Once a niche market, expedition and adventure cruises are increasingly in demand as more and more holidaymakers discover that small ship cruising is the best way to get off-the-beaten-track and see some of the world’s most unspoilt and remote destinations.
From waking up anchored in a secluded bay with nothing but a morning swim on the agenda to opening your cabin’s curtains to the white wonderland of polar caps and the promise of penguins, expedition cruising is more about the destination than the ship.
You won’t find zip lines and waterslides on the top deck of an expedition ship, and in lieu of casinos and grand theatres, you will be treated to an education onboard and an adventure ashore.
They might be no-frills but small ships don’t scrimp on hearty meals or comfortable cabins, and guests will still have the chance to watch the sun set with a cocktail in hand and in the right climate, lie by the pool with a good book.
Proving that bigger isn’t always better, small ships celebrate their boutique size by navigating tight waterways and accessing remote locations that other liners can’t reach, offering guests a truly unique holiday experience.
From the tips of Antarctica icebergs to the dramatic falls of the Kimberley, expedition cruising is often the only way to get to the heart of a destination, which really is best seen by sea.
Like Captains Cook and Bligh before them, guests who join expedition ships are modern day explorers looking for a taste of adventure and escapism in a busy world.
They often follow in the footsteps of writers, artists, scientists and naturalists as they set sail for islands inhabited by few but overflowing with natural treasures and in-tact cultures in far-flung archipelagoes such as French Polynesia’s Marquesas or tribal Papua New Guinea.
Because of the size of the ships, there are sometimes only a few dozen or a few hundred guests sharing the experience, which means no one is a number in the crowd.
It also means flexibility when it comes to itineraries. Spontaneous guests will love the opportunity to drop anchor somewhere unplanned to enjoy a stroll ashore and meet some locals, or get swept up in a once-in-a-lifetime marine encounter or just because it’s beautiful, and they can.
A key attribute of expedition cruising is the opportunity for full immersion with crew often consisting of a mix of locals and experts who ensure the colour and culture of the place is just as alive on the ship as off.
Whilst days are often action-packed with a hike or kayak, evenings offer a chance to get to know each other over a shared meal with local flavours or to learn about tomorrow’s port of call through a documentary or lecture.
As with all cruising, adventure and expedition cruising offers the same simple ease and convenience of unpacking once as some of the world’s most amazing destinations magically appear the next morning.
Remote destinations such as Antarctica and the Arctic have surged in popularity with cruisers of all ages making it a priority to tick these trips of a lifetime off their bucket list.
Just as land-based travellers have contributed to a boom in the adventure travel trend, the number of adventure cruises are growing at a record pace.
Expedition cruising is an exciting sector of the market and one which really rounds out the incredible diversity of cruise offerings available to holidaymakers. Geared at inquisitive and adventurous travellers, expedition cruising is for those wanting a more intimate experience with only a handful of fellow travellers as they explore destinations that are often difficult to access by land, while making less of an impact on these less-trodden parts of the world.
Expedition cruising attracts a lot of well-travelled holidaymakers who are seeking new adventures, enriching experiences and an authentic connection with their chosen destination – something that can only be achieved with small ship cruising.
Some of the most satisfying feedback we get is that adventure cruise guests feel like they have experienced the destination as a local, rather than a tourist. And we often hear that they felt like part of the family onboard, and walked away with a shipload of friends, as well as lifelong memories.
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