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In the biggest news in the cruise business in a number of years, Silversea Cruises announced it is partnering with Royal Caribbean for future growth, with Royal Caribbean taking a 66.7% ownership stake in the ultra-luxury small ship and expedition cruise line. The cost to Royal Caribbean? A cool $2 billion.

Naturally, people might worry that a mass-market company like Royal Caribbean may downgrade the Silversea onboard service and food. Actually, we expect the opposite to happen, just as Seabourn has improved its product and built new ships with owner Carnival Corporation and Regent Seven Seas have done the same with Norwegian Cruise Line as the parent company.

Silversea is a crown jewel, and the acknowledged leader in luxury and expedition cruising, two key markets that are poised for growth,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “Uniting our two companies presents an extraordinary opportunity to expand vacation options for guests.”

Based on experience (and knowing Richard Fain personally, having worked for him directly for 6 years), we’re inclined to believe him. After all, Manfredi Lefebvre, the visionary whose father created and grew Silversea Cruises, will remain in charge of the company.

“We are proud to welcome aboard Manfredi Lefebvre, whose high standards and history of innovation we deeply respect,” Fain added.  Lefebvre and Fain also confirmed that Silversea’s CEO Roberto Martinoli will continue in his role, working with the existing Silversea management team.

“This partnership will bolster the growth of this exceptional brand founded by my father,” said Lefebvre. “I have always been kindred spirits with Richard and we share a vision of offering excellence and leadership to our guests. This new partnership gives Silversea the opportunity to accelerate the growth of the most successful luxury and expedition cruising brand in the world.”

So, we fully expect to see more new ships for Silversea announced in the next few years, and even purpose-built luxury expedition ships as well.

Silversea, with its intimate, all-suite ships, full spectrum of global cruise offerings sailing to more than 1,000 global destinations, and unique luxury expedition vessels, adds a pioneering ultra-luxury brand to RCL’s brand lineup. RCL’s largest brand, Royal Caribbean International, is a contemporary brand focused on adventure-seeking families, Celebrity Cruises is a premium brand providing a modern luxury experience to discerning global travelers, and Azamara Club Cruises is a destination immersive brand offering luxury voyages to unique ports. The company also operates the regional TUI Cruises and Pullmantur brands in Europe as part of long-term joint ventures.

So, raise a glass and toast the bright future of luxury cruises, small ship cruising and expedition cruises with Silversea!