Are you an explorer? Our expedition cruise expert, Roderick Eime, helps you decide.
Once upon a time, it was easy to spot the expedition cruiser: dressed in their North Face expedition gear, they would hang on for dear life in bucking Zodiacs and sup on steaming borsch in the austere dining room of some former Soviet spy ship.
Expedition cruising has come a long way since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the changes don’t stop coming. Just about every small ship line has announced new vessels, creating a minor tsunami of extra space for new expedition cruise passengers.
So as every line vyes for new passengers with ever more amazing activities and luxuries, the question is: are you an explorer or a snorer?
If you’ve ever sat transfixed by cartwheeling humpback whales on a BBC documentary or imagined retracing the steps of some historic explorer through wild jungles, chances are you could be.
You may have some other queries, so here is an FAQ answering the questions that many would-be first timers ask:
Well yes, but rarely colder than the last time you went skiing. Ships only sail to the Arctic and Antarctica in summer, so often you will find a warm shirt and pants is enough. A bright sunny day among the icebergs, is a very special experience.
Crossing the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula can get rough, yes. But it can also be as smooth as a millpond. Larger ships handle the rough better, or you can even fly. Arctic destinations are generally milder.
Like any travel experience, you’ll enjoy it more if you are fully mobile, but that shouldn’t deter you if you have your heart set. While you may not be able to do the hike to the mountain top, there are always easier option for those who prefer a stroll. Talk to your agent as some ships, such as Ponant, are wheelchair equipped.
The time taken is dictated by the long haul flight, so Antarctica and the Arctic can easily be 12-14 hours in a plane. But there are plenty of closer, tropical destinations too such as our Kimberley and the Pacific just a few hours by air.
The cost of adventure cruises is usually substantially more than your typical “big white ship” cruise. Provisioning in remote areas, all-inclusive excursions and other factors will always mean these voyages have a higher price tag. But with the coming influx of new ships, there may be some keener pricing than before.
The short answer is ‘yes’. Will you see a particular animal or species, like a polar bear or macaroni penguin? That can be harder to promise. But the thrill of surprise is half the fun and you can be assured that your expedition team will be focused on showing you as much as possible.
Generally no. More often now, ships are supplying parkas, gum boots and sometimes wet weather gear too. You should make sure you have your own sturdy hiking boots, hat, and thermal layers though. Some things can be bought or hired aboard ship too and all operators will supply a suggested packing list.