According to the 2017 Expedition Cruise Market Report, expedition cruises are set to become more popular in the next few years, with a number of cruise companies investing in new ships. There are 17 new expedition ships on order that will debut between 2018 and 2021.
What is expedition cruising?
There are currently around 17 cruise companies that offer expedition cruises. The ships tend to be smaller with shallow drafts in order to access the less-visited, scenic places that larger ships can’t take you. You may immediately think of cruises to Antarctica but expedition cruises can take you to a variety of exotic and once-in-a-lifetime destinations such as the Galapagos Islands, Borneo and the Amazon.
These cruises focus on the destinations and excursions rather than ship activities, although there is likely to be an enrichment programme for passengers who want to learn more about the geography, culture, history and ecology of the destinations. It’s geared towards maximising your experience and getting the most from the trip. Instead of a cruise director and staff, the ship will have an expedition team who will have knowledge and expertise in these specialised areas.
Due to the remote nature of the destinations on expedition cruises it is highly likely that most port stops will be accessed using small Zodiac boats (pictured below), which do require a level of mobility to be able to climb in and out.
Until recently, expedition cruising has sacrificed the luxury of the ships for the incredible destinations that are visited but more companies are now combining destination-focused adventure with great service and high quality cuisine.
Expedition Cruise Companies
At present, there are 61 expedition ships in the market. French company, Ponant and Norwegian, Hurtiguten have the largest expedition fleets with a total of 12 ships between them. With the 17 new ships on order we will soon see Crystal debut three new expedition ships, all carrying 200 passengers, from 2019 to 2021 as well as more ships from Hapag-Lloyd and Oceanwide.
Because the expedition ships are small and these itineraries are so unique, cruise fares have traditionally been higher than ocean cruises but special offers can be found if booking in advance. For example, a seven day Norwegian coast cruise with Hurtigruten starts at just £615pp for 2018/19.
Photo: Galapagos Island
What we do know is that expedition cruising is going to become more popular as seasoned cruisers look for the new and different itineraries as well as people new to cruising who want an adventure.
The idea of expedition cruises remind me of a quote by Sir Ranulph Fiennes:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothes.”
Don’t let extreme weather put you off exploring new parts of the world, just be sure to pack the right clothes.