The boom in expedition cruising
In a world grown too small for the adventurous traveller, expedition cruising is a salve, pushing the geographic boundaries imposed by conventional travel and immersing passengers in the world of exploration and discovery. It’s this yearning that has prompted cruise lines to take their guests to ever more remote destinations. “We’ve seen a huge gain in expedition cruising in the Canadian Arctic,” says Richard Cunningham of One Ocean Expeditions. “The best way to describe cruising in this region is to imagine it as the Canadian equivalent of our own Kimberley [region]. It’s not easy to access, highly seasonal and a ship is really the only way to experience this [landscape] due to lack of land-based options.” But such remoteness needn’t call for austerity and such is the interest in luxury adventure travel that Crystal Yacht Cruises has rebranded as Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises. “We’ve discovered there are many guests, young and young at heart, who enjoy sports at sea and discovering remote destinations,” says Karen Christensen of Crystal Cruises.
CRYSTAL ENDEAVOUR Line: Passengers: To:
Crystal Cruises; due: August 2018
200 Arctic, Antarctica and the tropics This will be the world’s first purpose-built, polar-class megayacht, capable of cruising during summer and autumn in first-year ice and, potentially, old ice. State-ofthe-art technology will allow the ship to float atop coral reefs without the use of anchors, which can damage the terrain. A Remote Operated Vehicle will give passengers the opportunity to view sunken galleons, warships and passenger ships such as the Titanic. Among the other onboard toys are two helicopters, two seven-person submarines and SEABOBs, the most technically advanced underwater scooter. Butler service is inclusive for all guests. More: crystalcruises.com.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC QUEST Line: Passengers: To:
Lindblad Expeditions; due: June 2017
100 Alaska, British Columbia, Belize, Guatemala National Geographic Quest is the first of two new builds for Lindblad Expeditions (see below). The ship will incorporate 50 cabins, 22 with balconies, six sets of connecting cabins for families and groups, a designated mudroom for expedition gear and specialty tools for exploration. Twin expedition craft landing platforms will allow guests to board and disembark rapidly and maximise wildlife viewing opportunities. More: expeditions.com.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURE Line: Passengers: To:
Lindblad Expeditions; due: June 2018 100 Alaska, British Columbia, San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands This ship has almost identical accommodation configur- ation as National Geographic Quest; access to land and sea will be enhanced by sea kayaks, paddle boards, snorkelling equipment, Zodiacs and state-of-the-art expedition technology such as a video microscope, hydrophone and underwater cameras. More: expeditions.com.
POLAR PIONEER Line: Passengers: To:
Aurora Expeditions; refurbished: 2000
54 Norway, Spitsbergen, East Greenland and Scotland Aurora Expeditions is offering two new fly/sail itineraries in its 2017-18 Antarctic program. The Antarctic Explorer entails just one crossing of the Drake Passage (the other is by air) and maximises guests’ time in Antarctica. The Sub-Antarctic Safari visits the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, where wildlife enthusiasts will have the chance to observe elephant seals, fur seals, some of the world’s largest king penguin rookeries and the largest black-browed albatross colony. Guests fly to and from the Falkland Islands. More: auroraexpeditions.com.au.
SEABOURN QUEST Line: Passengers: To:
Seabourn; launched: 2013
450 Antarctica and Patagonia Ventures by Seabourn excursions, such as trekking or surveying icebergs, are offered in selected ports. Expedition experts are part of the Seabourn Conversations program and provide insight into the history, ecology and culture of destinations. In its Antarctica and Patagonia itinerary, the ship explores the east coast of South America, the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The Strait of Magellan and the Chilean coast. More: seabourn.com.
OCEANIA REGATTA Line: Passengers: To:
Oceania; refurbished: 2014 684
Alaska A new itinerary takes Oceania’s flagship from San Francisco to Vancouver via the fjords of Alaska. Activities include dog-sledding, glacier-trekking, fishing and seakayaking through coastal waterways. Also offered is a journey aboard Aleutian Ballad, the crab boat featured in the TV show Deadliest Catch. Following its refurbishment, the ship now features four restaurants, eight lounges and bars, casino and private verandas in about 70 per cent of its cabins. More: oceaniacruises.com.
