Polar expedition yacht Hanse Explorer is ready to welcome back charter guests following a multi-month refit project. BOAT has a first look inside…
“The refit was finished about five minutes ago,” laughs EYOS Expeditions co-founder Tim Soper, as he welcomes BOAT on board Hanse Explorer. Whatever last-minute fixes may have been going on behind the scenes, the light and airy saloon space that greets guests on entry offers an immediate sense of serenity as the yacht prepares to leave land behind and cruise into the North Sea.
The 48 metre superyacht was first delivered in 2006 by German shipyard Fassmer. With expedition management exclusively by EYOS she has since then tested her expedition capabilities from the Arctic to Antarctica and everywhere in between, including the first ever fly-in / fly-out Antarctic yacht charter in 2008.
In 2019, she was purchased by her current owners, Sven and Kristin Lindblad. Sven, who is CEO of pioneering travel company Lindblad Expeditions and an advocate for eco-tourism, wanted to transform Hanse Explorer from a robust-looking ship into a luxury charter yacht that could open up the expedition experience to a multitude of guests. So from late 2020, work began on an extensive refit that practically stripped that yacht to its bones.
Having now been totally restyled by Partner Ship Design and AROS Marine, Hanse Explorer is once again ready for adventure.
The rugged, steel-hulled exterior, boasting the highest commercial ice classification, conceals what is now a refined interior with a distinctly modern style. Traditional dark panelling and leather furnishings have been swapped for light woods and a neutral palette of creams, clean whites and chromed silvers, with just a touch of nautical navy blue. Expanses of glass flood spaces with sunshine and allow for optimal viewing of wildlife during expeditions.
“We started with the idea that the boat felt closed in, and I wanted to open it up,” says Sven. Realising this effect involved installing glass-paned sliding doors to create a seamless transition from the saloon to the outside decks – a feature which Sven describes as “the greatest victory in this process.” A similar entryway has been outfitted in the master stateroom to offer primary charter guests private deck access.
The Lindblads add that the elegant simplicity and neutrality of the design is key to optimising the experiences offered on board Hanse Explorer. “The main goal was to maximise and create the deepest connection with the outside world,” details Kristin, with Sven adding that it was crucial to design “an interior that doesn’t compete with the outside."
"We wanted it to be very calm, and not too brash," he adds. “I think we’ve achieved a sense of calm and openness and modernity, and I think it’s very elegant,” concludes Sven.
Deck spaces have also been completely transformed to further prioritise time in the great outdoors. The top deck – previously off-limits – has now had the radar raised by three metres to create an outdoor oasis during expeditions. “The top just was not used, but it’s such a beautiful part of the ship,” explains Sven.
The refit included the installation of a hot tub, a cocktail area with Bose sound systems and cabana-style Bali beds for sleeping under the stars in warmer destinations. Kristin notes that the hot tub will make for an atmospheric experience in colder climes and enthuses that “in the South Pacific, being up there and looking at the aquamarine all around is going to be spectacular.”
The Lindblads' desire to prioritise the external environment while redesigning the interior was undoubtedly on-brand given Sven's background in expedition travel. Lindblad Expeditions, founded by Sven’s father, explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad, was formative in opening up some of the most remote destinations to adventurous travellers and was an early pioneer of eco-tourism. The Lindblad legacy will now be continued with Hanse Explorer as the yacht brings its guests to the globe's most far-flung places. The type of tourism offered by Hanse Explorer charters, Sven argues, will encourage environmental awareness.
“The reality is that we expend energy on things that we understand and things that we care about. And so travel creates an opportunity to develop understanding, and interest and care,” he says. “Certain kinds of tourism are actually key to the protection of the environment. We need advocates for the environment and the best way to do that is to expose people to it.”
Guests on board the world-girdling Hanse Explorer will certainly have the opportunity for maximum exposure to the natural world, while still being cocooned from the harshness of the elements. Another significant portion of the refit was the addition of retractable SKF zero-speed fin stabilisers that reduce rolling while still allowing the explorer to continue breaking the ice.
As the explorer cruises through the choppy waters of the North Sea, the captain temporarily takes the stabilisers off to demonstrate the difference. We are standing on the bridge, which Sven has nicknamed "the observation lounge" as guests frequently gather here for wildlife and scenery viewings. The increased movement throughout the interior is clear, and when the stabilisers are switched back on, it becomes apparent that the duration of the rolling motion is noticeably shortened for increased stability.
Following her refit, Hanse Explorer will head to the Antarctic and then on to the south pacific islands of French Polynesia where her upgrades will serve her well. But the completion of this refit does not mark the end of her owners’ plans for continual improvement. Getting equipped for unparalleled activities in the south pacific is the next step, hints Soper.
“Sven had a vision to make Hanse into the world’s best dive boat,” he explains, revealing that the same specialists who installed the dive shop on 72 metre Damen explorer Game Changer – Moondog Dive Outfitters – will be getting to work on Hanse Explorer shortly. Her recent refits have already primed her with a renovated “mudroom” to prepare for expeditions on her two new Zodiacs, and from January 2022 she’ll offer a refurbished dive shop area with upgraded gear for 14 divers, including a BAUER Nitrox membrane compressor.
“Setting her up as a really good dive boat has been the goal and now that’s going to happen after the Antarctic season, before she heads off to the pacific,” says Soper.
Experiences offered on board Hanse Explorer, such as diving, are created consciously, in line with the Lindblads’ passion for the environment. That’s why you won’t find any Jet Skis in the toybox, and why it took almost two and half years to meticulously trial the viability of offering a kayaking experience in Antarctica on board.
For the Linblads, and for guests chartering Hanse Explorer, the aim ultimately will be to use this vessel as a means of connecting with nature. And that aim is certainly realised in the refit work that has now been completed. As Sven expresses, more than anything: ‘I think luxury really is about having a meaningful experience” – and that is what guests can expect for the next charter season.
Hanse Explorer is available for charter with EYOS with a weekly charter fee starting from €175,000.Read More/Cruising Scotland's Inner Hebrides on board Hanse Explorer