Seabourn Makes Milestone Moment as First Cruise Line to Appoint Aboriginal Traditional Owners as Godparents


SEATTLE, April 18, 2024Seabourn, the leader in ultra-luxury cruises and expedition travel, is thrilled to announce the Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners as godparents of Seabourn Pursuit, the line’s newest ultra-luxury, purpose-built expedition ship.

Seabourn is the first cruise line to appoint Traditional Owners as godparents of a ship. The naming of Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners as godparents of Seabourn Pursuit serves as a symbolic gesture of stewardship and responsibility toward the environment and the communities that Seabourn visits, as well as Seabourn’s commitment to sustainable tourism. The naming ceremony will take place on Seabourn Pursuit’s June 22-July 2, 2024 voyage in the Kimberley region of Australia.

“We believe no one can give a better blessing to our ship than the communities we visit. We truly believe in the transformative power of travel, and when we visit local communities, we are able to both celebrate their culture and drive positive sustainable change in the places they call home,” said Natalya Leahy, president of Seabourn. “When we set out to name the godparent for Seabourn Pursuit, we knew we wanted to do something that celebrates this special moment for the ship and also allows us to drive long-term sustainable positive change in line with the values Seabourn and our guests stand for.”

The Wunambal Gaambera people are the Traditional Owners of a region in the Kimberley that includes the sea country of Ngula, Jar Island (Vansittart Bay) and Yirinni (Hunter River), and the freshwater country of Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau).

Christening the ship is a symbolic event that bestows blessings upon everyone who will ever sail on board. The godparents bring good luck and protection to the vessel with this maritime tradition. Godparent to the Wunambal Gaambera people can be described as garrangarru– which is a word used to describe a mother or listener. Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC), its country and people, embody ideal ambassadors or godparents for Seabourn Pursuit. Their rich cultural history and deep connection to the land and sea, alongside their established sustainable tourism initiatives along the Kimberley Coast, make them a natural fit for Seabourn Pursuit’s inaugural season in Western Australia.

Representatives from the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation will be at Ngula Jar Island on the Uunguu Coast to welcome Seabourn Pursuit guests and to participate in the inaugural dedication ceremony on June 29, 2024.

A Lasting Partnership: Investing in Sustainable Tourism

As part of this appointment with the Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners, Seabourn will make a donation to assist Wunambal Gaambera to develop a self-sustaining industry, producing authentic works of art and craft by Wunambal Gaambera artists to sell. In addition, Seabourn will also supply the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation with pearl shells and various art supplies and polishing materials to foster sustainable, commercial arts and craft initiatives year-round for Wunambal Gaambera artists and craft producers.

Seabourn intends to work alongside Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners as they share their unique Uunguu Experience – the sharing of their Wanjina Wunggurr culture through welcome and smoking ceremonies; rock art tours; junba song and dance; and art and stories from the Uunguu Rangers looking after and keeping the country healthy.

“We, 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 be on country, look after and keep our land and sea country healthy, strengthen our Wanjina Wunggurr culture, and create economic opportunities for our people,” said Catherine Goonack, Chairperson of the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation. “It is important we are looking after our country in the way of our Wanjina Wunggurr law. We are happy when we and our future generations are living and working on our healthy Wunambal Gaambera Country. We appreciate Seabourn’s support to us in these efforts and look forward to sharing our unique Uunguu Experience with Seabourn and their guests as the garrangarru or Godparents of the Seabourn Pursuit.”

Seabourn’s monetary contribution, along with funding already received from the State Tourism Authority, Tourism Western Australia, will contribute to Wunambal Gaambera’s development of tourism facilities and products for Traditional Owners to live on their country during the dry season when tourism operators can access the vast coastline of the Kimberley region. Seabourn congratulates Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation’s implementation of their Uunguu Visitor Management Plan to reconnect with their country, to manage visitor access and take leadership in the tourism industry, and to engage with water-based visitors who arrive on their land, thus participating in the value chain that operators like Seabourn offer. Ngula Jar Island will be featured on all Seabourn itineraries in the Kimberley, ensuring consistent visitation to Wunambal Gaambera Country.

“This is a wonderful collaboration of Wunambal Gaambera and Seabourn that is augmented by Tourism Western Australia, demonstrating our shared values and the promise of greater opportunities for Traditional owners in the Kimberley region. We are proud to support Wunambal Gaambera’s Ngula, Jar Island development as we strive to position Western Australia as the leading Australian destination for authentic Aboriginal experiences,” said Carolyn Turnbull, Managing Director if Toursim western Australia. “we know visitors to Western Australia – the Dream State — are seeking immersive Indigenous experiences and the work we are supporting on Ngula, Jar Island will enable this to happen. The ongoing visitation fuelled by premium cruise tourism operators, like Seabourn, provides the necessary market to make this initiative successful and sustainable.”

Seabourn’s newest ultra-luxury, purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Pursuit, is an intimate ship with private, yacht-like atmosphere, featuring 132 luxuriously appointed ocean-front veranda suites — taking ultra-luxury travellers further, deeper, and closer to the most coveted and remote destinations in the world. Led by a world-class 24-person Expedition Team to deliver immersive experiences throughout the entire journey, each voyage offers exclusive experiences such as curated shore excursions, cultural tours, guided Zodiac cruises, hikes, nature walks, snorkelling and scuba diving.

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