Suitable for both cruise lovers and people who never thought they would go on a cruise, adventure voyages are designed for expedition cruisers.

Due to the remote locations visited and changing conditions, there is no strict schedule or guaranteed landings in every port on the itinerary. The focus is on active pursuits, wildlife spotting and interactions, spectacular landscapes and cultural immersion. 

Expedition cruisers should be relatively active and mobile. Enough to step into a Zodiac (rigid inflatable boat) for relatively high-speed adventures, touring around icebergs or isolated isles. Hiking, kayaking, diving, snorkelling and helicopter flights are often key parts of the day-to-day program. Expeditions often venture to places that can only be (or are best) accessed by sea. This includes the Arctic, Antarctica, sub-Antarctic islands, the Galapagos, Alaska, the Amazon River and the Kimberley. Or, there are also unique routes such as the North-West Passage from Greenland to the Bering Sea. 

If wildlife sighting is the goal, Antarctica (and the optional extension to South Georgia) is all about penguins, whales, seals and seabirds. The Arctic is home to polar bears, whales, walrus, reindeer, muskox, puffins, arctic wolves and foxes. The Galapagos is teeming with playful sea lions, iguanas, turtles, giant tortoises and birds such as blue-footed boobies and penguins.

On board, lectures by naturalists and historians add to the learning experience. 

Guests on cruise lines will get to see amazing wildlife
Guests on cruise lines will get to see amazing wildlife

Best cruise lines for expedition cruisers

Australian companies include Aurora Expeditions, Coral Expeditions, Chimu Adventures and Scenic, whose Scenic Eclipse I and II are the most luxurious vessels. Among other luxury lines are Ponant, Silversea and charters by Abercrombie & Kent.

The Arctic and Antarctica can also be explored by Hurtigruten, Quark Expeditions and Lindblad Expeditions, which partners with National Geographic. To reach deepest into the polar regions, Ponant has the most advanced icebreaker vessels. Uncruise has some good itineraries in Alaska, Mexico and South America. In the Galapagos, go with Silversea, Aqua Expeditions or Quasar Expeditions.  

In the Kimberley, the most exclusive vessels are operated by Ponant, Silversea, True North, Great Escape, Ocean Dream and Kimberley Quest. Larger ships are run by APT, Coral Expeditions, Swan Hellenic and Heritage Expeditions.

Lines like Silversea visit remote destinations like Antarctica
Lines like Silversea visit remote destinations like Antarctica

Expedition expert

Craig Bowen is the head of Cruise Traveller, an agency specialising in small ship and expedition cruising. He is driven every day in his work by his own passion for expedition cruising.

“I did my first expedition cruise to Antarctica in 2004 and, since then, I’ve done 85 expeditions.

“To me, it’s all about the destination. I’m just one of those travellers who like to learn when I travel. And to me expedition cruising, whether it’s in the polar regions or in the tropical regions or even if it’s something completely left-field, as long as you’re bringing home something knowledge-wise, that’s the experience.”

Mr Bowen says among all the advantages of an expedition cruise, learning and exploring with the expedition team truly enriches the experience.

“You’re still travelling these days in as much luxury as you are on the big ships. But it’s all about bringing the destination alive. It’s the expedition team, the Zodiac rides, the shore excursions and living and breathing it with the experts in whatever the field. It might be wildlife, it might be geology, it might be history. But the expedition team, to me, is the game-changer that just immerses you in the destination and you come away knowing so much more about it, and importantly, respecting it so much more.”

As far as his favourite destinations, Bowen can’t split himself between the Kimberley and Antarctica.

“Then you’re a Zodiac ride away from a hot shower, warm toddy and a five-star luxury meal, then you’re out there again the next day. It’s this incredible combination of remoteness and comforts of a luxury expedition ship that blows me away every time.”