Sylvia Earle

Specifications of Sylvia Earle

Year built2021 new ship
BuilderCMIH-China Merchants Heavy Industry (Haimen Shipyard, Jiangsu China)
ClassINFINITY ULSTEIN CX103 (ice-strengthened expedition ship)
Building costUSD 65 million
OwnerSunStone Ships Inc
OperatorAurora Expeditions Australia
Speed12 kn / 22 kph / 14 mph
Length (LOA)104 m / 341 ft
Beam (width)18 m / 59 ft
Gross Tonnage7400 gt
Passengers120 - 160
Decks with cabins4
Sister-shipsGreg Mortimer, Ocean Victory, Ocean Explorer, Ocean Odyssey, Ocean Discoverer
Christened bySylvia Alice Earle

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The 2021-built MS Sylvia Earle cruise ship is an ice-strengthened (polar class 1A / PC6) expedition vessel scheduled for inauguration in October 2021. The boat is owned by SunStone Ships (USA) and operated under charter by Aurora Expeditions Australia (a company specializing in Arctic and Antarctic cruisetours).

The vessel (IMO number 9872327) is currently Bahamas-flagged (MMSI tba) and registered in Nassau.

History - construction and ownership

Sylvia Earle is the 7th in a series of ten "Ulstein CX103" design (Infinity-class) expedition vessels, with sisterships Greg Mortimer (2019-Sept, fleetmate), Ocean Victory (2021-March), Ocean Explorer (2021-Jan), Ocean Odyssey (2022-Feb), Ocean Discoverer (2023-March), Ocean Albatros (2022-Oct) plus 4 more (TBN) units. The patented ULSTEIN X-BOW design is one of the unusual for expedition ship 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.

MS Sylvia Earle cruise ship

Aurora Expeditions cooperated with the US-based shipowner SunStone Ships Inc to construct a custom-designed vessel for expedition-type voyages in the polar regions, providing the industry's best adventure travel vacation experiences and modern amenities.

Aurora Expeditions is among the pioneers of polar expedition cruising and a leading adventure travel company on the Australian market. The company was one of the first to introduce ship travel to numerous remote destinations in the polar regions. Established in 1991, in 2008 Aurora Expeditions was sold and the new owners remained true to the original expedition spirit. Initially offering small-group cruises to Antarctica, Aurora Expeditions now also operates expedition voyages to Norway's Svalbard Islands, Russia's Far East, Greenland, Papua New Guinea, Africa (Chobe River safari cruises in Botswana), Amazon River. For polar operations, Aurora Expeditions charters the ice-strengthened Polar Pioneer (fka Akademik Schuleykin), as well as the Russian research ships Spirit of Enderby (Professor Khromov) and Akademik Shokalskiy.

Ship technology

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 latest propulsion and return-to-port systems. It also has top-notch dynamic positioning technology - computer-controlled systems allowing automatic maintenance of the vessel's position through its own propulsion units (thrusters and propellers). This allows stable floating while maintaining the necessary stability for launching watercraft - and without using anchors.

With the highest for passenger vessel ice-class 1A (Polar Class 6 / PC6), MS Sylvia Earle 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. Exclusively designed for polar cruises, the ship allows Aurora Expeditions to continue to provide the company's authentic, top-quality small-ship travel experience.

For the interior designs of this entire series of SunStone-owned ships was contracted the Weston Florida-based company Tomas Tillberg Design. A new design concept implemented on the Sylvia Earle ship is the two-level (2-decks high) glass-enclosed Bar Lounge located at the bow (forward on decks 5-6).

Shipboard facilities

The cruise ship features dedicated outdoor observation areas (including fore-located Observation Deck with two Hydraulic Platforms / Viewing Platforms accessed from Deck 5), a stern marina (watersports platform serving the company's sea kayaking, snorkelling and scuba diving programs), a fleet of 15x Zodiacs (large-capacity motorized boats used for passenger transportation - tendering and landings).

The aft-located Zodiac loading platform (accessed from either side on Deck 3) is a new design launching platform that allows easier and faster boarding for shoreside transportation. Sun Deck (top-deck forward) is furnished with premium garden furniture (sofas, armchairs, sunloungers) and used for both relaxation and wildlife viewing. At the top two decks' bow is the Observation Lounge (2-level lounge served by its own Bar) and midship on top-deck is the funnel (with four stacks/engine exhaust pipes).

MS Sylvia Earle cruise ship

Other facilities include Medical Centre (Infirmary), Change Room (Mudroom), Bar Lounge (lecture theater forward on Deck 5), Dining Room Restaurant, Ship Shop, Lobby area (Reception Desk), Library, Art Room, Wellness Centre (Fitness, Spa, Sauna Room, Treatment Rooms for Massages), Lower Sun Deck (Deck 7 aft, with lifeboats and liferafts), Upper Sun Deck (Deck 8 midship, with sunbathing area and two whirlpool hot tubs).

