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BUENOS AIRES — Call it the new queen of the polar regions. 

Luxury line Silversea's 254-passenger Silver Cloud on Wednesday will sail on its first voyage after a massive makeover designed to turn it into the most elegant polar expedition vessel at sea. 

Steering a course from Buenos Aires to Antarctica, where it now will spend a significant part of the year, the 23-year-old ship is sailing with a newly reinforced steel hull and a new ice-class bulb at its front that will allow for navigation in icy polar waters. New sonars also have been installed for underwater ice detection, and new windows resistant to polar temperatures have been added.

The 514-foot-long, nine-deck-high vessel also has taken aboard 16 motorized Zodiac rafts to land passengers in remote locations as well as 10 kayaks for exploring. 

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The transformation of Cloud also included a major overhaul of its on-board accommodations, which the line says are now the largest in expedition cruising — the niche of cruising that involves exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations in small ships that carry motorized rafts for landings. The ship also will have the highest space-to-passenger and crew-to-passenger ratios in expedition cruising. 

Also revamped was Cloud's spa, and the ship now boasts a new photo studio where passengers can edit and print images. The studio also will offer master classes in digital photography. 

The work took two months and cost $40 million. 

A stalwart of the Silversea fleet since the line's founding in the 1990s, Cloud now will spend much of its time in Antarctica or the Arctic. The sailing that kicks off Wednesday is a 16-night trip to Antarctica that also includes a stop in the Falkland Islands. It'll be followed by eight more voyages to Antarctica before the ship heads to the Arctic via the west coast of Africa, Portugal, Spain, France, the British Isles and Ireland.

When sailing in the polar regions, Cloud will carry just 200 passengers. The ship will have a team of up to 22 dedicated experts on hand to lead exploration.

Silversea has been a pioneer among luxury lines in getting into expedition cruising. Silversea already operates three other small expedition ships: The 144-passenger Silver Explorer, 116-passenger Silver Discoverer and 100-passenger Silver Galapagos. The first two offer a range of itineraries to off-the-beaten-path destinations around the globe. The latter sails year-round in the Galapagos. 

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