The first thing anyone should know about ‘star ratings’ and expedition ships is that they don’t fit the model devised by Douglas Ward for ranking conventional cruise ships.
Instead of chandeliers and waist-coated service staff, investment goes directly into passenger enrichment. Knowledgeable and tertiary-qualified guides, expedition equipment (Zodiacs, diving kit etc) and the costs involved with operating small groups in remote and inhospitable environments with little or no infrastructure make small ship adventure cruising an expensive business. Passengers invariably come for the destination-focussed experience, not the all-night buffet or cabaret shows.
So when you see a lowly star-rating against any of these ships which are booked to near-capacity all year round, don’t equate this with the quality of expedition experience offered.
And if you want to toss around ‘five-star’ as some in the industry are prone to do, then you must be talking about Hapag-Lloyd’s Hanseatic, far and away the world’s top expedition ship – as far as Berlitz is concerned at any rate – and the only one to achieve their five star rating. Berlitz Rated Expedition and Adventure Cruise Ships
Firty Years of Victory
Galapagos Explorer II
Spirit of Enderby
Source: Ward, Douglas (2012-09-15). Berlitz: Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2013 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (Kindle Location 28488). APA. Kindle Edition.
Roderick Eime writes for Cruise Passenger magazine. He is a specialist expedition cruise writer and has been sailing aboard the world’s fleet of small adventure vessels since 1998. He travelled to Mawson’s Huts in 2010, just before ice made future landings impossible. He is the editor of The Adventure Cruise Guide (www.adventurecruiseguide.com) and webmaster of www.expeditioncruising.com