Ac­cess un­lim­ited

The boom in ex­pe­di­tion cruis­ing

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - CATHER­INE MAR­SHALL

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

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