shackleton for his perseverance under the harshest and most uncertain circumstances and Amundsen for his successes in life by virtue of preparation and the willingness to learn.
When you are not travelling, what is your favourite pastime?
When not travelling for work, my wife and I would take dive holidays to the Maldives or rent a fully equipped 4X4 and drive through Southern Africa. We have driven Namibia from top to bottom, through Botswana and parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe. I guess travelling is something we love doing all the time, whether for work or leisure. Two years ago our son was born, so holidays now look quite different! However, as soon as he is old enough we will be taking him with us for some more great adventures through Africa, along with a very long list of destinations I would like him to experience, one of those being Antarctica.
What is the quality you like most in a person?
Humility and gratefulness. It is very easy in today’s world to constantly want more and more.
If you had one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to “jump”. To arrive in a place without having to take a plane, bus or car. Just like the movie “Jumper”. How incredible to wake up to an African sunrise over the Okavango Delta, walk amongst 500 000 King penguins at Salisbury Plain in South Georgia, spend an hour with Emperor penguins on Snow Hill Island in Antarctica, drift-snorkel Johnny’s Passage in Aldabra, scuba dive Raja Ampat, PNG, and then end the day with dinner in Portofino, Italy. This for me would be the ultimate superpower, to be able to capture moments over and over again.
What would the Robin of today tell his 18-year old self?
Travel the world, understand, learn, appreciate and worry less.
To watch a video of the Ventures programme please click HERE
For reservations or more information, please contact a travel professional or contact Seabourn T: 0843 373 200 or visit www.seabourn.com