Ocean Explorer

Ocean Explorer current position

Ocean Explorer current location is at North East Atlantic Ocean (coordinates 49.18345 N / -0.33808 W) cruising en route to Caen-Ouistreham. The AIS position was reported 4 minutes ago.

Current Position

Specifications of Ocean Explorer

Year of build2021  /  Age: 2
Flag state Bahamas
BuilderCMHI-China Merchants Heavy Industry (Haimen shipyard, Jiangsu China)
ClassINFINITY ULSTEIN CX103 (ice-strengthened expedition ship)
Building costUSD 65 million
Speed16 kn / 30 km/h / 18 mph
Length (LOA)104 m / 341 ft
Beam (width)18 m / 59 ft
Gross Tonnage8228 gt
Decks with cabins4
Sister-shipsGreg Mortimer, Sylvia Earle, Ocean Victory, Ocean Odyssey, Ocean Discoverer, Ocean Albatros
Christened byPatricia Lewis and Deirdre Dirkman
OwnerSunStone Maritime Group AS (via SunStone Ships Inc)
OperatorAurora Expeditions Australia

Ocean Explorer Review

Review of Ocean Explorer

The 2021-built MS Ocean Explorer cruise ship is an ice-strengthened (polar class 1A / PC6) expedition vessel owned by the Danish company SunStone Maritime Group (via its USA-based subsidiary SunStone Ships Inc) and until May 2023 was operated under charter by Vantage Cruise Line (subsidiary and brand owned by the Boston-based company Vantage Travel Service Inc/brand name "Vantage Deluxe World Travel").

Since July 2023, Ocean Explorer is chartered by Aurora Expeditions (fleet/1991-founded Australian company specializing in Arctic and Antarctic cruisetours). In summer 2023, Ocean Explorer took over the Arctic schedule Svalbard Norway) of Greg Mortimer (drydocked after suffering propeller damage in East Greenland). Ocean Explorer's operations for Aurora Expeditions started on July 24th, with roundtrips from Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen Island (Svalbard Norway).

The vessel (IMO number 9883194) is currently Bahamas-flagged (MMSI 311000869) and registered in Nassau.

Vantage Travel Service Inc's bankruptcy (2023)

In May 2023, the two Vantage Travel-chartered ships Ocean Explorer (May 29th) and Ocean Odyssey (May 31st) arrived and were permanently moored/docked in Caen (France). Reportedly, the laid-up (by SunStone Ships Inc) was for 3 months and was requested by the charterer experiencing financial difficulties. All scheduled voyages for both ships were canceled by Vantage Travel Service Inc.

On June 8th, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office (run by Michelle Henry) filed a lawsuit against Vantage Travel for “deceptive and unfair business practices” also citing holding older residents' refunds hostage.

On June 20th, Vantage Travel laid off all its employees, after quietly postponing all its voyages through August 28th. Reportedly, since January 1st, 2020, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office (run by Andrea Joy Campbell) received a total of 1120 consumer complaints about the cruise company, including 478 (2023-filed) and 108 (from Massachusetts residents).

On June 29th, Vantage Travel Service Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and signed with United Travel Pte Ltd (owner of the companies Nordic Hamburg Shipmanagement GmbH and the cruise line brand Heritage Expeditions New Zealand) a deal to sell its entire business.

Vantage Travel received approval to promptly complete the sale through a court-supervised process. Vantage Travel's legal advisor was Casner & Edwards LLP while Argus Management served as the financial advisor.

On July 5th, during the preliminary court hearing in Boston (for the company's bankruptcy filing) were revealed two potential bidders for Vantage - Pacific Travel Partners Inc (Aurora Expeditions Australia's subsidiary) and United Travel Pte Ltd. Both bidders offered DIP financing (Debtor in Possession).

On Aug 4th, Pacific Travel Partners submitted its bid (US$1,5 million cash offer) for Vantage Travel's assets (not the entire business) and on Aug 9th it won the auction. On Aug 22nd, Pacific Travel Partners officially acquired Vantage Travel's assets (intellectual property, customer list and prospecting). Pacific Travel Partners also committed to honoring the obligations to unsecured creditors, including Vantage's clients who had paid for not-yet-received travel services. These clients were provided with credits to be used towards future voyages with Pacific Travel Partners.