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

Decks and Cabins

Sylvia Earle staterooms (80 total) allow max capacity 130 passengers. Most cabins (80% of all, excepting only Aurora cabins with portholes on Deck 3) are with a private, step-out balcony 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.

Hotel beds (King-size or two twin, size 200 x 160 cm, ample under-bed storage space 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), individual climate control, medical emergency button.

Each stateroom has a private, full-size bathroom with shower / WC, hairdryer, premium bath amenities. 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).

The ship has a total of 20 pairs of connecting cabins (balconied rooms) that can be booked as one stateroom ("family cabin") for up to 6 persons. The boat has no wheelchair-accessible cabins (for passengers with disabilities).


In mid-November 2020, Aurora Expedition announced only the destinations planned to be included in the MS Sylvia Earle ship's cruise itinerary program 2021-2022. The vessel will be deployed in Alaska, Pacific Mexico (Baja California) and Asia - including Russia's Far East and Indonesia's Raja Ampat islands and West Papua.

In late-January 2021, Aurora Expeditions announced voyages planned for 2022, with an Early-Bird promotion (25% discounted pricing). The sailings in 2022 visit Raja Ampat Islands (Indonesia), Kuril Islands Russia, Aleutian Islands (Alaska), Baja California (Mexico), Greenland. A total of 12 new itineraries were included in the 2022 programs of the chartered ships Greg Mortimer and Sylvia Earle.

For MS Sylvia Earle were scheduled a 16-day Wrangel Island cruise (from Nome AK to Wrangel Island Nature Reserve Russia), a 9-day Gulf of California cruise (Baja California and the Sea of Cortez) and a 13-day Alaskan cruise that visits Haida Gwaii Islands (Canada), Annette Island (Metlakatla), Misty Fjords National Monument, St Lazaria Island (Saint Lazaria Wilderness, part of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge).

In early-February 2021, Aurora Expeditions announced a themed voyage to be attended by Dr Sylvia Earle. The 9-day (May 4-12, 2022) "Baja California and the Sea of Cortez" itinerary is roundtrip from Port Pichilinque (Baja California Sur, Mexico).

For winter 2022-2023 Antarctic season, Aurora Expeditions scheduled for Sylvia Earle a total of 26 itineraries. Early bookings (made by March 31, 2021) received up to 30% discount.

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Sylvia Earle Wiki

Ship's name honours Sylvia Alice Earle - 1935-born US marine biologist, oceanographer, conservationist, world explorer, author (National Geographic books) and renown lecturer. She was the first female chief scientist of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / scientific agency within the US Department of Commerce). In 1998, Time Magazine named her "Hero for the Planet". Sylvia Earle is also a member of the 2011-founded activist group Ocean Elders dedicated to protecting the oceans and wildlife globally. Ocean Elders includes renowned scientists and many celebrities (including royalties, business tycoons, country leaders, pop artists).

On June 6, 2019, was signed the charter agreement between Aurora Expeditions (represented by Robert Halfpenny, company's Managing Director) and SunStone Ships Inc (represented by Niels-Erik Lund, company's CEO).

Like all sisterships, Sylvia Earle was constructed in China - at CMIH-China Merchants Heavy Industry's Haimen Shipyard (in Jiangsu). The shipbuilding order for the 7th INFINITY Class unit was signed on May 29, 2019, in Hong Kong.

The vessel's construction started with the steel-cutting ceremony held on March 16, 2020, at CMIH Haimen Shipyard. On the same day was launched (floated out from drydock) the sistership Ocean Victory. The keel-laying ceremony was held on July 17, 2020. The ship's launch (float out) was on March 18, 2021. On the same day (at CMIH Haimen Shipyard) was held the keel-laying of Ocean Odyssey. The sea trials are planned for July. Sylvia Earle's inauguration (christening ceremony) is currently scheduled for October 2021.

Unlike the sisterships, Sylvia Earle is the first in the "INFINITY ULSTEIN CX103" series to have bow-facing windows. Following the delivery (September 2021), the vessel's MMSI number (flag-state) will be changed from Belgium to Bahamas (Nassau).

MS Sylvia Earle cruise ship

In late-February 2018, Aurora Expeditions announced a deal with "CMI Leisure Management" (Miami-based company). The MS Sylvia Earle ship management (by CMI Leisure) includes 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 company was first contracted by Aurora Expeditions for managing the SunStone-owned ship MS Polar Pioneer.

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

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 shipyard 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 weather). 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 the subsidiary company "China Merchants Heavy Industry".

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 the exhaust gas cleaning system "Wartsila NOR" (NOx gas reducing technology). 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 manoeuvring 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).


The USD 260 million shipbuilding order for the 4 boats was signed in June 2017. The first vessel of the series (Greg Mortimer) was scheduled for delivery in August 2019, followed by one ship every 6 months after.

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