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If you’re thinking about soaking in hot-water springs in Iceland, exploring Botswana’s Okavango delta, taking in the surreal landscape of Patagonia in South America on horseback, journeying into the surreally beautiful coastal desert of Namibia, visiting Churchill, the land of polar bears and beluga whales in Canada, then VASIM SHAIKH, the founder of Q Experiences, is your man. VASIM spoke to LEADERS about his company’s new offering – a cruise to Antartica, the White Continent, custom designed for GCC travelers.

Tell us something about Q Experiences

We formed Q-Experiences, “the Q” for short, in 2012 with the specific aim of designing handcrafted luxury journeys to rare locations. We are based in India and have a leadership team combining more than 50 years of experience in various segments of the leisure, travel & tourism industry. We believe travel is not just about seeing new places. It’s also about experiences that make for great stories. At the Q, we like to think of ourselves as “storytellers”. We weave personalized travel stories in which imagination is the only limitation. Because we believe that no two travel itineraries can ever be the same our team customizes unique travel experiences for our customers. And so, while we hope to engage our customers in a particular travel story, we are also very interested in knowing what it is each of our customers would like to do so that we can then handcraft an experience for them.

Tell us something about the cruise?

Yes. We’re very excited about this. Antarctica is slowly beginning to emerge as one of the most sought-after destinations for cruise travelers on the search for something exotic and different. A recent report by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators said 38,478 visitors travelled to Antarctica during the 2015-2016 season. That was a 4.6 percent increase over the previous season. 43,885 visitors are expected to visit the continent in 2016-2017. What we are offering is an 11-day curated trip to Antarctica customized for GCC travelers.

Why are you specifically targeting GCC customers?

It’s the first time such a curated journey to Antarctica has been promoted in the GCC. We wanted to offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience to our discerning GCC clients, many of whom we know from our research have been waiting for such an opportunity. And so, we have designed a super-luxurious and very refined way of exploring the Antarctic wilderness.

Tell us something about the cruise ship?

“The Great Majestic Explorer” is a sleek, gorgeous yacht with 132 elegant staterooms and suites. To ensure a superior gastronomic experience for our guests, Atul Kochhar, a renowned Indian Michelin-starred chef will be on board to produce the finest Indian cuisine, while a top team of gourmet chefs will have our guests’ particular dietary preferences on hand when they prepare their meals. From food to clothing and equipment every little detail imaginable has been meticulously thought through. Our highly qualified staff will be on hand to ensure our guests receive a superior and highly-personalized level of service

What are some of the highlights of the cruise?

We set sail from Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina on the 9th of December 2017. For two days and nights we’ll sail through the confluence of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans known as “The Drake Passage” On day four, our guests will be able to see the magnificent glaciers that rise majestically out of the waters at Neko Bay and Paradise Bay. Heading towards Port Charcot & Port Lockroy on days five and six, our guests will be will able to explore the stunning ice-covered rocks, home to the kelp gull, and a haven for the avid wildlife enthusiast. The port has a museum, a little store and a post office from where guests can send postcards to their friends and family. On day seven, we will explore Deception Island, a place steeped in history and home to the largest colony of Chinstrap penguins in the Antarctic peninsula. Our guests will be able to enjoy the breathtaking sight of over 100,000 pairs of penguins along with elephant seals and fur seals. On day eight we will sail through some of the quietest places on earth in the Weddell Sea where our guests will get the chance to see the “Lord” of the Weddell Sea himself – the Weddell seal. During the last three days of the journey, we will return via the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia.

How much interest have you generated in the cruise?

So far, we have received a tremendous response. The Antarctic is truly unique. It’s mercurial. This cruise will challenge our pursuit of luxury and bring out the very best in us. As the first Indian luxury travel firm and the first to offer a trip to Antarctica, it’s our aim to set the standards for others who may follow us.


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