Note: Ocean Explorer left Caen on July 13th (without passengers) and arrived in Stavanger Norway on July 16th. On July 19th was announced that the ship is being chartered by Aurora Expeditions Australia.

Ship technology

As one of ULSTEIN's INFINITY CX103 class boats, Ocean Explorer has max draft 5,1 m (17 ft), volume 8228 GT-tons, max capacity 162 passengers plus 99 crew/staff, 77 passenger cabins (including 15 single staterooms and 10 with Portholes/without balconies), 53 crew cabins. The crew have their own Messhall (bar lounge/dining room), gym, and laundry room.

The vessel is fitted with 2x rescue boats, 2x lifeboats (150-seats each/300 total), 4x liferafts (50-seats each/200 total), 1x passenger lift, 1x service lift.

Ocean Explorer is the third in a series of ten "Ulstein CX103" design (INFINITY-Class) expedition vessels, with sisterships Greg Mortimer (2019-Aug), Ocean Victory (2021-March), Sylvia Earle (2022-Oct), Ocean Odyssey (2022-Oct), Ocean Albatros (2022-Oct), Ocean Discoverer (2025-August). Four more units were intended but eventually canceled and replaced by the new BOUNDLESS Class boats.

The patented ULSTEIN X-BOW design is one of the unusual for expedition ships features, The vessel also utilizes the latest technologies in naval engineering. The ship is technically managed by Cruise Management International (Miami-based passenger vessel/fleet management company). CMI Leisure Miami handles hotel operations.

SunStone cruise ship design (ULSTEIN CX103) World-Class

For the interior designs of this entire series of SunStone-owned ships was contracted the Weston Florida-based company Tomas Tillberg Design.

With the highest for passenger vessel ice-class 1A (Polar Class 6 / PC6), MS Ocean Explorer has icebreaking capacity 1 m (3 ft) and complies with the maritime industry's latest polar code requirements and specifications. The boat offers unprecedented levels of safety and environmental protection.

The major advantage of the patented "ULSTEIN X-BOW" design is the ship's ability to navigate with improved stability in comparison to traditional bow-design vessels. X-BOW vessels are less subject to vertical motions (induced by waves), continuing on course smoothly while maintaining high speeds. The ship's engines use less fuel, which results in reduced air emissions and fuel consumption.

The ship is equipped with the maritime industry's latest propulsion and return-to-port systems, as well as dynamic positioning technology (by Kongsberg Maritime). These computer-controlled systems allow automatic maintenance of the position via 3x propulsion units - 1x Brunvoll bow thruster (output 880 kW) and 2x Scania FPPs (fixed-pitch propellers), plus 2x zero-speed retractable stabilizers (Rolls-Royce Aquarius). This allows stable floating while maintaining the necessary stability for launching watercraft - and without using anchors. The powerplant consists of 4x Wartsila diesel engines (output 1,08 MW each/total 4,32 MW), and 4x auxiliary engines (Ingeteam).

MS Ocean Explorer cruise ship

Shipboard facilities and amenities

The newbuild expedition vessel features 3x bars, dedicated outdoor observation areas (including fore-located Observation Deck with two Hydraulic Platforms and two Viewing Platforms), stern/aft Marina (watersports platform serving company's sea kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving programs), a fleet of 20x Zodiacs (large-capacity motorized RIB speedboats used for coastal cruising and passenger transportation/tendering and landings). The aft-located Zodiac loading platform is a new design and allows easier and faster boarding.

Sun Deck (top-deck forward) is furnished with premium garden furniture (sofas, armchairs, sun loungers) and is used for both relaxation and wildlife viewing. At top-deck's bow is the Observation Lounge & Bar (also serves as a meeting room, lecture hall, show lounge/with live performances), midship is the Funnel (with four smokestacks/engine exhaust pipes).

Other facilities include Medical Centre (Infirmary), Change Room (Mudroom), Bar Lounge (lecture theater and cinema, forward on Deck 5), Dining Room Restaurant (with hot rock-cooking station), Ship Shop, Lobby area (Reception Desk), Library (200+ books), Art Room, Wellness Centre (Fitness, Spa, Sauna Room, Treatment Rooms for Massages, Hair Studio), Lower Sun Deck (Deck 7 aft, with lifeboats and liferafts), Upper Sun Deck (Deck 8 midship, with sunbathing area, swimming pool/Infiniti Pool, two Jacuzzies/whirlpool hot tubs).

