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Seabourn Pursuit named by Indigenous godparents in historic Kimberley ceremony

Ultra-luxury expedition ship Seabourn Pursuit was officially welcomed into the fleet in a historic first for the cruise industry, named by Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners in a ceremony on Ngula Jar Island in Western Australia on 29 June 2024.

Ultra-luxury expedition ship Seabourn Pursuit was officially welcomed into the fleet in a historic first for the cruise industry, named by Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners in a ceremony on Ngula Jar Island in Western Australia on 29 June 2024.

The Wunambal Gaambera of Western Australia’s Kimberley region are the first Traditional Owners to act as godparents of a major cruise vessel and conducted the historic naming ceremony with guests in Zodiacs around the ship and the onboard team on the decks.

Guests were immersed in First Nations culture and history, participating in a welcome and smoking ceremony to ensure safe travels and prevent spirits from following visitors. They also visited ancient rock art sites and learnt about the area’s cultural stories.

Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners performed the junba, a traditional storytelling song and dance.
Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners performed the junba, a traditional storytelling song and dance.

The day-long celebration honoured Wunambal Gaambera Country, which covers Ngula Jar Island (Vansittart Bay) and Yirinni (Hunter River) and Ngauwudu (Mitchell Plateau), along with its people and the wider Kimberley region.

It culminated with the naming ceremony in Wunambal Gaambera language and English where Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation representatives wished Seabourn Pursuit extraordinary expeditions in Wunambal Gaambera Country.

Seabourn Pursuit at sea during the naming ceremony with guests in Zodiacs.
Seabourn Pursuit‘s naming ceremony with guests around the ship in Zodiacs.

Seabourn chose Kimberley as the naming ceremony site to represent the expedition cruise ship’s intended purpose and create a lasting relationship with Wunambal Gaambera for sustainable tourism, serving as a symbolic gesture of stewardship towards the environment and the communities it visits.

As part of its partnership with the Traditional Owners, Seabourn will donate to assist Wunambal Gaambera in the development of a self-sustaining industry, producing authentic works by Wunambal Gaambera artists.

Seabourn Pursuit naming ceremony on Ngula Jar Island in Western Australia
Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation Chair Catherine Goonack and Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owner Maria Fredericks and Desmond Williams present Seabourn Pursuit Captain Ertan Vasvi with books about their history and culture.

In addition, Seabourn will provide art supplies to nurture sustainable, commercial arts and craft initiatives and work with Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners to share their Wanjina Wunggurr culture.

A first for Seabourn & the cruising sector

Seabourn Pursuit naming ceremony on Ngula Jar Island in Western Australia
Seabourn Pursuit naming ceremony. (L-R) Handré Potgieter (Seabourn), guest Jane Roig, Robin West (Seabourn), Natalya Leahy (Seabourn), guest Vince Roig, Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation Chair Catherine Goonack, Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners Maria Fredericks, Desmond Williams and Rosa Marnga & Seabourn Pursuit Captain Ertan Vasvi.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) also congratulated the Traditional Owners on becoming godparents of the new expedition cruise ship.

CLIA Managing Director in Australasia Joel Katz said the Wunambal Gaambera were among several Traditional Owners in Australia who worked with cruise lines to share their culture and foster tourism within their communities.

“Australia’s rich Indigenous culture is being celebrated in ways that provide extraordinary experiences for cruise visitors while at the same time creating opportunities for Traditional Owners,” he said.

Seabourn Pursuit naming ceremony on Ngula Jar Island in Western Australia
Seabourn President Natalya Leahy presented gifts to Wunambal Gaambera Traditional Owners Catherine Goonack, Maria Fredericks, Desmond Williams & Rosa Marnga.

“The Wunambal Gaambera partnership is a great example of how cruise tourism can be harnessed by remote communities around Australia’s coast.”

CLIA noted that cruise line contributions and Tourism Western Australia funding help facilitate Traditional Owners to live on Country during the dry season when tourism operators can access the vast coastline of the Kimberley region.