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Bon Voyage. New luxury cruise ship launches from Boston

Boston-based cruise operator Vantage Deluxe World Travel christened its newest ship: The Ocean Explorer

The Ocean Explorer is owned by the Boston company Vantage Travel. This is a rare cruise ship launch for Boston's port, especially since the industry was hit hard by the pandemic.
The Ocean Explorer is owned by the Boston company Vantage Travel. This is a rare cruise ship launch for Boston's port, especially since the industry was hit hard by the pandemic.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Patricia Lewis and Deirdre Dirkman stood on the highest point of a brand new cruise ship docked in Boston’s Seaport Monday and, with a few dozen people watching them from the dock below, smashed a bottle of champagne to christen the Ocean Explorer.

It was a moment five years in the making for Lewis, the wife of Vantage Deluxe World Travel founder and chairman Henry Lewis, and Dirkman, vice president of worldwide operations for the Boston-based company. The pandemic halted cruises and delayed delivery of the ship, built on the Yangtze River in Nantong, China, by six months.

Large windows for ocean viewing on the Ocean Explorer.
Large windows for ocean viewing on the Ocean Explorer.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

But now, Vantage is hoping the $70 million Ocean Explorer, which will sail to ports in North and South America and Antarctica, can draw guests who may be wary of larger cruise ships because of the pandemic. The 162-passenger vessel will offer an array of high-end amenities, such as lectures, spas, two saunas, regional meals, and an onboard concierge.

And passengers are “ready to roll,” Dirkman said.

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“They’re ready to just get out and see the world and just enjoy,” she said.

By 2022, Vantage hopes to christen a sister vessel — The Ocean Odyssey — for trips in the eastern hemisphere. Europe and Asia itineraries on that ship for the 2022 season are near sold out, and the company has opened its books for the 2023 season. As of now, guests are required to be vaccinated and present a negative COVID test before boarding, she said.

This is the first oceangoing luxury vessel for Vantage, which started selling tours to Australia and New Zealand in 1983, though the company has owned river-bound cruise ships since 1999.

Vantage Travel customer Helen Sigouin gets a tour of the new ship.
Vantage Travel customer Helen Sigouin gets a tour of the new ship.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Voyages on the Ocean Explorer will be longer, ranging from 15 to 41 days at sea, with prices varying from $4,399 for a South American voyage to nearly $41,000 for a single cabin on a journey that begins in Lima, Peru, then travels by air to the headwaters of the Amazon River, where passengers will cruise out to the Atlantic across the Caribbean and then up the East Coast to Boston. The ship will also have a doctor onboard, though guests will have to pay separately for those services and any medications.

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On Monday, guests and businesspeople filed onto the docked ship, passing through lounges and peeking into cabins. Former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, for whom the Flynn Cruiseport is named, stopped by the christening ceremony and recalled seeing ships pull into the terminal when he was a child.

About 400,000 cruise ship passengers came through Boston’s port on 138 ships in 2019, the last full cruise season before the pandemic, said Lisa Wieland, chief executive of Massport. Boston is not a top destination for cruises — the nation’s busiest cruise port, Miami, welcomed 5.5 million passengers in 2019. But Wieland estimated the passengers who do pass through Boston support about 1,100 direct jobs at Flynn Cruiseport Boston and surrounding industries.

Right now, about 130 ships are scheduled to pass through the port in 2022, Wieland said.

“No one can really predict what’s going to happen next in a global pandemic,” Wieland said Monday. “But if the recovery continues as we all hope and expect it will, I think we can anticipate a robust 2022 cruise season.”

The Godmothers of the  Ocean Explorer, Patricia Lewis and Deirdre Dirkman, christen the ship on Monday.
The Godmothers of the Ocean Explorer, Patricia Lewis and Deirdre Dirkman, christen the ship on Monday. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff



Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043.