Four Zodiac Docks (2 on each side, hull access at sea level) serve as boat launching platforms.

WiFi is provided complimentary and unlimited. The onboard expedition team (5-17 persons) are certified experts who curate themed lectures during the voyage. Live music performances, cultural events and alcoholic beverages during dinner (beers and wine by the glass) are also complimentary.

MS Ocean Explorer cruise ship

Decks and Cabins

Ocean Explorer staterooms (a total of 77/including 15x single occupancy cabins and 10x without balconies) allow max passenger capacity 162. Most cabins (80% of all, excepting only Deck 3 cabins with Portholes) are with private, step-out balconies accessible from the living area via sliding, floor-ceiling glass door. Each balcony is furnished with a small table and two deck chairs. 60% of all cabins can be booked with triple occupancy (accommodate a 3rd person on pull-out couch/sofabed).

The boat has 8 decks, of which 6 are passenger-accessible and 4 with cabins.

Suites are in 3 categories - CS-Captain's, JS-Junior and BS-Balcony. These are the largest staterooms, with double-size balconies and offering extra amenities, such as in-room dining service (continental breakfast served on the balcony).

Each stateroom has a private, full-size bathroom with shower / WC, hairdryer, premium bath amenities. There are a total of 20 pairs of connecting rooms (balconied cabins) that can be booked as one "family stateroom" for up to 6 persons. There are no wheelchair-accessible cabins (suitable for passengers with disabilities).

Standard cabin amenities include hotel beds (King-size or two twins, size 200 x 160 cm, ample underbed storage for suitcases), sleeping couch (sofabed), bedside cabinets, mirrored vanity (writing desk / dressing table) with chair, built-in dressers with drawers, mini-bar / refrigerator, 42-inch smart HDTV (local and satellite reception), phone (onboard communication only), digital clock / alarm, seating area (small table with 1 or 2 armchairs), spacious wardrobe (closet with hangers, drawers, electronic safe box), individual climate control, medical emergency button.


Next, are listed Ocean Explorer ship's inaugural cruise itineraries 2021 as themes. These voyages were officially announced in May 2019.

  • Across the Indian Ocean: India and the Best of the Emirates
  • Around the Arabian Peninsula: Dubai, Oman, Egypt, Jordan and Israel
  • The Beauty of the British Isles
  • East Asia Adventure: Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Beyond
  • Eastern Mediterranean Crossing: The Holy Land, Greek Islands, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt and Suez Canal
  • Essential Asia: Hong Kong to Singapore
  • Jewels of Scandinavia and the Baltics
  • Lisbon to London: A Coastal Odyssey
  • Mediterranean Delights: Greece, Italy, France, Monaco and Spain
  • Pearls of Northern Europe and the North Sea
  • Spain and the Portuguese Coast: A Cruise Around Iberia

For season 2021-2022 Vantage Travel offered 15 different itineraries, of which 4 include Flynn Cruiseport Boston (Massachusetts USA).

  • "Autumn in New England and Canada" from Montreal (Quebec Canada) to Boston MA
  • "Charting the Eastern Seaboard: Colonial America and Cultural Capitals" from Boston to Nassau (Bahamas)
  • "Canada's Spring Awakening" from Boston to Montreal
  • "From the Amazon to the Americas" - repositioning from Callao-Lima (Peru) to Boston
  • "Final Frontiers: Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands"
  • "Deep into the Amazon: Brazil, Colombia and Peru"
  • "Arctic Adventure: Iceland, Greenland, and Beyond"

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SunStone's shipbuilding contract with CMIH for Ocean Explorer (4th) and Ocean Discoverer (5th) Infinity-class cruise ships was signed on November 13, 2018, by Frank Zheng (CMIH's Vice General Manager) and Lars Stale Skoge (Ulstein's Commercial Director). On February 27, 2019, the Ocean Explorer ship-charterer (Vantage Cruise Line) announced planned cruises in East Asia and Europe (Mediterranean and Baltic-Scandinavia).

The ship-chartering agreement includes a deal with the Miami-based company CMI Leisure Management. Ship management services include staffing, hotel services, housekeeping, onboard food and beverages, purchasing supplies, logistics. CMI Leisure is among the world's leading companies providing small-ship management services.

