By David Barclay | April 5, 2023
Interest in expedition cruising is increasing and the cruise lines are responding by launching new specific-built ships and adding more cruise itineraries. Many bucket list trips are best experienced by ship, including Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Fjords in both Norway and Chile. I just returned from an expedition cruise of the Galapagos Islands on the new Silversea Silver Origin (which I’ll cover in a future blog post) and it was a memorable experience for me and my family. While we could have stayed on one of the main islands and taken day trips to other parts of this unique archipelago, our cruise ship allowed us to travel farther and see more of the unique wildlife and geography.
Many of the newer ships are adding unique features due to their expedition focus. Embarkation deck “mud rooms” to store and dry expedition gear, 4-6 person submarines, enclosed pool decks, and igloo deck beds are just a few of the unique features.
Life on an expedition voyage is a very different experience than sailing on a traditional cruise. The atmosphere and dress code are less formal, especially noticeable on the ultra-luxury lines which do away with their formal and informal nights. However, the ships retain their same standards for service and cuisine. Just because you are traveling far from civilization doesn’t mean you have to accept a downgraded experience.
Days are filled with many activities, allowing guests to see and come very close to the local wildlife. The crews for these ships have a large number of guides/naturalists specially trained for the sailing region and many of the best lines have 1 naturalist for every 10-12 guest.
Guests on expedition sailings tend to be younger and very outgoing. If you are not ready to try a traditional luxury cruise, I’d suggest considering an expedition cruise as a way to “test the waters” of luxury cruising.
While many expedition cruises allow guests to see glaciers, icebergs, polar bears, and penguins, this category of sailing encompasses travel to many of the harder to reach areas of the world. Below I’ve provided just a small sampling of expedition cruise itineraries, to give you a feeling for what you can do and see on an expedition ship.
Silversea Silver Endeavour
Puerto Williams to Puerto Williams
The Silver Endeavour is the newest expedition ship to join the Silversea fleet. Her PC6 ice-class rated hull allows her to sail waters where few other ships can go. She also carries some of the most advanced state-of-the-art equipment and exploration technologies aboard any expedition ship. Her glass-enclosed 2-story pool deck not only provides passengers with incredible views of the outside scenery, it allows guests to enjoy a quick dip regardless of the temperatures outside. Her mud room is designed with expedition excursions in mind, even including boot heaters to warm and dry boots between cold weather outings. And while expedition ships tend to be smaller and have fewer dining options, the Silver Endeavour provides four options, including the well known La Dame.
Between November and February each year she will sail around the Antarctic. A perfect itinerary is the 18-day round trip out of Puerto Williams, Chile. This itinerary not only visits Antarctica, but also the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, where over 450,000 King Penguins reside.
Beyond The North Cape, Tromso to Oslo
The Seabourn Venture, along with her sister ship the Seabourn Pursuit, are the latest additions to the Seabourn fleet. With PC6 Polar Class hulls and the latest in modern technology, these ships were designed with expedition cruising in mind but without sacrificing the Seabourn experience. The interiors of these ships are gorgeous and retain a very Seabourn feeling of comfortable luxury. They retain Seabourn Square, a wonderful common area found on all Seabourn ships and add The Expedition Lounge, a new common area for expedition briefings and another nice location to relax in-between activities. After exploring the outside world, guests can get some indulgent pampering at the onboard spa, complete with a sauna that looks out onto the beautiful scenery that’s part of any itinerary. Another unique feature, these ships each carry two 6-person mini-submarines that provide an unforgettable view of the world beneath the ocean’s surface.
During summer months in the Northern hemisphere, the Venture travels far into the Arctic. Many expedition cruises that sail the Norway Fjords end in Tromso as the farthest northern stop. But for the Venture, Tromso is just the start of her exploration into the norther reaches, as she explores the area around Svalbard. Guests can see polar bears and arctic foxes, and can experience the “midnight sun”, with sunlight 24 hours a day.
National Geographic Venture
Baja California: Among the Great Whales
Lindblad Expeditions is a cruise line focused on expedition cruises. With 10 expedition ships sailing the world’s oceans, Lindblad offers an extraordinary number of itineraries. Each expedition ship is staffed with National Geographic guides and naturalists. There is also a certified photo instructor on board each ship, to help guests improve their photography skills and capture the perfect photo mementos of their trip. Most ships also have a B&H Photo Video Gear Locker, where guests can borrow and field test new camera bodies, lenses & binoculars.
Like other expedition focused lines, Lindblad offers itineraries to the northern and southern polar regions. But they also offer a number of itineraries around the world and in locations that may not come to mind when thinking about expedition cruises. During January & February, the National Geographic Venture sails off the coast of Baja California, offering one of the best whale watching experiences. A definite experience of a lifetime for any whale fanatics.
10-days (7-day cruise + pre/post in Quito)
For warm weather expedition cruises, the Galapagos is probably the most famous and on the most bucket lists. Celebrity cruises has been sailing the Galapagos for many years and currently has 3 ships sailing year-round in the Galapagos. Celebrity’s ships range in capacity from 16 to 100 guests, offering options that fit every travelers desires.
The Celebrity Flora, launched in 2019, is the newest ship added to Celebrity’s Galapagos fleet. She is a sister ship to the Silversea Silver Origin, built in the same ship yard with similar hull specs, but with a look and interior design that aligns with the Celebrity brand. She is a floating 4-star resort, pampering up to 100 guests in luxury suites. Purpose-built to sail the Galapagos, she was built with the latest environmental technologies. Her dynamic positioning system allows her to maintain position without dropping an anchor and damaging the seabed. And solar panels generate electricity, reducing emissions. As with most expedition cruises, a trip on the Flora is all-inclusive. Guests have the option of adding a pre/post package in Ecuador which adds a few nights in Quito before and after the cruise.
Owner, Barclay & Company Travel
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