Family-owned and Christchurch-based Heritage Expeditions is on a look-out to purchase a third adventure ship from 27 new builds which have flooded the expedition market in the last few years, says Robert Halfpenny, head of global sales.

“A few of these new builds may come on the market. Since we explore the South Antarctica Islands, one of the best-kept secrets of remote expedition cruising and hold more than half of the tightly held permits to explore Macquarie Island (1500 km south-east of Tasmania), it makes sense to have a third ship,” Mr Halfpenny told Cruise Passenger.

Co-owner and expedition leader Aaron Russ
Co-owner and expedition leader Aaron Russ

Founded by biologist Rodney Russ and wife Shirley, their two sons, Aaron and Nathan Russ bought Heritage Expeditions from their parents five years ago. Co-owner and elder son, Aaron who started expedition sailing with his father as a five-year-old, is now expedition leader of more than 100 expeditions to some of the world’s most remote regions. He previously worked for French expedition line, Ponant.

Why Heritage Expeditions needs a third expedition ship

Russ said: “At one of our expeditions to Antarctica, we spent 36 hours waiting for the ice to clear and when it did, we spent the next 36 hours making every possible landing so that our guests could experience nature at its very best.

Adelie penguins sitting on the ice in Antarctica
Six Adelie penguins sitting on the ice in Antarctica

“Often, our expeditions do not strictly follow a set itinerary – it’s all about what nature deals out to us and nature waits for nobody.”

The company owns the 140-guest expedition ship, Heritage Adventurer which explores the heart of Antarctica, the Ross Sea, the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia as well as the islands around Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the iconic Kimberley Coast.

Heritage Expeditions’ two expedition ships

It also owns the 18-guest expedition yacht Heritage Explorer which cruises New Zealand’s famous Fiordland, Stewart Island and Marlborough Sounds.

Heritage Explorer was built in Picton, New Zealand. It is 30m long and is equipped with Zodiacs to explore the Fiordlands, one of the best fiords in the world which are at our doorsteps.

Giant icebergs in Antarctica
Giant glaciers in Antarctica

“The best bit of my job is to take guests to places they have never been to before – you just can’t replicate the joy and wonderment in their faces. I’ve seen what nature is capable of and learnt how to respect nature.

“Heritage Expeditions are pioneers in expedition cruising and have been taking intrepid travellers (not tourists) where few have been before to experience wilderness, wildlife and cultures in a genuine and responsible way since 1985.” Aaron Russ said.

Crossing the Ross Ice Shelf and seeing colossal icebergs, penguin rookeries, walking on ice with Emperor Penguins and stepping inside the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott, are all bucket-list experiences, he added.

A 28-day expedition from New Zealand into the heart of Antarctica’s Ross Sea via the Subantarctic Islands costs NZ$46,750 ($40,000) per person. With shipping restricted to just two brief months each year by impenetrable packed ice, very few non-scientific people will be able to visit this “otherworldly beautiful territory”.

“Every year, more people climb Mount Everest than venture into the heart of Antarctica,” added Russ.

Australia and Kiwi adventure seekers and intrepid travellers are the top markets for the company followed by US and UK.

Heritage Expeditions’ 20% discount offer

Heritage Expeditions is offering a 20 percent discount on 2025-26 expeditions to Antarctica and the Subantarctic voyages as well as the 28-day expedition to the Subantarctic Islands from Queenstown departing on 10 January and 5 February 2026.

For more information click here.