The vessel's construction officially started on September 19, 2019, with the steel-cutting ceremony (hull/yard number CMIH 196-4) held at CMHI's Haimen Shipyard. The event was attended by several hundred VIP guests. The keel-laying ceremony was held on December 19, 2019. The vessel's launch (float out from drydock) was on August 12, 2020.

Ocean Explorer's delivery was originally scheduled for January 2021, and the inaugural cruise for March 2021. However, the delivery to Vantage Travel was officially held on July 13, 2021, at CMHI's Haimen Shipyard. The boat then departed China for Manila Philippines (to be crewed), then continued to Valletta Malta (to get hotel staff and supplies) and to homeport Poole (England UK) for the inaugural season (starting late-August).

Ocean Explorer was officially christened in Flynn Cruiseport Boston (MA USA) on October 25, 2021. The naming ceremony was dockside, held at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. The special event was led by the ship's two godmothers - Patricia Lewis (Vantage Deluxe World Travel's VP Special Events, and wife of the company's founder Henry Lewis) and Deirdre Dirkman (Vantage Deluxe World Travel's VP Worldwide Operations).

On March 16, 2017, SunStone Ships Inc signed the shipbuilding agreement with the Hong Kong-based company "China Merchants Industry Holdings" (abbrev CMIH) for the construction of 4 expedition vessels. SunStone is the world's largest (by tonnage) shipowner chartering exclusively expedition vessels to cruise travel companies. Since there is an option for an additional 6 sisterships, by this "ULSTEIN CX103" project could be built up to 10 units. The USD 260 million shipbuilding order for the 4 units was signed in June 2017.

The company CMIH is a subsidiary of China Merchants Group (among the country's largest groups of companies). Following the contract with SunStone Ships, CMIH signed an agreement with the Norwegian company Ulstein Design (part of Ulstein Group, headquartered in Ulsteinvik Norway) to supply the ship design and equipment package (ULSTEIN COM / Navigation Bridge system, and the integrated automation systems ULSTEIN IAS and ULSTEIN POWER), and also to supervise the shipbuilding works. For the ship's hotel design was contracted the Florida (USA)-based company Tomas Tillberg Design International (specializing in passenger vessel design). The design features Ulstein's patented X-BOW (providing fuel efficiency and significantly improved stability in rough seas). The vessel complies with the 2009-issued SOLAS requirements for "Virtual Anchorage" and "Safe Return to Port" (SRtP) implemented via Dynamic Positioning System (computer-controlled, automatically maintains ship's position) and Zero Speed Stabilizers (roll reduction system).

CMIH also signed an agreement with the Finnish company "IS Makinen Inc" to pre-fabricate the vessels' cabins, wet units and interior public spaces. For this purpose, Makinen established a cabin assembly plant and an interior workshop facility at the shipbuilding yard in China.

Project's shipbuilder is CMIH's subsidiary "China Merchants Heavy Industry" (abbrev CMHI, shipyard near Shanghai).

The ship is powered by 4x Wartsila-20 diesel engines (two 6-cylinder plus two 8-cylinder) running on HFO (heavy fuel oil). The 6-cylinder engines are fitted with Wartsila-NOR (exhaust gas cleaning system, NOx gas reducing technology). The contract with Wartsila was signed in November 2017.


The vessel's propulsion system is diesel-electric (twin-screw) and designed by Brunvoll Volda AS (Volda Norway-based company specializing in marine propulsion, positioning and maneuvering systems). For the ULSTEIN CX103 project, Brunvoll contracted DMC (Damen Marine Components, Hardinxveld Giessendam Holland-based marine equipment manufacturer) to produce and supply the vessel's two rudders (model Van der Velden ATLANTIC) and two steering gear systems (model Van der Velden COMMANDER).

Vantage Cruise Lines opened bookings on Ocean Explorer's inaugural cruises (11 itineraries) on May 30, 2019.

Yellow Sea trials (in East China Sea) started on January 22, 2021, and were successfully completed on January 27. During the 5-day sea trials, the boat's machinery was tested by 150+ personnel, including crew, shipyard technicians, CMIH managers, Bureau Veritas representatives, SunStone Ships marine advisors.