I’m still catching my breath following an energetic kayaking stint along the rugged coast of St Kitts, when a waiter slips a flute of fizzing champagne into my hand.
It feels so surreal to be standing waist deep in the balmy aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea inhaling the sweet bubbles, I wonder if I’m really here or whether this is some sort of tropical fantasy.
All around me are guests from our ship, Seabourn Venture, relaxing in the shallows of a deserted powder sand beach, chatting and laughing while sipping from champagne glasses assiduously topped up by shorts-clad waiters wading between us.
A few metres away, crew members are clustered around a surfboard bobbing on the waves, from where they are delicately serving caviar-topped titbits from a giant tureen.
Welcome to Caviar in the Surf, one of the signature treats which six star line Seabourn Cruises is renowned for laying on for guests, notably during cruises to Thailand and here in the Caribbean.
However, on this occasion it’s a slightly different scenario as we aren’t sailing on one of the luxury line’s classic vessels, but its first expeditionary ship Seabourn Venture which is making its West Indies debut.
This is a far cry from the days when adventure sailings were for hardcore intrepid types content to explore the world’s most remote regions with a bare minimum of creature comforts.
Seabourn’s new addition to the fleet, which finally entered service in August following shipyard delays, promises to transport guests to the ends of the earth in the lap of luxury, accompanied by a complement of high-tech toys promising added thrills.
Top among these are Seabourn Venture’s two-seven person submarines that carry a pilot and six guests to depths of up to 300 metres, opening up an underwater world which, in the Polar regions, lies largely undiscovered.
Trips on these submersibles – equipped with champagne chillers so guests can toast their undersea discoveries – do not come cheap, costing from $999 in Antarctica, but perhaps that’s to be expected for such a unique experience.
I’m booked in for my turn with a promise that we will be diving down to a shipwreck off the coast of St Kitts once we have boarded the sub a short distance from the ship. We will be ferried by small Zodiac boats to where it is positioned and climb in through the top hatch. I can’t wait.
However, my morning starts a little more energetically as a group of us sets off in the ship’s fleet of eight double-seater kayaks to explore the coastline amid stiff breezes and choppy conditions.
Paddling over a small reef just offshore, we peer down into the watery depths to spot the bright hues of tropical fish beneath. I can’t see too much, but our guide comes up trumps with a giant starfish that he dives in to retrieve, passing it around so we can get a closer view.
Our 90-minute outing is pleasant enough, but I can’t help thinking that such a foray among the pristine frozen terrain and hulking icebergs of the Polar regions, with a chance of spotting spouting whales, vast penguin colonies or prowling Polar bears would be far more fascinating.
As we’re paddling back to shore, our guide’s walkie-talkie bursts into life with an announcement that all sub rides have been cancelled, apparently due to the conditions.
To say I’m gutted is an understatement, but there’s nothing that can be done. However, this is something of a warning to anyone who books a cruise on the strength of such experiences that run the risk of not happening.
I console myself, instead, with liberal servings of caviar and champagne at Caviar in the Surf before sitting down to an extravagant buffet lunch impeccably laid out in a beachfront marquee.
Such an ambitious spread of salads and various different meats, including trays of freshly cooked lobsters only caught that morning, represents an incredible feat of organisation, especially as the quality of the cuisine and service remains as impressive as it is on-board.
Seabourn Venture may be built for adventurous voyages, with an ice-strengthened hull to Polar Class 6 standard, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on style and luxury.
With interiors by celebrity designer Adam Tihany, who was responsible for the stylish look of sister ships Seabourn Ovation and Seabourn Encore, there’s a seam of casual elegance running through this ship.
Seabourn regulars will recognise familiar features such as Seabourn Square, with its cluster of reception desks and drinks bar also serving coffees plus Italian gelato.
Another area to have migrated from Seabourn’s other ships is The Club lounge, which on Seabourn Venture has a fresh sushi counter and seems the most popular pre-dinner watering hole.
I love the cosy feel of the Expedition Lounge with its comfy chairs, fur cushions and flickering flames of two imitation fires, though, admittedly, on this Caribbean voyage they are rather redundant.
Leading off is the theatre-style Discovery Centre, venue for talks by the 26-strong expedition team and low-key entertainment such as musical recitals, while at the front of the ship is the Bow Lounge with far-reaching views and a bank of screens showing the same navigational and scientific information as displayed on the bridge. Doors from here lead on to the foredeck, providing guests with an ideal vantage point.
But there’s no excuse to miss any interesting sights as Seabourn Venture’s ultra-powerful camera can capture images from up to five miles away, which are then transmitted to screens throughout the ship.
One of the plushest places to relish the views is from one of the four hot tubs and the tempting infinity pool situated at the back of the ship. There’s also a gym and spa for fitness and wellness fans.
Another treat is the onboard cuisine and two main dining venues which are The Colonnade buffet restaurant, with varying culinary themes, and The Restaurant. This classy eaterie boasts an extensive four-page menu featuring a mouth-watering selection of dishes, from carpaccio of beef tenderloin and duck spring rolls to pan-roasted seabass or delicious coq au vin.
After such feasts, my veranda suite is even more appealing with its vast soft-as-a-feather bed, sumptuous marble ensuite with bath and shower and handy features that include a walk-in wardrobe and useful heated cupboard to dry off wet clothes.
It leaves me thinking about those early explorers who endured such hardships as they pushed back the boundaries of exploration. They really didn’t know what they were missing.