Indigenous Landowners in Kimberley, Australia, to Serve as Stewards of a New Luxury Cruise Ship

The Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners in Western Australia will serve as the godparents of the luxury expedition vessel “Seabourn Pursuit”. Here’s what the pact means for the community, the destination, and for those sailing with Seabourn.

Aerial view of "Seabourn Pursuit" in Kuri Bay in Western Australia's Kimberley region

Kuri Bay in Western Australia’s Kimberley region is among the ports Seabourn Pursuit will visit this summer.

Courtesy of Seabourn

There are myriad steps when it comes to launching a cruise ship, from designing and building the ship itself to decorating the interior and finding the right crew to set sail, to name a few. Before the inaugural sailing, it is tradition to call upon a prominent public figure to serve as godparent of the ship, typically a godmother. This tradition dates to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, who turned to their gods to bless their ships and keep them safe during their journeys.

This week, Seabourn made seafaring history in announcing the Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners in Western Australia as the godparents of the luxury cruise line’s newest expedition ship, the 264-passenger Seabourn Pursuit. With this announcement, Seabourn says it will be the first cruise line to appoint traditional Indigenous landowners as godparents of a cruise ship.

The history of the Wunambal Gaambera traces back 70,000 years in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They are the Traditional Owners of a region in the Kimberley that includes Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau), Yirinni (Hunter River), and Ngula Jar Island (Vansittart Bay); Seabourn Pursuit will call upon Ngula Jar Island during its voyages. In choosing the Wunambal Gaambera as godparents of the ship, Seabourn says that it is rededicating its commitment to the stewardship and sustainability of the communities and environments its ships visit worldwide.

Four Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners in Western Australia dancing on sand

As part of the pact with Seabourn, Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners in Western Australia will receive funding to develop land-based tourism facilities.

Photo by Chris Trantina/Ocean West Media

“We believe no one can give a better blessing to our ship than the communities we visit. When we visit local communities, we are able to both celebrate their culture and drive positive sustainable change in the places they call home,” Natalya Leahy, president of Seabourn, said in a release.

As part of the partnership, Seabourn will support a community of local artists whose original works will be available to passengers aboard the Seabourn Pursuit and to other visitors to the region, and it will invite local guides onto the ship to share their stories with guests. Seabourn is also making a monetary contribution (the cruise line did not disclose the amount) that will be combined with funding already received from the State Tourism Authority, Tourism Western Australia, to help finance the Wunambal Gaambera’s masterplan to develop seasonal land-based tourism facilities in the Kimberley.

King George River Gorge in Kimberley, Australia, with river winding through jagged sandstone cliffs

King George River Gorge is among the sites in the Kimberley that Seabourn guests will visit.

Photo by Marion Carniel/Shutterstock

On June 22, Wanumbal Gambeera Aboriginal Corporation Chairperson Catherine Goonack, Uunguu Ranger, and Senior Traditional Owner Desmond Williams, and Senior Traditional Owner Maria Fredericks will represent the community aboard the Seabourn Pursuit for the dedication ceremony in the Kimberley.

The Wunambal Gaambera people “have a communal need and responsibility to look after and prosper from our country. Seabourn’s contributions will assist us to . . . look after and keep our land and sea country healthy, strengthen our Wanjina Wunggurr culture, and create economic opportunities for our people,” Goonack said in a statement.

After the dedication ceremony on June 22, Seabourn Pursuit will set sail on its 10-day Inaugural Voyage: Discovering the Kimberley, departing from Broome and calling upon Lacepede Island, Talbot Bay, Montgomery Reef, Freshwater Cove, Kuri Bay, Hunter River, Ashmore Reef, Vansittart Bay, and King George River before arriving in Darwin.

In addition to the Kimberley, the vessel will also sail in Papua New Guinea, West Papua, Indonesia, and across the South Pacific between Chile and Melanesia through October 2024.

A penthouse suite on the "Seabourn Pursuit," with desk, chairs, and balcony

All of the accommodations on the Seabourn Pursuit are suites.

Courtesy of Seabourn

While the naming and inaugural Kimberley voyage will take place in June, the luxury expedition vessel Seabourn Pursuit, sister ship to Seabourn Venture, actually launched and has been sailing since August 2023. The ship was designed to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations, including polar regions, and has 24 Zodiacs, two submarines, as well as kayaks onboard for deeper exploration.

Seabourn Pursuit is an all-suite vessel with a duo of two-story Wintergarden suites, in addition to eight dining venues, a spa and wellness center, gym, pool, hot tubs, a Discovery Center for academic talks, and retail stores.

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