SILVER CLOUD Line: Passengers: To:
Silversea; refurbished: 2017
200 in polar waters; 260 elsewhere Antarctica; Arctic and Greenland, Africa and Indian Ocean; Canada and New England; Northern Europe and Britain; South America Silver Cloud’s inaugural voyage as an ice-class expedition ship will take place in October following an extensive refurbishment. The ship will offer the highest spaceto-guest and crew-to-guest ratios, and the largest suites in expedition cruising, more than 80 per cent with private verandas. Eighteen new Zodiacs allow for ship-wide, simultaneous explorations in groups of no more than 14. More: silversea.com.
MS ISLAND SKY
APT and Noble Caledonia; refurbished: 2010 114 Mediterranean, Spain, Portugal, France APT’s new Southern European Sojourn small ship itinerary between Barcelona and London launches this July, MS Island Sky will cruise the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France, and visit ports inaccessible to larger vessels. As a soft-expedition style cruise, guests can choose pursuits such as cycling and exploring Spain’s Albufera National Park by canoe. More: aptouring.com.au.
WIND SURF Line: Passengers: To:
Windstar; refurbished: 2012
310 Caribbean, Northern Europe, Mediterranean Windstar’s flagship sailing yacht offers itineraries with excursions such as horseriding through Spain’s Mijas Mountains, diving a shipwreck off Salt Island in the Caribbean and hiking to the rim of a volcano on the island of Vulcano in the Aeolian archipelago. The ship is equipped with a watersports platform from which passengers can make unlimited use of equipment such as kayaks, windsurfers and snorkelling gear. More: windstarcruises.com.
AKADEMIK SERGEY VAVILOV (OR ONE OCEAN VOYAGER) Line:
One Ocean Expeditions; launched: 1988; public areas refurbished 2013
92 Antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Spitsbergen, Canadian Arctic, Greenland This ship features the highest ice rating of any passenger vessel in polar waters, allowing it to venture further into areas of broken sea ice to encounter wildlife, from seals and whales in Antarctica to polar bears in the Arctic. The small number of passengers allows everyone more time ashore, since regulations mandate no more than 100 passengers on shore at any one time. Activities include wildlife observation, photography, history, science, hiking and sea kayaking. More: oneoceanexpeditions.com.
Passengers: To: SCENIC ECLIPSE Line: Passengers: To:
Scenic; due: August 2018
200 for polar cruises; 228 elsewhere The Americas, Antarctica, Europe and the Mediterranean, Arctic and Norwegian Fjords The six-star, ultra-luxury mega yacht will feature 114 allveranda suites. The ship has been designed to navigate challenging seas in comfort and safety, with zero-speed stabiliser fins, usually only found on the largest super yachts, providing greater stability. It will also have the highest passenger ship ice class rating, Polar Class 6. Two onboard helicopters and a seven-seat submarine will take guests to inaccessible places, while scuba diving and snorkelling equipment, Zodiacs and kayaks will allow for additional exploration. More: scenic.com.au.
VIKING SEA Line: Passengers: To:
Viking Cruises; launched: 2016
930 Baltic region, North America, Caribbean Viking Sea’s new From the Caribbean to the Amazon itinerary (launching in December) will sail down the east coast of South America, through the mouth of the Amazon and to the Brazilian port of Manaus. Sailing roundtrip from San Juan, the ship will visit several other South American and Caribbean ports. Passengers can cruise by small boat to the confluence of the Amazon and Black rivers, fish for piranha and view caiman, giant otters and pink dolphins. More: vikingcruises.com.au.
Seabourn Quest in Antarctica, main; MS Island Sky in the Aldabra Islands, top right; Wind Surf, Windstar’s flagship sailing yacht, above right; ice-class expedition ship Silver Cloud, below